Very Spicy Caramel Pears
- 15 whole cloves
- 2 star anise
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 4 pears, Bosc, Comice, or Butter (I used 8 miniature pears)
- 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
- 1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1/4 cup brandy, Cognac or rum (I like brandy)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Have ready a large baking dish, large enough to hold the quartered pears in a single layer.
Place all the whole spices in a mortar and coarsely crush them with the pestle, or you can place them in a ziptop bag and pound them with a rolling pin until coarsely crushed.
Peel the pears, cut them into quarters, and cut out the core and the fibrous part near the center.
Cut the butter into small pieces and place it in the baking dish with the brown sugar. Place the dish in the oven for a few minutes, until the butter is melted.
Take the dish out of the oven, arrange the pears in a single layer over the melted butter/brown sugar, add the crushed spices and the brandy, and toss everything together until the pears are coated.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size and firmness of your pears, until the pears are cooked through but not mushy. Stir the pears a few times during cooking to make sure they're evenly flavored.
When the pears can be easily pierced with a paring knife, they're done. Take the dish out of the oven and lift the pears out of the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon (place them in a separate bowl for now, and set aside.) Use a spatula to scrape all the juices and spices from the baking dish into a heavy saute pan.
Add 1/4 cup cream to the pear juices and spices, in the saute pan, and cook over medium heat until the mixture turns a deep color, thickens, and caramelizes. Strain the finished sauce over the pears and serve with scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Note: if you are not going to serve the pears right away, no big deal - I like to spoon the sauce directly over the pears in the bowl I'm storing them in, and letting them cool that way, soaking in the sauce. When you're ready to serve, scoop a serving of the pear wedges out, making sure to get some of the juices (including any butter that may have solidified in the bowl along with the pears.) Heat in a saute pan or in the microwave, on 70% power, for a minute or two, or until the pears are warm and the sauce is hot. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.