APPLE PIE AD INFINITUM

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Lattice Top Apple Pie

 

Before my kids were born, neither my in-laws nor my mother was particularly insistent that  we join them for Thanksgiving. For them, Christmas Eve with my mom and Christmas Day with my in-laws was sufficient. After my kids were born, however…well that was entirely different. With the pressure on, we had to choose whom we’d visit and it was inevitable that someone would feel slighted. The only obvious solution was to take it over myself and host both sides of the family. Now the onus was on them to see their grandchildren. Sorry, no grumbling.

Along with a strong background in catering, I had quite a few years of “hosting” Thanksgiving in the Food & Wine test kitchen and so it seemed like a breeze to cook for 15 or so people.  The only problem was that all my experience was in a controlled environment—a professional kitchen, during the workday. Two little kids, a full time job and no time to prep made it a bit more challenging on my own. But I was, after all,  my mother’s daughter and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like chaos deter me. When guests, politely and genuinely asked if they could bring something my answer was always, “Oh, I don’t know, how about a bottle of Pinot Noir.” But after the 2nd or 3rd  year, my exhaustion level rising in direct proportion to my ego relaxing, the answer became “Oh, lovely! How about a green vegetable? Or a potato gratin? Or the first course?”

But NEVER dessert. That is where I drew the line…eventually. Yes, my mom was an impressive cook and cookie baker, but her pie making skills were less than stellar. Her pies looked beautiful but they were almost always undercooked. The bottom crust was pale and soggy and the fruit inside was crunchy. All my suggestions to bake it longer were ignored. I know my standards are ridiculously high, but that’s because I am the reigning champ of pies or so I’ve been told.

Handing out an assignment to my brother Frank, one year, he asked what our mother was bringing and I made the mistake of saying  “I don’t care as long as it’s not a pie.” Naturally, he relayed that to my mom in their conversation.  It was years before I lived that one down and yet, her pies remained under-baked. I miss her so much, I’d gladly endure one today and I wouldn’t even say a word.

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A mix of apples makes the best pie

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Roll the bottom crust

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Just a hit of lemon, sugar and cinnamon

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Irregular strips makes a beautiful lattice crust

 

Check out this fun video shot by Lucy Schaeffer

DEEP DISH APPLE PIE

 

ACTIVE: 30 MIN TOTAL: 2 1/2 HRS PLUS COOLING

 

8 SERVINGS

 

FILLING:

6 large apples (3 pounds) such as 2 Granny Smith, 2 golden delicious, and 2 Pink Lady, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger (optional)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into cubes

FLAKY ALL-BUTTER CRUST, recipe follows

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a bowl, combine the apples and lemon juice. Add the sugar, flour, ginger and cinnamon and stir to combine.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll one disc of the dough to a 13-inch round and ease it into a 10-inch deep dish glass pie plate.  Roll the 2nd disc to a 12-inch round, being sure to keep each cold. Add the filling to the pie plate and dot with the butter. Brush the rim with water and center the top crust over the apples. Press the edges together and trim the overhanging dough  to a scant 1-inch. Fold under and crimp decoratively. Cut a few vents in the top crust.
  3. Bake the pie in the center of the oven, placing a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any spills, until the top and bottom is golden and the filling is bubbling through the vents, about 70 minutes. Cover the edges of the crust if they brown too quickly. Cool on a wire rack at least 4 hours before serving.

 

FLAKY ALL-BUTTER CRUST

 

MAKES A 9 TO 10-INCH DOUBLE CRUST

 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, chilled

1/2 cup ice water

 

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add the cubed butter and pulse in 1 second bursts 5 times. The butter should be the size of small peas. Lift the lid, pour in the water and pulse 5 or 6 times, just until the dough is moistened, but doesn’t form a ball. Turn the crumbs onto a work surface,  and gather into a ball. Divide the dough into 2 parts.  Flatten each into a disc, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

 

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Last piece for me

 

BRUSSELS SPROUTS–WHY WAIT FOR AUTUMN?

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Brussels sprouts in season August through December

Brussels sprouts in August? Huh? After nearly 2 decades in magazine publishing, I’m still bewildered by the fact that we always work at least one season ahead. Flat, tasteless hot-house tomatoes in March have to (using taste memories, a great sense of imagination and an even greater suspension of disbelief) approximate July’s luscious juicy heirlooms. Of course shipping from parts west (and warm) is always an option, but very costly. The irony of publishing “Locavore” stories in season while  working on them out of season is one that never escapes me, but probably never occurs to readers. And why would it?  Who could know? Working on wintery stories in the Spring and Summer is a bit less of a stretch  because many of those fruits and vegetables store fairly well. Taste is not always optimal but chances are, they’ll be roasted, braised, gratinéed, puréed or baked into a pie and that mitigates much of the un-seasonality . 

Brussels sprouts, the stinky cornerstone of Thanksgiving, are now just starting to pop up at the market, which is convenient for magazine work. But I’m always happy to see Brussels sprouts–any time of year and take full advantage of their presence whether I’m developing out-of-season recipes or just making dinner…or today’s brunch as luck would have it. 

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Brussels Sprout Shakshuka ready for the oven

One of my absolute favorite dishes is Shakshuka–a Middle Eastern version of my beloved Italian Eggs in Purgatory. Both dishes are nothing more than eggs baked in tomato sauce. Today I wanted something a little different and not so saucy. Back from a beautiful, drizzly trail run, and starving, I did a quick check of my pantry: eggs, sandwich bread, scallions, rosemary and yes, Brussels sprouts. (I was working on a Thanksgiving story and had half a basket in my fridge.)  My post-run go-to meal always combines protein, carbs and veggies and I had everything I needed.

I toasted some croutons in the skillet, then shredded and sautéed the Brussels sprouts in olive oil to softened them and bring out their sweetness. Rosemary and scallions were all the seasoning, besides salt and pepper, necessary, though I suppose some fresh chiles would’ve been delicious. (Enter hot sauce!) I then transferred the mixture to individual baking dishes, made a little well in the center of each, into which I cracked an egg. They popped into a very hot toaster oven (no need to turn on the big one) for about 4 minutes and emerged with runny yolks, crispy croutons and tender Brussels sprouts. A perfect all-in-one meal!

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The perfect all-in-one brunch: Brussels Sprout Shakshuka

BRUSSELS SPROUT SHAKSHUKA

total time: 20 min

2 servings

 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 slice packaged white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

6 large Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 large eggs

hot sauce!

 

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the bread and cook over moderately high heat, stirring until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining oil to the pan along with the Brussels sprouts, scallion and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until bright green and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Return the croutons to the skillet and toss to combine. Divide the mixture between 2 individual baking dishes or gratin dishes and make a small well in the center. Crack an egg into each dish and bake until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve with hot sauce. Yay!

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Perfection in every bite.