Sunday, April 5, 2009

Missed the boat

I want to let you all know up front that this will be a bit of a short post. I just got done with a cooking class from the weekend and am still recovering, even after an hour nap today!


I just don't understand why we're so afraid of desserts in the States.

No, wait, I take that back.

I guess what I don't understand is how we could be so scared to have a dessert on a regular basis. I do it here, and have not suffered any ill effects. It's a puzzle, part of the French paradox maybe...or maybe it's just because we've missed the compote boat.

One of the things that Alice Waters continually preaches is how lovely a perfect fresh piece of fruit is--the ideal dessert, really. Sometimes, however, some of us don't have access to that lovely piece of perfect fruit, or, let's be honest, we get sick of plain fruit and want a little spice in our life.

That brings us to this lovely apple compote I've made a couple of times over the past few weeks. It's the end of the apple season here in Louviers, so I'm gobbling up as many apples as possible, in any form I can think of.

A compote is essentially cooked down fruit, as far as I can tell. Some versions tell you to cook the fruit in a sugar syrup, and you can absolutely do that if you like, but here in France, a compote is kind of a sister to applesauce. It is eaten hot and cold, brought in as a base for a buttery tart and very happily married with flaky pastry for chaussons aux pommes.

Sometimes simplicity is best, and that means tossing cubed, peeled apples into a pot with sugar and some vanilla and calling it dessert.

Apple Compote
Adapted from Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Herrmann Loomis

6 medium-sized firm apples, such as Cox's Pippin
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 Tbs. grapeseed or canola oil
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. (vanilla) sugar
Freshly grated nutmeg
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional-add in before serving if you've got less of a sweet tooth)

Peel, core and cube the apples.

Melt the butter and oil together over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add the apple cubes and stir. Add the vanilla and nutmeg, stir and turn down the heat to medium-low.

Stir periodically until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Use a potato masher to mash about half of the apples in the saucepan (you want to leave some big chunks for texture), stir again and serve.

Serves 2-3.

This is great all on its own, and I encourage you to mix it up with other spices such as cinnamon or a touch of pepper. This would also be lovely with ice cream, I imagine, maybe vanilla or cinnamon.

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