4 firm, ripe pears (2¼ pounds total)
2 cups dry red wine, such as Cotes-du-Rhone or Pinot Noir
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½ cup sugar, or more as needed
1½ cups water, or more as needed
2 strips (1-by-3-inch) orange zest (no white pith)
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepare a charcoal grill for a medium-hot fire. Once the coals are ashen, dump them onto one side for indirect grilling.
If using a gas grill, preheat the grill with all burners on high. When it reaches a temperature of 500 degrees, adjust for indirect grilling. With a two-burner grill, turn off one of the burners; with three or more burners, turn off the center unit. Set the temperature at 450 degrees.
Drain the wood chips and add them to the charcoal. If using gas, place the drained chips in a foil pouch with a few fork holes on top or in a smoker box and place on the grate.
Trim the bottoms of the pears just enough so they'll sit flat. Set the pears on their bottoms on the cool side of the grate. Close the lid and smoke for about 4 minutes; you want to lightly smoke them, not cook them. Transfer the pears to a plate.
Combine the wine, sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low. Add the orange peel strips and cloves. Cook for 20 minutes, adjusting the temperature as needed so the liquid is barely bubbling at the edges.
Meanwhile, peel the smoked pears; cut them in half lengthwise, then core them. Gently drop the halves into the wine syrup, which should just cover the pears; add liquid and sugar as needed. Poach 10-15 minutes, until the pears are just soft.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract; cool the pears in the cooking liquid for at least 20 minutes and up to a few hours before serving. Discard the orange peel and cloves.
Serve with some of the cooking liquid, with sweetened cheese, such as mascarpone, or vanilla ice cream.
Cook's notes: Bartlett, Anjou and Bosc pears work well here. You'll need to soak 1 cup of apple wood chips in water for an hour.
Jim Shahin for The Washington Post