Thursday, October 6, 2011

Apple Crisp - a roundabout way to recipe heaven

Somedays a brain is a funny thing in the way it leaps and jumps about from topic to topic, and the places those leaps and jumps take us. Need convincing? Read on...

Yesterday I came across the "School Lunch Kerfluffle" based on this blog.

Now, I was a school lunch kid. Actually, I was one of the Free School Lunch Kids. You know, one of the ones who were forced to go to the front of the line and hand in their pass so that *everyone* knew that your family was too broke to feed you, and could then bully you about it all school year? Yeah, that was me. But despite the horrors you might hear, I loved school lunches. Really.

If you could get past the poor logistics that resulted in the public shaming when it came to your family's finances, (and once I broke Mark S.'s nose in the 4th grade the constant teasing - at least for me - went away) the food was this strange new world to be discovered. There were no pizza or salad lines, lunch was ladled out by someone's mother working part-time in a hairnet. Turkey slop, with the weird yellow-green gravy was a particular favorite. As were the pizza burgers - open faced hamburger buns dabbed with some flavored meat product and cheese; covered with their high gloss sheen of grease. It was there that I was first introduced to the world of the tater tot. Those strange pillows of minced potato that were fried and quick frozen before being oven baked. But my true love was the Apple Crisp. Sugar, butter, and spices magically combined into a chewy crust on top of a bed of baked apples. Good times.

So I looked at Mrs. Q's presentation and the first thing I thought of was: "Hmmmmm, why is there all this styrofoam and paper product that's just going to end up in the land fill? Whatever happened to the trays with the slots for each individual item that were then washed and sterilized in bleach?" (See, I told you the mind is a funny thing). The second thing I thought of was: "Hmmmm, today is National Apple Betty Day." And I started remembering just how good that school lunch Apple Crisp was, and just how many times I've tried to recreate it and fallen short.

Inspired by my brain's leaping and jumping (and totally ignoring the rest of the school lunch kefluffle), I went in search of yet another Apple Crisp Recipe. And this time, with a little fiddling on my part - I think I got it.

Apple Crisp

4 apples, peeled and sliced thin. Any type other than Delicious. Seriously, if you have Delicious apples in your fridge email me. We'll discuss their complete and utter lack of flavor and aroma. Then I will eat this Apple Crisp in front of you without sharing.
A squirt of lemon juice
Handful of raisins or chopped dates, if desired

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour, or mix-up the two if you choose
1/2 cup oats, quick-cooking, old-fashioned, or steel-cut. Whatever is on hand
1/3 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 375ºF. Grease bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with shortening or butter.
Spread apples in pan. Sprinkle a little lemon juice on them an add in the raisins or dates if you choose.
In a bowl, stir the rest of the ingredients together until well mixed; using a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients.
Sprinkle over apples.
Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced with a fork.

If you choose, go ahead and melt the butter first - then cut into the dry ingredients with a fork. It will give you a more even texture.

The apples cooked through without turning mushy. The coating melted and oozed across the top resulting in a chewy, almost candy textured treat. And the house smelled wonderful.

Enjoy!

Did you ever eat your school's prepared lunch? Have you ever tried to recreate it? How did it turn out?

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