Rosie Hawthorne: Opulent October offerings

By on October 31, 2013

pear tart

Pear tart.

I think of October as a transition period between the lighter fare of summer and the heartier, more comforting foods of fall. I have a few recipes for you this month which take advantage of end-of-summer and early fall produce. In addition, my recipes and pictures and thoughts might just take you back to another time.

Life is short, so I’m starting with dessert. Let’s celebrate fall’s apple harvest with Mama Hawthorne’s Apple Crisp.

I remember Mama Hawthorne, standing in the kitchen, apples all over the counters, making applesauce, and freezing dozens of containers at a time. And I remember her making this dessert and serving it with vanilla ice cream.

Most importantly, the apple tree, a Golden Delicious, was in our own backyard, just a few steps from the back door. I remember climbing up that apple tree, scrambling onto the roof, and crab-walking up the incline to enter in through a window, Sister Hawthorne’s bedroom window, which I always kept unlocked so I could “sneak” into the house. Who goes in the front door when you can climb an apple tree, jump on a roof, and break in through a window? Mama Hawthorne was never the wiser. Oh shoot, what am I saying? I’m sure she knew EVERYTHING!

With that in mind, here’s Mama Hawthorne’s recipe for her Apple Crisp. A lot of memories came out of this apple dish for me. Please enjoy the dish, along with your own memories. They’re all good!

Mama Hawthorne’s Apple Crisp
applecrisp4 cups Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 TB sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup quick Quaker oats
½ cup flour
1 stick butter

Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with butter.
As you peel and slice the apples, place them in a bowl with the lemon juice, tossing to coat. This way, the apple slices won’t turn dark.
Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over apples. Toss to coat.
Pour sliced apples into the greased pan.
In another bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, and oats. Sprinkle over apples.
Slice butter into small pats and dot the top.
Bake 35-40 minutes at 350°.
Serve warm with ice cream drooling down.

I love a good soup, and my creamy Broccoli Soup is perfect for lunch, accompanied by a rustic loaf of bread to sop up every bit and a light salad. And if you pick a gray, rainy day to make this, you can believe me, it will taste even better.

Creamy Broccoli Soup
soup8 strips bacon, scissored into small pieces and crisply fried
Reserve a tablespoon of bacon grease. Set bacon aside.
3 TB butter
1 head broccoli, small chop
1 carrot, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
½ onion, finely chopped
¼ cup flour
1 quart chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
Cheddar cheese, grated
Freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste

Fry bacon pieces. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Leave about 1 TB of bacon grease in the pan and add the butter, medium heat. When melted, add carrot, celery, onion, and broccoli. Cook about 2 minutes. Add in the flour. Cook, stirring, about 2-3 minutes to cook the raw taste out of the flour. Slowly add in chicken broth, stirring. I used homemade chicken consomée, but you can substitute canned or boxed chicken broth if you don’t have homemade. If you go with store-bought, I would recommend the reduced sodium and fat versions. Stir until thickened. Add in cream. Heat through. Taste test and adjust seasonings if needed.
Serve with grated cheddar cheese and bacon bits scattered on top.

Here’s a Rosie Tip #275:
What do you do if your soup doesn’t thicken as much as you want it to?
Well, I’ll tell you.
There are numerous techniques for thickening a soup:

• Make a roux. A roux is a thickening agent made of equal parts butter and flour. The butter is melted, the flour is added, and the mixture is stirred to get rid of any lumps. You want to cook the roux a minute or two, to cook the raw taste out of the flour. When the flour taste disappears, slowly add in your warmed broth, whisking, until the mixture has thickened.
• Use a starch in the soup. For example, using potatoes, rice, or pasta in a soup will thicken it. You can also use cornstarch as a thickener. Mix a tablespoon cornstarch with just enough cold water to make a slurry or paste. Whisk this into the soup. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Stir until thickened. It is important to add cold water to the cornstarch, not the other way around. Adding the cornstarch to the water will cause it to be lumpy. Also it’s important to use cold water, not hot. Using hot water will cook the cornstarch before it is mixed into the soup.
• Make a Beurre manié, French for “kneaded butter.” This is similar to a roux, but backwards. Mix equal parts softened butter and flour. I start with one tablespoon of each and mix them by hand until the flour is incorporated into the butter. Drop the ball into your soup, give it more heat, and let it go for several minutes, stirring, to let the flour cook, so you won’t taste raw flour. If one ball doesn’t thicken it enough, try another.
• Use puréed vegetables. This not only thickens your dish, it enrichens it and gives you a whole new level of flavor.

Fall is my favorite time of year on the Outer Banks. The air is crisp. The light has changed. There’s a certain excitement as I look forward to a new season and the new crop of fall vegetables waiting for me.

squashToday, I’m cooking an acorn squash. To prepare the squash for baking, I slice it in half and scrape out all the seeds and pulp surrounding the seeds. And of course, I dry the seeds and save them to plant next year. Take a small paring knife and slice off a little piece of each bottom so the halves will sit evenly in your baking dish.

Place the cleaned and leveled squash in a baking dish and pour water about halfway up the sides of the squash. This baking technique is called a bain Marie. This method allows the food to heat gently and a custard or sauce to cook evenly.

Usually I hollow these out, put in brown sugar, honey, pecans, orange juice, raisins, some coconut, and butter, bake it in a bain Marie until tender, and call it a day. However, I want to go with a savory version this time, by using a corn custard stuffing.

Bake the squash in a 375° oven for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the squash and how accurate your oven temperature is. You want the squash to be slightly under-cooked. Remove from oven and pour the corn custard into the squash reserving half of each cheese. Pour any excess custard into small ramekins and place the ramekins in the bain Marie. Return the dish to the oven and continue baking for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese over custards and bake 15-20 minutes more until custard is set and squash tender. Let sit for about ten minutes before you spoon into the custard.

Corn Custard
custard1 egg
2 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup corn
freshly ground salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp each)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 scallions, chopped

I like to have my egg and liquids at room temperature.
This makes for more volume and a better rise.

As for the milk, if all you had is whole milk, that would be fine to use.
I just happen to have skim milk and heavy cream in my fridge at all times, so I always use a combination.

Beat the egg until light and lemon colored.
Whisk in the milk and cream.
Add corn, salt, pepper, nutmeg, scallions, and half each of the cheddar and Parm.

Beat whites until soft peaks form.
Gently fold into the egg mixture.

Fill the half-baked acorn squash halves with the corn mixture. I had enough leftover to fill two small ramekins in addition to the squash. Return the bain-Marie to the oven and cook about 30 minutes. Sprinkle on the rest of the remaining cheese and return to the oven, until custard is poofy and set, about another 15-20 minutes. Allow the custard to sit about 10 minutes before digging into it.

The earthy squash, paired with a deliciously textured, smooth, sweet, creamy corn custard inside, is a winning combination – perfect for comfort food on a cool autumn evening, when there’s a nip and hint of weather to come.

I started this column with a delicious dessert and I’m ending on a sweet note as well with a Pear Tart. One of our neighbors called and generously offered us as many pears as we wanted from his prolific pear tree. Mr. Hawthorne went over to pick pears and came home with a five-gallon bucketful.

Pear Tart
tart1/2 cup almonds
1/2 sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease a 9-inch springform pan
1 large egg
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt
2 pears, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
juice of 1 lemon
1 TB sugar
1/2 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 apricot preserves
1 TB hot water
Heat oven to 350°.
Butter a 9-inch springform pan.
Combine the juice of one lemon and 1 TB sugar.
Peel, core, and slice pears.
As you cut the pears, toss the slices in the lemon and sugar mixture.
Process almonds and 1/2 cup sugar until finely ground.
Add butter, egg, and extract.
Process until smooth.
Add flour, baking powder, and salt.
Pulse a few times to combine.
Press evenly into bottom of prepared pan.
Arrange the pears in the dough.
Sprinkle apricots over top, pressing lightly into dough.
Bake until pears are tender, about 50-60 minutes.
Combine preserves and hot water
and brush over tart while still hot.
Let cool before opening springform pan.

Whatever you do, please take time to enjoy the season and appreciate its varied offerings — vegetables and fruits — at their finest.

For more of Rosie’s recipes, garden visits, travelogues, and entertainment, please visit at KitchensAreMonkeyBusiness.com and enjoy.

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