I meant to post on Monday or Tuesday. I'd had Annie and Pierson over for a little casual dinner party and had made a roasted pork loin coasted with a paste made from shallots, garlic, crushed coridander seeds, pepper and fresh sage, which I served with an apple chutney. However, come Monday I was stricken with an unpleasant stomach virus. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say, my appetite was compromised. This is a new thing for me. I always have an appetite. I always think about food, what I'm going to have for lunch, what I'll make for dinner, plotting what to make over the weekend. This virus was not exactly crippling, I was able to go to work, but food was no longer on my mind. I couldn't look at it, smell it, anything.
After several days of choking down chicken soup and queasily slurping fruit smoothies, my appetite has finally returned to me. Welcome back, old friend! As much as I sort of want to jump back into the world of food and flavor, I suppose I ought to take baby steps. As such, apple sauce seemed like a good idea. Sick people and babies love apple sauce. This recipe was sort of inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe, but I also combined it with a few others. I loved the idea of roasting the apples, rather than stewing them on the stove and the addition of cardamom gives the sauce a subtle, but unexpected and unique flavor.
For those who are unfamiliar with cardamom, it's a spice that is part of the ginger family and is typically used in Indian and Scandinavian cooking. Cardamom seeds are usually sold still in their pods, as the flavor quickly diminished once they are removed. The flavor is sweet, floral and spicy, similar other "warm" spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and mace. To get at the small black seeds, crack open the pods with the side of a knife. The seeds can then be ground in a mortar and pestle or simply finely chopped with a sharp knife.
4 McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1/4 cup apple cider
6 tablespoons or so brown sugar (light, dark, whatever you have)
juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of Kosher salt
Note: To help prevent the peeled and cut apples from turning brown while you continue to peel and cut the others, place them in a large bowl filled with cold water and the juice of half a lemon
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
In a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, add the apple cider, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and salt, and then whisk to combine. Add the apples and toss to coat then place the dish in the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the apples are very soft.
Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then using a fork, mashed potato masher, whatever you have (I used a fish spatula) mash the apples to form a chunky sauce.
If you've never made home made apple sauce, seriously people do it. This recipe in particular is sooo easy. The only thing that takes any time or effort is peeling the apples and if you have a food mill or a potato ricer, you don't even have to do that, the resulting apple sauce however, will be more rosey in color. I prefer to peel them so then when I mash them after they've cooked, the texture will stay sort of chunky and more rustic. The combination of McIntosh and Granny Smith apples gives a good balance of sweet to tart and the lemon juice brightens the flavors. The apples really don't need much sugar, but the brown sugar adds a caramel richness that is further enhanced by the fact that apples get caramelized from the roasting. The cinnamon, nutmeg and our new friend cardamom give the soft, sweet apples a warm, sort of aromatic heat.
Comparing recipes, some call for vanilla, either extract or freshly scraped seeds from the pod, as well as a little butter tossed in prior to roasting. You could do that, but it sort of took the apple sauce in a slightly different direction from what I wanted. Another option is to replace the apple cider with Calvados (which is an French apple brandy) or just regular brandy. I should think that would give the dish an elegance that would work well if it was part of a nice, sit down dinner. Hey, that might be a good idea for Thanksgiving. But since I'm still recovering, I opted to leave it out. Next time I make this, I might give it a try. Apparently the apple sauce can be frozen for several months, but I can't imagine that there will be any left to freeze.
Makes about 5 cups