Mele al Forno Ripiene
Kinda stuck on apples these days. Apple pie, apple fritters, apple bread, apple dumplings, apple cake, applesauce, apple butter, yes even apple ravioli – feel like that Bubba guy in the Forrest Gump movie rattling off all the ways to make shrimp. The list is endless for me with apples, and I love them all. There is nothing like apples cooking, baking, simmering in some way to make your whole house take on the wonderful scent of fall and spice.
Back in the day, growing up in Binghamton, NY, during the fall season, apples were everywhere – so abundant – so many varieties and so juicy, fresh and delicious. My mother, Loretta, was always making something with them, and that was one reason why I loved to see fall arrive. One of my favorites, a typically Italian rustic dessert or even breakfast dish, was her baked apples – hot out of the oven drizzled with warm cream or half and half , the way she liked to serve them. Today, I have taken her apples a step further, and stuffed them, resulting in MELE AL FORNO RIPIENE – Stuffed Baked Apples.
Believe me, you’ll love being in the house with these in the oven. You’ll want to bottle the aroma. You can’t miss really when you use some of your favorite things to stuff the apples. Here are some of mine: Almonds, crystallized ginger, cinnamon, fresh ricotta from CALYROAD CREAMERY, and Lemon Biscotti. They all pack a wallop when piled together on top of some big juicy freshly picked apples. The recipe is surprisingly easy and comes together quickly. The Crystallized Ginger just melts into the stuffing and gives it a beautiful gingery essence. The Lemon Biscotti can be purchased or you can really treat yourself by making my LEMON GINGER BISCOTTI. Mmmmm..
Uh – oops – did I forget just one little thing that rocks these apples into next year? That would have to be a drizzle of warm Cognac or Bourbon and then a quick light of a match to set these beauties ablaze for just a moment of “OO-AH”. The lighting toasts the liquor and gives the apples an amazing boost of flavor. Actually, there are a number of boozy candidates that would qualify for this elevation, and you can certainly choose your favorite. However, for the maximum kick, you’ll want to select something that has a heavy alcohol content so that your flame and the “show” will last longer. Light cordial types don’t measure up quite as well. I like Cognac or Bourbon because they burn well and longer, and also because their basic flavors partner perfectly with apples.
This is, of course, an optional step. Instead of the liquor, you might also enjoy Loretta’s way, and pour warm cream or half and half over the top of each one as you serve them. Delicious and comforting with every mouthful.
So “Come on, baby, light my fire!”
MELE AL FORNO RIPIENE
Makes: 6 servings
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: About 40 minutes
3 Large Apples sliced in half horizontally, and cores removed
6 Lemon Biscotti
1/2 c. Coarsely chopped Almonds or Pignolis (toast them if you like)
Zest of 1 fresh lemon
1/4 c. chopped Crystallized Ginger ( I like Melissa’s)
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
5 Tbsp. Sugar
1 1/2 c. Ricotta Cheese
4 Tbsp. Melted Butter
Honey for drizzle
Cognac or Bourbon to “set the blaze” – optional
Warm Cream/Half & Half for over the top of each
Melted Vanilla Ice Cream for after lighting the apples.
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Oil a baking dish and place the apple halves in it face up.
For the Lemon Biscotti: You can purchase them or try my recipe for Lemon-Ginger Biscotti. Crush the biscotti coarsely– do not grind them to a powder. Little chunks – not too big are nice in the filling.
Put the following ingredients in a bowl and mix together: Crushed biscotti, coarsely chopped almonds, Lemon Zest, Crystallized Ginger, cinnamon, salt, and sugar.
Add the ricotta and mix well.
Mound the stuffing on top of the apples. This stuffing should fill 6 halves mounded high or 8 if you want to fill less. I like them really full.
Drizzle the stuffed apples with melted butter and drizzle with honey.
Top with sliced almonds.
Bake, tented with foil, at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Remove the cover and bake at same temperature for about 10-15 minutes more. Watch them. As soon as the tops brown and the apples are fork tender – remove them from the oven.
Now the fun! – If you want to use Loretta’s method – just warm some cream or half and half and pour over the top of each one. Serve them in bowls.
If you want to set your world on fire do this: Warm some Cognac or Bourbon in a sauce pan. Just get it warm – don’t cook off the alcohol – you’ll need this for “fuel”.
Pour a little of the liquor over each individual serving of the MELE Al FORNO RIPIENE and light it with a match or torch. Be careful! It should light right away. If you can – for maximum impact – dim or turn off the lights. It is a beautiful show!
To further gild this lily – take some vanilla ice cream and melt it – YES MELT IT COMPLETELY! This is a very fast easy “crème anglaise” without going to the trouble of making custard. After your flames die down, spoon some of the melted ice cream around each apple. MANGIA BENE!!
You might enjoy one of the following with these apples: Cognac, Limoncello, or Moscato.
PARLA COME MANGI!
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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography