Inspired by an old 19th-century American recipe, these golden peaches or nectarines are stained crimson by port wine and served in an intense vanilla cream, drizzled with their ruby cooking syrup. Make two to three days ahead and keep chilled. Assemble at the picnic site.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 3- to 4-inch stick of cinnamon, broken
- 5 to 6 cups tawny port (here is where an inexpensive california port does a respectable job)
- 4 firm-ripe peaches or nectarines, peeled and cored
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 large vanilla bean, split
- Sugar to taste
1. A day or two before serving, in a 6-quart casserole, combine sugar, cinnamon, and port, and boil for 5 minutes. Add peaches and water to cover. Simmer gently until fruit is just showing signs of softening. Remove from heat and cool. Refrigerate in the liquid overnight.
2. The next day, remove peaches from liquid. Boil liquid down to about 1 1/2 cups or until thickened. Cool and add peaches back to liquid.
3. Combine cream and vanilla in a 4-quart saucepan, and simmer until reduced by about 1/2 or until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 8-10 minutes. Cool, strain into a bowl or pitcher and sweeten to taste. Refrigerate.
4. For transport, pack cream separate from fruit and keep everything cold. To serve, make a pool of the cream on each dessert plate or one large platter. Swirl in a few spoons of the reduced cooking liquid. Set fruit on the platter(s). Drizzle with a little more of the cooking liquid.