Category Archives: apple

heaven on route 1

Karl's Sausage KitchenRoute 1 North from Boston is congested, tacky and, at times, terrifying. It runs up , close to the coast, through Chelsea and Saugus until it breaks west a bit to run alongside U.S. 95. The real estate along the road is stuffed to the gills with American commerce: a miniature golf course with a giant dinosaur, an Italian restaurant complete with 1/4 scale leaning tower of Pisa, and a steakhouse with an enormous, glowing cactus. On the right side, as you drive north and reach the end of the stretch of Route 1 that cuts through Saugus is Karl’s Sausage Kitchen, marked with a sign that looks straight out of 1962.

Karl’s is part German butcher, part specialty grocery. It’s the place to go if you are looking for any variety of Haribo gummy candy. They also have about 15 kinds of mustard. But the heart of Karl’s is the butcher shop. They make their own sausages, smoke their own bacon and pork chops, and carry several types of imported deli specialties (like ham, cured sausages, liverwursts, and cheese). My German neighbors tell me that Karl’s doesn’t really specialize in any one region of Germany, but offers up a kind of greatest hits of German charcuterie.

Karl's BaconWhen you go, you must get the bacon. It is amazing. You will never be able to eat grocery store bacon again, so you should buy at least 2 — 3 lbs (that’s as much as I can order without feeling totally embarrassed; otherwise, I would order more). You’ll freeze it and it will be gone before you know it. I also enjoy the house-made bologna — it’s meaty deliciousness without the greasy, gross feeling of the bologna of my youth. As for sausages, I love the fine bratwursts (made with — gulp — veal). Also excellent are the coarse bratwursts (these are a traditional mix of beef and pork) and the plump, red knockwursts. All of these work great in the following recipe, which is an excellent way to enjoy your Karl’s bounty.

Bratwurst & Sauerkraut

Bratwurst & Sauerkraut
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 — 8 bratwursts or knockwursts (about 4 oz. each), punctured several times with a skewer
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
10 whole juniper berries*
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
1lb sauerkraut, drained and well-rinsed
1 medium sweet-tart apple, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper

Heat the butter in a 12” skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, add the wursts, and reduce heat to medium. Brown the wursts, turning after about 1 minute. Remove to a plate.

Add the sliced onion, grated carrot, juniper berries and about ½ teaspoon salt to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and begin to brown. Add the drained sauerkraut, grated apple, brown sugar and chicken broth to the pan, along with another ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt (depending on the saltiness of your broth). Increase heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Return the wursts to the pan and nestle them in the sauerkraut. Cover the pan, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes or until almost all the broth is evaporated. Taste the sauerkraut and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serves 4 — 6. Serve with boiled potatoes or noodles and spicy mustard.

*If you’re around these parts, you can buy juniper berries (along with about any other spice you can think of) at Christina’s in Inman Square, Cambridge. And after you’re done shopping, you can go next door to the ice cream parlor for a scoop of burnt sugar, khulfi, pumpkin, fig, fresh mint or Mexican chocolate ice cream.

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not birthday cake

My co-workers are really into celebrating birthdays; or, at least, they are really into eating free cake. The office rule is that when it’s your birthday, you get to pick the cake and subject everyone else to your tastes. In the last couple of years, there has been a troubling development. Instead of cake, people are requesting fruit and cheese platters, mixed nuts, bagel breakfasts, cookies and raspberry mousse-filled marzipan frogs. It’s distressing, this rejection of the birthday cake. Birthday cakes are so festive, so nostalgic. I can eat a bagel any day of the week, but I need an occasion to eat three layers of moist loveliness coated in butter cream.

So, you can only imagine my reaction when Anne’s response to my inquiry, “What kind of cake do you want for your birthday this year?” was: “I’d actually really like some apple turnovers.” It seems that the anti-birthday cake sentiment has invaded my home, but what was I going to do? True love only comes around once, people.

Apple Turnover

Of course, this was not the first time Anne had mentioned her love of the apple turnover to me. Even picky eaters, it turns out, have food memories, and I think this one is some conflation of Pepperidge Farm and an unauthorized trip with her babysitter to McDonald’s. So, I’d had this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated kicking around for a while. I was attracted to the streamlined puff pastry method (food processor? yes, please) but a little wigged out by the instructions for the filling — grated apples? Doesn’t that just seem like it’s going to be weird?

Turnover InteriorTurns out, who am I to question Cook’s Illustrated? The turnovers were seriously awesome. The pastry is beautiful — all buttery and clean tasting as it shatters under the pressure of your bite. And the apple filling is perfect — nicely cooked and not too sweet. And so orderly; it just fits itself right in that little puff pastry triangle and stays put.

I’m just going to say it: it’s like the old-school (circa 1983) McDonald’s apple pies that you secretly loved, on steroids.

I’m not going to lie — this recipe is a little bit of a project. Cook’s bills the dough as “Quick Puff Pastry,” which it is, compared to the traditional process of beating butter into submission and then folding it into a square of dough a zillion times. But honestly, when it looks like this outside, what else am I going to do but bake? And, hey, a birthday only comes around once a year.

Apple Turnovers
From Baking Illustrated, by the folks at Cook’s Illustrated

For the “Quick” Puff Pastry:
3 cups AP flour
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into ¼” pieces
9 tablespoons ice water
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add one quarter of the butter pieces and process until the butter is in dime-sized pieces, about four to six 1-second pulses. Add the remaining butter and process just until the butter pieces are coated with flour, about two 1 second pulses.

Combine the ice water and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add half the liquid to the flour-butter mixture and pulse briefly, until just combined. Keep adding the liquid, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough will clump together in your hand. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. The dough will be dry and shaggy.

FraisageStarting at the part of the dough that is farthest from you, fraisage the dough. This is done by pressing down on the dough with the heel of your hand and pushing away using short, brisk strokes. Using a bench scraper, gather the dough together into a rough rectangle and repeat the fraisage process one more time. Using the bench scraper, and then your hands, pat the dough into an 8”x4” rectangle, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Folding the DoughUnwrap the dough and place it on a lightly floured piece of parchment. Roll the dough out to a 15” x 10” rectangle and then fold the dough in thirds, lengthwise. Starting from the narrow end, loosely roll the dough in thirds again, and press it into a 6” x 5” rectangle. Repeat the rolling and folding process one more time. If the dough becomes to sticky before the second folding, chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. When you’ve rolled and folded the dough twice, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour, and up to 24 hours. (I know this looks tricky, but if you mosey on over to my Flickr page, you will see more photos that will take you through the dough step by step.)

For the Apple Turnovers:
4 – 5 Granny Smith apples (2 lbs)
1 ½ cups sugar
3 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt

Cinnamon Sugar Topping
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 20” x 15” rectangle. (Depending upon how long you’ve chilled the dough, it may be very firm and difficult to work with. Let it warm up a bit on the counter – about 10 minutes, and try giving it a whack with the side of your rolling pin to get it started.) Trim and cut the dough into twelve 5” squares and divide the squares of dough between the two baking sheets. Refrigerate the squares while you make the filling.

Dough Squares

Peel the apples and grate them on the large holes of a box grater. (If you have the grater attachment for your food processor, feel free to use it here.) Combine the grated apples, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a medium bowl.

Filling TurnoversRemove one tray of dough from the refrigerator. Working with one square at a time, place a square on a work surface. (I know what you’re thinking, “Why can’t I just leave it on the sheet?” Because apple juices are going to come out while you’re shaping the turnovers, and you don’t want all that extra moisture on the baking sheet.) Place 2 tablespoons of the filling, squeezed of excess liquid, in the center of the dough. Using a pastry brush or your finger, moisten two adjoining edges of the square with some of the apple liquid. Fold the top portion of the dough over the bottom, making sure to overlap the bottom portion by ¼”. Crimp the edges of the turnover with a fork, and transfer to the baking sheet. Repeat with all the squares and then chill the turnovers for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. (If you chill them longer than an hour, cover them with plastic wrap.)

Shaped Turnovers

Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions and preheat the oven to 375º. Remove the turnovers from the refrigerator and brush the tops lightly with water. Sprinkle the turnovers evenly with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake the turnovers until golden brown, 30 – 35 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom halfway through cooking. Let the turnovers cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 12 turnovers.

party like it’s 1974

My parents were married in 1974 and, like a lot of newlyweds of that era, received a Dansk fondue set as a wedding present.

Fondue Pot

(That’s right; that is an authentic, Dansk Kobenstyle fondue pot. I love you, eBay!)

It came with a booklet full of fondue recipes — cheese, chocolate and meat. The cheese fondue recipe included directions that read like a junior high kissing game — smooch the person to your left if you lose your bread in the bubbling cheese, for example. I’ve never been to Switzerland, but I’m sure these directions were the work of some swinging 70s marketeer. I mean, since when are the Swiss sexy? Also, I can tell you from personal experience, this is not the dish to serve if you are looking to get some action because your lover is likely to eat him or herself sick and be plagued by dairy belly for the rest of the evening.

Fondue with Apple

So don’t make this for Valentine’s Day.

But honestly, what could taste better than melty cheese and wine? According to Anne, nothing.

Cheese Fondue

1 clove garlic, cut in half
1 ¼ cups dry white wine
½ lb Gruyère cheese
½ lb Emmenthaler cheese
pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons kirsch
1 tablespoon cornstarch
salt and white pepper, to taste

Using a box grater, shred both cheeses and place in a bowl with the nutmeg. Rub the cut side of the garlic clove over the inside of the fondue pot and over the bowl of a wooden spoon. Discard garlic clove. Bring wine to a simmer in the pot over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the cheeses and nutmeg, a handful at a time, stirring constantly with the wooden spoon. The cheese will melt, but it won’t be thoroughly incorporated into the wine.

In a small bowl, mix together the constarch and kirsch to form a slurry. Off heat, add the kirsch mixture to the wine and cheese. Return the pot to the heat, and cook, stirring, until the mixture is thick and incorporated, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper, to taste.

Fondue AccoutrementsPlace the fondue pot on the stand, over a sterno flame. Serve with cubes of crusty French bread, slices of apple and steamed new potatoes. According to my sources, this amount of cheese serves 4 people. I am a little embarrassed to say that Anne and I eat almost the whole thing, every time.

a chill in the air

As soon as I saw the forecast for last weekend, with the sinking temperatures on Sunday, I knew I wanted to bake a pie. And when I saw Northern Spies at the Cambridgeport farmers’ market on Saturday, that sealed the deal. In my memory, apple pies were practically a weekly event during the falls of my childhood, but that cannot possibly be true. Still, my loyalty to apple pie runs deep, the recipe long ago memorized (even though flashier pie varieties – cherry, nectarine, chocolate cream – steal my attention most of the time).

slicepie.jpg

Why isn’t there a place to get a decent slice of pie in downtown Boston? Could you imagine anything nicer on a dreary work day than sitting at a counter at 3:30 with a slice of fresh pie and the caffeinated beverage of your choice? Am I the only one who has this fantasy?

Apple Pie
Besides making the whole house smell great, this pie is really apple-y, owing to a minimal use of spices and an outrageous quantity of apples. My mom’s crusts were always made with shortening as the only fat, which does make a flaky crust. But after experimenting on my own, I prefer a crust made with a mixture of shortening (for the flake) and butter (for the flavor). It’s a little more difficult to work with, but I think it’s worth it for the taste. I like the pie dough recipe from Baking With Julia; it makes four rounds, so you can stash two in the freezer for another day.

For the Dough:
5 ¼ cups AP flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 oz. (1 ½ sticks) cold, unsalted butter cut into pieces
11 oz. (1 ¼ cups) solid vegetable shortening, cold
1 cup ice water

In a large bowl, mix the flour and the salt. Using your hands, two knives, or a pastry blender, cut butter into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. A little at a time, add shortening to the mixture (again, using your hands or the pastry blender) until the mixture resembles curds. Add the cold water, and stir with a fork. Once the dough has mostly come together, pour it out onto a lightly floured surface and pull it together with your hands, being careful not to work it too much. Divide into four equal discs, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate 2 hours (or up to 3 days – wrap extra in foil and freeze).

For the Filling:
7 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 slices each (If you can get Northern Spies, they are great; or I like to use about half Granny Smith and half Macintosh)
¾ — 1 cup sugar, depending upon tartness of the apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cornstarch
juice from up to half a lemon, depending upon flavor of apples
pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl. Roll out one disc of dough and carefully fit it into a 10” pie dish; trim so about 1” of dough hangs over the sides. Fill the shell with the apple mixture. You may have to do this in stages, fitting the pieces in so that the dish can accommodate all the apples. Roll out the second disc of dough and carefully lay it over the apples. Trim excess dough so 1” overhang remains. Seal the top and bottom crusts by taking them together and folding them under around the perimeter. Then, crimp the edges with floured fingers.

Pie Crust

Cut a few vents in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush pie with an egg wash (one egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water). Bake the pie, on a rimmed baking sheet, at 425° for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350° for about an hour. Allow the pie to cool to room temperature before cutting in.