Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Rained out, but apple pie prevails
Good morning from rainy, rainy NYC. I had high hopes of showing K. the glories of an East Coast autumn over this long weekend--all the tasty treats they don't have in warm states, like hot apple cider, pumpkin patches, and apple-cider doughnuts made in goofy Rube Goldberg machines right before your eyes. Every orchard in the Hudson River Valley was having a hayride-and-apple-picking extravaganza for the weekend, it seemed. There would be cider-pressing and performances by the Magical Puppet Theater at the nifty biodynamic Hawthorne Valley Farm, even a Civil War re-enactment in Montgomery, just in case K. needed a little taste of home, albeit with a Union slant. She packed up her tent--how cold could it be?--I made a reservation at the sweet-sounding Milk & Honey b&b for the first night, and we synchronized our watches to meet in Albany.
Well, you already know how this goes, right? The b&b was homey and laid-back and fun. We learned that Chatham, NY is not on big-city time, which means the Blue Plate restaurant closes its doors at 8:45pm (and meaning, of course, that we didn't get to try it, since we didn't actually get it together to leave our room seeking dinner until 9pm). And that the Greig Farm orchard, on a cloudy Friday, was virtually empty, save for us and a whole bunch of little trees laden with dozens of kinds of apples and acres of pumpkins scattered in the most unlikely of places.
But then the rain started to fall. And fall, and fall, and fall. Unlike the few other hardy campers in the park, we didn't have tarps and canopies rigged up over our tiny tent. At 2:30am, one of the tent poles collapsed. By 6:30am, the nylon walls were running with water, the roof of the tent was bowed down to within 2 inches of our heads and we were caught like a couple of almost-drowned cats in a sack. We spent the morning thawing out over coffee and sausage at the diner in Red Hook (a very classic 1920s Silk Cut model, for you vintage-diner fans), then another hour reading the New Republic at the laundromat as our muddy socks and sodden sleeping bags churned around in the industrial-sized washers. And by the afternoon, we were on the thruway, heading back to the one warm place we knew--my apartment in Brooklyn.
Which was, by contrast, a blissful oasis of hot showers & clean flowery sheets. With the car parked, we stayed in the neighborhood, walking to Prospect Park (trees! waterfalls! squirrels! who needs the country?), eating curried salmon with pineapple at Blue Star, catching a movie at the Cobble Hill cinema (Tim Burton's Corpse Bride--ehhh. Not original, not funny, in fact lame all around. Skip it. The preview for the Johnny Cash movie, however, looked hot), shooting free pool at b61, and drinking hot mulled cider all day long.
And since we did come home with two big bags of hand-picked apples, I scooted out of bed early on Monday morning and whipped up a homemade apple pie. It looks squashed in this picture, but actually it was very pretty (and tasty!), with squirrel and leaf cutouts on top. And while the pie baked, K. made apple-orchard scrambled eggs, with sauteed onions, apples, and chunks of pork sausage. You could throw in a little thyme, too, and maybe some sharp cheddar cheese. Serve with some hot cider, toast and apple butter, and be happy for flannel pajamas and a roof over your head.
Apple Pie to Save the Day
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 TB sugar
1 1/2 to 2 sticks butter (3/4 - 1 cup), depending on how buttery you want your crust
6 TB ice water
Mix dry ingredients, cut in butter (leave it chunkier than you think!), and toss in ice water. Flatten into two rounds, wrap in plastic or stick in a zip-loc bag, and chill. After at least an hour or so of chilling, roll out the crusts between sheets of wax paper.
Meanwhile, peel, core, and cut up a bunch of apples. Since I already had way more apples on hand than I knew I'd need, I just kept peeling and slicing until I had enough to fill my pie pan in a nice heap. But buy at least three or four pounds of apples; having too many apples is always a good thing. Toss apples with about 3/4 cup of sugar (more or less, depending on your taste), 1 tsp cinnamon, a handful of raisins (optional), a scant tablespoon of flour, and a pinch of salt. You can throw in a little nutmeg, cloves, allspice, or ginger, too, but be gentle--you want the mellow apple taste to prevail.
Line the pie pan with the bottom crust, heap in your apples, and top with top crust. Press edges together and crimp the crust edge. If you want, you can brush the top with an egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1-2 tb water), and top it with little cutouts of leaves or apples or squirrels, if you're like me and collect goofy cookie cutters for just this purpose.
Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour. You may need to cover the edges with foil for the last 20 minutes or so to prevent them from burning. Crust should be well browned and filling bubbling. Let cool to warm, then serve with vanilla ice cream or sharp cheddar cheese. After all, as the New Englanders say, Apple pie without the cheese/Is like a hug without the squeeze.