Don’t you just love it when you put something together on a whim, and it works out the first time? My friend Garrett had a few extra pears from a baking adventure which I decided to poach in Marsala wine, with some sugar, star anise, cinnamon, and cloves. Star anise has a strong licorice flavor, so I was a little worried my poached pears would end up tasting like Good-n-Plenty. Fortunately, the other spices rose to the occasion and along with the Marsala infused the pears with a happy, spicy, delicious aroma.
Firm, just ripe pears should be used. If overly ripe, the pears will cook up mushy. If Bosc pears are not available, Bartlett or Anjou can be substituted. You can core the pears if you wish, from the bottom, but it really is not necessary.
1 In a saucepan just large enough to fit all of the pears, place the Marsala wine, sugar, lemon juice, star anise, cloves, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and place the pears in the pan, standing upright. Cover the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes (if you want, baste with the liquid a couple of times during the cooking), until the pears can easily be pierced with a fork. Very firm pears make need to cook for up to 20 minutes.
2 Remove the pears to a serving dish. Keeping the pan uncovered, let the Marsala syrup boil down for a few minutes until it is a thick syrup. (If it begins to caramelize, remove pan from the heat and add a little water to the pan to stop the cooking.) Pour syrup over pears and serve.