Have you tried Lillet Blanc, the French wine-based apertif? It is a main component of the Vesper Martini (3 ounces gin, 1 ounce vodka, 1/2 ounce Lillet with a twist of lemon) made famous in 1953’s Casino Royale where it was shaken, not stirred, of course. Less boozy, my go-to spring cocktail is well-chilled Lillet Blanc stirred with a splash of French Curaçao and an orange twist. You could also simply pour it over ice or make a delightful champagne cocktail, with two parts Champagne to one part Lillet. Here, however, it serves as a spiced and citrusy poaching liquid for vanilla bean-flecked pears. I created this for the February issue of Sheridan Road magazine as a light, make-ahead dessert to be served over vanilla ice cream, but you could also spoon it onto a thick slice of pound cake.
Pear Lillet Compote
Lillet Blanc is a French wine-based aperitif, available in most wine shops and good liquor stores.
3/4 cup Lillet Blanc
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise pod
1 green cardamom pod, gently cracked (but not broken apart) with the side of a knife
1 large strip fresh lemon peel
tiny pinch kosher salt
1/2 vanilla bean
3 Bosc pears, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons honey
Place Lillet, cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamom, lemon peel and salt in a small saucepan.
Using a sharp knife, split the 1/2 vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape seeds from pod and add seeds and pod to saucepan.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until mixture is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add pears and honey, stirring to combine. Cover and cook over medium-low until pears are tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove lid, reduce heat to low and simmer until juices have thickened, another 6-8 minutes.
Allow mixture to cool. Remove and discard cinnamon stick, star anise pod, cardamom pod, lemon peel, and vanilla bean pod. Cover and chill or serve right away over ice cream, gelato, or pound cake.