Yesterday I saw something in The Times that made me think of autumn--I forgot it was upon us. At a brilliant but struggling natural foods grocery store I've been manning the cheese counter while the resident monger is recovering from a bang up.
The great thrill comes from finding cheeses that fall through the cracks of classification; they're not cheddars, not gruyeres, not bries...they're puzzling. One, a Piedmontese amalgam called La Tur, has proven enduringly curious. This one is the concoction of three dairies: cow, sheep and goat; it's flavor and texture are a separate matter. There is certainly a goaty cakeiness to it, but the lasting effect is pillowy and exceedingly milky. It's dingy, which offers up the cheese's defining feature.
I've never been a baker, I'm way too scattershot. But the notion has always been an alluring one; I saw Taxi Driver in high school, and marveled at the diner selection of Travis Bickle, the apple pie and cheddar. It managed to embody his contradictions. It was romantic and insane. Having grown up in houses blooming with those aromas it felt like an inborn challenge to replicate those complements. A few weeks ago I sneaked a sauteed Gala apple into a skillet of macaroni & cheese, but in the end it got lost. I suspect it pushed the sweetness of the onions slightly, but had I not known it was in there I'd have never identified it.
So apple pie proved the ideal situation for switching places, going savory in a sweet preparation. I'd been tinkering with pie crusts after a week of debaucheries involving, among other things, quiches. The addition of parmigiano-reggiano lent a bolting hue of sharpness, and seemed to singularly carry the weight of herbs I figured would have otherwise just made a nice coloring.
In this instance--and with my eye on that fabulous La Tur, I stuck to my quiche crust recipe, which is to say I mashed some icy butter with sifted flour and a little cold water til it came together. Threw in some parmesan, fresh thyme and parsley.
The construction of the pie--I parbaked the crust for about ten minutes, was as you might expect.
For the body: Begin by melting 1/2 stick of butter with 1/2 cup of sugar. Once a deep-hued caramel has formed drizzle in 1/4 cup of cream or half and half (I used a mixture of both). Once the caramel has substantiated add the fruit. I used sliced Honeycrisp apples and Starkrimson pears with a scattering of halved red grapes. Let it tighten up as the sliced fruit macerates--add a tablespoon of cold water with corn starch if it looks too soupy.
Oil, flour and dust in ground almonds the parbaked pie crust pan, Line the rim with oiled wax paper.
Once the junk comes together add it to the waiting crust. Just before baking blanket with crushed marcona almonds and the La Tur--break it into large chunks and scatter on the face of the pie.
Bake at 375 for a little more than half an hour
Let cool, scoop out like cobbler, or invert on a plate for presentation. Relax.