Sunday, October 10, 2010

saga of the delicious red

According to an old Italian expression, se non è vero, è ben trovato. "Even if it's not true, it's well-conceived."

With that in mind, let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a law student named Virgin. (Her name is neither accurate nor true, but that’s beside the point.) Virgin, like most law students, was stressed and rather unhappy. And like most students, she had developed various coping mechanisms.

Virgin’s coping mechanism was alcohol. Top-shelf bourbon. Imported beer. Red wine.

One day, Virgin, after a long day of reading, briefing, and reviewing, went to her fridge for
a drink. (Or several.) Unfortunately, she was out of beer, out of wine, and the top-shelf bourbon in her liquor cabinet was not something for a night of heavy drinking. Virgin grumbled, for it was cold outside, but she shrugged on her jacket, put on shoes, grabbed her keys and wallet, and trudged down to the liquor store.

No lights were on in the liquor store. “Closed For Inventory” read the sign. Virgin sighed, uttered a few words that are best not repeated, and turned to make her way back home.

But what was this? Across the road from the liquor store, sandwiched between the 7-11 and a laundromat, stood a dimly lit package store. Virgin crossed the road to investigate more closely. Perhaps there would be beer.

There was beer. The options were dismal. She found something else: a box wine by the name of Delicious Red. Virgin knew that box wine was a dicey proposition, but decided to take her chances. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Sadly, the Delicious Red, though very red, was not delicious in any way, shape, or form. Even the European trick of mixing it with Coca-Cola didn’t help. And the hangover the next day was brutal. Virgin was left with four and a half liters of red wine she had no intention of drinking.

(Maybe Keystone Light would have been the wiser choice.)

What does one do with four and a half liters of dreadful red wine?

The same thing one does with any wine that isn't fit to drink: use it for cooking. And so Virgin went to class with the red wine hidden in juice bottles, and passed them on to a friend who had plans for braised pork.

Or had plans, at least. They only lasted until said friend tasted the wine.

Cloyingly sweet, unpleasantly sticky. Echoes of Welch’s Grape in the body. Overtones of Jolly Rancher candy in the nose. The Delicious Red had all the character of Manischewitz, albeit slightly less viscous. Not a wine for braising pork, unless one wanted candied stew.

Instead, Virgin's friend poured a bottle of the Delicious Red into a pot and added sugar and mulling spices. Reducing the liquid, she added quartered pears and hoped for the best.

After a long, slow simmer, the pears turned a lovely shade of deep red, the syrup, spicy with cherry notes. They paired remarkably well with chocolate souffle, and were good with ice-cream too.

Thus were mulled-wine pears born.

Mulled-Wine Pears

Don’t use a wine you’d drink for this. Instead, use the sweetest, most awful cheap red wine you can find.

(Serves one with leftovers, if one likes pears. They’ll keep in the fridge for a week.)

Set a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan on the stove. Pour in four cups of sweet red wine. Add a teaspoon of mulling spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice, orange peel). Bring to a boil, and allow to reduce by half.

Meanwhile, take four firm pears, peel them, core them, and cut them into quarters.

Stir two or three teaspoons of sugar into the poaching liquid. Gently slide the pears in.

Cook at a simmer until the liquid reduces to a light syrup (about an hour or so), then turn off the heat. Allow to cool.

Serve warm with something soft and chocolately. Leftovers are also good over ice-cream.


Cakelaw said...

Sounds good! Will have to remember the next time I have crap red wine.

Kate said...

Those pears look awesome! Perfect for fall I am going to have to try them out.

Virgin In The Volcano said...

Dude, how did I miss this post? I almost peed my pants reading it now. See what happens when I get caught up in having to play lawyer--I miss everything good in life!