- 1 750-ml bottle dry red wine, such as Cabernet or Zinfandel
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 to 6 ripe, Bosc pears
FOR MERINGUE BASE
- 4 large egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 1/4 cup superfine sugar
- 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
- Poach pears: Combine wine, the water, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir until sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
- Carefully peel pears, leaving stems intact. Place in pan; cover, and cook, rotating occasionally, until bases of pears are easily pierced with a paring knife, 20 to 25 minutes, depending on ripeness of fruit. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath.
- Using a large slotted spoon, carefully transfer pears to a large metal bowl set in the ice bath. Pour poaching liquid through a fine sieve into bowl with pears; let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight to let pears absorb the poaching liquid.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees with rack in center. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an overturned bowl or cake pan as a guide, trace an 8-inch circle on the parchment; turn parchment over, marked side down.
- Make meringue base: Place egg whites, salt, and light-brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed until well combined and no lumps of sugar remain. Increase speed to medium; beat until soft peaks form, about 9 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add superfine sugar. Continue beating until peaks are stiff and glossy, about 2 minutes more. Beat in vinegar and vanilla.
- Using a rubber spatula, spread the meringue into marked 8-inch circle on prepared baking sheet; form peaks around the edge and a well in the center.
- Bake meringue until crisp around the edge and just set in the center, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack until meringue is cool enough to handle. Carefully peel off parchment; let meringue cool completely on rack.
- Make topping: In a small bowl, whip heavy cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until ready to use.
- Slice pears in half lengthwise; remove seeds and stems with a spoon or melon baller, and discard. Cut pears into 3/4-inch pieces, and place in a bowl; cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.
- Bring 3 cups poaching liquid to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat, and simmer until syrupy and reduced to about 1 cup, 20 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare another ice bath. Pour syrup into a clean bowl set in the ice bath; stir frequently until cool and thickened.
- To assemble, carefully place meringue on serving platter. Spoon whipped cream on top, and then add pears. Serve, sliced into wedges and drizzled with syrup.
To serve six, you need three pears, but poach a few extra -- they're luscious served with vanilla ice cream. Refrigerate in poaching syrup for a week.