Chestnut Honey Pears
See SAVEUR's recommended Dessert Wines
The comice pears called for in this preparation are widely available in the winter.
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 long strips orange zest
4 firm but ripe comice pears, peeled, halved, and cored
2 tbsp. chestnut honey
5 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tbsp. cold butter, cubed
1 cup vanilla ice cream
1. Combine 6 cups water, wine, sugar, vanilla bean, and orange zest in a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add pears and poach until tender, 5–10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, allowing pears to cool in poaching liquid. When cool, transfer pears to a plate. Pat dry with paper towels. Reserve poaching liquid.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until very warm, then add honey. Honey will bubble and foam, thinning out to coat bottom of the skillet, about 1 minute. Place 4 pear halves, cut side down, in hot honey. Cook pears until caramelized, shaking pan to prevent burning, about 5 minutes. Remove pears from pan and set aside.
3. Add 1 cup poaching liquid (with vanilla bean) and 1 sprig thyme to same skillet. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, whisk in butter, one cube at a time, then add a pinch of salt. Remove and discard vanilla bean and thyme and set sauce aside.
4. To serve, coarsely chop remaining 4 uncaramelized poached pear halves and divide among four plates. Place 1 caramelized pear half in center of each plate, then spoon sauce over pears. Add a small scoop of ice cream to each plate and garnish with a sprig of thyme.