The power of apple pie is awesome: This simple dessert has been making grannies famous for generations. There is something about the smell of cinnamon, cloves, and apples baking in a buttery crust that makes you feel good. I use different varieties of apples to get the best qualities of each, but feel free to use your favorite type. I always make my pastry dough in a food processor, because it is so fast, but I provide a handmade version as a variation here.
Spiced Apple Pie
(Makes 8 servings)
- 2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
- ½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ½ cup ice-cold water
- ⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose four
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch of ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch wedges
- 2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled cored, and cut into ½-inch wedges
- 2 Gala apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch wedges
- ⅓ cup dark raisins
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced
- About 1 teaspoon whole milk
- 2 teaspoons raw or granulated sugar
- Vanilla ice cream, for serving
- To make crust: In food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt to blend. Add butter and pulse about 10 times, until butter is in pea-size pieces. While pulsing food processor, drizzle ice water through feed tube and process just until moist clumps form. Transfer dough to work surface, divide it in half, making one half slightly larger than other half, and form into 2 thick discs. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 day.
- Position rack on lowest rung of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. (Being near source of heat helps bottom crust of the pie to bake and brown properly.)
- To make filling: In large bowl, whisk brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt together. Add apple wedges and raisins and mix to combine.
- Unwrap larger disc of dough and set it on a floured surface. Lightly dust top of dough. (If dough is too cold and firm to roll out, let it stand at room temperature, covered, until it softens slightly.) Starting from center of dough and rolling toward edges, roll out dough into 13-inch round, occasionally rotating dough and dusting surface with flour to prevent dough from sticking. Brush away excess flour. Place rolling pin on edge of dough that’s farthest away from you and gently and loosely roll dough up around pin until you have half of it on pin. Hold pin over edge of 9- to 9 ½-inch glass pie plate and unroll dough into dish. Trim overhang to ½ inch. Refrigerate pie shell. Roll out other disc of dough on floured surface into 12-inch round.
- Spread apple mixture in pie shell, then scatter sliced butter on top. Cover pie with remaining dough round. Trim overhang to ½ inch and press edges together, fold dough under itself so it is flush with edge of pie plate. Crimp dough edge decoratively.
- Lightly brush top of pie with milk and sprinkle all over with raw sugar. Using small sharp knife, cut 4 stream vents in the top crust. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and bake pie for about 55 minutes longer, or, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling through steam vents. Let pie cool on wire rack until warm.
- Cut pie into wedges and serve with ice cream.
Variation: Handmade Pie Dough
In large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, and salt together. Add butter. Using pastry blender or two forks, cut butter into flour until butter is in pea-size pieces. Drizzle ice water over flour and gently toss mixture together to moisten. Turn mixture out onto work surface and gently gather it to form dough.
After serving up heaping ladles full of John Mariani’s Sunday gravy from our Jan/Feb issue, we wanted to try even more of the Italian specialty. Fortunately for us, the owners of Frankies Spuntino restaurant in Brooklyn, Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo, obliged. These recipes come to us from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, by Falcinelli, Castronovo, and food writer Peter Meehan. Buon appetito!
Frankies Spuntino Tomato Sauce
(Makes about 3 quarts)
- 1 cup olive oil
- 13 cloves garlic
- One 96-ounce can (1 kg.) or four 28-ounce cans Italian tomatoes
- Large pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1. Combine olive oil and garlic in large deep saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring or swirling occasionally, until garlic is deeply colored—striations of deep brown running through golden cloves—and fragrant. If garlic starts to smell acrid or sharp or is taking on color quickly, pull pan off stove and reduce heat.
2. While garlic is getting golden, deal with tomatoes: Pour them into bowl and crush them with your hands. We like to pull out the firmer stem end from each of the tomatoes as we crush them and discard those along with the basil leaves that are packed into the can.
3. When garlic is just about done, add red pepper flakes to the oil and cook them for 30 seconds or a minute, to infuse their flavor and spice into the oil. Dump in the tomatoes, add the salt, and stir well. Turn the heat up to medium, get the sauce simmering at a gentle pace, not aggressively, and simmer for 4 hours. Stir it from time to time. Mother it a little bit.
4. Check the sauce for salt at the end. The sauce can be cooked with meat at this point, or stored, covered, in the fridge for at least 4 days or frozen for up to a few months.
(Makes 6 servings—18 to 20 meatballs)
- 4 slices bread (2 packed cups’ worth)
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus about 1 cup for serving
- ¼ cup raisins
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 15 turns white pepper
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup dried bread crumbs
- Frankies Spuntino Tomato Sauce (from above)
- Six ½-inch-thick boneless pork shoulder steaks (8 ounces each)
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 1 clove, garlic, minced
- ⅔ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup grated aged provolone
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
- Frankies Spuntino Tomato Sauce
1. Heat oven to 325°F. Put fresh bread in bowl, cover it with water, and let it soak for a minute or so. Pour off water and wring out bread, then crumble and tear it into tiny pieces.
2. Combine bread with remaining ingredients except tomato sauce in medium mixing bowl, adding them in the order listed. Add dried breadcrumbs last to adjust for wetness: mixture should be moist wet, not sloppy wet.
3. Shape meat mixture into handball-sized meatballs and space them evenly on baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Meatballs will be firm but still juicy and gently yielding when they’re cooked through. (At this point, you can cool meatballs and hold them in refrigerator for as long as a couple of days or freeze them for future.)
4. Meanwhile, heat tomato sauce in sauté pan large enough to accommodate the meatballs comfortably.
5. Dump meatballs into pan of sauce and nudge heat up ever so slightly. Simmer meatballs for half an hour or so (this isn’t one of those cases where longer is better) so they can soak up some sauce. Keep them there until it’s time to eat.
1. Butterfly pork: With palm of one hand firmly steadying a cutlet on cutting board, and with your knife blade parallel to meat, slice almost all way through meat, leaving last ¼-inch uncut.
2. Open up cutlet like a book, season it with salt and white pepper, and set it aside. Repeat with remaining pieces of pork.
3. Sprinkle cut side of one cutlet with a tiny pinch of minced garlic, a couple of pinches of parsley, and a generous tablespoon of each cheese.
4. Roll cutlet into tight log and set aside, seam side down.
5. Tie braciola. The simplest way is to use 2 or 3 short lengths of butcher’s twine for each roll and tie them around meat to hold it together. If you’re a master of more professional ways of tying—like a real butcher’s tie—go for it. But the braciola doesn’t (or shouldn’t) get roughed up too much during the cooking process, so it doesn’t need to be in a straitjacket or anything.
6. Bring tomato sauce to a steady, gentle simmer in large pot.
7. Nestle braciola into pot of tomato sauce. Simmer for 3 hours, or until tender; you should be able to easily pull away a strand or two of meat with tug of fork.
8. To serve, remove braciola from sauce and snip off the twine. Arrange, whole or sliced, on a platter with generous blanket of sauce. Transfer remaining sauce to serving bowl. Serve hot or at room temperature. Garnish with grated Pecorino Romano and serve. Use leftover tomato sauce from the braciola in any recipe that calls for tomato sauce.
Recipes excerpted from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual (Artisan Books) with special thanks to Dan Freedman, author of our Jan/Feb feature on Sunday Gravy.