Friday, October 7, 2011

Boozy Apple Cider and Apple Tartlets

Cara McAvoy, sous chef at San Francisco's Chiaroscuro has a few things to say to you about apples:

As the cool breath of fall creeps into our kitchens we should gladly welcome and embrace its entrance. After months of avoiding the added heat of the oven during the sweltering days of summer we can now fire it up and enjoy the bounty of fall.  One of the true gems of fall are crisp and delicious apples. Below are just a couple ways to make the most of this wonderfully diverse fruit.

Boozy Apple Cider (to warm the body)

1 qt apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
½  vanilla bean (cut in half length wise and scraped)
3 cloves
2 star anise
1 cup Rum
½ cup unsalted butter mixed with 1Tbsp sugar, ½ tsp ground cinnamon and ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

1.)    Heat cider with cinnamon, cloves, star anise, the seeds from the vanilla bean (reserve pod for uses later; ie: let it sit in a container with white sugar and the sugar will absorb the vanilla flavor).
2.)    Bring to a boil and then let sit for at least 20 minutes (The longer it sits the more intense the flavor of the aromatics will become).
3.)  Meanwhile mix softened butter with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. You can put it back in the fridge to let it firm up a bit.
4.)    Strain the cider and then reheat to serve.
5.)    Pour rum into four glasses - 1/4 cup in each, or less to taste - and pour warmed cider into cup top with a small spoonful of seasoned butter

Oven Baked Puff pastry with Apple and Cheddar Cheese (to warm the kitchen)

1 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
4 apples, cubed (I would recommend fuji or pink lady apples but whatever you have available will work)
salt & pepper, to taste
1 sprig thyme, chopped
1 package puff pastry (usually found in the freezer section of the grocery store)
a nice sharp cheddar cheese

Optional side salad:
the juice and zest of 1 lemon
olive oil
½ cup toasted pecans

To make the balsamic reduction:
1.)    Place vinegar in a pot and heat to reduce by 2/3. Once reduced add in honey, heat to melt honey then remove from heat and let cool.

To make the filling for the tarlet:
2.)    Heat 3Tbsp butter and 3 Tbsp oil in pan and add sliced shallot, cooking until just tender.
3.)    Add in cubed apples and season with salt and pepper. Cook until apples just start to soften. Add chopped fresh thyme. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
4.)    Meanwhile, cut puff pastry into desired size portions (or you can leave larger and portion after the tartlet is cooked) and place on baking sheet.
5.)    Place apple-shallot filling onto puff pastry.
6.)    Cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-30 minutes. Grate cheddar cheese over top about half way through cooking.
7.) Drizzle balsamic reduction over tart, to taste.
8.)   These tartlets pair amazingly well with an arugula salad, dressed with lemon juice and zest, oil, salt and pepper.


  1. Cousin Apple Party at Thanksgiving!?

  2. Apple Cheese pastry recipe: Perfect - this may be the rustic apple bake I've been looking for. Bonus: something to do with all the balsamic vinegar we've somehow? accumulated.
    Loved your grapefruit with anise. I never used star anise before but now I now it'll be a special touch (besides the rum... and the butter) in this cider recipe. Just right for today - cold and rainy. Bleh. (Under 70F is cold to me.)

  3. So glad you liked it! Actually, I couldn't *find* star anise, so I substituted 1/4 cup of anisette! Which is even easier than infusing with star anise.