Serve this warm dessert at a fall dinner party.
1/2 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp freshly grounded cloves
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp orange juice
6 firm but ripe Bartlett, Bosc, or Anjou pears
6 oz. (about 3/4 cup, packed) soft unripened goat cheese
Warmed Mulled Wine
1 cup water, preferably spring or filtered water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup medium-bodied red wine, such as Pinot Noir
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
4 lightly crushed cardamom pods
1 2"-long piece of orange zest, coloured part only, not the bitter white pith
1 1"-long piece of lemon zest, coloured part only, not the bitter white pith
2 whole cloves
Step 1: Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a baking dish just large enough to hold 12 pear halves in one layer. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in the melted butter to make a paste, then add the lemon and orange juices. Peel and halve the pears and scoop out the cores with a melon baller or teaspoon.
Step 2: Gently place the pear halves in the brown sugar mixture to coat, then place them cut-side down in the baking dish. Scrape the mixture over the pears and place the baking dish, uncovered, into the centre of the oven. Bake the pears for 35-45 minutes, basting every 10 minutes or until the pears are very tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife and are amber-coloured and caramelized.
Step 3: Preheat the broiler. Turn the pear halves over, exposing the cut sides. Spoon about 2 tbsp of the goat cheese into the core cavity of each half, mounding it in the centre. Flash the dish of cheese-filled pears under the broiler and watch closely until the cheese is slightly melted and tinged with brown. Serve immediately, with Warm Mulled Wine Sauce.
Warmed Mulled Wine Sauce
Step 1: Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan.
Step 2: Place the pot over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.
Step 3: Boil gently for 10-12 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and set aside to cool slightly before serving. This sauce can be made up to 1 week ahead of time and stored airtight in the refrigerator. Warm in a small pot on the stove over low heat, or carefully in a microwave, before serving, but take care not to scorch the sauce.