Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Cloisters Inspired Feast

Baked sweet apple & salted pumpkin stuffed with pork, bacon & anchovies, drizzled with salted caramel.

After taking an escape trip up to The Cloisters, I was left feeling inspired to create the perfect dish to welcome the season and an onslaught of fall eating. While sitting up at a beautiful wine bar in the surrounding park gardens, I penned together a sumptuous dinner to share with friends on a cozy fall’s night.  I have never had a festive American fall before and wanted to have an inaugural feast, marking the occasion. The meal had to embody all of my favorite comfort foods but also reflect fall.

I have included a few photos from the day to paint the picture. I took up a picnic of baguettes and apples and found picturesque places to rest and soak up the surroundings.

The Recipe

The recipe serves for an average of four people.

2 Fuji Apples
1 Pie Making Pumpkin
1/2 Pound of Minced Pork
6 Rations of Bacon
4 Anchovies
2 Cloves of Garlic
A Bunch of Baby Spinach
A Handful of Arugula
4 Field Mushrooms
1/2 tsp of Cinnamon
1/2 tsp of Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp of Salted Caramel
1/4 Cup of Olive Oil  

Salted Caramel
1/2 Cup of Raw Cane Sugar
2 tbsp Molasses
2 tbsp Bacon Fat
1 tsp of Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp Honey
Salt to taste


Start by preheating the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  I have chosen Fuji apples because of their sweetness and even more so for the quality when baked; you are always left with a firm, but sweet treat. The choice of the pie making pumpkin came by accident, but worked for the best. I initially wanted a pumpkin you could eat entirely. However the firmness of the pie making pumpkin provided for extra heat and insulation when baking. 
Start by coring the pumpkin and then covering the outside with salt and olive oil. Rubbing the outside will help heat and cook the insides evenly. Take both apples, wrap them in baking paper and tie a piece of cooking string around the middle. This will help collect and contain the juices the apple releases.

While baking, make the stuffing. Start with frying up the bacon. The use of bacon provides lubrication and needed oil for the stuffing. Fry until crisp and chop into small pieces to add to the minced pork. I always like to add anchovies because they provide a natural saltiness to any meat dish without overpowering. The anchovies eventually dissolve and meld into the meat. Dice them with garlic, mushrooms and arugula and add to the mixture. Finish by adding the baby spinach, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well. This must always be done with hands, as to achieve a finer melding of flavors. Sit the stuffing aside to marinate.

Bubbling Salted Caramel 
On a low heat, melt a small knob of butter. When heated, add cane sugar and cook until a dark syrup has formed. Soon after, add the remaining ingredients and continue to cook on a low heat until the mixture thickens. I chose to include polar opposite flavors to create a caramel to reflect how sweet and savory fall can really be. It works extremely well against the pork stuffing too. Leave it to sit and meld also. 

After baking the apples for 20 minutes, take them out and core them, leaving ample room for the stuffing. Stuff tightly and place excess on top. Leave to sit for 10 minutes, and then remove the pumpkin after 35 minutes of baking in total. Stuff the pumpkin and place both apples and pumpkin back in the oven and bake again for another 25 – 30 minutes. Always check with a thermometer or a skewer to test the inside of the pumpkin, as there is double to cook.

Stuffing Semi Baked Apples
When cooked, place all three items on a thick chopping board to plate. Reheat the salted caramel and drizzle generously; allowing the caramel to pour over and cover the skins, it looks magnificent. Don’t forget to replace the pumpkin top after you drizzle the beautiful caramel.

This fall platter should be served with something lighter, to create a balance against such a rich center piece. I cooked traditional Brussels with Worcestershire Sauce and cane sugar on a bed of arugula. This fall feast should be enjoyed with a beautiful pinot noir, again something warm, but light against sheer decadence.   


Marty Tsang

Brussels Ready!

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