Cooking like Keller, Part IV: Apple Fritters & Calvados Ice Cream

Apple Fritters with Calvados Ice Cream & Cajeta

Apple Fritters with Calvados Ice Cream & Cajeta

The fourth (& final) installment of “A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving”

If you’re wondering, my god, is she still posting about Thanksgiving when Christmas is only a few days away, the answer is (sadly) yes. Trust me, I know — I can’t believe it took me so long to plow through one meal! I’d be embarrassed but this is a crazy time of year and I’ve had a lot to deal with over the past 2 weeks so I’m keeping my head held high as we approach the finish line.

After eating oysters and caviar, scallops with endive, and seared quail in pomegranate, I wanted the final course in our Thomas Keller-inspired Thanksgiving feast to be just as impressive. After searching through several of his cookbooks I decided on hot apple fritters (from Ad Hoc) with Calvados ice cream (Bouchon).

This dessert would have been the perfect finale to our four-course dinner…if my husband and I had had the motivation. After cooking and eating three courses already, our ambition started to slip. We managed to make the Calvados ice cream but when it came time to set up a pot for deep frying, I admit I bailed out first.

“Maybe we should just eat the ice cream and call it a night,” I suggested.

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My kind of Halloween treat: Boozy Cider Shooters

Apple Cider jello Shots

Being able to make a kick ass Jello shot seems a little…immature, perhaps, and yet I cannot (and will not!) stop finding boozy gelatin fun.

The last time I experimented with it was when I made these boozy watermelon shots for a few of my co-workers back in July. So it seemed fitting that for our staff Halloween party I make something more seasonally appropriate — and what’s more autumn than apples? (If you read this blog, you know the answer is nothing. Absolutely nothing.)

These little jelly jigglers were even more popular than the apple cider cream pie that I baked for the party — and they were ten times easier to make (hooray!). No burnt pie crusts or temperamental pie pans to deal with.

I started with some good old fashioned fresh-pressed apple cider (non-alcoholic stuff though hard cider might work fine too). I used some mulling spices to amp up the fall flavor and then added a whole bunch of booze.

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A is for Autumn, Autumn is for Apple Cider Cream Pie

Apple Cider Cream Pie w. Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Apple Cider Cream Pie w. Cinnamon Whipped Cream

When autumn rolls around, some people (the internet would have you believe only 20-year-old white girls) look forward to pumpkin-flavored everything. While I love their salty, crunchy seeds, pumpkins — even baked into a pie — don’t do much for me.

Instead I am all about apple cider. I love it in any form, freshly pressed, warm and spiced, made into caramels or mixed with booze. When the leaves start to turn, you can bet my fridge is full of cider — it’s as much of a guarantee as death and taxes.

And while I tend to mostly enjoy it straight up and ice cold, I’m more than willing to experiment with it. So when my co-workers decided to have a staff pumpkin carving party yesterday, I had the perfect sweet treat in mind to contribute, this apple cider cream pie.

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Sometimes cleaning the fridge can lead to delicious things…

Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Onions

This fall I went a little overboard with apples. I just kept accumulating them — I bought bags from the farmer’s markets, a box from a co-worker for a school fundraiser and random ones on sale at the grocery store. Around November, I couldn’t even look at apples anymore and just avoided glancing at the full-to-the-brim fruit drawer in my refrigerator.

Finally a few weeks ago I decided to revisit those apples and use them up, one way or another. While they had lost some of their “crisp,” they were still great for other applications. I grated a few into some batches of hot cereal and was surprised at how tasty the outcome was – sweet, slightly tart and perfect with cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup.

Thursday night I got the opportunity to use up a few more.

I was totally at a loss at what to make for dinner. I hadn’t had a chance to go to the store but rooting around in my fridge I came up with a pork tenderloin, some brussels sprouts, half a head of cauliflower and (of course) a handful of apples. After adding an onion and some home-dried thyme to the mix, my findings suddenly seemed like a cohesive dish rather than just a hodge-podge of ingredients.

I  actually think it was the thyme that tipped the scales in my favor. Normally I steer away from anything too sweet for dinner since my husband prefers things as savory as possible. I wasn’t sure if he’d liked the roasted apples, but I hoped the thyme and the onion would balance out the sugar. And hey, if he didn’t like it, more for me, right?

I roasted the cauliflower, onions and apples all separately. While they were cooking away, I shaved the brussles sprouts continuing to check the items in the oven. The apples were done first:

Apples, peeled, quartered and toss in some butter. Roasted until soft, deglaze  pan with apple brandy. Yum!

Apples, peeled, quartered and tossed in some butter with a sprinkling of salt. Roast until soft but not mushy, deglaze pan with apple brandy. Yum!

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The Obsession Continues: Apple Cider Caramels

Apple Cider Caramels

Apple Cider Caramels

I have been on cider bender the past few months. Since early October my fridge has contained no less than one half-gallon of fresh apple cider, purchased anywhere from Farmer’s Markets to the grocery store. I’ve drank it straight, mulled with Applejack and used it for various cooking endeavors, like this brined pork roast.

However, the best creation I made are these apple cider caramels from an old issue of Food & Wine magazine. They tasted (depending on which friend of mine you asked) like caramel apple pops, apple fritters or candied apples. To me they were just as I imagined,  a perfect combination of the spiced cider flavor — cloves, cinnamon and tart apple — and creamy decadent caramel.

They were also luxuriously soft. While they’d hold their shape in the refrigerator, once popped in your mouth, they would melt almost instantly. They were so good I had to fight my natural instinct to hoard them and instead manged to share them with co-workers, friends and even some of my favorite customers in Seattle.

My friend Ariel loved them so much I think I have to make a batch just for her and her husband to enjoy. I gave her a few to take home and got this hilarious text message later that night: “Holy sheep shit, Batman” is what Eric said after trying a bite of one of your caramels. Now that’s a compliment, people!

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Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies: Devilishly delicious!

Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pie

Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pie

I can say a few things about these pies with utmost certainly — they are delicious, they are adorable and they are a total pain in the ass.

But let’s back up, shall we? I have been dreaming about these apple hand pies for a very long time. They seemed too cute (i.e. labor-intensive) to waste on every day life, so I was saving them for a special occasion. When my co-workers decided to have a party after work for Halloween, I knew the time had come. After all what goes better with camel burgers and gator sausage than apple pies with salted caramel?

My downfall was not thinking the project through. The night before the party I was scheduled to work late and I knew I’d have to bake at least 30 hand pies to have enough to go around. This is why I should have baked cookies instead!

And yet at 9:30 pm I found myself starting a double batch of these tiny little pies. Around 11 pm I started to hate myself a little bit. No matter how cute they looked.

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