MAKE IT CUTE
Poached pears with Mexican chocolate sauce
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cinnamon stick, about 3 inches long
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
4 cups water
6 firm but ripe pears, with stems intact, peeled
For the chocolate sauce
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1. In a saucepan large enough to hold the pears, combine the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon stick, vanilla, and lemon zest. Pour in the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the spices are fragrant. Remove from the heat.
2. Trim about 1/4 inch off the base of each pear to create a flat bottom. Return the poaching liquid to a gentle boil. Using tongs, gently lower the pears into the liquid. Reduce the heat to simmer and poach the pears, uncovered, turning them occasionally with a wooden spoon so that they cook evenly. The pears are ready when they are easily pierced with a thin skewer. This will take 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the pears. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pears from the pot and place on a large plate. Discard the poaching liquid.
To make the chocolate sauce, combine the chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over (but not touching) barely simmering water in a saucepan. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the cinnamon, vanilla, chile powder, and sugar. Continue to stir until the spices are well blended into the chocolate mixture. Remove from the heat.
Place the pears in shallow bowls. Add a scoop of ice cream to each bowl. Ladle a spoonful of warm chocolate sauce over the pear and another over the ice cream.
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