Story last updated at 10/2/2013 - 2:54 pm
Have you ever seen something on television that made you say, “I can do that,” or “I wonder if…”? I have these curious moments weekly when I watch cooking shows. I must admit, though, that I am not terribly interested in watching the competitive shows. There’s something so stressful about watching a young chef have his or her food critiqued on national TV and it not go well. When I do happen to watch one of these shows, I turn the channel when they get to the judges comment section. I then hurriedly switch back to see who won. I’m a relish in the victory, not the demise of a competitor kind of girl. I’m always happy for the winners, and feel bad for whoever didn’t win.
It may be that I feel cooking is so subjective. It is one of those things that yes, there are right ways and wrong ways, but the blending of flavors and textures can be so open to interpretation that some people might not like it and others might think it’s the best thing on the planet. Maybe I’m more open to this concept because I’m not a chef, but it’s like art.
I enjoy are shows that take an ordinary recipe and make it not only extraordinary, but spectacular. This week I watched Ina Garten, AKA The Barefoot Contessa, create a stuffed pear dish that sounded out of this world. She stuffed Stilton blue cheese, dried cranberries and nuts into a pear and created a sauce from port wine. Not only did it sound amazing, it looked incredible.
This is when my “I wonder…” moment happened. I wonder what apples with a brandy butter sauce would taste like. Would the sauce taste like a butter rum candy stick? I used to love those when I was a kid. When I have these moments, I ponder them for a while, sometimes days, as I create the recipe in my head. Then I head to the kitchen. My husband sees me sitting in front of the TV and thinks I’m a slug, when in fact I am actually creating a recipe that he will get to enjoy. Little does he know that I’m always working.
For the stuffing, I followed The Barefoot Contessa’s idea, but changed up the ingredients. I used goat cheese, golden raisins and pistachios. Rather than pears, I used gala apples and my sauce was not from port but from brandy. This was a case of taking an idea and making it my own. A concept I encourage with all my friends, family and readers.
The brandy butter sauce was the tricky part. How much butter to use? How much brandy? After a pound of butter, three pots and nearly a cup of brandy, I came up with a recipe that worked really well. And best of all, there are only a few ingredients and they are all very easy to find.
The fun part of creating the recipe was the tasting of all the varieties of brandy butter sauce. One version over cooked and got really gritty. It had to go. One had vanilla, which made it a tad too sweet for me, but could be an optional ingredient. One was too thin. The final one had the right consistency and the brown sugar added a hint of caramel flavor. This was a fun kitchen experiment and I learned the best process for making the sauce.
When I presented my delightful new recipe to Grant he was impressed with how pretty and how flavorful it was. I also learned he didn’t like goat cheese. Oh well, what’s a cook to do? Back to that subjective issue. I told him what I told my children when they were growing up. “Eat around it.” Next time, I’ll use a different cheese and see how that works out. For me, the savory goat cheese worked perfectly with the sweet butter sauce.
This week I present a recipe that once again is very easy to make and allows for a bit of variety in the ingredients: Brandy Butter Apples.
Until next time…
Eat and enjoy,
BRANDY BUTTER APPLES
2 gala apples, halved
2 ounces plain goat cheese
½ cup golden raisins
¼ roasted pistachios
½ cup apple cider
½ cup brandy
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use melon ball tool to remove cores from apples. Slice a small bit off the bottoms so that they rest easily in a deep baking dish and do not roll. Mix cheese, raisins and pistachios in small bowl and divide stuffing into four portions, stuffing each apple. Some will overflow, which is fine. Add cider around apples and cover loosely with foil. Cook about 20-25 minutes until apples are thoroughly baked.
Melt butter in heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Remove pan from heat and carefully pour in brandy. Do not do this over a flame if you have a gas stove. It’s highly combustible. Return to heat and whisk gently. The sauce will be thin and smooth. Cook one or two minutes so that the butter and brandy blend. Add brown sugar and whisk. It will not completely dissolve, but that’s OK. The caramel flavor is a wonderful addition. If you would like to add the vanilla, this is the time. Remove from heat and let cool a bit, but not too cool or it will separate. Pour over warm apples and serve immediately. Garnish with whipped cream if desired.
Kelly Moore, a.k.a. Midgi, writes and cooks from Juneau. Visit her blog, www.mealswithmidgi.com.
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