I know, I know. Christmas was just yesterday, and here I am, already trying to convince you to get back into the kitchen and cook more food when your holiday leftovers have barely even had time to fully chill in the fridge. But guys, New Year’s Eve is less than a week away, and it deserves to be celebrated with panache. People tend to stock up on recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas and then end up scrambling for New Year’s party recipes, but luckily, New Year’s party food doesn’t necessitate much effort, and these poached pears in port are the perfect blend of fruit, booze, and panache to get your guests (or just yourself) in the spirit to usher in the new year.
Before I get to the recipe, how was your Christmas? Ours was quiet, restful, and low-key. We had planned to visit my husband’s family a few states away, but it turned out to be best that we stayed home. I woke up Christmas morning feeling the worst I’ve felt in about three months. Two of the worst things a person with lupus can do is to not get enough sleep and to not eat well; for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been up both late and early almost every day, eating like a bird, and not listening to my body the way I should. I’m still learning how far I can push it before my body revolts. Exhaustion and brain fog have been slowly creeping up over the last four or five days, but on Christmas morning, they pounced hard just as our kids started opening presents. A three hour nap and my first legitimate meal in a few days had me feeling well enough to sit up and watch “Toy Story” with my kiddos after dinner while my husband did an insane amount of cleaning so that while he is at work today, I have less to tempt me off of the couch. That, my friends, is awesome husbanding.
We so rarely get a day at home when we are all together, all relaxing, with no agenda. It’s neat to see God’s fingerprint through the mundane details of your life, isn’t it? Things like us not being able to travel due to my husband’s work schedule or the fact that I decided to prep most of Christmas dinner a couple of days ahead of time when I usually wouldn’t have done that for this particular menu, things that didn’t seem like a big deal at the time ended up working together to make Christmas exactly what our family needed this year. I do hope to spend next Christmas with extended family, but I am grateful for how our holiday turned out this year.
That, in a nutshell, is why I’m posting this today- because I photographed nothing we ate yesterday and I already have an in-process photo of me making poached pears, and because this is what I plan on serving alongside some New Year’s Eve finger foods for our little party of four. Poached fruit may not be your typical New Year’s party food, but is as easy to make as it is impressive to serve, and you can scale the recipe down for one or up for pretty much as many people as you’d like. I’ve lost count of how many different times and ways I’ve served these pears, and they’ve been a hit every time. This year, I’ll have to enjoy them sans accoutrements, but my absolute favorite way to serve them is warm with a fat dollop of mascarpone cheese. Ice cream is always a good option, as is Greek yogurt (I’d call that breakfast), dark chocolate sauce, or dulce de leche, and you can totally make these ahead and rewarm them when necessary. You can do this family style, with the pears all in one large shallow bowl, or you can slice them and serve them in individual dishes, making sure to add a bit of the poaching liquid to each pear. Oh, and the poaching liquid? Save that for drinks and drizzling over various things that could use it.
Pears Poached in Port
Notes: This isn’t truly poaching- it’s more of a poach-braise, because I don’t fully cover the pears in liquid, but the finished result is the same as a poached pear. I like to do mine whole, and because I often do this with just two pears in a small pot, it’s easier to almost cover them in liquid than it is to fully cover them (you’d have to go up a whole pot size and use a lot more port in order to cover them and still keep them whole, and I just don’t want to use up that much port in one shot). If you’d like to halve or quarter your pears, you can fully cover them with no problem; I just like the presentation of a whole pear in this case. Just roll the pears around a couple of times during cooking to make sure the whole thing cooks evenly.
Feel free to omit and/or vary the spices. Half of a vanilla bean, thinly sliced fresh ginger, orange zest, and cardamom would be welcome additions here.
2 cups port
1/4-1/2 cup of honey (depending on your sweet tooth- I go somewhere in the middle)
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 peeled firm, crisp pears (save those peels and add them to the pot next time you make agrodolce).
For serving: Mascarpone cheese (HIGHLY recommended), vanilla or ginger ice cream, whipped cream (all optional)
1. In a small pot that just accommodates your pears, mix together the port, honey, and spices. Place the pears in the pot and bring to a low simmer. Cover and maintain the low simmer, turning the pears a couple of times during cooking.
2. Depending on how firm your pears were, poaching time will vary, but the pears are done when a butter knife can pierce them with no resistance. I use very firm pears and mine take somewhere in the ballpark of an hour. Let the pears cool for a little while in their poaching liquid.
3. Serve warm with a healthy drizzle of the poaching liquid and toppings of choice. Leftovers are fabulous chilled and served with greek yogurt or toasted pound cake for a decadent breakfast.