Zest of ½ large orange, in strips
1 teaspoon peeled chopped fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick, broken into two pieces
8 whole cloves
3 star anise pods
5 black peppercorns
1 cup red wine, a Chianti works well
1 cup ruby port
½ cup honey
¼ cup unsulfured molasses
Pinch of salt
6 firm pears, such as Bartlett or Bosc, peeled, halved, and cored
Lite cream cheese, ricotta, crème fraiche or ice cream for serving.
1. Heat oven to 350◦.
2. Combine zest, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and peppercorns in an herb bag or a piece of cheese cloth and tie securely.
3. In a medium sized bowl, add the wine, port, honey, molasses and salt. Whisk the ingredients together well.
4. In a large oven to table baking or casserole dish, place the pear halves cut side up.
5. Pour the liquid mixture over the pears. There should be a sufficient amount to lightly cover the pears.
6. Nestle the spice bag into the liquid between the pears.
7. Cover the dish with foil, pinching it around the edges.
8. Cook in the prepared oven for approximately 45 minutes.
9. Turn the pears over and replace the foil as before. Cook for another 45 minutes.
10 Test the pears with a toothpick. The flesh should be soft to the touch, though it depends on how ripe they were before they went into the oven. If not sufficiently soft, replace the foil and return the dish to the oven for another 15 minutes.
11. Let the pears cool slightly.
12. Place two halves on each serving plate. Spoon a small dollop of lite cream cheese, ricotta, crème fraiche or ice cream in each cavity. Spoon a bit of the remaining liquid over the pears and serve.