Heat large sauté pan over high heat; add bacon and fry until crisp; remove and drain on paper-towel-lined plates. Cut bacon strips into small pieces.
Peel pears and halve lengthwise. Remove core and seeds. Place pears in small saucepan with Port, 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon stick, and star anise. Cook over low, to just below simmer for about an hour to 90 minutes, until pears are easily pierced with a knife but stay intact. Remove from heat and keep pears in the poaching liquid until ready to use.
To candy the almonds:* Line jelly roll pan bottom and sides with aluminum foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. Heat 1/2 cup sugar over medium-high heat in saucepan. When sugar melts and turns light amber color, add almond slices and stir to coat. The combination will become dry and a bit hard to stir, but keep stirring over medium-high heat. Once sugar returns to liquid form, remove to prepared jelly roll pan. Spread, let cool, and break up.
Heat skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons butter and 2 slices brioche. Top each slice with 1-2 ounces Blue cheese and let it melt a bit while the bread bottom brown. Remove to plate and repeat with remaining bread and cheese. Top each sandwich with half a poached pear, sliced, about 1/4 cup of candied almonds, and 1 tablespoon bacon pieces. Serve open-faced.
*You may use purchased candied almonds.
- 4 slices applewood-smoked bacon
- 2 Bosc or Bartlett pears
- 2 cups Ruby Port wine
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2-3 star anise
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 slices brioche
- 4-6 ounces (3/4-1 cup) Wisconsin Blue cheese, crumbled
- Candied orange rind for garnish, optional