This is a very typical dessert served in Spain on special occasions and during the holidays. It is a favorite among home cooks, mainly due to its ease of preparation and simplicity of ingredients that can found in the pantry.
In addition there are many different varieties of pears, being available in your local markets throughout the year. Note that the winter pears are thicker with a rough skin that is golden yellow with brown flecks in color. They also tend to be more aromatic and acidic flavor and the texture of the pulp tend to be grainy. To make this dessert, the best pears are bell-shaped, such as the Bartlett variety that is tender and juicy, or the Abate Fetel that is found in Spain and Italy.
A favorite native variety of Italy that was bred by a group of monks in the 15th century, the Abate Fetel pear is a very special delicacy. Tall and slim with an attractive yellowish brown russet over green exterior, it has a rich sweet taste that is much more pronounced than the more common Anjou and Bartlett varieties. Usually eaten when just barely soft, the Abate Fetel pear has a slightly crisp yet melting texture. It is excellent for baking as well as eating out of hand.Usually available from Argentina between April and May, always choose fruit that is hard to firm with no external stem punctures or bruising. Keep refrigerated as Abate pears will ripen very quickly at room temperature.
In keeping with tradition a red wine from the Ribeira Sacra region of Spain is a favorite wine to use in this dish. Ribeira Sacra DO (Denominación de Origen) is a winegrowing zone at the heart of Galicia, north-western Spain. Its boundaries are marked roughly by the Mino and Sil rivers, both of which flow down from the Cantabrian Mountains en route to the Atlantic Ocean.
Thousands of years before the lucrative global wine economy of today, Romans carved terraces on slopes in Ribeira Sacra that rose at precipitous angles from the rivers below. They planted vines to keep themselves supplied with wine. Over the centuries, monks expanded and maintained the network of vines during the Middle Ages, which was farmed by the church and by locals, for whom grapes were just one of many subsistence crops.The name Ribeira Sacra means ‘Sacred Shore,’ which most likely references the numerous monasteries in the area.
The landscape of the region is dotted with Romanesque architecture, and the steep slopes and canyons overlooking the two rivers are dominated by beautiful banked terrace vineyards. Here, gradients can reach up to 85 percent, making vineyard work laborious or heroica (heroic), as it is known locally. The Ribeira Sacra area, which today covers around 1200 ha (2965 acres), was accorded DO status in 1996.
Unlike most Spanish reds, these are cool-climate wines, defined as much by the rainy, temperate Atlantic coast as the soils, the slopes and the people who farm them. The reds are made predominantly of the mencía grape, which is also the basis for the reds of the Bierzo region to the east. But where the Bierzo wines tend to be denser and burlier, the best reds of Ribeira Sacra epitomize juicy freshness. These are lively, graceful wines, with the same sort of aromatic loveliness and lissome body that draws people to Burgundy and Barolo.
Ribeira Sacra excels at making wines, like the the 2012 mencía from Algueira, which is spicy and wild, with a slatelike minerality. At $16, it the best value for a good quality of wine for this Spanish wine.
Pears poached in wine takes full advantage of any left over wine that is far too precious to pour down the drain. The fruit absorbs alcohol in the wine and the sugars produce a homogeneous taste and are intertwined most deliciously. When you eat the poached pears your palate will convince you that you are are drinking wine, and when you taste the syrup, you will taste the very essence of the fruit, itself. This dessert is simply divine and you must try it.
Peras al vino tinto
(Pears in Red Wine)
3 cups of red wine (pinot noir or similar red wine)
1 cup sugar
3 whole black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
3 strips of lemon peel, without the pith, 1/2-inch wide
1 strip of orange peel, without the pith, 1/2-inch wide
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Bartlett or Bosc ripe, peeled pears split half and cored
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
Boil over high heat the wine sugar, peppercorns, cloves,lemon peels, orange peel and the cinnamon stick in 1/2 cup water in a large pot for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook slowly for about 2 minutes until the mixture is slightly reduced.
Add the pears and simmer for about 15 minutes until they are tender and a knife can slide easily in the Center. The pears should take on the dark deep rich re color of the wine. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pears in a large bowl and set aside.
Remove and discard the cloves, peppercorns, lemon peels, orange peel and cinnamon stick. Continue cooking the liquid over a medium-low heat, for about 30 minutes until the liquid has the consistency of a thick syrup.
Return the pears to the liquid and spoon the syrup over the pears, coating completely with the syrup hot for 1 minute. Stir in the vanilla extract and turn off heat.
To serve the dessert, place pear halves in the center of each plate Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of syrup and garnish with just a pinch of nutmeg.
This dessert can be eaten warm or cold according to taste, but the most typical way is to eat them are at room temperature, once they have cooled in the refrigerator. The syrup is gently re-heated and served over the fruit
Another option is to make several vertical cuts and presented as if it were a half-open ladies fan. An ideal garnish is a dollop whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, with a drizzle of the syrup.