Vanilla Port Poached Pears with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

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ucculent wine-poached pears stuffed with a creamy blue cheese filling are equally delicious as a first course or sophisticated dessert. Poached pears also make a sublime addition to a weekend brunch menu.

INGREDIENTS:

For Poached Pears:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split, scraped
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Rind of 1 orange
1 bottle (750 ml) port wine or champagne*
6 medium Bartlett or comice pears, peeled, cut in half, and cored
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Blue Cheese and Walnut Filling:
1 cup crumbled Maytag (or similar) blue cheese
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

METHOD:

Poached Pears:
In heavy sauce pot, combine the sugar and water together and bring to a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape the inside to remove pulp. Add vanilla bean pulp, vanilla bean, rosemary sprig, orange rind and port or champagne to simple syrup in sauce pot. Bring mixture to boil and immediately turn down heat. Simmer 10 minutes to reduce liquid.

Peel pears and place in bowl of water to cover with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Cut pears in half (lengthwise). Remove stem and core neatly with melon ball tool. Carefully add pear halves to hot wine mixture. Cover and simmer until pears are just tender, about 8-10 minutes, basting pears a few times while cooking. Remove from heat and allow pears to cool in syrup. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until ready to assemble.

Blue Cheese and Walnut Filling:
Gently combine crumbled blue cheese with mascarpone. Add walnuts. Set aside.

To Assemble:
Gently remove pears from syrup. Fill each pear half with a heaping tablespoon of blue cheese mixture.

Strain remaining syrup. Spoon 2 – 3 tablespoons syrup into center of each dessert plate, place two filled pear halves on top of syrup, and garnish with fresh sprig of rosemary. Sprinkle with additional chopped walnuts, if desired.

YIELD: 6 servings

* For the poaching wine, you can also use a combination of white wine and Marsala or sherry, depending on flavors you like best. Ruby port adds a festive rosy hue to the pears, and white wine and sherry imparts a rich golden color.

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