The idea for this recipe began with a baked apple dish my mother made when apples were in season in the Fall and the holidays. She would simmer apple juice with cinnamon sticks and cloves, then stuff a cored apple with dried fruit and pour the juice syrup over them. The whole house smelled like cinnamon apples. As an adult, I adapted the recipe to use mulled spiced wine, usually leftover from a party. Sometimes I will put each apple in a separate mini-cast iron pan to make individual desserts. I prefer honeycrisp apples because they maintain their shape during baking. Jonathan or Braeburn apples are also good when honeycrisp aren’t available. I don’t use red delicious or gala apples for the same reason – those cannot hold up to the heat of baking.

1 cup sugar

1 ½ cup Pinot Noir or any light-bodied red wine

2 tablespoons mulling spice

4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes, plus 2 tbs. for the pan

6 medium honey crisp apples cored

6 tablespoons fig and cherry compote (see recipe)

Preheat oven to 375. Place the sugar, wine, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the consistency of a thin syrup. Remove from heat and stir in the cubes of butter. Core the apples and peel them if you prefer (but leave them whole with the cored center hollow in the middle). Stuff the apple cavities with the fig compote. Butter the sides and bottom of a deep baking dish with remaining butter. Place the apples upright in the dish. Pour the wine syrup over the apples. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, periodically basting the apples with the pan juices until the apples are soft but still standing. Remove baking dish from oven. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a spoonful of the pan juices over the top.

Fig and Cherry Compote

1 cup dried mission figs, chopped

1 cup dried zante’ currants

1 cup dried tart cherries

¼ cup honey 1 bottle (700 ml) Pinot Noir or any light-bodied red wine

½ cup balsamic vinegar

Add all ingredients to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low simmer for 45 minutes or until it is sweet and syrup, coating the back of a spoon. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or freeze up to 6 months.

Written by Chef John O'Neil