Skillet Apple Crisp
In honor of Autumn and Halloween, today the Freds present to you two quintessential New England Fall treats: skillet apple crisp and a story about an eccentric New England transplant whose haunted woods we recently had the pleasure of exploring.
Madame Sherri was a music hall singer in Paris in the early 1900s. In 1911 she married an Italian silent film actor and they relocated to New York City. The Sherris worked as costume designers for the Zigfield Follies and quickly rose to prominence, eventually running their own successful costume shop in New York City. During the Prohibition Era, Madame Sherri and her husband would travel to New Hampshire to party and summer with friends from the Broadway scene. After her husband’s death in 1924, Madame Sherri purchased land in Chesterfield, NH, to build herself a summer home. The exotic stone castle she had built in the woods, her French accent, and the numerous interesting visitors from the theatrical world kept local gossips busy for years, some even speculated that Madame Sherri ran a brothel from the castle. Her pet monkey and frequent chauffeured rides around Brattleboro Vermont wearing nothing but a fur coat added to her mystery and intrigue, which persist to this day.
Sadly, her house was destroyed by a fire in 1962, three years prior to Madame Sherri’s death in a nearby ‘rest home’. In the years that followed, those locals brave enough to enter her extensive woods (over 400 acres) and examine the ruins of her castle, reported ghostly sitings, music emanating from the ruins of her grand staircase and other paranormal activity. Many return over and over, however, with the hope of finding her buried treasure – which she alluded to in her will, stating that the person who could find the treasure could keep it.
The Freds had the pleasure of exploring her woods on a clear Fall day, and while the only treasure we found were the bright autumn leaves, it was well worth the trip. We topped off our day with this delicious crisp, the perfect cap to a day spent adventuring…
Skillet Apple Crisp
By pre-cooking the apple filling, this crisp spends less time in a hotter oven than your standard crisp recipe – yielding a superbly crispy topping unmatched by any traditional method I’ve used.
3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/6 tsp baking powder
1/6 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup plus a bit more butter, softened but not melted
2 tbs butter
6 cups apples, cored, peeled, chopped
1-2 tsp cinnamon (I love cinnamon so I use 2)
1/8 cup white sugar
1/8 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup apple cider
To prepare your topping, mix all dry ingredient together until fully combined, then smoosh in the butter with your fingers, using just enough to allow the mixture to form small clumps. Set aside.
Preheat your over to 450 degrees with a rack in the middle position.
Bring your cider to a simmer in a 12 inch skillet. Simmer until the cider is reduced by half – this will take about 5 minutes, sometimes a bit more. While the cider is simmering, toss your apples, cinnamon and both sugars together in a large bowl. Once reduced, transfer the cider to a bowl or jar and wipe out the skillet. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, and when melted add apple mixture and cook until the apples begin to soften, about ten minutes. Do not fully cook the apples! Remove skillet from heat and stir in reduced cider, coating mixture evenly.
Top the apples (still in the skillet but off heat) with an even layer of your prepared topping and place the skillet into the oven. Bake until the topping is deep golden brown – 15 to 20 minutes. Cool a bit before attempting to serve (with vanilla bean ice cream if you have it).