24 November 2009

An Unlikely Introduction

To be remembered, you must make it so. At a party, when introducing yourself, just giving a name won’t cut it. Attached to the name must be a story, something memorable, a play on words or a twist of phrase. So goes the advice a communications professor suggested to her class years ago, a bit of detail never to grow stale or be forgotten, although it might need to be dusted off from time to time, having spent too many months untouched in the back of the mind’s cupboard behind jars of brighter, newly opened delectables. Easy to incorporate into any dish, easy to digest. Which isn’t to say that jar gathering dust is difficult to swallow. Not in the least. It’s just easier to grab something closer, to avert the hand at the last minute and avoid the new face necessitating the storied introduction. Even if it might taste really, really good. Even if might awaken, if it might demand.

I like to visualize the act of memory-making as the first steps in creating the world you inhabit, in suggesting all that fine film of perception that surrounds a Self. This introduction is the entry point for the Other. Some common ground where neither extreme of oneself is revealed just yet, rather, an entryway is presented where seven halls beckon to be wandered, doors to be used as hiding places, windows to be peered through. And I like to think that if it were to have a taste—the whole kitten concept—it would hit the spot where savory turns to sweet, gooey to crusty, blackened to golden to honey-colored. It would taste like apple pie with cheddar crust.
So hello, welcome. Please explore our hallways, use our windows as a lens through which to see your own landscape, take comfort behind the doors standing ajar and don’t hesitate to open closed ones. From the Intemperies raging outside to the one’s baking in the oven to those bubbling on the stovetop, take a seat and take a breath and take a bite.

With Jane, who might take a seat among the loveliest of ladies—and a spot in my heart as dear friend—I take credit for what follows in this space. Look to her definition of Intemperies, which reminds me that even without all the exotic spices, the sumptuous linens and the gilded teacups to hold that silken crème, life right now can be just as rich as life over in dark Parisian corners or bluish Scandinavian mornings, fluid Florentine museums or writhing Bombay avenues.

But for now, some aged white cheddar and slippery, un-spiced apples to entice that ephemera from where it sleeps on blustery November nights.

Apple Pie with White Cheddar Crust
From Gourmet, September 2009

For the crust:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ {2 1/2 cups} lb extra-sharp white cheddar, coarsely grated
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ -inch pieces
¼ cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into ½ -inch pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon milk

For the Apples:

1 ½ lb Gala apples {3 medium}
1 ½ lb Granny Smith apples {3 medium}
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

Equipment: 9-inch pie plate

Make the crust:

Toss flour, salt and cheese in a large bowl or pulse in a food processor. Blend in butter and shortening with a pastry blender, processor or fingers. Stop when you have pea-sized lumps. Drizzle 6 Tbsp water over the flour mixture and toss lightly to combine and dampen mixture.
If dough doesn't hold together at this time, add 1 Tbsp of water at a time. Do not overwork.

Divide dough in half, making two disks and wrapping them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Make the filling:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a foil-lined baking sheet under rack where pie will rest.

Peel and core apples, slicing them about 1/4 in thick. Toss well with the sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt.

Roll out one piece of dough into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Fit into the pie plate and roll the remaining dough into an 11-inch round. Pour the apple filling into the pie shell and dot with butter. Cover with the second pastry and trim edges leaving a bit of dough to pinch together all around the circumference. Brush top crust lightly with milk and cut 5, one inch long vents.

Bake on the foil-lined sheet for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes, until the crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Cool 2-3 hours before serving.

It's lovely with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, which cuts the cheddar with a cooling sweet.

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