Friday, February 13, 2009

oh winter

While the February thaw sweeps Renee into Spring, it's caught me quite to my surprise longing for a little more winter, the coziness of those cold days when however busy I am I really don't go out that much, and the tightly sealed house fills with the smells of a slow flame under some deep-flavored something. Well, luckily for me it is only February, and even though the snow is melting, when I step out the front door in the early morning I slip and slide on frozen runoff. And even though we opened the windows to air out the house in the afternoon, we locked them down again by four o'clock, and were very happy for pears slow poached in red wine. This is one of my favorite winter desserts because it is both rich and heavy feeling, and fantastically healthy. It also uses up left over red wine. I'm always a red wine fan, but in the winter it feels particularly perfect with just about every meal. Which somehow leads to a constant line of mostly-used bottles of red wine in the pantry. At first, I'm thrilled to know that there's always some around to dash into a pasta sauce or a soup, but then the bottles build up. And then the line grows, and the pantry starts to look a little like the alley behind the liquor store. Time for a seriously wine-based dish.

Pears slow poached in red wine

4 hard pears
about 3/4 bottle of red wine, a mix of types is fine
1/2 cup sugar

Peel the pears and core them from the bottom, leaving the pear intact and the top stem on. I use a paring knife, and do have to dig around a little . Pour the wine and sugar into a pot just big enough to hold the pears. It doesn't matter if they lie down or stand up, but the pot must allow the pears to become mostly covered in the wine. Put the pears in. Bring to a very gentle boil, then turn down the flame and let simmer, very low, for about 2 hours, turning the pears every 30 minutes or so. The wine should reduce, slowly, so that there's about 1/2 cup of syrup at the end. Serve alone, or with vanilla or chocolate ice cream.