Best Apple(sauce) pie EVER

There is more than one way to skin a cat. Or so I'm told.

There is also more than one way to make an apple pie.

The classic American apple pie--you know, the one you get at a diner or in the frozen food section--typically consists of large chunks or slices of apple in a very sweet, thick sauce, all contained under and in a thick crust. And I don't like it. Something about the texture of the gooey sauce and the lackluster apple flavor... This just isn't my thing.

I grew up with a very different apple pie. Instead of slicing or dicing, the apples were shredded (using a food processor), then mixed with sugar and cinnamon (possible another spice or two), plopped in pie crust and baked (without a top crust). Something about the intense apple flavor and the homogeneity of each bite. This is better.

However, I recently discovered my favorite apple pie in my own kitchen. Applesauce pie presents this paradox of simplicity of ingredients and complexity of flavors. The texture is distinct from either of the two I described. It melts in your mouth. It pleases the tongue. This is a new favorite for Paramed and me.

The lab manual for this experiment was The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook--not one I use frequently but general execution of recipes are deemed successes. An advantage to this particular recipe is that it is best once it has cooled completely, so you can make it a day or two in advance of serving it without a problem--provided you have a safe with biometric scanners in which to store it.

So, just in time for the holidays:

Applesauce pie


  • 10 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large lemon, sliced and seeded
  • 2-1/2 cups of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter (or margarine)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated piecrusts (don't forget to bring to room temperature before use)
  • Cook the apples, lemon, and sugar in a Dutch oven (or a very large skillet or pot) over medium heat, stirring often, until thickened (~35 to 40 min). Remove from heat. Discard lemon. Add butter and vanilla. Allow to cool.
  • Fit 1 pie crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Pour applesauce filling into crust.
  • Unroll, cut remaining pie crust into 1/2-inch wide strips, and arrange in lattice pattern over filling. Other top crust options would probably work and be less complicated to execute. As you can see in the pic, I opted to leave the top crust off altogether on another occasion.
  • Bake on lowest rack in over at 425 F for 30 to 35 min or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
  • Try to keep your spouse from eating it all before serving it.

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The Great Pumpkin... recipe

There was a pumpkin slaughter at my home last night. And it was so worth it.

I've been planning to make Disgruntled Julie's Chocolate Chip Pudding Pumpkin Bread for a few weeks, but there's always something else to do. Well, I was in desperate need of some therapeutic baking last night, so I stayed up late to make it. It is absolutely delicious. Run! Get some pumpkins!! Make this soon, if not today!

As a note on the pumpkin puree, I used sugar pumpkins, ~2 lbs. each. They had a really hard outer shell; cutting them in half involved a large butcher's and a metal meat mallet. I'm considering the jigsaw next time--seriously. Anyway, once I had cleaved them in two, I scooped out all the seeds and as much of the stringy guts that I could. I then placed them cut side down on a large cookie sheet with a thin layer of water and baked them at 350 degrees F for ~ 1 to 1-1/5 hours. After letting them cool, I scooped out the pumpkin flesh and beat it in my KitchenAid mixer with the paddle attachment on low (setting 2) for a few minutes until it was a nice, homogeneous consistency. I think most people use a food processor, but I don't have one and have no space to store one in my tiny kitchen. Three pumpkins made about 7 cups of puree. Unused puree can be aliquoted and frozen.

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Shepherd's pie

As promised...

  • leftover pot roast, ~1 lb. cut into 1 to 1-1/2 in. cubes
  • leftover mashed potatoes, ~3 cups
  • leftover gravy, ~1-1/2 c.
  • shredded cheddar, 1 c.
  • frozen vegetable medley (I used Bird's Eye "Classic Medley", which is corn, carrot cubes, peas, and green beans)
  • cornstarch
  • Cook 2 to 3 cups of vegetable medley according to package instructions and drain.
  • Thicken gravy (as necessary). It should still be thin enough to pour. The best analogy is about the thickness of hot fudge (when it's actually hot).
  • Combine the vegetable medley, pot roast, and gravy in a large bowl and mix well. Transfer to a deep casserole dish (I used a 10-in round stoneware dish). Spread mashed potatoes evenly across the top. Cover with aluminum foil.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 min.
  • Top with cheese and return to oven. Bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted and begins to brown. Alternatively, if you're impatient like I was, bake uncovered for ~5 to 7 min, until the cheese is melted, then broil to brown the cheese; just keep a close eye on it, so it doesn't burn.

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Slow cooking: Pot roast

Pot roast is one of those dishes that's fantastic for a chilly night, which we're getting pretty much every night in my postdoc city now. I highly recommend fixing a big ol' pot of simple mashed potatoes--with or without skins, but only use milk, butter, and salt during the mashing. You can use leftover mashed potatoes, pot roast, and gravy to make a shepherd's pie :) I'll post that recipe next.


  • Lean beef roast (mine was ~3.5 lbs)
  • 2 to 3 large carrots
  • 1 to 1-1/2 large onions (preferably sweet)
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • dried thyme
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c. water (or possibly dry red wine)
Special equimpent
  • Large slow cooker
  • Large skillet
  • Cut carrots and onions into large slices/chunks. Slice garlic gloves in half. Set aside.
  • Place the roast in a large bowl. Coat the roast lightly with olive oil then sprinkle with kosher salt (~2 to 3 t.) and a mixture of freshly ground black pepper and thyme (~2 T. at 5:1 ratio of pepper:thyme).
  • Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot, sear the roast on all sides, ~2 to 3 min per side. Remove the roast from the pan and set aside.
  • Add 1/4 to 1/2 c. water (which I used) or dry red wine (which I think would be pretty fantastic but haven't tried yet) to the pan. Scrape the pan and reduce heat to low.
  • Stab the top of the roast with a 1-in wide knife 6 to 8 times to a depth of ~1/2 the thickness of the roast. Push pieces of garlic into the holes.
  • Add chicken stock to slow cooker. Place roast in cooker. Pour pan juices over the roast. Add carrots and onions to cooker around roast.
  • Cook on low for 8 h.
  • After roast is finished, transfer it and the vegetables to a large dish or platter and cover with aluminum foil.
  • To make gravy: Pour cooking liquid from the slow cooker through a colander/strainer into a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat. Mix cornstarch in cold water. Slowly add to cooking liquid and simmer. (The amount of cornstarch you use is dependent on how thick you like your gravy).

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