From Chef Tasso for Supper Underground, supperunderground.com
2 cups port wine
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped (keep the seeds and pod)
1 stick cinnamon
½ tsp. whole allspice
peel of half a lemon
Combine all ingredients except pears in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Flame off alcohol.
Peel the pears, leaving the stems intact. Slice the bottom eighth-inch from each pear to create a flat, stable base.
Reduce heat to a bare simmer and add the pears, laying them on their sides so that they are almost completely submerged. Cook, turning pears occasionally so that they become saturated on all sides, until they are just tender when pierced with a fork, about 7 minutes.
Cool to room temperature. Serve with vanilla ice cream.