FROM THE GONZO CHEF:
Apple Pie à La Bridge on the River Kwai.
It’s that time of year and after the second frost I pick the Macs and Braeburns, skin them with my old red Rube Goldberg peeler. Out comes my dinged Chinese cleaver and I slice the flesh neat. The Joy of Cooking is at my side to make sure I have some sense of honor in assembling this pie.
I’m a barehanded Gonzo. First cinnamon is dusted like a sand storm on the apples, followed by eight twirls of the nutmeg mill. Kate’s butter (I splurged), I cut up in small chunks and mix it in. Then I add hot little cinnamon candies I bought at the Vermont Country Store when I was passing through. There are about the size of a blueberry—hey, that’s a good idea! I go in the freezer, grab a handful of blueberries and dump them in. I’m hand diving in the bowl, turning over the apples and all those spices, and start licking my fingers. Hmm, it needs three chunks of pineapple and I just happen to have them frozen away.
I only made one other apple pie in my life and it was mostly a failure so to play it safe I bought the crust, rolled it out on the counter, let it warm up, and put half of it in a nine inch aluminum pie pan. I had heated the oven up to 450 and put the crust and pan in the oven to stiffen it so it won’t get soggy from all the juices. You know, next time I will make my own crust. I just heard of a woman who used vodka to give her crust a little special oomph.
Come to think of it, time for a drink—bourbon cut with the juice from the pie, ice and a cherry. Lots of it. HMMM… Jim Beam you’re a friend of mine.
A good hit on my type of Old Fashioned swirls my imagination. Something is missing. AHHH! My memory goes back to the apple sauce I make with habanero flakes that Dodie, my daughter, sends me from London, England. Dodie and Fred’s Taqueria near Portobello is the best Mexican restaurant in England.
I open the tin of habanero flakes, dump a bunch in the palm of hand, take a pinch and sprinkle and mix it in the pie. Give it a taste. Hmmm. Another pinch, this one bigger and I turn over the mixture.
Another scurry through the cupboard and I find some dried currants in a bag. Dumped them all in. Then I took a pint of very black no-name maple syrup from Cold Hollow Cider Mill and did a couple of dozy-dos with the bottle. Then another before the turnover. . .dumped in two tablespoons of cornstarch, a couple of shakes from the vanilla bottle.
Then I took the bowl with the apples mixed with all those special little spices, covered it with a dish towel, and put it in the refrigerator overnight to hang out with my habanero and chipotle applesauce and that big sauce pan of soup-stew that turned out awful. Don’t ever use blue cheese for anything except eating blue cheese (I call it Roquefort). Some like it on steak but they taste with forked tongues.
Twenty-four hours later I pulled the pie pan out of the fridge, removed the dishcloth covering the pie innards and took a taste.
DAMN! A bit too biting with habanero. I can take it but others might not. Well, nothing wrong with that.
In the oven at 450 for 10 minutes, timed with my I Phone, than 35 minutes at 350. And I let it cool down in the oven.
Bought a half gallon of Blue Bunny Vanilla ice cream made in Iowa. It costs $3.99, less than half of Hagen Daz or Ben and Jerry’s and made with eggs, cream, vanilla, milk and skim milk that’s what gives it an incredible lightness of being. Ice cream idiots from hot states don’t smother themselves with high butter fat milk from bag-heavy Jersey cows.
I taste the pie. I buttered and sprinkled milk and brown sugar on the crust and it was good and true would remember Ernest, but he ate a bland pie on the Big Two Hearted River.
Oh Dear, still quite a Habanero bite! I circumcise out a triangle, dump on the ice cream and taste. PERFECT! The ice cream dulls just enough of the Habanero overload.
BUT…but…is this pie darkly dyed by blueberries and no grade black maple syrup… is it an apple pie, or did I make a… Bridge on the River Kwai pie, more suitable for Colonel Saito’s palate?
“WHAT HAVE I DONE???” I pick up the pie and move to the disposal and then a jolt hits my body. I almost keel over.
Hey, what this pie needs the next time is a couple of slugs of dark Jamaican rum, and a froth of eggnog instead of ice cream!