4 cups dry red wine, such as Merlot, Pinot Noir or Zinfandel
2 cups granulated sugar
One 3-inch piece vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
4 ripe but firm pears, peeled and cored
3 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
In a large saucepan, combine the wine, sugar and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for three to four minutes more, or until the liquid is slightly thickened.
Reduce heat to low and add the pear halves. Poach them for seven to eight minutes, or until they are tender but still hold their shape. Remove from the heat. Discard the vanilla bean.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a bowl and pour the poaching liquid over them. Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes, turning them from time to time. (The longer the pears stand in the poaching liquid, the more they will absorb and the darker they will become. They can stand for several hours, or if refrigerated, up to 24 hours before serving. If you want to server the pears warm after they have been refrigerated, pour the poaching liquid back into a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, add the pears and simmer two to three minutes, or just long enough to warm the pears.)
To make the sauce: If using fresh raspberries, reserve a few for garnish. In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients and, mashing the berries with the back of a wooden spoon, cook over high heat for about 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring often, another 5 minutes. Put a bowl beneath a food mill, then put the berries through the mill to remove the seeds, scraping the bottom o the mill to make sure you get all the pulp as well as the juice. Return the juice and pulp to the saucepan.
Cook over medium heat just until the sauce thickens a bit and warms, two to three minutes.
Arrange two warm or chilled pear halves on each dessert plate and pour a tablespoon or so of the poaching liquid over them, then a spoonful of the raspberry sauce. Garnish with a few whole raspberries if available.
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Excerpted from Christmas Sweets: 65 Festive Recipes - Table Decorations - Sweet Gift Ideas. Published by Chronicle Books. Copyright © 2007 by Georgeanne Brennan. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Chronicle Books.