Yes, Alicia, more apples. But these are sautéed, only require two apples, and only take about 10 minutes to put together. And we all wished there were more!
But before I write more about this recipe, I want to tell you about the apple guy. No, not Steve Jobs--the apple guy at the Friday market in Montrichard (the larger village where Claire goes to school).
Everyone has heard of, or seen, or seen pictures of French food markets. They're beautiful--all the produce and meat and fish and cheese presented just so. All true, especially in Paris. But the markets, especially in Paris, are not farmer's markets but food markets--the vendors go to the big wholesale market to buy their wares. Even though they tend to get the freshest and nicest produce and such, it's not as if they produced it themselves.
But here in the countryside, it's a bit different. There are stands with shiny, perfectly presented produce that probably comes from the Rungis (central) market. But you also see a lot of rather scruffy produce being sold by somewhat scruffy people. It's local, it's fresh, and it's not always shiny and perfect. One lady was selling carrots, among other vegetables. One bin had clean, shiny carrots; the other bin had carrots covered in dirt. I asked what the difference was--the price was the same. "Well, these carrots (the clean ones) come from Mont St.-Michel. These other ones come from the garden, you know? And they keep better with the dirt on them." I bought the dirty ones, and they're delicious.
Thus the apple guy. It turns out that the Touraine, the region we're in, is a big producer of apples. He sells 6-7 different kinds of apples and pears, and has firm opinions about which ones are good and which not so much. I like to try different types, but he has been somewhat disapproving about some of my choices: "The Ariane? It's kind of sour, kind of mealy. Don't you want a Braeburn instead?" I insist on trying a few ("Why five apples? What's with the number five?") as well as some Braeburns and others, and of course he's right. The Ariane is not a great apple. At the end of our jocular struggle for him to sell me his best apples and me to want to try the mediocre ones, I end up with 5 kilos of apples and pears, which he sells to me for 5 Euros (about $7.50). And most of them are delicious! But no Honey Golds there...
Since I didn't like eating those Arianes as is, I decided they would go into the Brandied Apples. After all, there's nothing like butter, sugar, cream, and booze to make a mediocre apple something special!
So here are the ingredients. Once again, this is a pretty straightforward recipe in terms of ingredients.
The apples hit the pan! Maida wants you to slice the apples and then use two cookie cutters to cut them into perfect rings. Guess what? I don't have any cookie cutters, so I did it by hand. You see the mixed results.
Fire!! I'm terrified of flambéeing, so Sami came to the rescue. Maida was right that this large amount of Calvados makes a huge flame. Too bad Pyromaniac Claire was not in the room to witness this!
And here they are, in their creamy, caramelized goodness. There were three servings like this. Maybe it's good to be restrained like that, and more apples would not have fit in the pan, but it seemed a little skimpy. Maybe with a scoop of ice cream...
Here's the recipe. It was great with mediocre apples, and would most likely be even better with wonderful apples.
2 large, tart apples (maybe a Pink Lady or a Braeburn)
1 T. butter
1/4 c. (1.75 oz.) sugar (I eyeballed this, but I'm pretty sure I used less)
2 oz. (1/4 c.) Calvados or other brandy (Maida says rum is OK, too)
1/2 c. cream
Make sure you have all your ingredients out and measured--this goes fast.
If you don't have two round cookie cutters (a large one about the circumference of the apple and a quite small one for coring), peel the apples. Cut off the very top and bottom of the apples and then slice into 4-5 rounds. If you've got the cookie cutters, use the big one to cut the peel off the apples and the small one to cut the core out. You should have beautiful, even rings. If you don't have the cookie cutters, just do your best to cut the core out without breaking the ring.
Now set a frying pan over medium-high heat and melt the butter in it. When the butter is no longer foaming, put in the apples in one layer. Sprinkle them with the sugar. Let them cook about 2 minutes per side, until they're just tender. Then get your Calvados and a match ready. Pour in the Calvados, light it, and stand back--that's one big flame. Swirl the pan, if you dare, until the flame has died down, then add the cream. Let that cook down just a bit, then remove the apples from the pan with a slotted spoon--if you're organized enough, try to get them straight onto the serving plates. Then let the cream cook down a bit more until it's a nice light caramel color. Pour the cream on the apples (there isn't a lot of sauce), and chow down. Maida says you can serve this with ice cream or sour cream. We had crème fraîche available, but it didn't seem necessary. But probably good vanilla ice cream would be a nice temperature contrast. Enjoy your simple but showy winter dessert!