I love these poached pears with chocolate-pear sauce (the sauce is made from the poaching liquid). I always use chocolate with 65% or more cocoa solids, which results in a nice sauce that's not overly sweet. Instead of serving half a pear topped with ice cream and sauce, per the recipe, I slice the pears and fan the slices out, then puddle sauce on the plate and place the fanned slices on the sauce with a scoop of raspberry sorbet alongside. This is easier to eat and looks elegant (guests always ooh and ah), and the raspberry complements the pear and chocolate combo well.
I don't poach pears per se, but I do make a mixed fruit compote featuring peeled, cored Bosc pears cut in eighths. I do the same with an equal measure of firm variety apple, then add dried apricots and sometimes pitted prunes. To this add 2 parts apple cider to one part Tokaji Aszu wine, and a little honey. I microwave on 50% power, or simmer gently on the stove, until the pears and apples are tender, then turn off the heat and stir in some golden raisins (they'll plump nicely without further cooking). This is a grown-up compote, not the fruit cocktail with maraschino cherries that you enjoyed in grade school. Tokaji Aszu is a Hungarian dessert wine that tastes like golden raisins, sweet yet quite astringent. It is not cheap but I only use about a half cup when making a compote containing 3 apples and 3 pears. I think this honey-colored wine would be a great medium for poaching pears by themselves.
Here is the poached pear recipe from my website:
Pears poached in wine and spice, served with mascarpone or homemade 'yoghourt cheese'... An incredible late summer early fall treat.
2 cups red wine
1/3 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split
4 pears, peeled
2 tbs icing sugar
1. Combine the wine, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add the pears and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, turning occasionally, for 1 hour or until pears are tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pears to a heatproof bowl.
2. Increase heat to high and bring the syrup to the boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until syrup thickens slightly. Pour over the pears and set aside for 10 minutes to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 4 hours to chill.
3. Place the mascarpone, icing sugar in a medium bowl and stir to combine.
4. Transfer the pears to a serving dish and drizzle with syrup. Serve with mascarpone or 'yoghourt cheese'.
There are videos of me making this floating around on the 'net. Search and you will find.
Aha. Here's the thread I used for ideas just recently: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/281203
Wasabi's approach of using moscato and ginger turned out to be very much to my taste. I served the pears with julienned candied ginger arranged on the plate around each pear.
A somewhat more unusual and very, very easy preparaton that my dad used to make is to steam pears in the rice cooker. He'd peel and core pears most of the way through, leaving the bottom intact, then stuff with rock candy (bing1 tang3 in Mandarin) and orange zest. By the time the pears were steamed through, the sugar would be completely melted and the flavors absorbed into the fruit, leaving a puddle of sticky syrup on the bottom of the bowl. I guess steamed pears aren't technically the same thing as poached pears, but the flavors and textures were pretty much equivalent.
I have to admit, I haven't tried that many recipes yet. I liked this port and ginger recipe that I tried last fall: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Poached-Pears-with-Ginger-and-Port-13448
Another pear recipe I really like (off-topic since it's a cake!) is this one:
Peel the pears. Cut off the stem tops and reserve. Core the pears from the bottom and hollow out about 3/4 inch around. Poach them in ginger ale. Mash some gorgonzola cheese with a drizzle of heavy cream, add some 10x sugar and chopped walnuts and mix well to a thick paste. Stuff the gorgonzola mixture into the cooled pears, replace the stem tops and chill. Allow to return to room temperature and drizzle on some sherry or liqueur of choice before serving.
From Chocolatier magazine, October 1993:
2-1/2 cups white wine
5 cups water
2 cups sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
6 peeled ripe but firm Bosc pears, cored from the bottom, leaving the stems intact
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
In a large saucepan combine everything but the pears, cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and bring to the boil. Add the pears, covering with a piece of parchement to submerge them. SImmer 35 - 40 min. till tender. Remove from the heat and cool in the liquid. Cover and refrigerate. Can be done 2 days ahead.
Whisk the cheese and 2 tbsp of cream till smooth. Whisk 1/4 cup cream till soft mounds form, then fold into mascarpone mixture. Fold enough of remaining cream into mixture till it is the consistency of pancake batter. Cover and refrigerate.
Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Raise the heat and bring to the boil. Continue to took to caramel stage. Remove from heat and stir in cream and corn syrup. Return to heat and stir till smooth. Cool to room temp and stir in vanilla.
Bring cream to a boil and pour over chopped chocolate in a bowl. Whisk till smooth.
Drain the pears on a rack. Spoon thin layer of mascarpone sauce on a plate. Fill a parchment cone with caramel sauce, and pipe a spiral over the mascarpone, Run a knife from the centre of the plate to the edges at 1" intervals around the plate. Place pear in the centre and drizzle with chocolate sauce. Garnish with raspberries.
1) I use Riesling for the white wine. I have always wondered what to do with the poaching liquid after, then recently saw in a Roux Brothers book that it makes a great sorbet. I have not yet tried it.
2) I dislike the smell and taste of cinnamon, so I omit it. I often omit the cloves as well.