There's something naughty about an apple pie without a crust. It feels like cheating. Like I haven't put in sufficient effort to yield a reward this good.
You know how you'd study for a test forever, and then you'd get an A? And you'd say to yourself, I'm the greatest person that ever lived because I did exactly what I was supposed to do, and it totally paid off. And then maybe you'd take another test, and you wouldn't study for that one at all, and then you'd get an A anyway, and you'd be like, OK, what the hell is up with that? So then you'd feel all cocky, and you wouldn't study for the next test either, and then you'd get a C.
Well, I don't know where that whole scenario came from because I always studied. I'm a studier. I study things. I feel, deep in my soul, that there's some moral imperative to study things, even if you already know them. That there's some vague but intrinsic value in going through the paces, in not cutting corners, in taking the ladder one rung at a time, even if every marker indicates that it's fine for you to take a faster route.
This, I now realize, is stupid.
How much time did I waste studying things I already knew?
Time I could have spent learning the banjo, or taking pottery? Time I could have spent figuring out how to tie a fancy knot? (Aside: Look at how many kinds of knots there are! I need to study these.) I could basically be a world famous banjo-playing-potter-knot-tier at this point, but instead I spent all my time making flashcards of vocabulary words.
Well, ENOUGH. This ends today.
The thing above tastes exactly like apple pie filling, but there's no crust. So I guess it's technically a cake, but that doesn't seem quite right either.
I don't really know what it is. A crustless pie? A flat cake?
It takes little effort, but the payoff is great.
It messes with my worldview, and leaves me very, very confused.
Brown Butter Apple Skillet
My friend Angela lives in Sweden, and she sent me a sweet little book on Swedish cookery called Simply Swedish by Margareta Schildt-Landgren. It's got some recipes that I probably won't ever make (veal in dill, for example, and reindeer stew with cloudberry), but others are inspiring in their simplicity. This recipe is adapted from the book's simple apple cake.
Makes 8 servings
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel, core, and thinly slice 5 medium granny smith apples; set aside.
In a 9-inch cast iron skillet, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat until it turns nut-brown, swirling the skillet occasionally. Use a pastry brush to coat the sides of the skillet with the butter. In a large bowl, whisk 1/4 cup turbinado sugar, 1/2 cup almond meal, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir in the apples and toss to coat.
Dump into the skillet with the brown butter, and press firmly to settle and flatten into the pan. Place the skillet on a sheet pan (to catch any drips) and set in the oven for 30 minutes. Tamp down the apples at this point with the back of a rubber spatula and dot the top with 2 teaspoons of additional butter. Return to the oven for 35 to 45 minutes longer, or until very tender and nicely browned.