Peppered pears

Total time: 1 hour

Servings: 4

Note: The poaching liquid also can be served without the pears as a sauce for chocolate ice cream.

1 1/2 tablespoons black peppercorns, preferably Tellicherry

2 teaspoons whole allspice

3 cups good-quality Port

1/3 cup sugar

4 large, firm but ripe pears (preferably Anjou)

1. Combine the peppercorns and allspice in a mortar and coarsely crush with pestle. Place the spices in a large saucepan or pot (wide enough to hold the pears, halved, in a single layer). Add the Port and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 15 minutes.

2. While the Port mixture steeps, peel, halve and core the pears.

3. Strain the Port mixture through a fine sieve to remove the spices. Return it to the pan on low heat. Lay the pears into the pan, cut side down. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Uncover and turn the pears over. Cover and cook 3 minutes longer, until the pears are soft but not mushy. Transfer to a platter with a slotted spoon and arrange cut side up.

4. Raise the heat under the saucepan and cook the liquid until it is reduced almost to a glaze, to about half a cup, about 15 minutes. Pour over the pears, filling each cavity, and serve at once or after cooling.

Each serving: 468 calories; 1 gram protein; 73 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 0 fat; 0 saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 18 mg. sodium.

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