Harvesting the first ripe apples is one of my favorite early autumn treats and I’ve been lucky enough to have a friend always include me on her picks. This season, we’ve harvested tart golden beauties and a variety of red delicious with blush streaks that make for a gorgeous pink applesauce and all manner of rose-hued crisps. In my kitchen these days, a few tart-sweet apples get chopped and tossed with lemon juice and zest before being baked with a topping of cold butter, brown, sugar, oats, cinnamon and slivered almonds — a super quick dessert with a satisfying dollop of yogurt or ice cream. They also get cored and filled with butter and cinnamon and sugar before roasting to fork tenderness. The fruit loves savory flavors as well. Apple and hot Madras curry pair well with a bit of cream to brighten pork chops and chicken. Or roasted to accompany a steak or tossed into a cabbage slaw.
For a sweet-savory combo, if you’re familiar with apple pie and cheddar, think of this Dutch baby as an easy yet impressive alternative to fussing with pie dough and filling. This large, fluffy pancake — similar to a popover — is a great way to showcase leftovers as well as the season’s apple harvest. Also perfect for a festive brunch or light supper with a green salad. More savory than sweet, play with your favorite flavors and additions, including smoked salmon and chive; tomato and mozzarella; sautéed kimchi and green onion; corn and jalapeño. If you find yourself tempted to open the oven door while the pan is in the oven, resist the urge. Much like a soufflé, this baby can be temperamental and might deflate. For this recipe, if you prefer more “puff,” include half of the cheese before baking but serve remaining cheese as a garnish with sautéed apples on the side. Keep in mind that as it cools, the popover will become more dense. Leftovers are good even cold out of the fridge or warmed and served on toasted bread for a quick snack. — Kim Sunée
Makes 3 to 4 servings
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small apples, cored and thinly sliced (about 6 ounces/3/4 cups)
Optional: About 2 tablespoons thinly sliced jalapeño or chopped onion
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
3/4 cup milk (whole, 2%, half & half all work well)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sugar or maple syrup (optional)
1/2 cup finely grated cheddar or Comté cheese, divided
Optional Garnishes: fresh chopped herbs; caramelized onion; hot sauce; freshly-ground black pepper
• Preheat oven to 425°F.
• Blend together in a blender or food processor (or with a handheld mixer) flour, milk, egg, sugar, if using, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl and whisk until mostly smooth. If using, add other spices or herbs.
• Place a heavy (8-to-9-inch) ovenproof pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add butter. Once butter begins to bubble, add apple and pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are just tender, about three to five minutes. Add jalapeño or onion if using.
• When apples are tender (and oven is to temp), turn heat to high so pan is very hot; sprinkle half of cheese over apples and pour egg mixture over; top with remaining half of cheese. Place pan in oven and bake until Dutch baby is puffed and golden, about 16 to 18 minutes. Note: If browning too quickly before puffing, reduce heat slightly. Do not open oven door while baking. When mixture is puffed and golden remove pan and enjoy while hot.
Variation: *For a sweet Dutch baby, omit cheese and top with seasonal berries, favorite jams, Nutella, powdered sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, etc.