With just under a week to go before Thanksgiving, it's time to start training for the big day. I'm not talking about kitchen time trials where you block out cooking times for your various dishes to make sure you have the oven and burner space to pull everything together in a timely fashion.
No, I'm talking about deliberately increasing your food intake over the next week to prepare your body for the onslaught that is the Thanksgiving feast. Just as you would never dream of running a marathon or swimming a mile without some serious conditioning, don't kid yourself into thinking that you can survive Thanksgiving without some pre-feast indulgence.
Whereas marathoners need to stretch their calves, quads, and hamstrings before a big run, y'all need to start stretching your stomachs if you want to avoid bonking halfway through your holiday feast. You think I'm joking? Look, no one wants to be the guy (or gal) that hits the wall before they even finish off their first helpings, only to sit forlornly while the true athletes of the table return for seconds and thirds. Thanksgiving only comes once a year, don't let a lack of conditioning keep you from enjoying the day to its fullest.
Ok, are you ready? Let's start training.
First dish up at our trainer's table, this fall fruit crisp. This thing practically screams Thanksgiving, and will be just the jump start your system needs to ready itself for the deluge of calories, sugar and fat that are right around the corner. As crisps go, this one is actually on the healthier side with only a moderate amount of sugar used and lots of whole wheat flour, nuts and oats in the topping. In fact, given the abundance of fruit, nuts and oats in this dish, don't be afraid to scoop up a bowl for breakfast. After all…you are in training!
The creme anglaise is the final nail in your coffin piece of your training puzzle, and while optional, is strongly recommended as a conditioning supplement. If anyone gives you a hard time about pouring the creme on your breakfast, kindly remind them that there are 8 egg yolks in it making it a perfectly sensible addition to any morning meal. If they persist in giving you attitude just smile sweetly as you ladle some more creme on the crisp, smug in the knowledge that on Thanksgiving Day YOU will be the last one standing.
Cheers – Steve
Apple Cranberry Crisp with Hazelnut Topping and Creme Anglaise
for the topping:
- 1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
- 1/2 cup packed, plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- pinch of kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
- 2/3 cups whole hazelnuts, chopped
- 1 2/3 cups old fashioned oats
for the filling:
- 3 pounds apples, such as granny smith or gala, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
- 1/3 granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
for the creme anglaise:
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- seeds from 1 vanilla pod, or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- 8 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup super fine sugar
for the topping:
- Place all ingredients in a medium bowl, and blend together with a pastry cutter or by rubbing all the ingredients between your fingers until the butter is evenly distributed and the topping is evenly moist. Set aside.
for the filling:
- Blend the sugar and the cornstarch together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix the chopped apples, cranberries and the sugar-cornstarch mix until all the fruit is coated with the sugar.
- Heat the oven to 375℉ and place a rack in the center position.
- Pour the fruit filling into a 11 x 7 inch baking dish (or other similarly sized oval or round dish), top evenly with the topping and place the dish on a baking sheet. Place the crisp into the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes, until the top is nicely browned and the fruit filling is bubbling.
- While the crisp is baking, prepare the creme anglaise. Whisk the egg yolks and super-fine sugar in a medium bowl until the sugar is dissolved. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, cream and vanilla until just boiling then remove from the heat.
- Slowly ladle some of the hot milk into the egg mix, whisking the eggs all the while, in order to temper the eggs. Whisk in a few more ladle fulls of milk, then pour the egg mix into the milk pan and set the pan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until the creme thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Once you feel it thicken, pull it from the heat and pour it through a sieve into a heat-proof bowl. If you leave it on the heat too long, the eggs will scramble and you'll have to start over from scratch. Don't be afraid here, creme anglaise is easy to make but you must pay attention, stir constantly, and remove from the heat when thickened. Easy peasy.
- Immediately cover the creme anglaise with plastic wrap, pressed directly to the surface of the creme to keep a skin from forming. Set aside.
- To serve, spoon the still warm crisp into bowls and drizzle with the creme anglaise.