Baked Apples Filled with Fruit and Nuts

My brother-in-law came over for dinner last weekend, which isn’t anything too terribly out of the ordinary. He called me Saturday to invite himself over for dinner on Sunday. Again, not out unusual, but what prompted the phone call was. He had recently been to up to Mendocino county, and bought some wine along the way. Among those purchases was a bottle of Gewürztraminer from Navarro; one of my favorite wines. (If you’ve never been to Navarro, go. It’s worth it. Great wines that are only available through the winery.) Needless to say, I told him to come over and bring a straw.

I had to come up with what to cook. I spent Saturday making the Chef of the Month dinner, so I didn’t want to do anything super-complicated. However, I wanted something really good to make up for missing out on dinner the night before. I stuffed a pumpkin. (See Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good) I threw a salad together using yet another pomegranate. (Again, see The Problem With Pomegranates.) And I made these really easy and very yummy baked apples. With all of the great apples coming into season, it’s fun to use them in different ways. I found this recipe in the same book as the stuffed pumpkin, and it was soooo delicious and satisfying. I used a combo of dried currants, raisins, prunes and pecans for the filling and added cinnamon, cloves and fresh nutmeg. And with a little Vanilla Ice cream? Shut. The. Front. Door.

Next time I might try cranberries and/or maybe a little maple syrup instead of honey. Mmmmm….

Baked Apples Filled with Fruit and Nuts
from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients
4 apples, such as Gala, Rome Beauties, or Cortlands (or your favorite apple)
Slice of lemon
1/2 cup assorted coarsely chopped dried fruit, such as raisins, figs, prunes, dates, apricots or cherries (or if you prefer, just use one kind of fruit)
2 tablespoons nuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
Pinch fleur de sel (optional)
Pinch cinnamon (optional)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup apple cider (or water)
Plain or vanilla yogurt, heavy cream, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream, for topping (optional)

Directions
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350°F. Have an ovenproof baking dish at hand. You want a dish that can hold the apples comfortably but snugly—a 9- or 10-inch deep-dish Pyrex pie pan works well.

Core the apples, making sure not to cut through the bottoms, and peel the apples down to the halfway mark; don’t toss away the peels. Now do what I didn’t do: Make a very shallow cut around the apples at the point where the peel begins. Rub the cut parts of the apples with lemon.

Working in a small bowl, mix together the dried fruits, nuts and honey; add the salt and cinnamon, if you’re using them. Cut 8 teaspoons of butter and put a teaspoon-chunk inside each apple. Divide the fruit-and-nut mixture among the apples then top with another teaspoon-chunk of butter.

Arrange the apples in the pan, pour in the cider (or water), cut the remaining butter into bits and scatter the bits over the cider, then toss in the peels (if they’re very long, just cut them into manageable strips).

Slide the pan into the oven and bake the apples, basting them every 15 minutes, for 50 to 75 minutes, or until the apples are tender. (I can’t give you a more precise estimate of the time because it will depend on the size and type of your apples—so check early and often.) Don’t go for al dente—the apples should be spoon tender.

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