Classic. Simple. Delicious. The pears and sauce can be prepared up to 3 days in advance–just keep them in separate containers. Bring the pears to room temperature and gently reheat the sauce before serving.

1/2 c sugar
1-1/4 c water
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 2 to 3 t vanilla extract
4 ripe pears, with stems
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 c heavy cream

1. Bring the sugar and water to a simmer in a saucepan large enough to easily hold the pears.¬† Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the vanilla bean. If using vanilla extract, don’t add just yet.

2. Peel the pears, leaving the stem intact (if possible). Place into simmering water. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer the pears, turning them over (gently) occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add the vanilla extract for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a dish and let cool. Remove vanilla bean (which can be rinsed, dried and used again). Reserve the poaching syrup.

3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Or melt in the microwave. Heat the cream and 1/4 c of the poaching syrup in a saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling. Remove from the heat, add the melted chocolate, and stir until smooth.

4. Place each pear in a shallow bowl, topped with a good drizzle of chocolate sauce. Serve immediately, with the rest of the sauce on the side.