The very first time Andrew and I had dinner, we were, technically on a non-date. He had just moved to the city and it never occurred to me that our getting together was anything more than a new person looking for a familiar face to break bread with. I remembered how it was for me to move to New York – I didn’t know a soul, save for my roommate who pulled investment banking hours and spent her remaining free time with her boyfriend. It was lonely, stressful and overwhelming. I thought perhaps he might be going through the same thing and wanted to see a familiar face.
I, on the other hand, had other ideas. While I didn’t want to project an obligatory date, fearing rejection and embarrassment, I picked what I thought to be the perfect restaurant for a nice dinner that was relaxed enough to be construed as casual, but suggested subtle date-like hints. Braeburn was that restaurant – it had everything I wanted: lovely, thoughtful and comforting food; gracious and knowledgeable staff who knew the difference between attentive and overbearing; a room large enough for a few tables, but small enough for a quiet conversation; and a cozy, welcoming, and warm ambiance. Braeburn has and continues to strike me as a place that wants you to feel more like you’re in someone’s home than a formal restaurant, and I mean that in the best possible way.
I knew I was in trouble before we ordered wine. Talking to Andrew felt so natural and easy, it like coming home. We talked, laughed, ate, and passed forkfuls of food over to each other’s plates. By the end of the meal, we were sharing dessert, spooning apple cobbler out of a single ramekin. I should have known right away it wasn’t just plain dinner, but when you’re shy and doubt yourself, you don’t look at evidence in a logical fashion. You just figure that neither one of you is hungry enough for a separate dessert, and you both love apple cobbler, so sharing makes perfect sense.
Cobbler, one of Andrew’s favorite desserts, becomes his true pièce de résistance with apples. The cobbler that evening, warm with a scoop of ice cream on top, was magnificent. We talk about that evening all the time – though we talk as much of the circumstance as we do of the dessert itself. I suppose that was our “Lady & the Tramp” moment, sharing cobbler like that.
Knowing what you do already of me though, it should by now be obvious that it takes me forever to get around to something here. Since it only took me six months to make Andrew’s favorite soup, it’s only fitting that six months went by before I made apple cobbler. Anything earlier would somehow be a lapse in my standards. Though to be fair, fall is the season for apple cobbler – I’m not so much in the mood for it in the summer months. I want berries and stone fruit and pies. But as soon as I feel that fall chill in the air, and reach for hot coffee, I know that apple season has arrived. And I embrace it wholly and with abandon.
Our apartment is flooded with apples each week – I lug them from the market in crazy quantities. Some of them get cooked down into a sauce, others get eaten as a snack. Still, this might just be my favorite way, besides pie and tarte tatin to eat apple dessert. Warm and fragrant, this is the perfect end to a Sunday supper – a meal that readies you for the onslaught of the coming week. And it’s an unfussy dessert as well – one that can become part of your autumn rotation without much acrobatics. Which means, it could (and probably should) become a weekly indulgence. Darkness and cold are stressful enough – we need more rewards like this during the season.
Adapted from Fresh Every Day
4 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish
6 large tart apples (such as Granny Smith, Pippin, or Northern Spy), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated or ground nutmeg
Buttermilk Biscuit Topping
1 cup self rising flour or 1 cup all-purpose flour mixed with 1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/3 cup cold, well-shaken buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and butter a 7×11 inch or 9-inch square baking dish.
Prepare the Filling:
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt but do not brown the 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar, cider, and lemon zest and juice, and cook about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until apples are tender. Remove the pan from heat and mix in cinnamon and nutmeg.
Pour the apples into the prepared butter dish, taking care to scrape all the bits and juices into the dish. Let the fruit sit and macerate while you work on your topping.
Prepare the Biscuits:
In a large mixing blow, stir and aerate together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter, and using the pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles texture of cornmeal. Pour in buttermilk, and stir until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough onto your work surface and bring it together with your hands. Knead it lightly to form a ball, but don’t over-knead. You need the coarse texture to remain.
Lightly dust your work surface with flour and using a rolling pin (also dusted with flour) roll the dough out to 1/2 inch thickness. Use a 2-inch biscuit cutter or a tumbler to cut the dough into rounds. Place the rounds on top of the apples. When arranging the biscuits over the fruit, leave about 1/4 inch between them as biscuits expand while they bake.
Bake the cobbler on a center rack for 25-30 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown and the apples are happily bubbling around the sides of the pan. Not sure if the apples are happy? Take a good look at them. You’ll see.
Once done, remove from the oven and allow cobbler to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.