Monday, October 30, 2006

Apples, Pears and Chefs for Dinner

Bet You Didn't Know About Apples: When you're dealing with apples, there are two kinds: those that "hold their shape" and those that don't. In other words, some apples cook down more easily into pulp and other remain chunky even cooked through. Depending on what you're making, your consistency will be all about the combination of these kinds of apples. Chutneys, sauces, salads, and pies all need different varieties. Here's a list to get you started. For jams and butters, these apples soften when cooked: McIntosh, Cortland, Empire, Russet, Honeycrisp. For conserves and chutneys, these apples hold their shape: Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Ginger Gold, Crispin, Idared, Spy, and Sparten. Have an apple but don't know where it falls? Combine it with others and give it a whirl.

Simple is always best: Speaking of apples, leads me to pears. At a dinner party (hosted by the venerable purveyor of dry aged beef), one guest provided the most delectable tidbit -- roasted pears mixed with blue cheese. What a sublime combination. It formed a middle course with greens after our noble steaks and was a perfect counterpoint to the rustic, European simplicity of the meal -- excellent cheese, a simple salad, a wonderful spicy roasted corn soup, and one of the best slices of pumpkin cheese cake ever. Bravo!

On chefs as guests: Bill Buford pointed it out perfectly when he noted in his book, Heat, when he said he was terrified at the idea of inviting chef Mario Batali to a dinner party. A friend knew Mario and suggested it saying chefs never get invited to dinner parties. And it's true, at least so says Karl Benko of Peterson's, who with his lovely wife, Carrie sat next to me at one this week. It was truly delightful just to chat -- even though we talked all about food and people we knew in common. While it may lead to more dinner parties on Sunday nights, I think we should all try to invite more culinary professionals to dinner!

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