Here’s your chance to cook with the cast! Make the featured recipe with us and comment on your experience below—we’d love to hear how it goes. Our cooks will answer any questions you may have, too.
10/28/2011 Update: Bridget has picked a favorite photo! Take a look at the autumnal splendor.
For a chance to win an entire Season Three 2-DVD set of Cook’s Country TV autographed by host Christopher Kimball, make this week’s recipe and email a photo of your completed dish to firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, Oct. 27. Bridget will pick her favorite snapshot and name the winner on Friday, Oct. 28. Good luck!
Do you know what I love? Apple pie. You know what else? Apple cake, apple turnovers, apple fritters, apple dumplings, and even really good homemade applesauce.
But I’ve never been too crazy about baked apples. I mean, what gives? You take an apple, shove the tiniest amount of twigs and bark in the middle, and bake it all until the apple skin is as wrinkled as a Shar Pei dog. Not to mention that the apple’s flavor is spent, and the texture inside is like water-logged mush. Hey, at least you can cuddle a dog—but soggy fruit, my friends, is a waste of a perfectly good apple.
But, with what now is almost a daily occurrence, I am again proven wrong by the test kitchen geniuses. They’ve shown me that armed with the right apples—Granny Smiths are the sturdy and tart choice—I, a baked apple-hater, can not only make a great baked apple, but also that I can love them too. Let’s get started.
You’ve got the Granny Smiths, but although we’re making six baked apples, we need to start with one extra to use in our stuffing. So go ahead and peel, core, and cut that extra apple into small-ish (about ¼-inch dice) pieces and mix them with some butter, brown sugar, dried cranberries (way brighter than raisins), and pecans. We’ll add in a little grated orange zest, cinnamon, and some salt to liven things up as well. Oh, you say that it looks like we’ve made too much stuffing? Well, not only will I point out that no food can ever have too much stuffing, but also be rest assured that we will use every last bit of it—I promise.
Now, just set that stuffing aside for a second, while I say the most beautiful words ever to be uttered: “Now we will prevent any signs of wrinkled skin.” (Oh? We’re still talking about the apples? Dagnabbit.) Go ahead and remove all signs of green apple skin using your vegetable peeler. Not only did we get rid of the tough texture and shriveled appearance of this dish, but also by removing the skin, excess moisture from the apple can escape and we won’t be left with a slumped, soggy mess. Cool trick, huh?
Let’s get these apples in shape. The first thing that we want to do is make sure that they don’t wobble like a Weeble. So cut off the thinnest amount from the bottom of each apple—just enough to make them level. Now cut off the top ½ inch of each apple, and keep the stems on those tops to max out the adorable factor of the final dish.
Now it’s time to make room for that stuffing, and instead of simply cutting out the very core of the apple, you’re going to really hollow it out. I’m talking a good 1½-inch diameter core. You can use an apple corer (duh) or even a small measuring spoon will do the trick, but don’t go hog-wild here. Boring through the bottom of an apple is a bad idea, and make sure to leave some structural integrity around the apple’s sides. We don’t want a cave-in here.
Here is typically when any recipe would call for stuffing and then baking the apples. But to make sure that the apple flavor is front and center, we haul out the trusty nonstick skillet, melt some butter, and brown the top sides of the apples. This extra step makes THE world of difference, so don’t skip it!
Then we flip those apples, and start filling them up. Really mound all of that awesome stuffing on top—again, you can’t have enough. Finally, put the cute-as-a-button apple tops on the stuffing. Awwww…
We’re almost there; just a couple things left to do. Now we’re going to bake these apples right in the skillet (why dirty another pan?) and we’ll also use it to make a great, reduced, glazy sauce to drizzle over the apples later on. Go ahead and pour some maple syrup and apple cider into the skillet, then bake it all in the oven until the apples are quite tender. It’s a good 35 to 40 minutes of cooking, and you’ll want to baste that yummy skillet-glaze over the apples a few times. Maple + cider + apples = love.
Once the apples are sprung from the oven, simply put them on a serving plate—or even better, divvy them into shallow bowls. A couple extra tablespoons of cider stirred into the glaze will brighten it up and ensure that it’s luscious and pourable. Go ahead—spoon it over. Maybe add a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream, and then take a bite. There’s no tough skin to wrestle, tons of stuffing inside, and plenty of sticky sauce to lap up while no one is looking (go ahead, I’m not looking). Now I ask you: How ‘bout them apples?