Monday, April 22, 2013

Planning a Birthday Dinner of Favorites

Several years ago, I started making Rick Crab Au Gratin for his birthday dinner...most likely that will be on the menu again this year. He is always talking about a favorite childhood memory of "Apple Brown Betty" that was served in the school cafeteria (lunchroom) when we were in elementary school. I plan on trying the Pioneer Woman's (Ree Drummond) recipe to see if I can rekindle that favorite memory.

2008 Apple Brown Betty
Posted by Ree in All PW Recipes, Desserts, Fruit Desserts
This is one of those “I don’t have anything in my fridge or pantry” recipes
that’s easy to throw together at the last minute. Made with sliced wheat bread,
apples, butter, and sugar, it’s actually fun to make because there’s no
mixing…and very little mess. If you can cut up bread and slice a couple of
apples, you’re not too far away from having a good ol’ wholesome goodie at your
fingertips. It’s because of recipes like this that I have hope in the world. I
hate that “nothing in my pantry” feeling.
I’m sure there are many different interpretations of this old-time recipe, but I
love this one because you can use whatever bread you happen to have lying
around—everything from storebought sandwich bread to a rustic artisan loaf. You
can cut the bread (I do) or tear it (I have before), and no matter what, it will
be delicious. And as true with any apple dessert, the addition of vanilla ice
cream (cinnamon would be yummy, too), freshly whipped cream, or my personal
favorite, Reddi Whip from a squirt can, is always a lovely finish.
Let’s make it, baby!
The Cast of Characters: Wheat sandwich bread, apples, brown sugar, butter, and
water. Um…shouldn’t there be something more complicated here? Flour, perhaps?
Baking soda? Whole vanilla beans?

Begin by slicing 7 pieces of bread into thin strips…

Then rotate the slices 90 degrees…

…And slice again to create a dice.

Keep cutting…

Going over it a few times to get the bread into small pieces. You can also tear
the bread into small chunks if that floats your boat.

Now core and peel 3 apples…

And slice them thinly.

And try not to eat them all. Mmmm. Isn’t there something so inviting about a
stack of freshly sliced apples?

Now rub a baking dish very, very generously with butter.

I said very, very generously. Please don’t be afraid of the butter. Because you
know what? You’re going to see a lot more than this here in about 45 seconds.

To assemble…

Sprinkle 1/2 cup brown sugar in the bottom of the dish.

Follow this with a layer of about 1/3 of your sliced apples, then sprinkle 1/3
of your bread crumbs on top.
(You can actually use a little less than a third of your crumbs, as you’ll want
to be sure to have enough for the very top layer.

Next, start in with 1/2 cup brown sugar again…

Followed by a layer of apples…

And another layer of breadcrumbs. Breadchunks. Breadcubes. Whatever.

Repeat this one last time: The rest of the sugar…

The rest of the apples…

And the remaining breadcrumbs. Don’t you just love layered dishes? There’s
something about it that satisfies my deep need for order and symmetry and
Symbiosis? That didn’t fit at all. But oooh, I love that word and I try to use
it in my everyday speech at least twice a month.

Next, slice 1 1/2 sticks butter (regular, salted) and begin placing the slices
all over the top of the breadcrumbs.

I warned you earlier: do not be afraid of the butter. Do not be afraid of the
butter. Do not be afraid of the butter. (Repeat this an additional seven times.
Then go get on the Stairmaster.)
Finally, sprinkle 3 to 4 tablespoons of water all over the top, give it a final
sprinkle of brown sugar, and bake on 375—covered in foil—for approximately 45
minutes. When you have about five minutes remaining, remove the foil from the
dish. You’ll want to watch it in the oven to make sure it doesn’t get too brown.
When it’s hot and bubbly, take it out of the oven.

Crab Au Gratin is a very rich dish that goes well as a side with other seafood main courses such as stuffed flounder...or hearty enough to stand on its on served with some toast points and a salad.

Mix 1
1 med. onion - finely chopped
1 rib celery - finely chopped
4 leaves green onion tops - finely chopped
1 stick butter
Mix 2
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 Tsp. of dried parsley flakes or small handful of fresh chopped
1 Tsp. Worcestershire
1/4 Tsp. "Old Bay" & 1/4 tsp Tony's seasoning
pinch of garlic powder
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 egg yolks beaten well
1 pound lump crabmeat
Gratin Dishes or shallow casserole
12 oz. shredded cheddar cheese, or, your favorite ( I used 1/2 sharp cheddar & 1 half white cheddar)

In a saucepan on med-low heat melt the butter. Add the remainder of mix 1 above. Cook until onions are clear and soft, don't brown.
Stir in mix 2 in the order given (except egg) thoroughly mixing in each ingredient before the next is added. Add the milk a little at a time as you stir. Raise heat to med. and get the mixture bubbling then remove from heat. Take a spoon out to taste. Add the egg and mix well. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Add seasoning if needed. Add crab meat to saucepan and mix well. Fill gratin dishes to 1/4" from top of dish, smooth top with a spoon and sprinkle cheese on top.
Bake at 375ºF until cheese is brown and crusty.

Thinking a salad of Spinach, Bacon, Tomatoes, Mushrooms and My Chunky Bleu Cheese Dressing...will complete the meal.