The most beloved white wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia is Tocai Friulano (not to be confused with the Hungarian Tokay, made from a completely different grape). The aroma of Tocai is often herbal, sometimes nutty, with a whisper of fresh peaches. When using it as a poaching liquid for ripe, juicy pears, a touch of honey complements the wine. Cooking time will vary according to the ripeness of the pears. If you can’t find Tocai—which is readily available at most wine stores—a fragrant Italian Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc will do nicely.
1. Combine the wine, honey, sugar, zests, cinnamon and cloves in a deep saucepan large enough to hold the pears in a single layer. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low.
2. Core the pears from the bottom using an apple corer. Peel them, leaving the stems intact. Place the pears in the poaching liquid, and partially cover the saucepan. Cook gently for 20 to 30 minutes, turning them once or twice, until the pears are tender when pierced with a toothpick.
3. Remove the pears to a serving bowl, and increase the heat to medium high. Boil the liquid, uncovered, until it is golden and reduced by one-half. Pour the liquid over the pears, and serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream on each serving, if desired.