Cook-the-Apples-First Apple Pie
Plus: Herb Roasted Chicken, A Trip to Venice (Beach), and Dinner at All Day Baby.
How’s everyone feeling about Thanksgiving? Are you stressed out? Planning then replanning your menu? Disinviting picky eaters? Choosing not to observe this year?
Take heart: I had Thanksgiving expert Melissa Clark on my podcast on Thursday and she walked us through everything — how to keep the food hot, how to flavor your turkey (start a few days ahead), how to deal with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and gravy. CLICK HERE (or the picture) to listen to it:
One of the biggest revelations of the podcast has to do with apple pie. Melissa cooks her apples beforehand (you can see her recipe here). I found this suspect because my father-in-law, Steve, makes the best apple pie of all time. His is a labor of love: the crust made by hand, the apples carefully tossed with sugar and cinnamon, the finished pie looking domed and as all-American as a Norman Rockwell painting.
So what kind of sicko advises you to cook the apples first? Melissa was unflappable on this subject: she tested it both ways and insists that the cooked apple version is better. So of course I had to try it. I used honey-crisps (one of Melissa’s recommended apples), sautéing in butter with brown sugar and lots of spices, until they were “floppy” (her word).
As for the crust, I followed her recipe which involves SOO much butter but it’s a cinch to bring together by hand (she’s anti food processor because it breaks up the butter too much which makes a less flaky crust). I liked the way the top crust laid flat on top of the cooked apples (which you have to cool first before laying them in; I popped them in the freezer). I also liked the way she has you use a fork to pinch the top and bottom crust together — you also brush with cream and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.
As you can see, I apparently didn’t pinch the top and bottom crusts tightly enough to stay pinched in the oven. But look at that puff from all of the cold blobs of butter!
Of course, you have to let the pie cool for a few hours before you cut into it or all the juices will spill out. So at dinner that night, I served the pie with vanilla ice cream and everybody (Craig and our friend Justin) weighed in.
We all agreed that the pie was delicious. Craig, loyal to his dad, said he preferred a thicker crust — meaning the crust on the end — and that he didn’t notice a big difference with the apples. We all noticed the flakiness: the key thing here is that because the apples already gave off most of their liquid in the pot that they were cooked in, the bottom crust doesn’t get soggy here. It all stays very crisp. (No soggy bottoms!)
The other thing I really liked was the lack of space between the top crust and the cooked apples. When you pile in all of those raw apples and drape the top crust over them, the apples cook down and leave a big gap. The lack of a gap made the pie seem more concentrated.
Main takeaway: the most important thing is keeping big blobs of cold butter in the pie dough itself. Whether or not you cook the apples is entirely up to you, based on the things mentioned above. Cooked apples = more concentrated apple flavor, no soggy bottom, and no gap between the top crust and the apples. Also you can cook the apples a few days ahead, a nice bonus. Otherwise, pretty much the same, as far as I’m concerned!
Hey, check out this herb-roasted chicken:
I did my usual roast chicken technique (see here) but instead of just the usual butter, I smashed the butter up with lots of chopped rosemary, thyme, garlic, and lemon zest. I smushed most of it under the skin and then put a little on the outside, being generous with the salt and pepper. Mostly root vegetables underneath: parsnips, carrots, rutabagas, turnips, onions, leeks.
Like always, the chicken fat-infused buttery vegetables were the best part:
Our friend Justin was very impressed, especially when I served it on a big platter. (Always platter your roast chicken.)
On Saturday, Craig and I took Winsto (our nickname for Winston) to Venice Beach for the day.
Here’s me and Winsto sitting on a little bench:
We had brunch at The Rose, which was an absolute madhouse. I remember going there long ago when it felt like it was off the beaten path; now it’s like The Cheesecake Factory.
But the food was really good. I had the huevos rancheros which was basically a fried egg on a fried tortilla with black beans and a few toppings. But it was all perfectly executed.
Craig got a breakfast sandwich with crispy potatoes:
And we shared this apple cinnamon old-fashioned doughnut, which seemed a little artsy fartsy with little orbs on top, but the orbs were so good (I have no idea what they were).
Look at this pretty tree we saw on our walk back to the car:
On Friday night, Craig and I went to All Day Baby to check out their new dinner menu.
Wow, was the food good. Craig and I shared hushpuppies which came out hot and crispy and were hard to stop eating.
We also shared the queso fundido which was so stretchy and crispy and good (the restaurant actually used this picture on their Instagram the other day! Craig’s officially a model).
For our entree, we shared the crawfish etouffée which came on fried rice.
That was such an electric combo: like sticking a toaster in the bathtub, except the bathtub was the crawfish and the rice was the toaster.
Believe it or not, we saved room for dessert (okay, only I did), so we had the banana cream pie with dulce de leche:
So, clearly, it was a very good week of eating indeed.
(Funny enough, I’m weighing going to the gym right now vs. canceling my membership. Hahahahahahaha….)
On the pod today, I’ve got one of the most knowledgeable Mexican food specialists in America, James Beard Award winner Bill Esparza.
Bill talks all about how to spot a good taco truck (it should say the name of a specific town in Mexico), going on the road as a musician and seeking out good food, his travels to Mexico, his grandmother’s cooking, re-embracing his Mexican roots, and where I should eat birria in L.A.
CLICK HERE to listen.
Now for some links that caught my attention this week:
Melissa Clark on Claudia Roden’s latest book (NYT);
Australian musician Jimmy Barnes has some nifty recipes (The Guardian);
Chanceux seems like just the the kind of restaurant I want to go to on my next trip to Paris (David Lebovitz);
The Best New Restaurants in America (Eater);
David Tanis’s Glazed Shiitakes with Bok Choy (The Wednesday Chef).
That’s all for this week, folks!
In case you missed it, on Thursday I wrote all about Thanksgiving and what I’d serve if I was cooking dinner this year. There’s links to a spicy pear and Bourbon sparkler, a shaved Brussels sprouts salad, an herb-roasted turkey, persimmon cranberry sauce, brioche stuffing, applejack gravy, sweet potatoes still in their jackets with marshmallows, and the apple pie and the pumpkin pie that I’d make. If you’d like to read that, and have access to all of my archives, here’s a discount code to become a paid subscriber:
Until next time!