Research tells us Americans are cooking at home less and less. They say this is because planning and preparing a meal takes more time than we have in our busy schedules. And I can believe it – what with two incomes required to cover expenses, time is already tight. Throw in a bit of business travel, a late night or two at the office, a play date for your kids and maybe a soccer practice and… it’s no wonder we all rely so heavily on fast food and take-out.
If that sounds like a typical week in your household, this simple dessert may just change your mind about cooking at home. It’s easy to prepare as well as delicious. Relatively healthy too, if you can resist the scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
And remember, one of my keys to good food and wine pairing is to be sure the sugar in the wine is at least equal to the sweetness in the dish, so forget about that Chardonnay that worked so well with your roast chicken at dinner time – this dish gets ecstatic when paired with a good white dessert wine. Scroll to the end to see my recommended pairings.
2/3 Cup raw oatmeal
1/3 Cup all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground allspice
1/3 Cup pecans, toasted until aromatic, cooled and chopped
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into bits and kept cold
4 Medium baking apples (though not a traditional baking apple, I like the tart Granny Smith, as the Malic acid compliments my recommended wine)
Whipped cream or ice cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a pie plate or small casserole dish.
In a food processor (note, this recipe can also be done by hand, combining the butter with yourfingertips until it is in even, pea-sized pieces), combine all the dry ingredients (up to and including the salt), pulsing until just combined. Add the cold butter piece by piece, pulsing two or three times after each one until all the butter is added and the mixture resembles pea-sized pieces. Don’t over-process or your topping will be one big butter clump instead of moist and crumbly.
Peel, core, and coarsely chop the apples and place in the bottom of your buttered baking dish, then sprinkle the topping evenly over the apples. Place your baking dish on top of a baking sheet (in case it bubble over) and cook until the fruit bubbles around the sides and the top is golden, ~30 minutes.
Remove the crisp from the oven and preheat your broiler until it’s screaming hot. Raise your oven rack so the crisp will sit about 4 inches from the broiler, then cook until golden brown, about 30 seconds (note, if you happen to own one of those fancy kitchen blow torches, it works just fine and provides a lot more satisfaction for your flame-lovin’ inner caveman!) Let cool about 15 minutes before serving.
Nothing tops off a great dessert (or a great evening) like a well-paired dessert wine. And this dessert pairs well with a good late-harvest white wine or ice wine. Check our dessert wine section for possibilities ranging from the affordable to the luxurious. My current recommendations:
Affordable – the Trecini Cellars, 2007 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc ($30/half bottle) – this relatively affordable dessert wine is made from grapes, 10% of which were affected with the sought-after “Noble Rot”, Botrytis Cinera. At just 11.5% alcohol, this wine is sufficiently sweet to stand up to dessert, but has a delicious mouth-watering quality that prevents it from being cloying.
Luxurious – R.A. Harrison Family, 06 “Noility”, Late Harvest Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc ($75/ half-bottle) This product comes from the talented hands of Roger Harrison, who spent 25 years perfecting his dessert wine skills at Beringer before starting his own family label. This wine is so pricey simply because of how it was grown and produced. For starters, the grapes were infected in the vineyard by the benevolent mold known as Botrytis Cinera, which concentrates the remaining juice in these late-harvest grapes. The fruit is then picked BERRY BY BERRY, with the harvesters trained to select just the most perfectly formed grapes. Further selection occurs in the cellar before fermentation begins.
Speaking of fermentation, it takes place in barrel, following the procedure established at the famed Chateau d’Yquem, perhaps the most famous of all botrytised dessert wines. A scant few hundred cases available.