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Every other Thursday, we bring you Nicholas Day -- on cooking for children, and with children, and despite children. Also, occasionally, on top of.
Today: A reliable, no-thinking-required treat from Dorie Greenspan's latest book.
Did you see the back-pocket-dinner-recipe post last month? You should; it could save your dinner someday. And after you read it, you might start thinking in terms of back-pocket-everything.
Also, I’m not sure when back-pocket replaced pantry in the last-minute cooking lexicon, but it is a notable improvement. A pantry recipe sounds sad and desperate, but a back-pocket recipe sounds competent and a little sexy, the sort of thing that Brooke Shields would make after putting on her jeans.
Thinking in terms of back-pocket-anything is a good way of assessing where you feel confident in the kitchen and where you don’t. I’m good at back-pocket-pasta. I’m good at back-pocket-leftover-roast-chicken. I’m okay at back-pocket-snack. (Peanut butter, spoon.) I’m exceptional at back-pocket-remaining-ice-cream. (Spoon.)
I’m no good at back-pocket-treat, though.
Here’s the problem: On the nights we’re not eating cereal, I have to make dinner, so I might as well make some dinner. If it isn’t everything it could be, well, dinner will be back tomorrow. (It’s a problem.) But I don’t have to make treat, so if I am making treat, it ought to be the treat I am meant to be making at that moment. There’s no real raison d'être for treat, other than desire. And what do I desire? How much time do you have?
You can see why at some point the rest of the family just leaves the kitchen.
Back-pocket-pasta is easy: You have limitations. (You have to rescue the broccoli rabe before it turns to the dark side.) But butter and flour and sugar are not limitations. They are possibilities. Who needs possibilities?
Obviously these are problems that are best addressed with a medical insurance policy with minimal co-pays. But a reliable, no-thinking-required recipe helps too: In this case, Dorie Greenspan’s custardy baked apples, from her recent book, Baking Chez Moi. Think of it as a baked crêpe, with stacked layers of apples -- a variation on a clafoutis, really. It’s just sweet enough, and it's flexible enough to accommodate what you have. Greenspan suggests substituting pears or firm mangoes; when plums come around again, I’ll try them too. I’ll save the broccoli rabe for the pasta, though.
Dorie Greenspan's Custardy Apple Squares
Makes one 8-inch square cake
Butter for the pan
3 medium apples (juicy, sweet)
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (but still liquid)
Confectioners' sugar (optional)
See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.
Photos by James Ransom