Posts Tagged ‘apples’



November 15, 2009


This could be a new category on upchefcreek: ‘eating food alone’. As many/most of these entries are directly related to eating with and cooking for others, a constant ritual I am so lucky to partake in, I also take great pleasure in another side of eating, the solo mission. It is different when there is no one around to bend the taste toward, to impress, to please. I am not shy of eating alone. In fact, I hit restaurants by myself somewhat often as a form of relaxation and self indulgence. I cook for myself as needed, it seems I save elaborate meals for collaborative eating experiences, and let ‘quick and satisfying’ be my private mode. I do not skimp on myself, i.e. a box of cereal for dinner, but rather eat what I crave, which is usually (luckily) something pretty healthy. I guess whatever health-food-torture I went through as a kid was worth it because now I take great pleasure in eating nutritious things like green leaves, whole grains, and all that shmazz.

Tonight, dinner was one of those missions. It was just little ole me, there were few ingredients around and nothing prepared. I had two of these fancy organic chicken sausages in the fridge leftover from some sort of sausage, mushroom, dandelion, saute with quinoa. These things are dime(s) a dozen in the bodegas-turned fancymarts that are ubiquitous in Brooklyn. Good in a pinch, the sausages taste okay and, since I read labels as a hobby, I know its list of ingredients is not too scary. I am also usually stocked with this really nice, mysterious, wheat and oat bread labeled ‘Health Bread’ found all over my neighborhood and always very fresh looking. The combination turned out a hand-held meal, balanced with protein (sausage), fruit/veg (apple) and grain (good bread), three basic elements of a solid meal. Once the foil and the napkin were tossed, the only clean-up was the knife and cutting board for the apples. Impressed my damn self.


1 link of your favorite sausage

1 apple, (gala, braeburn, fiji, jonagold, granny, mac) cored, sliced

1 swipe mustard

1 swipe mayo

a few dashes hot auce

1 piece of bread

  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • On a piece of foil place sausage links with apple slices scattered over.
  • Bake until sausage is cooked (or heated through, depending if it is pre-cooked).
  • With the bread in your hand, put mayo, mustard and hot sauce on the bread and mix it together with a knife.
  • Pile sausages and apples on top and wrap in a napkin for proper eating.

There is a great book on the subject of what people eat when they are alone. I would have contributed one of my crazy breakfast porridges to it, had I the chance. I think there are forums on the web for people to share what they eat out of a public eye, very interesting, as well as some terrifyingly weird advice for people who don’t like to go out and eat alone. Here is my advice: enjoy yourself, be polite OR stay home and cook! Amaze yourself. Bon ap!


Redux redux. (HUGUENOT TORTE)

October 9, 2009


In 1965 this recipe ran in the New York Times. In 2009, it was published again in an article by Amanda Hesser. My friend caught it a few Wednesdays ago and politely suggested that I make it for him. Why not be a part of American history? The legendary Huguenot Torte is so full of sugar, it may very well outlive the teeth of anyone who eats it regularly. For a recipe of so few and such straightforward ingredients, it turns out a rather complex confection. The final torte surprises with three layers of texture, all very different from each other. The crisp, light, sugary top forms over a gooey middle where the apples have gone so soft and sweet, it mimics a perfect old school pecan pie, sans corn syrup. The third and my favorite layer, is the the bubbly, sticky caramelized edge that, after the torte deflates, lines the pan and in this case, my oven.


To avoid such troubles, place a cookie sheet at the bottom of the oven to catch any dripping sugar and beware of the bad smell that is burning sugar. This recipe doubled beautifully in a 9×12 inch pan and served about 16 pieces. The recipe below is for 8. Reading about the torte, it is well stated that it will not present beautifully and it doesn’t. Once cut it is a little hard to divide up properly, since that caramelized edge is difficult to scrape off the side of the pan and serve. Instead, I found myself peeling that layer off and eating it straight from the oven (be careful.. hot!). Unfortunately when cooled it was nearly impossible to remove. Next time I would put the batter into individual ramekins so everyone, not just the greedy baker, can experience the whole sugary thing.


Adapted from the New York Times (September 9, 2009)

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup peeled and chopped tart cooking apples

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Beat the eggs and salt with a rotary beater until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar.
  • Add the vanilla, flour and baking powder. Fold in the apples and pecans with a spatula. Pour into a well-greased baking pan about 8-by-12 or 9-by-9 inches and at least 2 inches deep. Bake for 45 minutes, until sunken and crusty. Cut while warm. Serve warm or chilled, with whipped cream.
  • Serves 8.

Make your own. (Habanero Hot Sauce)

September 29, 2009


Chef Josh is a talented guy. Last year he had a party and made a bunch of chili –which was awesome. One of the best parts of the dinner was this killer homemade hot sauce that we put on everything, even the five-alarm batch he served. I remember that he captured the unique flavor of the habanero and, of course, its heat, but a base of apple balanced out the intensity with a little sweetness. This year, as soon as our crop of habaneros came in, I emailed Josh for his recipe and this is the response I got:

for the hot sauce:
Sweat out some onion/garlic, add in roughly chopped apples.  Simmer the mix in a brine (cider/rice vin., salt, sugar, water) and when the apples are soft, add the chilis and kill the heat and let it chill out for a day or so. (so it’s more like a pickled pepper than actually cooked to death)
I puree it, sometimes i strain it/sometimes i don’t.
you be the judge.
let me know how it turns out.

AAh chefs. I guess I would give a similar response… but it sent me straight to the kitchen, determined to create an actual recipe for a great sauce that fulfilled Josh’s, MG’s and my expectations. And, well, it turned out beyond. I want to put it on everything. I almost feel like bottling and selling it. I want to give it as gifts for Christmas, paint my house with it, fill up the fountain at Rockerfeller Center. Anyway… big shout out to Josh and TEAMWORK. Thanks alot!!


1 tablespoon oil (canola, grapeseed, sunflower, etc.)

1 cup onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 crisp apples, peeled and chopped (about 1.5 pounds) (any mix of braeburn, fuji, granny, gala, mac, etc.)

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

2.5 tablespoons salt

12 habanero peppers (about 2 ounces)

  • Sweat out the onion and garlic in warmed oil over a low flame. Once translucent, stir in the apples.
  • After sweating the apples for about 5 minutes, add 1/2 cup of water, the vinegar, sugar and 1.5 tablespoons of salt. Mix well and simmer until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes. It will resemble apple sauce.
  • Bury the whole habaneros in the sauce, remove from the heat. Cool slightly and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Next day: puree the mixture in a blender or food processor with an additional 2 cups of water and remaining 1 tablespoon of salt.

(yield: 6 cups hot sauce)

Can’t wait to douse the pulled pork I am making this weekend. Recipe to come!


Under de-construction. (CARAMEL & APPLES)

October 19, 2008


A driving force behind much of my culinary research is food that sounds great but never really meets expectations. I am a crusader to eradicate this kind of disappointment from meals and outings the world over. Don’t eat another pretty cupcake that sucks or Thai food that smells great but arrives in a greasy mess! That is how I feel too often, and if you need a recommendation for a better version of either, let me know. Today’s target is the the caramel apple. It has always been one of those things that has great promise in my imagination, yet never really delivers. Impenetrable caramel, mushy apple, someone knocked it off the stick, whatever. Looking back, it was an awkward treat at best. Fast forward a couple of decades and I am here thinking, “what a perfect fall package!” Apples in their crispy-prime, warm caramel, crunchy toppings, etc. The plan is to abolish fears of making caramel, perfect a versatile caramel coating, and let the possibilities begin there.

I demonstrated this creamy sauce last week in a cooking class where we knocked together a three course meal (four if you count the amuse bouche) at the culinary center in the monstrous new Whole Foods on the Bowery in NYC. Between recipe testing and the class itself, I produced this recipe a good four times, including once for this entry. The final attempt yielded the best outcome and fortuitously, I photographed it. Following along will make it easy to put caramel sauce under your belt. The written recipe can be found below, after photos and chit-chat. Please note, you can pour this stuff on tennis shoes and they’ll taste good.

I have mostly backed away from cooking all things caramel, even though I love to eat them because I was put off by an instance where I left it unguarded for a millisecond and scorched it to hell. This is dangerous and smells really bad, so no texting while making caramel sauce. K?

After revisiting caramel sauce recently for a flan recipe I assisted in Mexico, I realized, it is sooo easy but impossible without the secret ingredient: patience. Yes. It will go slow, really slow, then fast! Knowing this is half the battle. Sugar will take its sweet time melting and getting a little brown, but will go from brown to black in a flash. When melting sugar alone, the result will be a hard, candy-like caramel. For this deconstruction of the classic caramel apple, the addition of butter and cream will make a slick sauce with the ability to pour and coat the apple slices. The extra ingredients will also help it keep for a while, it can get used in all sorts of good ways.


A splash of water in the first step helps the sugar color evenly as it melts. When it begins to dissolve, go ahead and stir. It will get clumpy, but all of those clumps will eventually melt with the help of your stirring. It takes a while. Here is where you add the first portion of patience. Do not let the mixture become too dark. Keep the flame medium low.


Once smooth, and amber in color (may vary from light to medium brown), the butter goes in.


Please be careful through this entire process and especially when you add the cream. The mixture will bubble up fiercely. Stand back a little and be safe. Keep whisking until you have silky sauciness.

Hey wait a minute, why is that caramel being poured through a strainer?! Well, as I was about to pour over the apples, I saw noticed tiny sugar pebbles were undissolved in the bottom of my silky sauce. The taste and texture were fine, but just these pesky little pieces were still there. Quick fix was an immediate strain and now it is good to go. My friend and extraordinary pastry chef, Marcellus Holton, explains that adding a pinch of lemon juice to the melting sugar will help prevent crystallization. It is an optional addition.


One last, last thing: caramel cleanup. The pot and some of the utensils will have stuck on caramel. Fill the sticky pot with water and bring it to a boil with the utensils inside. Once boiling, the mess will dissolve. Proceed to wash as usual.


The ingredients you can add on are endless; sea salt, nuts, cinnamon, flaked coconut, dried fruit. Try it drizzled over soft cheese, stuffed in a croissant or on top of yogurt. To quote my mom, ‘you can dress it up or down’.

1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, optional
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

  • Heat the sugar with water and lemon juice, if using, on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  • When the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with wooden spoon.
  • When the sugar is liquid and amber in color, add butter to the pan. Whisk until melted, take the pan off the heat.
  • Wait five seconds, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to combine. (this is where is foams up!)
  • Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a jar and let sit to cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Bring to room temp before serving.
  • Pour over sliced apples. Dress it up.

Yields 1 cup.