Beat butter and 3 tablespoons sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add 1 egg, cream, and vanilla; beat just until blended. Gradually add flour and cornmeal; beat just until dough comes together. Shape dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and chill at least 1 hour.
Combine 1/4 cup sugar, wine, and next 4 ingredients in a Dutch oven; add pears. Stir in enough water to cover (about 3 1/4 cups). Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer 20 minutes or just until pears are almost tender; drain, discarding poaching liquid. Let cool completely. Slice pears into about 1/2-inch slices. Set aside.
Roll dough into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate; fold edges under and crimp. Line pastry with aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 375° for 15 to 20 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Remove pie weights and foil, and let cool completely.
Combine cornstarch, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar in a medium saucepan; whisk in half-and-half. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until hot. Remove pan from heat. Whisk together egg yolks and remaining 2 eggs in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk one-third hot half-and-half mixture into egg mixture; gradually whisk egg mixture into hot half-and-half mixture. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; whisk in almond extract and 1 tablespoon butter. Let cool 10 minutes.
Pour filling into crust, spreading to edges of crust with a spatula. Arrange pear slices over top of filling, and chill at least 1 hour or until set. Garnish, if desired.
The Macintosh, Charleston, South Carolina