The receptacle chosen to serve as a pie dish should be of a heavy material and able to support the heat of a direct flame. It should be deeper than the ordinary American pie dish in order to contain a sufficient quantity of wine during the first part of the cooking process. A frying pan is perfect if your oven is large enough to take the handle; the lid to a large pommes Anna mold, a tarte tatin mold, or a round, enameled ironware gratin dish will serve equally well. The proportions given here are for an approximate 10-inch mold.
The dessert may be served hot, tepid, or cold but should, in any case, be unmolded only just before serving to prevent the pastry’s being soaked in the cooking juices.
Arrange pear halves in the pan, cored surface facing up, the wide end of each pressed against the side of the pan, the elongated tips pointing in toward the center of the pan so that the ungarnished areas form a fairly symmetrical star shape. Split the remaining pear halves and fill the empty spaces, slender tips pointing out, wide ends meeting in the center so that, when unmolded, the body of pears will form a neat geometric pattern.
Sprinkle over the sugar and the cinnamon, pour over red wine to cover, bring to a boil, and cook, covered, at a simmer, for from 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the pears are tender, lending no resistance to the tip of a sharp knife, but still firmly intact. Drain all the liquid into a saucepan, holding a lid firmly against the pears’ surface so as not to displace them. Reduce the cooking liquid over a high flame, stirring from time to time, until only about ½ cup remains, the boil having arrived at the cottony, puffy, slurry stage, the liquid a consistent syrup. Dribble the syrup regularly over the pears’ surface.
Roll out a round of pastry; prick it 4 or 5 times with a knife tip; it may be cut to the exact inside dimensions of the pan or rolled out slightly larger, the edges rolled up and crimped either with the floured side of your thumb or with fork tines and laid gently upside down over the pears. Bake in a 375° to 400° oven for about 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Unmold with care—if a frying pan has been used, the handle will prevent its being unmolded onto the center of the platter; place the platter upside down over the pan, its edge pressed to the handle’s point of attachment, turn everything over at once and ease the tart into the middle of the platter. The pears often spread slightly in the unmolding—push them gently into place, pressing all around the outside with the back of a tablespoon or a spatula.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.