Looking for delicious ways to polish off extra apples

November 11, 1998|By Rob Kasper

I HAVE BEEN pestering people lately, asking them, "How do you like those apples?"

This question has nothing to do with the results of last week's elections. It is true that plenty of victorious politicians have been crowing something like "How do you like dem apples" whenever they meet up with a Washington pundit who mistakenly had predicted their defeat.

My query stems from another kind of mistake. Instead of buying into conventional inside-the-Washington-Beltway wisdom, I bought too many apples at the Baltimore Farmers' Market.

I began searching for ways to transform my blunder into a culinary triumph. In other words, I was looking for ways to cover up my apple excess.

I had about 10 pounds of four kinds of apples - some Granny Smiths, some Galas, some Winesaps and some Red Delicious - sitting in a big basket on the kitchen table.

On election night, I tried to deplete the pile by using an old trick, coating them with butter. I melted half a stick of butter in a skillet, tossed in a teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of cloves and mace. Then I added the apple slices and cooked them over low heat until the apples were tender.

When I served the fried apples to my family at supper, the results were not encouraging. They didn't hate the fried apples. But they seemed to accept them more out of a sense of duty, like voting for a bond issue, rather than from any deep-felt desire.

The response to my dish was so weak that I pulled it from the table. I decided to recast it as something new. Something similar had worked once for Richard Nixon. I dropped the failed, fried apples in a food processor. I switched it on and in a few seconds had a bowl of applesauce.

The applesauce received a somewhat warmer reception. But on the whole, the kitchen table crowd seemed to sense that rather than something fresh and new, the applesauce was simply a recycled loser.

On another night, I tried a whole new approach, skewering the apples and cooking them, along with chunks of pork loin, on my barbecue grill.

This recipe used up a bunch of Granny Smith apples and a pound of pork. It called for coating the skewers of apple and pork with a glaze made of orange juice, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt and black peppercorns.

The skewering was easy. The pieces of pork and apples easily slid onto the skewers.

Making the glaze appeared to be easy as well, but once again I committed a sin of excess. This time I overshot the pepper.

The recipe, from "License to Grill" (Morrow, 1997, $27.50) by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, called for 2 tablespoons of freshly cracked black pepper. What I should have done was to measure 2 tablespoons of whole peppercorns, then crack them with a pestle. What I did instead, was to grind the pepper mill until the black flakes had filled up two tablespoons. By doing this, I inadvertently doubled or tripled the heat of the glaze.

I had a moment of doubt as I was grinding away on the pepper mill. Two tablespoons of pepper flakes did seem like a lot. But I knew the authors of this cookbook, and they were pretty fiery guys, so I kept grinding.

When I tasted the peppery glaze, I almost cried. This baby was way too hot for public consumption. The damage-control phase of recipe work kicked into gear.

I toned down the glaze by adding more orange juice. A glaze that started off as extreme ended up as moderate. I painted the glaze on the apple and pork skewers a minute before taking them off the fire.

This turned out to be just what folks were hungry for.

When I asked them, "How do you like those apples," they gave me a thumbs up.

I plan to try this dish again. The campaign continues.

Grilled Pork and Apple Skewers With Orange-Balsamic Glaze

Serves 4 as appetizer, 2 as entree

2 cups orange juice

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons freshly cracked black peppercorns

1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 Granny Smith apples, cut into wedges

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and black pepper to taste

Start the fire in barbecue.

Make the glaze: In a small saucepan, combine the first four ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer vigorously until the liquid is reduced by half, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This usually takes about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine the pork cubes, apples, olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss well. Alternately, thread pork and apples onto skewers and grill over medium-hot fire for 5 to 7 minutes, turning several times. Pork is done when it is just pink in the center.

Brush the glaze on the skewers during the last 30 seconds or so of cooking. Any time you add a sweet sauce or glaze to something on the grill, it can go from a golden-brown treat to a blackened cinder in a heartbeat. So glaze 'em and get 'em off.

Remove skewers from fire, drizzle with remaining glaze and serve.

- From "License to Grill" (Morrow, 1997, $27.50) by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby

Pub Date: 11/11/98

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