Today my friend the Foodinista asked me what I was cooking for Thanksgiving because somewhere during our ten year friendship she picked up the idea that around this time of year, I have something inspiring up my sleeve. My family is having a pseudo Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow afternoon. I’m bringing dessert, and since I have been elbow-deep in olive oil and grated Parm testing recipes for the Mozza cookbook all week long, I didn’t think about what I would bring until five o’clock this evening at which time I decided to take a Why Argue with Success approach and make a Sourmash Apple Cobbler that I have been making since 1991. I was given the recipe as a going away present from the chef at a restaurant where I worked after college to save money to move to New York City, and I have relied on it countless times since–even after my rustic baked fruit repertoire became much more, er… sophisticated (can I that word in the context of a rustic baked fruit dessert?). The apples are cooked with a cup of sourmash whiskey (aka Jack Daniels), which gets caramely and sticky after nearly an hour in a hot oven, and the crunchy topping is all butter and sugar, and I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love it. Best of all it’s easier than pie and it smells great coming out of the oven. Throw it in when you take out the ham and you’ll have a bubbling, whiskey infused caramelized apple extravaganza with which to sweeten any family drama that might have fermented over dinner. You won’t regret it.
Sourmash Apple Crisp
This is a huge recipe because it’s the one the chef gave me. I always plan on cutting it in half but then when I go to buy the apples, I get weak. I decide to make the whole, humongous thing, bake it in a couple of Emile Henry dishes, and find something to do with the extra one. Tonight I gave it to my intern Tracey. After all, it was she who said, bravely, after having spent the previous 7 hours making two pasta filings, white bean puree, capon brodo, and a batch of chocolate chunk cookie dough—said encouragingly, just when I was trying to convince myself that chocolate chip cookies could pass for Thanksgiving dessert: “If you go get the apples, I’ll help you cut them.”
For the Crisp Topping
1 pound unsalted butter
4 cups sugar
4 cups flour
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
For the Apples
18 to 20 Granny Smith Apples (or any tart baking apple), peeled and cut into wedges
2 cups sugar
1 cup Jack Daniels Whiskey
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons flour
Ground Cinnamon (or whatever sweet spices you like with your apples; i couldn’t resist grating some fresh nutmeg on a microplane over the apples. I mean really. Who could?)
Vanilla ice cream or heavy cream whipped with a splash (or more) of Jack Daniels
Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment for about 5 minutes, until they’re light and fluffy. Add the salt to the flour and stir to incorporate it. Add the flour to the butter mixture and use your fingertips to incorporate the flour into the butter; you want to make crumbs, not a solid, incorporated dough.
Put the apple wedges in the biggest bowl you have (and even that might not be big enough). Add the sugar, whiskey, lemon juice, flour and cinnamon and toss to coat the apples with the seasonings. Transfer the apples to two baking dishes. Scatter the topping over them, taking care to cover the apples evenly.
Place the baking dishes on a baking sheet and bake them, turning them in the oven midway through baking time so they brown evenly, until the tops are golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling around the edges, 45 to 50 minutes. Take the crisps out of the oven and let them cool for about 20 minutes before serving–unless you want your guests to burn their tongue. Now now…