Monday, November 22, 2010

Down Home Apple Casserole

So here I was, cooking Sunday lunch for some French friends. The prospect often makes me nervous--after all, this is the land of gastronomy! But I cooked American recipes that I figured wouldn't upset French sensibilities, and it worked out quite nicely.

Of course, the dessert had to be Maida Heatter. I had the choice between this and a Wild Rice Pudding, and it was an easy choice. French people love "crumble", and a light-ish fruit dessert was a perfect way to finish a large meal. Also, I'm not sure whether people eat wild rice here. I'm still a bit skeptical about that dessert. Guess I'll find out more later in the week...

So our friends were coming at 12 or so, and I didn't start cooking until 10: 30: after going to the market and having breakfast. But no worries--this was really easy to do, once I'd sliced all the apples.

I'm going to have to have a talk with my produce family (seriously--a mother, grandmother, and son) about the apples they sold me. They told me the apples would keep their shape when cooking. Ha. Or maybe my French just sucks...

But you know, once you cover the (delicious) apple mush with cookie crumbs and almonds and butter and sugar, it disappears magically even though you've already had three courses.

Here's the recipe. Make it for yourself or for company.

Down Home Apple Casserole

1/4 c. (probably about an ounce--I eyeballed this) amaretti or other hard almond macaroons
1/3 c. (1.3 oz.) sliced almonds
2 lbs. tart cooking apples (Pink Lady or Braeburn would probably be good here), peeled and sliced
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. (2.3 oz) sugar--adjust to the sweetness of your apples
1/4 c. (1.2 oz.) raisins
1-2 t. lemon juice--adjust to the tartness of your apples
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. (4 oz.) cream
1 T. flour
1-1/2 T. (0.75 oz.) cold butter
1-2 T. sugar (white or raw)

Grind the amaretti to a paste; mix with almonds and set aside. Heat the oven to 400; butter a pie plate or other shallow pan.
Put the apples, water, sugar, and raisins in a large pan with a lid; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the apples are barely tender (pay attention to them, unlike me!). If there seems to be excessive juice in the pan, uncover it and let the juice boil down a bit, but not too much. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the cream and flour. Strain through a fine strainer into the apple mixture and mix that gently. Pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the almond/crumb mixture over that; dot with the butter and sprinkle with sugar. (You can do all this ahead and then bake it at the last minute--that's what I did.) Bake for 15 minutes, or until very bubbly. Maida suggests you brown it under the broiler, but I didn't find that necessary. Serve warm or cold with ice cream or The Governor's Crème Fraîche, and get ready for coffee and a nap.

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