The Best Apple Crisp I've Ever Tasted (Seriously)
Me and Shawn
In June, my friend and tireless Hudson Valley chef Shawn Hubbell cooked at two events here at Glynwood, where I live with my partner Kathleen. One of them was my daughter Emma’s wedding; at the other, I met Ethan Frisch of Burlap and Barrel, a site you really should look at. The three of us—Shawn, Ethan, and I—agreed to cook together at the October Glynwood farm dinner. (Once a month, a guest chef or cook comes to Glynwood and does the best meal for a radius of I-don’t-know-how-many miles. Many.)
As things happen, that day ended up being this past Saturday, and Shawn and Ethan and I were lucky enough to score the meat of a Dexter cow from Q Farms, in Sharon, CT, and we would use as many different cuts from that animal as we could. Ethan would bring bizarre, wonderful, unheard of spices, like too-hard-to-eat pistachios that are ground and used as a seasoning; nearly fresh red juniper berries; a kind of Sichuan peppercorn from Nepal; and nutmeg fruit, the thing that surrounds the nutmeg we’re familiar with. Shawn announced he’d do a ton of the cooking in advance, because he is, as I said, tireless.
Our starter would be my (not) world-famous coda alla vaccinara, which I learned in Rome, and which is pretty awesome. We’d also decided that we’d try to find some help, that we’d eventually do a real menu, and that I would try to take a nap when I got tired.
Everything worked out except the last two things: There was no menu and no napping. Shawn not only made the coda at home, he made a few pounds of fresh pasta. (“Coda” means tail, but we used shanks, which are every bit as good, maybe better—they have a lot of marrow, which makes the sauce silky. But more on that, including the recipe, on Friday.) We couldn’t get all the organ meat we wanted, but we did a pretty decent job of using a variety of cuts, including heart, liver, and some relatively unknown steaks.
Shawn brought, in cute, tiny, cast iron skillets, the best apple crisp I’ve ever tasted (recipe below), along with drop-dead delicious cinnamon ice cream, using Ethan’s cinnamon. (Ethan: “I saw this cinnamon as bark on the tree in Tanzania, and here it is.”)
Shawn also carried in cases of honeynut squash, the best variety of butternut, as far as I can tell; a variety of apples (called “lunch”) from a local orchard; leeks; the last of the corn; poblanos; some long red chiles that reminded me of the Jimmy Nardello variety, and maybe they were; and shallots, cipollini, cauliflower, Padrón chiles (or shishitos—they’re not that different). And I don’t even know what else. More.
Me and Shawn and fire
Almost every sentence above can be unpacked for a story: Dexter and Q Farms, Ethan’s spices, the last of the corn (sigh—really am bummed about that), beef shanks, Glynwood farm dinners in general. And I think eventually they will. But for now, let me say that we (and our helpers, Colton, and Ethan’s dad Mike) worked like fiends, I did almost all the grilling (on a fire I built that at one point was so hot it melted an iron rod), and we fed 80 people pretty damned well—everyone got a TINY bit of those steaks, as well as a little heart and a fair amount of liver. I’m gonna tell you the menu as best as I can remember, post the recipes for that squash and apple crisp (scroll down), and see you soon -
Really the “secret” here is that the topping is not granola-like, or streusel-like, but pretty much a cookie. Which would make it a cobbler in my book, but regardless of what you call it - it’s fantastic. Part of its appeal is the unusually aggressive (and really good) spicing.
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