Cooking with Vanilla: Pears Poached in Wine with Hazelnut-Gorgonzola Stuffing

<em>Serves 6<br />
<br />
</em>This elegant dessert is flavored with our favorite liqueur, the recipe for which follows.</p>
<p>• 2 cups fruity, semisweet white wine<br />
• 1/2-3/4 cup sugar, depending upon sweetness of wine and pears<br />
• 1 teaspoon whole cloves<br />
• 1 three-inch stick cinnamon<br />
• 1/2 cup rose geranium leaves, firmly packed<br />
• Zest of 1/2 large orange<br />
• Pinch of salt<br />
• 3-inch piece of vanilla bean<br />
• 3 large firm, ripe pears, peeled, halved, and cored (choose Bartlett, Bosc, Comice, D’Anjou, or Kieffer)<br />
• 3 tablespoons Thunder of Zeus (below)</p>
<p>• 2 ounces cream cheese, softened<br />
• 2 ounces imported Gorgonzola cheese, at room temperature<br />
• 2 tablespoons chopped, toasted hazelnuts (skins removed) or other nuts<br />
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger<br />
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract<br />
• Additional nuts and rose geranium leaves for garnish</p>
<p>1. Combine the wine, sugar, spices, rose geranium leaves, orange zest, and salt in a heavy shallow saucepan or skillet. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds to loosen; add the bean pieces and seeds to the mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add the prepared pears and cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender. Spoon the poaching liquid over the pears several times while cooking.</p>
<p>2. Meanwhile, combine the stuffing ingredients in a small bowl. When the pears are tender, transfer them with a slotted spoon to six warm serving plates, placing the center up, and keep warm. Strain the seasonings and return the liquid to the heat; continue cooking 5 to 6 minutes, or until the liquid is syrupy. If the mixture becomes too thick, dilute with a little water. Do not allow it to burn. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Thunder of Zeus liqueur. Carefully divide the wine syrup around the pears, avoiding the central hollow. Spoon the cheese mixture evenly onto each pear half; garnish with additional chopped nuts and a rose geranium leaf. Serve immediately while warm.</p>
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<em>Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay are a well-known pair of longtime chefs and herb gardeners who make their home in the tiny town of Round Top in central Texas.</em>
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<strong>Cooking with Vanilla</strong>

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