Fall Fruit Compote of Wine-Poached Pears & Dried Fruit

        From the blog For Love of the Table

1 (750 ml) bottle white wine

3 c. sugar

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

1 cinnamon stick

3 or 4 whole cloves

3 or 4 strips (3- by 1/2-inch) of lemon zest

3 or 4 strips (3- by 1/2-inch) of orange zest

6 firm but ripe pears, peeled, halved (or quartered) and cored

1 c. dried figs, hard stems trimmed

1 c. dried apricots

3/4 c. pitted prunes

1/2 c. dried tart cherries


In a saucepan large enough to hold all of the pears, combine the wine, 3 c. water, sugar and flavorings.  Bring this to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  While the poaching liquid cooks, cut a round of parchment that is slightly larger than the pan and cut a hole in the center (this will act as a "lid" and help keep the fruit fully submerged in the liquid—it is called a cartouche).  


When the syrup is ready, add the pears, press the parchment round to the surface of the liquid, lower the heat and barely simmer until the tip of a knife will go in and out without resistance.  Cooking time varies greatly depending on the ripeness of the pears—start checking after 10 minutes for very ripe pears.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a platter. 


Return the poaching liquid to a simmer and add the dried fruits.   Simmer gently until the dried fruits are tender (they will soften and some will swell slightly)—5 to 10 minutes or so. 


Depending on how ripe the pears were the liquid may need to be reduced a bit.  If you would like to reduce the poaching liquid at all, lift out the dried fruits and add them to the plate with the pears.  Return the poaching liquid to the pan and simmer until it has thickened slightly (but no thicker than maple syrup...or a dessert wine). 


Remove the pan from the heat and return the pears and dried fruits to the pan of poaching liquid.  Cool and store the pears and dried fruits in the poaching liquid. 


Serve the compote chilled.  Remove the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, cloves and zests before serving.  I like to halve the figs lengthwise before serving to expose their lovely interior.  If the prunes and/or apricots are especially large, you might consider halving them as well.


Whether I am serving this as a stand alone dessert—or to accompany a slice of cake—I like to serve it with mascarpone whipped cream sweetened with some of the poaching liquid (see below).


(Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties!, by Ina Garten)


Maspcarpone Whipped Cream:  Place 8 oz. of mascarpone in a mixing bowl along with a cup of heavy cream and 1/2 cup of poaching liquid.  Whisk until softly mounding. (To make a smaller—or larger amount—just remember you need 1 T. of poaching liquid for every ounce of mascarpone and ounce of cream.)