Vanilla Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce and Ice Cream (a.k.a. "Poire Belle Helene")
- Vanilla Poached Pears:
- 6 cups water
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 vanilla bean
- 6 firm pears such as Bosc or Bartlett
- Chocolate Sauce:
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 quart store-bought vanilla-bean ice cream
- Wafer cookies, for serving
Combine the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and lemon zest in a medium saucepan. Split vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and add both the seeds and the pod to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Peel the pears. Reduce the poaching liquid to a simmer and add the pears. Cook until just tender (the tip of a paring knife will go through the flesh of a pear with just a little resistance), about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the pears in the poaching liquid, until completely cooled, about 45 minutes.
Heat the cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Put the chocolate and butter into a medium-size bowl. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth and glossy.