spicy port-poached pears

January. A month of new beginnings, of cool nights and crisp days; of grey days and screaming blue skies. Every January I resolve to eat a little better, to be a little healthier, to choose more carefully what I'm eating and why.

Making health-conscious desserts does not come naturally to me. I'm more of a 'bring on the butter, and the cream, and all the sugar' type of woman. So it can be tough for me to scale back on that and find a healthier balance. 

This recipe, though. It's so easy. It only takes a few minutes to put together, and you end up with an incredibly luscious, intensely flavored and satisfying dish, that weighs in at less than 200 calories per person. Each pear will weigh in at 185 calories, give or take- a dessert that is light enough to satisfy the healthiest eater, and sweet and flavorful enough to satiate even a complete gourmande like myself. 

If, let's suppose, you only have two of the pears for dessert, they will slice up beautifully to toss in with a salad the next day. I like to serve mine with a honey-yogurt dressing and woof- you will be amazed at the lusciousness.

Here's how it's done: 

First, these are the ingredients you need. I used a tawny port because we had one on hand, but you could do this with any other sweet dessert wine or a hearty red wine, if that's what you prefer. You want the pears to be just shy of perfectly ripe, so they don't get mealy as they poach.

I like to use pears with the stems attached because they're just prettier. And it's easier to grab them out of the poaching liquid.

Pick a medium saucepan and make sure all of your pears and your liquid will fit before you commit.

Then, pop out the pears and combine all your poaching ingredients in the pot.

Set the pot aside while you carefully peel your pears. 

Once the pears are peeled, set the pot over medium heat and whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves. Allow the mixture to come to a boil.

Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and bring to a simmer. Carefully slide your pears one at a time into the liquid. It's okay if they aren't completely covered. Cook without stirring for ten minutes.

Once your ten minutes are up, carefully flip each pear so the other side is now submerged. Cook an additional ten minutes.

Remove from the heat and let sit in the liquid up to 24 hours.

When you're ready to serve, gently reheat over low heat or serve chilled.

Be sure to spoon some of the poaching liquid over the pears as you serve. These are delicious alone, but a scoop of vanilla ice cream really sends them into the stratosphere. Enjoy!

Here's the recipe: