Poached pears are a simple way to turn a bottle of wine and a handful of ripe, but still slightly firm, pears into a sensational dessert. The addition of lemon and anise play up the citrusy notes and give it a surprising, satisfying finish.
1. Peel, halve, and core the pears, leaving one end intact. Combine the pinot grigio, 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, lemon peel, and anise seeds, if using, in a medium saucepan over high heat, and cook about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the pears, cut-side down, in one layer, making sure that the liquid covers the pears completely. Cover and simmer until the pears are tender but intact, 30 to 40 minutes.
2. Remove the pears and set aside at room temperature. Remove the lemon peel from the liquid and continue simmering until the liquid is reduced to 1 cup, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve the pears with the syrup and a dollop of mascarpone cheese or dulce de leche or both. Top with an anise torta or other thin, sweet cracker.
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