How to Make It
Preheat oven to 375°F. Rub 1 tablespoon butter on bottom and sides of a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
Scoop out and discard core and seeds from each apple half using a melon baller or teaspoon. Slice a very thin sliver from opposite side of apple so apple lays flat. Arrange the apples, cored sides up, snugly in prepared baking dish.
Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in small skillet or saucepan over medium. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and Chinese five-spice, and heat until fragrant and just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Whisk in brown sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Spoon butter mixture evenly into hollows of apples. Use the back of spoon to spread a thin layer onto cut surfaces of apples.
Cover baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake in preheated oven until apples start to soften, 30 to 40 minutes. Uncover dish, and scatter pecans over apples. Baste with juices from bottom of pan. Increase oven temperature to 400°F, and bake until apples are nicely browned and very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of heavy cream.