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I'm happiest when the food I make becomes a backdrop to a lively conversation. When I'm not cooking, I'm traveling or dreaming about travel. Come sit with me, and enjoy! Read more here.

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« prosciutto salmon with pasta and zucchini ribbons | Main | tarragon chicken with zesty pappardelle »

red wine poached pears with mascarpone whip: weeknight decadence

Red Wine Poached Pears with Marscapone Whip

When I told my colleagues at work that I had hosted a dinner party on a Thursday night, they thought I was nuts.

Standing by the water cooler in the kitchen, they just shook their heads as if to say, what were you thinking?

I shrugged it off. “Haven’t you heard? Thursday is the new Friday!” I said, brightly.

Their foreheads wrinkled in disbelief.

Really, it’s simple, I said, advancing my case. All you have to do is come up with a main course that is relatively easy to prepare and ask the guests to bring the starter and the dessert.

I didn’t happen to mention that the party was so successful in part because my friend, Lou, is a phenomenal amateur pastry chef, and my friend, Carrie, is a genius at creating her own dishes sans recipe.

I deliberately chose prosciutto-wrapped salmon as the main course because it was so easy. An hour of prep was all I needed.

Carrie prepped in advance six goat cheese buttons infused with balsamic vinegar for her delicious, late-season tomato and basil salad, and Lou, well, Lou managed to prepare what possibly could be the single best dessert I’ve ever had – pears poached in red wine with mascarpone whip.

With friends like these, Thursday really can be the new Friday.

I begged Lou for the recipe, which he says was adapted from two recipes, one by Michael Chiarello and the other from the The Silver Spoon cookbook. Lucky for me, he agreed and wrote it out with easy-to-follow instructions.

Allow me to present Lou's dessert:

Red Wine Poached Pears with Marscapone Whip


Red Wine Poached Pears with Mascarpone Whip

Courtesy of my good friend, Lou Cantolupo
Serves 6

Poaching the pears
6 ripe Bartlett pears (Bartletts work best due to their shape, flavor, and availability)
1 bottle Rioja red wine
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of one lemon
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 coarsely crushed cloves (smashed with flat part of knife)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

8 ounces mascarpone, softened to room temp.
1/2 pint heavy cream for whipping
3 heaping tablespoons of honey
1 heaping tablespoon of whole lavender

Soak the lavender buds in 2 tablespoons of hot tap water for 5 minutes and then drain, saving the buds. In a one-quart pot over a medium flame, add the cream and heat until it starts to steam a little; do not bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, add the lavender, stir, and then cover for 5 minutes. Filter through a wire mesh filter lined with cheesecloth into a new container and place that container in an ice bath.

Pour the wine, 2 cups of water and sugar into a large pot and bring to a light simmer. Add the cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, bay leaf, and cloves.

While the wine is simmering, cut off the top part of the pear (with stem) and slice about 1/2 inch from the bottom so the pear stands up straight. Peel the pear using a vegetable peeler and remove the core using an apple corer. If the pears are ripe the corer should go right through them; if not you may have to force it a bit, but be careful not to damage the pear. After peeling/coring each pear, lightly rub them with lemon juice to prevent browning. Save the residual cores.

Bring the wine mixture to a boil and gently add the remaining lemon juice and pears using a slotted spoon. It does not matter if the pears are upright or on their side, just make sure they are covered with the liquid. Return the liquid to a light simmer, cover, and poach for 15 minutes.

Very gently remove the pears with a slotted spoon and stand each upright on a plate to cool. When removing the pears from the liquid, it helps to use a chopstick inserted down the hole since the pear will be hot. Some of the pears may have a peppercorn or clove stuck in them. If so gently pry them out using a toothpick. Cool to room temperature and then cover with plastic wrap.

Add the pear cores to the liquid and using a potato masher carefully break the cores apart to release the extra juices and simmer for five minutes.

Carefully pour the hot wine mixture into a new pot through a cheesecloth lined fine wire mesh filter to remove the spices and pear bits. Add the vanilla and salt and return to a high boil and reduce to a final volume of 1/2 a cup. The liquid should be very syrupy. Run the syrup through a mesh filter again (not a cheesecloth) into a new container. Set aside.

Lou says, “As you can see this recipe makes quite a mess in the kitchen but it’s very simple. I’ve been using the 'Thomas Keller' method of sauce making: anytime you go from one container to another, filter, no matter how mundane the change over may be. It’s a bitch but it really does make a difference.”
Using a heavy spatula, mix the mascarpone and honey together.


In a separate bowl, whip the lavender-infused cream until you have stiff peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone.

Place a pear on a plate and fill the center of using a pastry bag. (If you don’t have a pastry bag, use a plastic sandwich bag and cut a hole in one corner.)

Red Wine Poached Pears with Marscapone Whip

Red Wine Poached Pears with Marscapone Whip

Add a ring of syrup around the pear and then place a stem on top of each pear.

Red Wine Poached Pears with Marscapone Whip

Red Wine Poached Pears with Marscapone Whip


Reader Comments (26)

Lou's dessert was so amazing to look at, none of us wanted to eat it ... until we took the first bite and were like, "To hell with aesthetics!"

Your friend Carrie a "genius"? Talk about poetic license! :) I just try to keep up with you guys and my cheffin' hubby. But I sure enjoy the hell out of eating the fruits of y'all's labor!

October 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterM. C. Allan

Thanks, Carrie! No poetic license taken here. I just hope we can do it again soon so we can try another one of your delicious creations!

October 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Ooooh Angela, I love the idea and I might utilize it with a Greek twist...love the colour and the cheese filling.

October 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPeter M

These are beautiful!

October 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRecipeGirl

Angela, this looks so elegant and I am sure it was delish...

October 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarc Winitz

That little swirl of mascarpone at the very top did it for me!!!!
Thanks for visiting, now I shall drop by often!!!

October 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNazarina A

WOW! I love the idea of actually piping the marscapone whip into the pears. Never would have thought of that. That's what separates people like me from people like Lou. And by the way, any good hip hop song will tell you that the weekend starts on Thursday ;-)

October 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Thanks, Peter! I look forward to hearing about that Greek twist. Sounds like fun!

Thanks, recipegirl! Yeah, as Carrie said, they were so amazing to look at that none of us wanted to touch them -- for about three seconds! :)

So true, Marc. Elegant is the word -- and delicious!

Nazarina: Thanks! The story I didn't tell was that we passed that baggie of extra marscapone around the table about three times as we each heaped on more. Highly recommended!

Andrea: LOL. I'm all for hip hop! Thanks for visiting!

October 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Why those look good enough to eat. I'm just envious it was YOU who was eating them...dang!

When isn't mascarpone awesome? It just kicks cream cheese to the freaking curb!!

October 15, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbb

wow those are so classy looking. i really don't eat marscapone cheese enough. i used to get chocolate covered strawberries with marscapone in the center. pure bliss!

October 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna

YUM! It's sooooo pretty!

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFifi Flowers

No offense to my friends, but they don't really seem to be on par in the kitchen with yours in the SLIGHTEST! This sounds like a wickedly good idea and the food it's self all sounds wickedly good too!

October 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterhot garlic

That dessert is seems like the ultimate elegant dessert. Sounds absolutely delicious!

October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChocolate Shavings

Hello, my name is Louise, known widely as “chiff0nade” or “therealchiffonade.”

I am a Professional Chef (graduated from Peter Kump’s Culinary University) and the Senior Adviser for SeriousEats website.

My job is to warn you about the TasteSpotting Troll and his attempts to shut down all of the food blogs in the universe.

You can read about him here: http://profile.myspace.com/docchuck

Louise Wyers
Clearwater, Florida
(727) 467-9009

October 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterchiff0nade

I love the idea of poached pears and love this application. How daring of you to dine like this on a weeknight!

October 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSweet Bird

decadent (you're right!) and so classy for a dinner party. i'm thinking this would be a perfect christmas dessert. beautiful photos.

October 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWe Are Never Full

BB: Thanks! I totally agree about mascarpone kicking cream cheese to the curb!

Joanna: Chocolate covered strawberries with mascarpone in the center sound delish! I'll have to give that a try.

Thanks, Natalie! You are too funny. We are definitely lucky to have such amazing foodie friends!

Chocolate Shavings: 'Elegant' is such a perfect word for this dish!

Sweet Bird: Thanks! It's amazing how when everyone brings something, it really is not difficult to host on a weeknight at all. Try it!

We are Never Full: Thanks! It's so true about this being perfect for Christmas. You just gave me a great idea!

October 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

This looks fabulous. I am definitly making them.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterErin

The Lavender scares me. Does it overwhelm?

December 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmy's world

Amy: Actually, you can barely taste it. It's one of those super subtle ingredients that adds to the whole but doesn't stand out.

December 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

hi! found your blog whilst trying to find some fabulous gluten free dessert for xmas dinner. i happened upon this recipe and decided that i must try it. well, although a bit labor intensive, it was fantastic!!! the flavors were wonderful and it was so unbelievably beautiful! thanks so much for posting this and it will now be a part of my repertoire. for those who may think it looks too difficult...it really is not. just a lot of steps. thanks so much for helping to create a memorable xmas dinner!

December 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

oh, and the lavender does not overwhelm. i describe the whole lavender, mascarpone, honey combo as a delicious spring meadow exploding in my mouth. it really is out of this world.

December 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

Thanks, Leslie! I'm so glad you tried and it loved it as much as I did. And I totally agree about the lavender... it's so subtle and perfect. What a great idea for Christmas dinner!

December 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela


I made this recipe last week for a dinner party and it was wonderful! I posted about my experience on my own food blog listed. Since the presentation was already so beautiful I just referred back to your article. What I did do was list what I messed up or struggled with to help first timers not make my mistakes. Your blog is great and I look forward to trying more of your recipes in the future!


March 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjake raden

Thanks for the comment and I'm glad you liked the recipe! Your tips on what not to do are terrific. Thanks too for the link on your blog. All the best!

March 8, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

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