This week I have a cooking article in the Cascadia Weekly, explaining a dish that’s near and dear to my heart: German Apple Pancake. I finally sat down with my favorite recipes for clafoutis, Dutch Baby, and Yorkshire pudding, figured out the ratios and tried making a completely off-the-cuff breakfast with an apple I found in my parents’ fridge instead of referring to the original recipe. It worked pretty darn well. On our way home we stopped at a fruit stand and bought a bag of Jonagolds, I have my eye on a recipe for buckwheat apple tart from the new Deborah Madison cookbook.
And, speaking of Dutch Babies, I want to share a comic that my aunt Holly Tuttle did a while back for a cartoonist cookbook. (Note: cooking religious extremists is not recommended)
A month or two ago, at dinner at a friend’s house, we tasted an apple risotto for the first time. I had never heard or thought of such a thing before, but I can’t think why not. The risotto was served as a first course, with a small piece of seared foie gras on top, and it was astonishing. I don’t generally have foie gras on hand, but I thought that there must be other flavors that would go well with the risotto. I tried it out last night, making up the risotto recipe as I went, and serving it with seared kielbasa slices and some sauteed escarole with garlic.
All I did for the risotto was chop some shallot and saute it in butter…
…then I added diced Granny Smith apple…
…then tossed in a cup or so of Arborio, sauteed it briefly, then ladled in chicken stock until everything was done. A bit of grated Parmesan finished it off. It was nice, although I couldn’t help feeling I might have preferred having the apple in large slices, simply seared in butter and served on the side. Also, the escarole (which I love) was perhaps too strong a flavor here, overwhelming the delicate apple (although it went splendidly with the smoky kielbasa). Live and learn; maybe next time I’ll try serving this with scallops. And maybe a pinch of fresh thyme in the risotto? We shall see.
Last week I was asked by the editor of Grow Northwest magazine to shoot a cover photo for their November-December issue. The catch? I’d need to bake an apple pie. Oh, darn.
Although I like other apple desserts and baked goods, I’ve never actually been that fond of apple pie. This is probably because I’ve never put much effort into baking them – if I’m going to go to the trouble to make a pie I’d rather it be rhubarb or pear-custard or blackberry. But I had a big bag of apples left here by my parents, and I wanted the photo to look like an apple pie – tall and rounded and golden – so I put some back into it.
Back in April when we were visiting family in Santa Cruz, we stopped in at the Bonny Doon tasting room and tried just about everything. One bottle that caught our fancy was the Pommeau, a mixture of apple cider and brandy. It’s more apple-y than apple brandy, more like wine than cider, but with a similar alcohol level to port. We loved it and bought one with the intention of bringing it out this autumn for cocktail mixing. Recently we decided the time had come to try it out.
Our first thought was to use it to make a Jack Rose. Normally made with applejack and lime juice, it’s an old-fashioned cocktail with a subtle apple tinge to it. Adding lime juice to the Pommeau, however, was frankly nasty. After that we tried a cocktail called (enticingly) Fallen Leaves, which is apple brandy with sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and lemon. This was more successful, but once again the clarity of the Pommeau’s apple flavor failed to balance the other ingredients. I did finish my Fallen Leaves, but concluded that perhaps cocktails were not the way to go after all. We served the remainder of the Pommeau simply chilled in wine glasses as dessert after an autumnal dinner of butternut squash risotto. It was hard to improve upon.
Here’s a nice breakfast dish that I had forgotten about. Usually when we have apples on hand, if I haven’t already turned them into applesauce, we saute them in butter and serve them as part of a German apple pancake. Last weekend, though, some fresh Jonagolds were crying out to be used and Jon remembered the apple popover recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle cookbook.
We used to make this a lot, and my parents still do (they often throw in blueberries, which is nice). It’s basically a clafoutis, with a lightly sweetened egg batter baked over apples that have been precooked with butter and cinnamon. As with many dishes of this sort, you could use any sort of fruit or seasoning – I haven’t tried pears, but I bet it would be fantastic. Maybe with a little nutmeg?
You never know how this is going to turn out – we never know if it’s to do with humidity, or temperature, or the fruit, or what. Sometimes the whole thing poofs up into a perfect dome, sometimes you get a craggy mountain range. This one refused to rise at all, but produced fantastic caramelized edges. Certainly nothing to complain about. We ate half on Sunday and saved the rest to reheat for Monday breakfast, which worked very well. It would also do nicely as a dessert, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
So last week I told you about the Deep Blue Sea, which is a drink that I really like but my husband doesn’t really care for. It only seems fair that this week I should tell you about a drink that he loves, the Jack Rose. Popular during Prohibition, its fame has dwindled but it remains a classic.
What I find kind of funny is that he first saw this drink in Danny Meyer’s book Mix Shake Stir, which I brought home from the library, and he got a bee in his bonnet that he wanted to make it. He actually went out and bought a bottle of Laird’s Applejack just so he could make this (well, and a few other recipes that called for it. He’d never actually tasted it, though.) Once he had rounded up the ingredients and tried it, it was an instant hit. The sweet-tart of the grenadine and lime (sometimes lemon), combined with the applejack, produces the effect of a ripe tart apple, something Jon is very fond of when it’s just at the right point.
The paper-thin apple slice on top of the drink was inspired by a photo in the Meyer book. It’s showy, but makes the cocktail awfully hard to drink. I might recommend a thin wedge stuck on the edge of a glass, unless you’re trying to impress people.
Jack Rose Cocktail
- 1 ½ oz Laird’s applejack or apple brandy
- ½ oz lime juice
- 1 tsp grenadine
Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an apple slice.
For some unknown reason, I had never tasted tarte Tatin until recently, and it was a revelation. I like apple pie, but often find it a bit bland. Tarte Tatin is not at all bland: the apples are soaked with caramel, chewy around the edges, and the crust has a wonderful shatteringly crisp quality that I’ve never encountered in a regular fruit pie. As soon as I tasted it, I vowed that I would try making one myself.
The basic concept really isn’t too complicated, and there seems to be some flexibility, based on the difference between the various recipes I looked up. The foundation is a caramel sauce made with sugar and butter, the apples are laid on the caramel, and pie crust is laid on the apples before baking, then the whole thing is turned upside down before serving. I found variations involving cooking the caramel in a separate pan, then mixing it with the apples, but I went with an approach of cooking the butter, sugar and apples together in a skillet, without stirring, until the sauce caramelized with the juice from the fruit. Continue reading
We did our first volunteering of the season this week at Gretchen’s Cooking School. The chef was Don Shank of the Rhododendron Cafe, a nice place out on Chuckanut Drive in Bow. The Rhody has a gimmick, of sorts: each month they feature a different theme or ethnicity, so the menu is constantly changing. They also close every winter so the owners can travel and keep their sanity – the secret to the restaurant’s longevity. Not a bad idea, really.
The focus of this class was seasonal food, especially local, so it featured cabbage, squash, apples and cheese. The weather’s gotten really chilly this week, so it was great to have all the warm, sweet flavors. Don brought lots of extra squash and some branches of Chinese lanterns for decor. Continue reading
The box of Jonagold apples in our basement finally gave up the ghost (i.e. was dumped unceremoniously into the compost bin) but I did manage to pull out two survivors to make a German apple pancake. This is one of those recipes my family’s been making forever, out of the original Vegetarian Epicure – the one with all the butter and cream and marijuana references. It’s the same thing as “Dutch babies” – basically a big popover, cooked in butter and served with hot cinnamony apple slices.
The batter is very quick to prepare: just 3/4 cup of milk, 3/4 cup white flour, 3 eggs and a bit of salt all whisked together, then poured into a hot cast iron skillet in which you’ve melted a tablespoon of butter. Pop the pan into a 450° oven for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350° and leave it for another 10 minutes or so. It always comes out a little different, but it usually poofs up high along the edges while the center stays thin and custardy with a crisp edge. This one poofed very nicely:
‘Tis the season for apples. We live in an area where apples are locally available, and some of them are very good, but I grew up in the heart of apple country, the Wenatchee Valley, and west-of-the-Cascades apples just never taste as good to me. So every year I make a point of buying a box of Jonagolds at a fruitstand near my parents’ house. Many of them are destined to become applesauce, but there are always leftovers.