Show Stopping Apple Crisp

Show Stopping Apple Crisp

It’s slowly becoming common knowledge that I make the best apple crisp on earth. Every year I get more and more people on the apple crisp train, and so therefore every year I make more and more apple crisp. Usually I make them at random for functions and whatnot. This year, after a very long month of working I decided I needed to have a fall gathering to remind myself and all the friends I’d been ignoring that I am, in fact, still alive. And what better centerpiece for a fall party than apple crisp?

At first I thought it would be just a small gathering for a few friends…. that quickly turned into 16 people. It’s a wonderful feeling when you invite a bunch of people over and just about all of them show up. I like to think its me and not the apple crisp, but it’s probably 50/50. Sixteen people means two apple crisps. Accompanying the fall show stopped was warm apple cider with a selection of booze, and a new creation of mine: pumpkin pie spice popcorn. All I did was pop a big batch of popcorn on the stovetop in a small stockpot. Just buy any brand of loose popcorn kernels and pop according to the package directions – it is super easy, WAY better than microwave, and WAY cheaper. Once popped I tossed the corn with a stick of melted butter, a few pinches of kosher salt, and mixture of 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp each ground nutmeg, allspice, and clove. Add and toss to taste. It is quite the addictive sweet treat and perfect for accompanying our favorite Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus, starring the Divine Miss M and a very young Sarah Jessica Parker. Hilarious.

And what makes my apple crisp so good? It’s all in the topping. Sugar, oatmeal, flour, salt, and my personal touch, lots of diced pecans. I’ve attached the recipe below – you’re welcome.

What’s your fall favorite?

Show Stopping Apple Crisp – Recipe PDF


A Weekend of Potluck

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending not one, but TWO potluck dinner. One on Friday with my fellow gay choristers, and a fall feast on Saturday at my friend Morgan’s house way up in the mountains – a lovely retreat about 90 minutes north of the city. For some this would be way too much, but for the starving artist it is thrilling. And let’s be honest, there is nothing more starving artist than a potluck. Everyone chipping in, gorging themselves, then taking food home for the next day. First, game plan. Being that the first potluck was at 7pm and the second one was the next day at 1pm, the logical move was to make a large batch of one thing that I could bring to both parties. I mean, let’s be easy on myself.  Being that we’re smack in the middle of fall, I thought pumpkin chili would make the most sense. It’s a one-pot dish that can easily be doubled. You remember my post on pumpkin chili, right?   So I made that, then I decided I would also make cornbread to go with it. I can whip that together in no time, so I made a fresh one for each party. Not a big deal. Finally I also decided I should bring my famous apple crisp. So I made one on Friday and brought it to both parties.

Now the trick to cooking for potlucks is to understand that you don’t need to make enough for every single person at the potluck. Think about it. If there are 15 people going and every person brings a dish big enough to feed 15 people, you’re feeding 15 people 15 times over – way too much. And let’s face it, people aren’t taking full portions at potlucks because they want to sample everything. My rule is I find out how many people are coming, divide it in half, and THAT’s how many people I cook for. When I leave a potluck without having to bring any food home, I know I did it just right. I’m happy to say that on Saturday I left Morgan’s only with empty containers. Nice.

Another good tip for being a courteous potluck attender: bring the necessary equipment to both heat and serve your food in/with. This weekend I brought sturdy paper bowls and plastic spoons. It turns out that neither party needed the spoons, but both gladly made use of the disposable bowls. Perfect. I, however, brought it in a Rubbermaid plastic container, which one could not just simply throw in the oven and heat up. Classy. An easy trick is to borrow a large pot, dump it in, heat it on the stove, then pour it back into the Rubbermaid. Or, if you have a friend like Morgan, she had that lovely pumpkin-shaped vessel perfect for serving.

Finally, whenever possible I try not to cook anything at the host’s house. If I do bring something to cook, I make sure it is oven-ready, that is, all I have to do is get there and throw it in the over. I did that with the apple crisp on Friday since smelling it baking and serving it warm is half the fun. But, I brought it completely assembled and literally just put it in the oven. God I love fall.

Famous Apple Crisp

I’m not one to get homesick. Just ask my mother. After school and boy scout trips when I was younger (yes, I was a boy scout, Eagle in fact), kids would run to their parents in dramatic reunions after having been apart for a week. I would get off the bus, walk unfazed past all the absurdly dramatic homecomings, find my parents, and say  “hey”. Thereafter I would launch into tales of my time away and lament that it had to end so quickly. Heh. They were good sports. In my adulthood I am much the same, making a home for myself wherever I live. But, after residing in SoCal for three years I’ve realized that there is in fact one thing that makes me nostalgic: fall. As my fellow New Englanders begin to feel the first bites of cold as they pick apples, sip warm cider, and roast pumpkin seeds, I continue to sweat my ass off in relentless 100-degree desert. Now that makes me homesick.

Last week Los Angeles finally got a break. We got a good four days of temperatures in the 60s. We even had rain — no, not just rain, but a THUNDERSTORM that streaked cragged bolts of lightning across the darkened sky. I was so excited I tweeted and facebooked about it. Most of my friends and family from the east coast were confused as to why I would post about such a thing. Believe me when I tell you that rain is a rarity here. And thunderstorms? Forget it.

In the midst of this brief taste of fall weather, I jumped at the opportunity to bring the New England to Cali via a delicious dessert. What else would you expect from the Starving Artist? In my opinion there is nothing that evokes fall more perfectly than an Apple Crisp. And friends, let me tell you, I make the best effin apple crisp – and I don’t say that lightly. Friends wait for this one all year long. If you can attest, please leave some comment love below. On Friday I made the first one of the season for a group of composer friends at my friend Joe’s house in Venice. This is the same Joe who smokes his own ribs. Yummy. I’m happy to report that after the crisp was served to the 10 people at the party, 10 completely empty bowls came back into the kitchen. As a cook, there is nothing more rewarding than empty plates.

If you’d like to bring some warm fall goodness to your family and friends, give this recipe a shot. You will not be disappointed. What’s my secret? There’s two: maple syrup and pecans. Oh yeah. My favorite apples to use for this are Macintosh, but they don’t really have them (at least not affordably) on the west coast, so instead I use Granny Smith. So. Good. Also, if you’re a big apple dessert person, I highly recommend the device pictured to the right. What is it, you ask? Why, it’s an apple peeler corer slicer! Peels, cores, and slices all in one motion. When I first saw this at my friend Susan’s house in Vermont I all but lost my sh*t. And, perhaps even more mind-blowing, it can be yours for less than $20 on Amazon, just click here. So worth it.

But the best part about making this dessert is the smell. It fills my apartment and drifts down the hallways of my building. As I walk my friends to my apartment door they get a whif and say “oh my god is that YOU?” Oh yes. It’s me.

Just make me one promise – you will ALWAYS serve this warm with vanilla ice cream. Promise? Good.

More fall favorites coming your way soon!

Recipe —> Famous Apple Crisp