I made a lot of different dishes with apples this weekend. A lot. And the whole time I was peeling and chopping, slicing and dicing, I kept hearing Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting in my head; the scene where he bangs on the window to get the attention of an obnoxious college student in a bar who was (also) hitting on Minnie Driver and he says "You like apples? Yeah? I got har numba. Howja like them apples?" Note that this is said with a plummy Boston accent, which I've cleverly related using 'har' for 'her', 'numba' for 'number' and 'howja' for 'how do you'. None of which is relevant to any of the cooking I did, although when I finally stepped out of the kitchen Sunday and sat down at the computer I discovered Matt Damon and his wife had a baby this past Wednesday. Coincidence? Yup, pretty much.
So. Apples. On Wednesday I had a library book due back at the public library, so I dropped it in on my way home from work. As is my practice I scanned the cookbook section to see if anything inspiring was on the shelves. I went away with Lucy Waverman's A Year in Lucy's Kitchen. I'm familiar with Waverman's work, having noticed her recipes in the LCBO Food & Drink magazine and The Globe and Mail. What made me pick up AYILK was the premise - it's a recipe book made up of menus. I love cookbooks that give you menus. I'm not sure I've ever made an entire menu from a cookbook but I love the possibility that I might. Or even that I could. If I wanted to.
Lucy sets up her book by season, so I flipped to Fall and found a Halloween menu that sounded promising. In particular I decided to make Braised Chicken with Apples and Sausage along with the suggested side of Spiced Sweet Potato Fries. Lucy's menu rounds out this dinner with a pumpkin soup; I recently made a delightful pumpkin soup but was more in the mood for squash soup. In particular, a squash apple soup caught my eye in another book I brought home from the library: get cooking, by Mollie Katzen.
If I'm being honest, none of these recipes really wowed me. The squash soup was good, but the granny smith apple it included added a sweetness that I didn't care for, and the addition of lemon juice didn't save the flavour. The chicken was super moist and the apples that cooked along with it were a lovely accompaniment to the meat, but I think I prefer roast chicken. The sweet potato fries were good (P. nearly ate a whole wedge!). But just good. Period. So the meal wasn't bad, it was just a little....unremarkable.
I'll definitely need to aim for remarkable next Sunday since it's Halloween. When I was a kid, we had cheese and bacon buns every Halloween. They were orange (cheese whiz orange...mmmm) and if you were creative with your bacon, you could make your dinner look like a jack o' lantern. We aren't huge on Halloween around here, but we make an effort. Some of us more than others. This is the first year I've gotten the 'mom please let me just buy a costume' speech from my son, after my years of attempting unique homemade creations. So next Sunday will be an homage to Halloween. Here's a preview of the preparations we've done around our house to be suitably festive.