Pear, Red Wine, and Basil Upside-Down Tart

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This tart is basically a “Tarte Tatin” using pears cooked in red wine and basil instead of apples. I serve this with caramel ice cream.

Ingredients

  • 6 pears, all the same size, slightly under-ripe
  • 1 bottle red wine, like a young zinfandel
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 piece freshly cut lemon zest, 2 inches by ½ inch
  • 8 leaves fresh basil
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 recipe tart shell pastry

Method

Peel the pears, cut them in half lengthwise, and core them. Save the peelings.

Heat the wine, sugar, and lemon zest in a nonreactive saucepan large enough to hold the liquid and all the pear halves. Add the pears and the peelings; simmer until the pears are just tender when poked in the thickest part with a toothpick or skewer, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the pears from the liquid, cover with a damp towel, and let cool.

Strain the wine, discarding the peelings. Boil the wine until it is reduced by half, thick, and syrupy. Stir in the basil leaves (making sure you submerge them immediately) and a pinch of salt and white pepper; let cool.

Generously grease a round cast-iron skillet or tarte tatin pan just large enough to hold the pears with the butter. Arrange the pears in the dish like the spokes of a wheel, with the thick ends at the outer edge of the dish and the stem ends pointing toward the center. Pour the cooled syrup over the pears.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Roll out the pastry to a circle about ¼ inch less than the circumference of the dish. Place the pastry on top of the pears. Bake in the oven until the pastry is golden and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Let the tart cool for 15 minutes. If the juices are still watery, cook the tart on the stovetop over high heat until the juices are sputtering and thickened. Wait 5 minutes, then place a platter on top of the pan, and invert the whole thing so that the pears are on top of the tart.

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