Greetings to the shutdown-weary. This week, Food begins a new column by Tamar Haspel, the author of last year’s memorable series about raising pigs. Her Unearthed will appear monthly and will focus on various food-policy debates, with the goal of cutting through the hyperbole and figuring out what’s true and what’s not. This week’s topic: genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Also in Food, Bonnie S. Benwick travels to Willowsford, a Loudoun County housing development built around food and farm. It even has its own culinary director. And Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin tells us how he learned to reinvent grilled leftovers — so successfully, in fact, that he now grills too much food on purpose.
Tamar and Jim — plus Bonnie Moore, Willowsford’s chef — will be guests in today’s Free Range chat, which needs no introduction. But I’ll remind you anyway: It’s our weekly culinary tete-a-tete that begins at noon sharp and lasts for one all-too-brief hour. You can ask questions, or you can just lurk and enjoy, but be there!
While you’re waiting for noon to strike, chew on this leftover question from last week’s chat:
This seems such an obvious question that you must have answered it already. I’m looking at a recipe for baking whole apples with a spices-sugar-butter stuffing. The directions tell me to core the apples, insert the stuffing and bake them standing up. Won’t the filling run out the bottom? Am I supposed to not remove the entire core so that a “plug” remains? Help! It’s apple season and I want to get going!
Well, really it’s not such an obvious question given that baked apple recipes are fairly well divided on technique. Some call for you to remove the entire core; others want you to leave a half-inch or so of apple at the bottom to help the filling stay put. On balance, I’d say more fall on the side of keeping the bottom closed.
Here’s the truth: It doesn’t really matter! Leaving the bottom intact is a better approach if you fret about leakage, and you could probably use that technique for any baked apple recipe. But then there’s the matter of the woody little nubbin on the blossom end, which might not be good eats, and you might not want it there if you are serving the apples to guests.
So consider the stuffing materials. A filling of larger, coarser ingredients — raisins, oatmeal, nuts — isn’t likely to ooze from the bottom of the apple as it bakes. A softer filling is a little more likely to escape, but if the apple is sitting squarely in the pan, it probably won’t; and even if it does, it won’t ruin the dish. Trust your recipe! The person who wrote it has been smart enough to figure out the best approach. If the recipe says to core the apple, and if you would rather not have to eat around the blossom end, then follow the recipe and core it all the way through.
By the way, if you don’t own an apple corer, a melon baller does a great job. Or you can use a paring knife, though it’s not as easy.
I know you’ve already picked out a recipe, but let me suggest a few more from our Recipe Finder. Apple season lasts a while, so you’ll have plenty of time to experiment.
Cider-Glazed Baked Apples — This could be a dessert or a side dish.
Baked Apples With Ginger and Cranberries — A Nourish recipe from Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Simple Pecan Crumble and Baked Apples — This one calls for an unusual ingredient: crushed dried flowers. I bet it’d be perfectly fine without them.
Baked Apples — These are cored and cut in half horizontally, then baked with the cut side up.
Old-Fashioned Baked Apples — A dessert or breakfast.
Baked Apple Dumplings — You bake the fruit inside a casing of pastry dough.
Hurry-Up Microwave Baked Apples — The name says it all.