You can make the pears 2 days in advance, once the pears are tender, turn off the heat then cool the liquid and the pears. Transfer the pears to a container and cover with the cooled poaching liquid. Reheat the pears in the liquid just before serving and make the whipped cream. If you do not have a vanilla bean, substitute 2 to 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
1 lemon, sliced and added to a large bowl of water
3 firm pears such as Bosc or Bartlett, peeled, halved and cored
1 cup water
1 (750ml) bottle dry red wine like Merlot or Cabernet
1 orange, quartered
1/2 cup honey or more to taste
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1 vanilla bean, halved with seeds scraped out
1 cup cold heavy cream
Add pear halves to lemon water to prevent browning while you prepare the poaching liquid.
Add bottle of wine and 1 cup of water to a 3 to 4-quart saucepan. Squeeze orange quarters over the wine, releasing their juice and drop in the quarters of orange along with the honey, cinnamon stick, cloves and the vanilla pod and seeds.
Bring to a boil over high and reduce to a simmer. Remove pear halves from the lemon water then submerge into the poaching liquid, cook until tender throughout, about 20 minutes.