I think of Creme Anglaise as the mother sauce of the pastry kitchen. Just like French food has the five mother sauces from which everything departs, knowing how to make a Creme Anglaise is to me the beginning of all things pastry. I feel this way because tempering, the only necessary skill to make it properly, is a recurring skill needed to make ice cream, to laminate doughs, and even to serve a dessert at an appealing temperature.
Tempering in the kitchen simply means to slowly and gently bring ingredients to a different temperature. That’s what we’re doing here: slowly adding a hot liquid to raw egg yolks, stirring it in bit by bit, so as to not make them scrambled eggs.
As for the poached pears, they get better and better as they sit in their poaching liquid. Consider making them a day ahead if you have the time. If you don't want to use wine and rum, you can poach them in Earl Grey tea. Use 2 teabags and add some ginger as well.
For the pears:
16 ounces of red wine (2 cups)
4 ounces of water (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon honey
1/4 cup rum (or bourbon)
4 pears (Bosc or Anjou are your best choice)
4 strips of orange zest
For the creme anglaise:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons of honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
To cook the pears:
Place the honey, water, wine and rum in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat and stir to ensure the honey dissolves.
Peel 4 wide strips of zest from an orange. Set the strips aside and peel your pears. Quarter the peeled pears. Scoop out any seeds using a spoon. Add the pears and orange zest to the poaching liquid. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring every once in a while to ensure the pears cook evenly.
To cook the creme anglaise:
Place a medium bowl on top of a damp tea towel. Separate 3 egg yolks from their whites and place the yolks in the bowl.
Bring the milk, heavy cream, honey, and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Slowly pour in the hot liquid bit by bit while simultaneously whisking the yolks. Once all the liquid is incorporated, pour everything back in the saucepan.
Cook the tempered mixture over medium heat. Constantly stir it with a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon until it starts to thicken and coats the back of the spoon or spatula. This should take about 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove from the heat and strain into a clean bowl. Stir in the cardamom.
Let it cool, cover it with plastic, and store it in the fridge until you are ready to serve the pears.