In the “Big American Cookbook,” chef Mario Batali celebrates U.S.A. regional cuisine – including this recipe for Apple Pie with Cheddar.
By Aimee Tucker
Nov 14 2016
Cheddar Cheese Apple Pie (recipe below!).Photo Credit : Quentin Bacon
As a culinary history enthusiast, few things are as irresistible to me as regional cookbooks. I love how what we eat shifts in appearance and flavor in tandem with changes in landscape, native ingredients, foreign influence, and the appreciation of tradition. Variety in local cuisine is what inspires us to seek out new travel destinations, enhances our awareness of the diversity of the larger world, and (perhaps most importantly, in the end) reminds us of home and childhood.
In his new Big American Cookbook(Grand Central Life & Style, 2016), Mario Batali (chef, restauranteur, author, television host, and one of the partners behind the wildly-popular Eataly Italian marketplaces), working with Jim Webster, has produced an impressive, hefty tome of 250 All-American recipes (whittled down from a master list of 900). It’s a love letter to American cooking and the way it represents our cultural heritage.
No big surprise … I love it. I’m still kicking myself for over-booking my weekends this fall and missing Batali’s appearance earlier this month at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH as part of their Writers on a New England Stage series (of which Yankee is a sponsor).
The book covers eight regions in all (New England, Mid-Atlantic, Deep South, Gulf Coast, Great Lakes, The Heartland, Southwest, and Pacific Coast), and each begins with a fun, illustrated map, plus full-color photos of nearly every dish. You’ll also find bonus primers and sidebars peppered throughout on subjects like BBQ, hand pies, peaches, and roast beef sandwiches.
With an emphasis on familiar family dishes that are doable in any home kitchen, it’s easy to feel inspired just by flipping the pages. Among the first recipes I bookmarked were Maryland Smith Island Cake, Kentucky Beer Cheese, Southwest Funeral Potatoes, and the Floria Fried Grouper Sandwich. Having just returned from a Gulf Coast honeymoon, where I ate a LOT of fresh grouper, this was especially fun to see.
And how about our fair six states? In covering the Northeast/New England, Batali’s recipes hit me right where it counts, in my love for classic New England comfort food. Hello, you beautiful Yankee Pot Roast, Indian Pudding, Baked Beans, Whoopie Pies, and Tourtiere!
Other Yankee favorites I was delighted to see represented? The classic New England fried clam roll, served in a top-split hot dog bun, and that New England summertime favorite, Grape-Nuts ice cream. Made with Grape-Nuts cereal and malted milk powder, its sweet and nutty flavor is unmatched.
There’s also a recipe for New England’s most notable take on an all-American favorite — Apple Pie with Cheddar. If you’ve never tried a wedge of warm apple pie topped with a thin slice of sharp cheddar (some Yankees like to grate the cheese for maximum coverage and texture control), you’re truly missing out.
Still not convinced? I’m pleased to be able to share Mario’s recipe. I think it would make the perfect addition to this year’s holiday table.
Serves 6 to 8
For the crust
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded, plus additional slices to serve
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup ice water, plus more as needed
For the filling
6 or 7 large apples, a combination of tart and sweet, such as Granny Smith and Gala (about 2 pounds), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the crust: In a food processor, combine the flour, cheese, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks grainy. (Your food processor will be quite full, if it does not fit, then place the whole shebang in a large bowl and gently mix with hands for the next step.) Add the egg and 6 tablespoons ice water and pulse 4 or 5 times. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring it together with your hands, drizzling extra water on it a tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Knead it as little as possible.
Form the dough into 2 equal balls, wrap them separately in plastic wrap, and form them into discs. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling out.
Roll one disc out to a round at least 12 inches wide and carefully line a 9-inch, deep-dish pie pan. Refrigerate until ready to fill.
For the filling: In a large bowl, toss together the apples, sugar, flour, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Roll out the second disc of dough to a round at least 11 inches wide.
Fill the crust with the apple mixture. Lay the second crust over the top and crimp the edges to seal. With a sharp knife, cut a few vents in the top of the pie. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake 45 minutes more, until the crust is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a slice of Cheddar melted on top if you like.
Excerpted from MARIO BATALI BIG AMERICAN COOKBOOK by Mario Batali and Jim Webster. Copyright © 2016 by Mario Batali LLC. Used by arrangement with Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
PLUS! Learn more about the new Eataly Boston — a vibrant Italian marketplace featuring an array of cafes, counters, restaurants, and a cooking school — opening November 29th at the Prudential Center!