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Dried-Fruit Compote with Bourbon and Crème Anglaise

Dried-Fruit Compote with Bourbon and Crème Anglaise
Made from milk or cream, eggs and sugar and cooked on the stovetop, crème anglaise is probably the best-known custard sauce. Always use a heavy saucepan over low heat and do not increase the heat to speed the thickening process, as this may cause curdling. Tempering the eggs, or very gradually stirring hot liquid into them to warm them up, also prevents curdling. Once the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and leaves a clear path when a finger is drawn through it, it is ready to remove from the heat.

Ingredients:

For the crème anglaise:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1⁄3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 cups water
  • 3⁄4 cup bourbon
  • 2⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1 large orange, preferably organic
  • 1 1⁄4 cups dried apricots
  • 1 1⁄4 cups dried Black Mission or Calimyrna
      figs, halved
  • 1 1⁄4 cups pitted prunes, halved
  • 1 cup dried sweet cherries
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Directions:

To make the crème anglaise, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the half-and-half to a gentle simmer. Slowly and gradually whisk the hot half-and-half into the egg yolk mixture.

Return the mixture to the pan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and leaves a clear path when a finger is drawn through it, about 6 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil.

Immediately transfer the crème anglaise to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

In a heavy, large nonaluminum pan, combine the water, bourbon and sugar. Place the pan over medium heat and stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest of the orange in several long strips and add them to the pan. When the liquid simmers, add the apricots and figs. Cover partially and simmer, stirring gently once or twice, for 15 minutes. Add the prunes and cherries, re-cover partially and simmer until all the fruits are tender but still hold their shape, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.

To serve, remove and discard the orange zest. Divide the fruit and the poaching liquid among individual dishes. Drizzle the crème anglaise around (not over) the fruit and serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10.

Make-Ahead Tip: The compote can be prepared up to 3 days in advance. Let it come to room temperature, then just before serving, rewarm it over low heat, stirring gently.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Thanksgiving, by Michael McLaughlin (Simon & Schuster, 2001).