October, 2014 — The Apple Issue
Fall is one of my favorite times of year to grill. The air is crisp, warm hearty meals suddenly feel particularly appealing, and there’s an abundance of new seasonal produce available. I particularly like cooking with apples because of their versatility. There are so many different types available, each with their own flavor and texture nuances, from the commonly known Fuji apple with its intensely sweet taste, to varieties like the Braeburn that strike the perfect balance between sweet and tart. I’ve pulled together three of my favorite apple based recipes to help celebrate fall.
Apple Stilton Pizza
I love a big and bold blue cheese, and Stilton is about as flavorful as they come. Used sparingly on this pizza, it is balanced wonderfully by the fresh sweetness of Fuji apples and red onions. Try this pizza as an appetizer.
- 1/2 batch White Wine Pizza Dough, about 14 ounces
- 1 Fuji apple, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 small red onion, sliced lengthwise
- 3 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled
- Flour or corn meal for transferring the pizza
Form the dough to roughly a 12-inch pizza crust. Depending on your personal preference, place the dough on a pizza peel with enough flour or corn meal beneath to allow the pizza to slide easily — or assemble your pizza on the work surface and then slide the peel underneath at the last minute. Either way, the less time the dough spends on the peel, the less likely it is to stick.
Top the dough with the apple slices, onion slices and Stilton. Transfer to the oven or grill and cook until the crust is done and the onions are browned.
Savory Squash Pie with Tart Apples and Sweet Onion
This pie is a perfect side dish for your dinner table in place of a traditional casserole. It is guaranteed to receive rave reviews from your family and guests.
- 1 whole large acorn squash
- 2 9-inch rolled frozen pie crusts, such as Pillsbury
- 2 cups grated manchego cheese
- 2 granny smith apples, cored and thinly sliced (skins left on)
- 1 cup sweet onion, cut into quarters and then thinly sliced
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
- 2 cups alder wood chips, soaked
Prepare the grill for indirect cooking at 350 to 375°F.
Place the whole squash in the indirect zone with the hood closed. Cook until softened, about 45 minutes, turning once.
Remove from the grill and allow to cool. You may also choose to roast the squash in an oven at the same temperature without any appreciable difference in flavor. The squash may be roasted up to an hour in advance of the rest of the pie preparation.
Cut the squash in half. Remove and discard the seeds. Remove all of the flesh from the shells and discard the shells. Slice the squash about 1/4" thick. Line a 9-inch cast iron skillet or heavy ceramic pie plate with the bottom pie crust. Trim off any excess at the skillet's edge.
Proceed to fill the pie, beginning with a thin layer of manchego cheese, followed by thin layers of apples, onions, squash and dried cranberries, using about 1/3 of each for each layer. Repeat the layering two more times. The pie should be over-filled and quite tall. The filling will settle when baked.
Whisk together 2 of the eggs with the cream, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour over the pie filling. Add the pieces of butter to the top. Lay on the top pie crust. Trim off the excess and crimp the edges all around. Cut slits into the top to vent steam.
Place the skillet or pie plate on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Bring the foil up to loosely wrap the edges of the pie and help prevent the perimeter of the crust from overcooking. Place the pie in the indirect cooking zone.
Add the alder wood chips for smoke (learn about smoking techniques) and bake the pie with the hood closed for 90 minutes total, turning the pie every 30 minutes for more even baking.
With 20 to 30 minutes remaining, pull the foil back away from the edges. Beat the last egg and brush about half of it onto the top pie crust and continue baking for a perfectly golden presentation. Serve warm as a side dish.
Roasted Apple Pies in Pumpkin Shells
This dessert truly celebrates the bounty of autumn by combining two of the season’s iconic harvests — pumpkins and apples — into an creative dish your family and guests will long remember. Guests can eat a little pumpkin with each bite, bringing together a great flavor combination with the spices, apples and pecans.
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup light-brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 6 sugar pie pumpkins, about 1 pound each, scrubbed clean
- 6 Braeburn apples, cored and sliced in eighths
- 1/2 cup pecan halves
Prepare the grill for indirect cooking at 400°F.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the vanilla, brown sugar, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Add the flour and combine until smooth.
Cut the top third or a little more off each pumpkin. Angle downward with the knife so that the cut is tapered to the middle and the tops will easily center on the pumpkins later. Hollow out the pumpkins, removing all the seeds and pulp.
Layer the apples and pecans inside the pumpkins and then drizzle the egg mixture equally into each pie. The apples can extend above the rims, but the egg mixture should not fill the shell beyond 2/3rds.
Place the tops on the pies and transfer them to the indirect cooking zone. Roast with the hood closed for 20 minutes, then remove the tops and set them on the grill grate next to the pies in the coolest part of the indirect zone. After 30 minutes total cooking time, rotate the pies for even cooking. After 40 minutes total cooking time, remove the pumpkin lids from the grill and reserve. After 60 minutes total cooking time, the pumpkin shells should be tender and the apple pie filling cooked through. Remove from the grill and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Note: This recipe is even better cooked with a little apple wood smoke. Also, 6 pies require a sizable indirect cooking zone. A K900 can handle them, but some grills are not large enough.