Pere Cotte con Alloro e Amarone

Braised Pears with Bay Leaves and Red Wine

These pears are braised, not poached, an important distinction that I have found, when teaching the dish, many people overlook. First they are sautéed in butter, a step that establishes the base for their finely articulated flavor. Subsequently, bay leaves add their distinctive aroma and, of course, the final significant element is the red wine. You should make every effort to use Amarone because of its intensely concentrated fruitiness and faintly raisiny quality. Of all alternatives to Amarone, the most highly recommended would be a late-harvest Zinfandel.

When the pears are done, there must remain no wine in liquid form, but only a dense syrup that dyes the fruit deep purple and forms a caramel-like coating on it. To favor the reduction and evaporation of the wine, it is necessary to use a broad, low pan, rather than a tall, narrow one.

Ingredients

  • 4 firm, not overripe pears
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 6 to 8 bay leaves
  • 2 cups dry, full-bodied red wine: The ideal choice is Amarone; other mature, full reds such as Barbera, Chianti Riserva, or Zinfandel are suitable.

Method

  1. Peel the pears, slice them in half lengthwise, and remove the core. If they have the stem, leave it attached to half the pear, for it looks attractive in the finished dish.
  2. Choose a lidded sauté pan that can later accommodate all the pear halves lying flat without overlapping. Put in the butter, leaving the pan uncovered, and turn on the heat to medium high.
  3. Heat the butter until its foam subsides, but take care not to let it become colored; otherwise, the pears will acquire a disagreeable burned-butter flavor.
  4. Put in the pear halves flat side down. Brown them lightly on one side, then turn them over and do the other side.
  5. Add the sugar, judging the quantity according to the ripeness of the pears (the riper the pear, the less sugar one needs). Spread out the bay leaves in the pan and pour in the red wine. Cover the pan, keeping the cover slightly askew, and turn down the heat to medium.
  6. Cook the pears, turning them from time to time, until they are easily pierced with a fork. They should be just tender, but still firm enough to maintain their shape compactly.
  7. If, when the pears are done—and the time varies depending on the variety of pear and degree of ripeness—the cooking juices in the pan are not yet reduced to a dense, syrupy consistency, uncover the pan and raise the heat to evaporate excess liquid. On the other hand, if the cooking juices are already dense while the pears are still hard, add a little water and continue cooking, with the cover on and askew, until they are done.
  8. Transfer the pears to a serving platter, placing them flat side down. They look most attractive in a round dish with their narrow ends meeting in the center.
  9. Remove as much of the bay leaves as you can from the pan. Allow the cooking juices to cool slightly until they are just fluid enough to be poured, but not runny. With a spoon pour the syrupy juice over the pears, covering them as completely as possible.
  10. Serve the pears as soon as they are cool, or several hours later, but do not refrigerate.

,