Sunday, October 14, 2007

Now, what to do with all these apples?

Oh, it's all well and good to go traipsing around apple country(-ies), getting a bag of Honey Crisps here, a peck of Cortlands there, a half peck of Russets somewhere else. And then there are all the lovely pears, too! But what's to be done with the lot? As for the apples, there have been pies, cakes, and tarts, and more are sure to follow. But there's always applesauce, if all else fails, and if you get overwhelmed with eating too much of it at this time of year, consider some savory applications. For example, one night last week, I fired up the crock pot, anticipating a busy day and late arrival home. I heavily seasoned and then browned a 3 to 4-pound pork roast (I used a Jacques Pepin brand spice rub with coriander, but use whatever you fancy/find in your spice cupboard). Then I put the roast in the slow cooker along with one large, thinly-sliced red onion, a couple of cups of sauerkraut and a pint of applesauce. I believe I also threw in some minced garlic, a couple-to-few cloves, and then covered it and went off to work. It becomes fall-apart tender around six hours on high (or if you will be away much longer, set it to low instead). I served the roast over regular mashed potatoes, and as a special treat for Cyd, lover of brussels sprouts, I made a new recipe from the current issue of Bon Appétit which may make brussels sprout converts out of even professed haters. In any case, pork roast with sauerkraut and applesauce served with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts makes for a wonderfully seasonal dinner without much fuss, thanks to the faithful old crock pot!

Shaved Brussels Sprout and Shallot Sauté
(Source: Bon Appétit, October 2007)
Makes 8 servings

1 3/4 pounds brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 medium shallots, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted, divided (I used a blend of pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and almonds, a delicious mix from Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Working in small batches, place brussels sprouts in feed tube of processor fitted with thin slicing diskand slice. Melt butter with olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until almost translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Add brussels sprouts; increase heat to medium-high and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons pine nuts and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon pine nuts and serve.

Another idea for all that applesauce is to keep cooking it down until you have apple butter, a heady, spicy, autumnal spread that is the perfect complement to a warm, fluffy biscuit or scone. I tried a new recipe this time around (or rather, a very old one!), from Annie of the Harvest Forum fame (yes, the same Annie who authored the legendary salsa recipe). It was her grandmother's apple butter recipe, and apparently, Annie won with it at the county fair when she was 12. I tweaked it just a bit to suit my tastes, and it came out perfectly. I only made three pints, but I might just have to make another batch soon! Annie swears by cooking it in the oven instead of on the stovetop, and I might try that approach next time around to keep from burning my forearms and to save on the cleanup from those endless little apple butter volcano eruptions all over the stove! And surely roasting can only only improve on the flavor, if that's even possible.

(Annie's) Grandma's Apple Butter
(Source: adapted from GardenWeb's Harvest Forum)

6 lbs. apples, cored, peeled and sliced
6 cups fresh apple cider
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg

Simmer the apples in the cider until tender, then use a stick blender to reach the desired consistency (I like mine smooth, but some prefer some texture to theirs). Cook the mixture down until it "rounds up on a spoon." Mix in the sugars and spices to taste. Continue to cook it down until it's thick enough to suit you. Pour into hot jars and process in a boiling-water bath 10 minutes for half-pints or pints, or 15 minutes for quarts.

Then what to do with the all the lovely, fragrant Flemish Beauty pears? Certainly more of the maple vanilla pear butter is in order. In addition, I used some of the pears to make a delicious, rustic tart for trivia night last week, also from the new Bon Appétit (the October issue is a really great one, if you can't already should pick one up!). It turned out very well, except that I think I sliced the pears a little too thin and ended up with almost a chunky pear sauce filling. Still, my trivia team gobbled it all up. And look how pretty!

Pear Croustade with Lemon Pastry and Almonds
(Source: Bon Appétit, October 2007)
Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used half whole-wheat pastry flour for a nice earthy flavor that complemented the pears)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup (or more) whipping cream

1 pound firm but ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1 pound firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored, thinly sliced (I used all 2 pounds of Flemish Beauties)
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon (generous) ground nutmeg

whipping cream (for brushing)
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

For pastry:
Whisk flour, sugar, lemon peel, and salt in medium bowl. Add butter; using fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal forms. Drizzle 1/4 cup cream over; toss with fork until moist clumps form, adding more cream by teaspoonfuls as needed if dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour. Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before rolling out.

For filling:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix all pears, sugar, flour, lemon juice, lemon peel, and nutmeg in large bowl to coat. Roll out pastry on sheet of floured parchment paper to 14-inch round. Transfer crust on parchment paper to baking sheet. Mound pears in center of pastry, leaving 2-inch plain border. Fold pastry border over pears, crimping slightly. Brush pastry edges with cream; sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake croustade until filling bubbles and almonds are lightly toasted, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Serve croustade warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

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