I got a good piece of advice today that I do believe I’ll take: name the new computer John Cusack. How could I not fall madly in love with it then? And accept any faults or shortcomings because love is blind? Not that JC has any faults OR shortcomings, of course.
(It must be the software’s fault that I can’t install it in order to upload photos from my camera – it freezes two thirds of the way through the installation process every time.) The index, by the way, is one I put back last night from the html code I managed to cut and paste as I realized the entire thing disappeared each time I hit save. So I created a new page and pasted it back in, but still have to pick through and separate each link. It’s too bad I require sleep – I could get so much more done.
But enough about that. I realized today that I was likely so cranky because I’ve been disconnected, as if telling you all about my food is a big part of the enjoyment (as is the eating part, which I’m also largely missing).
Dinner tonight was Pad Thai. I wanted a big bowl of something kind of crunchy and salty, and the great thing about Pad Thai (besides the fact that it’s so delicious) is that you can cut the noodles with bean sprouts and have a giant bowl of what seems like all noodles, but which is actually have sprouts. Which are basically water – not much in the way of nutrients, but not many calories, either. You can find a recipe, and even a photo, back at Day 205. (Last night I made a weird sort of lamb stew in the slow cooker, with roasted red peppers and apricots and butternut squash, that didn’t taste quite as good as it sounds. I forgot that I don’t really like using cinnamon with lamb – it reminds me of something medieval – like the cinnamon is a primitive attempt to mask gaminess or smelly meat.)
But I really wanted to tell you about that apple pie I made on Tuesday – it was Inauguration Day and so on CBC they requested apple pie. I have nothing against apple pie, and it does make a mighty fine breakfast, but as a topic of conversation it’s not exactly titillating. Everyone knows apple pie already. So I thumbed through a few of the most classically American resources I could think of – Martha, the White House Cookbook, the New York Times – and in the Times found an old recipe from 2001 called ‘sautéed apple pie’, in which you sauté the apples before you fill the pie crust.
I thought it was an interesting concept, but had no idea how much it would change my pie-baking life. It’s brilliant, really – you cook the sliced apples in a hot skillet with a bit of butter (and oil – I changed it a bit), sprinkle them with a little sugar and cinnamon as you go, and the apples cook down in the pan, rather than in the pie. Typically apples in a pie steam, and shrink as they cook, leaving a bit of a gap between fruit and crust. Sautéeing them – caramelizing them – intensifies their flavours and turns them all golden with crispy bits, which produces, believe you me, a phenomenal pie. Just make sure you cool the apples first (spread them out on a cookie sheet to do this quickly) before you put them into the raw pastry shell. The result is dense, intense; apple pie extreme. When I brought it to the studio it disappeared in record time, the recipients’ eyes rolling into the backs of their heads. I love finding new ways to make familiar things – things you’ve been making for so long you don’t really consider how it might be improved upon. This sautéed apple pie (I think it should be renamed caramelized apple pie, don’t you? I just love the idea of anything being caramelized) is like roasted potato salad – with the potatoes roasted in the leftover bacon drippings from the crispy bacon you set aside to crumble in right before serving. If you want to win friends and influence people, make them roasted potato salad and a caramelized apple pie.
The apple pie and gritty vanilla gelato (that had such an odd flavour none of us could identify it – the closest I could come was some sort of tea) we had for lunch yesterday at… a restaurant… that cost $11 and we didn’t even finish (people, this never happens) was further reminder of how good it was. I wanted to go straight into the back and give the pastry chef the recipe.
Sautéed Apple Pie
adapted from the New York Times, 2001
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. canola oil
5 lbs. apples (10-12), peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
pastry for double crust pie
cream, for brushing (optional)
coarse sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add the apples, sprinkle with sugar and sauté, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes or until tender and lightly caramelized. Sprinkle with cinnamon. (If you don’t have a skillet large enough to hold all the apples, do this in two stages or in two skillets.) Spread apples on a platter or cookie sheet to cool.
Preheat oven to 400F. Divide pastry in two slightly unequal halves; roll out the larger piece on a lightly floured surface and gently fit into the pie plate. Fill with cooled apples. Roll out the remaining pastry and cover the filling; seal, trim and crimp the edges. Cut several slits in top to allow steam to escape. (Or cut the pastry into strips and make lattice.)
If you like, brush the top with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.
I’m sorry I have no photos – it’s on my to-do list for tomorrow.