Continuing in the week's unofficial theme of 80-proof cookery, I present a stolen recipe for applesauce spiked with booze.
The recipe should be credited entirely to my college roommate. An elegant woman of French extraction, she periodically imported flour from her native land ("American flour just isn't quite right") so that we could host authentic crepes parties in our off-campus apartment. She was the mastermind and the master chef, I was sous chef. And one of the primary responsibilities of the sous chef was the peeling and coring of pounds and pounds of apples for sauce. It seemed like an endless pile of fruit, but guests were always scraping the bottle of the bowl by the end of the evening. Make as much of this as you can bear to, you won't regret it.
The key--as is so often the case in French cooking--is judicious use of butter and a splash of alcohol. Each apple slice spends a minute or two caramelizing in the skillet before going into the oven to soften. For the tipple, the French Roommate used Calvados, and I recommend that highly. But if all you have around is good ol' American Jim Beam, well, he'll get the job done. I've also tweaked the recipe by adding pears, but it's equally delicious with apples alone.
Bourbon Pear Apple Sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Find a large pot with a lid, like a casserole or a dutch oven, and put it in the oven to warm.
Peel, core, and cut into 1/2 inch wedges:
8 sweet red apples (I used Pink Ladys, but Fujis or Galas would be excellent)
8 pears (I used Cornice)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup bourbon, or Calvados (plus extra for sipping while cooking)
1 large orange, juiced (reserve zest for later)
Warm the largest skillet you own over medium-high heat. Melt a pat of butter into the skillet and add just enough fruit to fill the pan with one layer. Cook, undisturbed, until lightly browned (about 1-2 minutes), then flip to brown the other side. I find that the easiest way to do this is with two forks--that way you're not chasing buttery apples around the pan with a spoon. Repeat.
I added different flavored ingredients from the list above to each batch of fruit to amuse myself, but you can do this in any order or process you want, since it's all going to meld together in the oven anyway. So, in one batch I added few glugs of bourbon and let it cook down. In another, I sprinkled on nutmeg and let it toast a bit in the pan, clinging to the fruit. In another, I juiced the orange and watched it soak into the apple slices while the rest disappeared in a hiss of fragrant steam. You get the idea. There should be a little butter in each batch to prevent scorching.
When each batch is sufficiently brown and flavorful, slide them into the large pot waiting in the oven. When all the batches are done, add the orange zest and stir to combine. If you're concerned that your apples are too tart, at this stage you can add maple syrup, or brown sugar. If you're using pears, this shouldn't be necessary.
Bake for about an hour--less if you like chunky, more if you prefer homogeneously smooth.
I served the resulting sauce warm, spooned over gingerbread and topped with heavy cream. But it would be just as good taken straight up (so to speak), and it keeps well in the fridge.