This variation of the classic French dessert combines the sweet succulence of pears with rich, ginger-laced custard. It is not difficult to make, nor does it take much time, yet it bears a simple elegance.

SERVES 4

4 large pears, ripe but still slightly firm (preferably Bosc, Anjou, or Comice)

в…“ cup honey

Вј cup water

CUSTARD

1ВЅ cups milk

4 egg yolks

Вј cup honey

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1ВЅ tablespoons pear brandy, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger

  1. Peel the pears and cut them in half vertically through the center. Carefully cut out the cores, then make a shallow incision in the necks to remove the strings.
  2. In a large skillet mix the honey and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Slip the pears in, flat side down, and cover the pan. Cook 5 minutes. Remove the cover, and cook uncovered for an additional 5 minutes, basting the pears frequently, or until they are tender when pierced with a skewer or cake tester. Do not overcook.
  3. Remove the pears and place them in a shallow serving dish flat side up. Boil the syrup down until it is very thick and only 3 tablespoons remain. Pour onto the pears. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  4. To make the custard: In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring the milk almost to a boil.
  5. Meanwhile in a medium bowl whisk the egg yolks and honey with a wire whisk until well blended. Add the cornstarch and whisk well again until perfectly smooth.
  6. Slowly whisk in the hot milk, then pour the mixture into the saucepan. Over medium heat bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly, and boil 1 minute, or until it has thickened to the consistency of custard.
  7. With a rubber spatula immediately scrape the custard into a bowl. Stir in the pear brandy or vanilla. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the ginger. Cover the custard with plastic wrap and press it directly on the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until cold, about 1 hour. May be prepared to this point up to 24 hours in advance, covered, and refrigerated until ready to serve.
  8. To serve the pears, arrange them in one large serving dish or in individual dishes. Spoon equal amounts of custard into the cavity of each pear. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of minced crystallized ginger.