French vanilla ice cream topped with poached pears, sprinkled with toasted almonds, and draped with rum-chocolate sauce. –Beach Plum Inn, Menemsha (Martha’s Vineyard), Massachusetts
Combine 1 pound sugar, water, and vanilla in pan and cook over medium heat, stirring along bottom of pan to prevent sugar from settling while mixture comes to a boil. As the boiling point is reached, sugar crystals may form along side of pan. Brush them down with pastry brush dipped in hot water. When sugar syrup comes to a boil, remove pan from heat and set aside. Peel pears, cut in half lengthwise, and core. Gently place them in sugar syrup and poach, uncovered, over medium heat for about an hour. Remove from stove and let pears cool in the syrup. (After preparing this dessert, the leftover syrup can be used again for poaching other fruits or in sauces, so don’t toss it out.) Toss almonds in beaten egg white. Remove, drain slightly, and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Put on cookie sheet and toast at 325 degrees F. Keep an eye on them as they color rapidly. Remove when golden. Break chocolate into small pieces and melt in top of double boiler over simmering water. Stir until smooth, then add syrup and rum. Keep warm but not hot. Beat egg yolks with cream and stir into chocolate mixture. Keep warm but do not boil. (If made ahead, sauce can be refrigerated and reheated in double boiler when ready to use.) Place a scoop of ice cream in each of 6 individual glass or china bowls. Place 2 pear halves over ice cream, cavity side down. Sprinkle toasted almonds over top. Serve warmed chocolate sauce in sauce boat and allow guests to help themselves.