Thursday, December 4, 2008

Challenge Two, Round Two - Poached Pears in Marsala

Ohhh, drunken pears! The last time I had fruit this alcohol-saturated was a better forgotten incident with the infamous Purple Jesus. It goes by several names but is almost certainly ladled out of a dirty cooler in a backyard. Unfortunately much of the fault for this failure lies in my hands. Not only did I make some poor substitutions, I blatantly ignored several of the instructions and thus we ended up with a sickeningly sweet, boozy dessert. Do not do any of the following: use vanilla extract in place of the bean; Sweet Marsala in place of Dry; forget to add the water; or become so engrossed in your current glass of wine that you forget the sauce is reducing filling your friends' apartment with smoke. I haven't gotten the nerve to try again with the leftover Marsala yet, but maybe someday.

Poached Pears in Marsala
2 cups dry Marsala
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
2 long strips orange peel
6 7-ounce Bosc pears, peeled, stems left intact
8 ounces mascarpone cheese (optional)

Combine 2 cups dry Marsala, 2 cups water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, split vanilla beans, and orange peel strips in heavy large pot. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peeled Bosc pears. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot and simmer until pears are tender, turning pears occasionally, about 40 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to platter. Boil liquid in pot until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 12 minutes. Pour syrup over poached pears. Chill until cold, turning pears occasionally, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

Divide poached pears among 6 shallow bowls. Strain syrup; discard solids. Drizzle syrup over pears. Top each with dollop of mascarpone, if desired, and serve.

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