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Potted cherries with rum and vanilla beans

Potted cherries with rum and vanilla bean

adapted from Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home”

Keller’s sweetly simple recipe keeps the cherry stems intact for a down-home presentation, but being one who doesn’t like to pluck at things in my food once plated — tails-on shrimp? uh-uh, no thank you — I removed the stems along with the pits. Keller also calls this a “compote” — true, to its definition — but do note that the cherries are not cooked here, in case the word brings to mind stewed fruit.

I served this with vanilla bean frozen yogurt — lots of the rum sauce spooned over it, of course — and topped lightly with a quick streusel mix of almond flour, turbinado sugar and melted butter. Kind of a lightened-up version of cherry pie. With rum.

Ingredients:
1/3 cup rum
1 cup granulated sugar (I used raw sugar)
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, cut in two and split*
1 pound cherries (I used Rainier, as did Keller)

Instructions:
Bring the rum to a boil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Carefully light the rum on fire using a long match (or by tilting the pan to the side, if using a gas burner).

When the flames die off, remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar and water. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the beans into the pan, and add the pods. Return the pan to the heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to steep for about a half hour.

While the syrup rests, remove the pits and stems of the cherries. Tuck any flaps around the hole left by the pit back into place. Spoon the cherries into one large or two medium canning jars (or other suitable containers).

Tuck the vanilla bean pods into the jars, then pour in the syrup. Cover with a lid and allow to the syrup to finish cooling. Keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

*Keller’s recipe calls for two vanilla beans. Vanilla beans are lovely and expensive, and el cheapo me chose not to devote two to this recipe. As my bag of cherries was under a pound, nothing seemed the worse for wear.

Prep Time: 15 minutes       Cook time: 10 minutes       Yield: 3 to 4 cups