I have an annual fall cooking ritual that makes me giddy with anticipation. On the first weekend boasting real, honest-to-goodness fall weather, I make my interpretation of chicken pot pie and a warm apple crisp. Football games are on in the next room and the whole house fills with the intermingling scents of savory chicken, flaky phyllo dough, and cinnamon laced apples. Amazing stuff.
The key to the ritual is to avoid making the menu too early in the year (when the weather might still be warm) and to make sure the schedule for the afternoon is pretty light so that everyone can enjoy those heady smells before dinner.
There’s nothing particularly healthy about traditional chicken pot pie (I mean, those healthy pieces of chicken and vegetables are swimming in cream sauce and baked between two sheets of pie crust if you hadn’t noticed.) Undaunted, I discovered a way to make the filling with a creamless white sauce that is every bit as good as the full fat version, and then to top it with a sheet of puff pastry instead of pie crust. I think it’s even better than the original.
Since apple crisp is crustless to begin with, it’s essentially a healthier version of apple crumb pie. Keeping the sugar out of the filling and limiting the sheer amount of crumb topping helps to make this particular version even healthier. But honestly, if you’re craving Grandma’s recipe to celebrate the arrival of fall, I say go for it.
Adapted from Cooking Light, March 2001
Yield: 8-10 servings
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (white flour will do in a pinch)
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats (1 cup granola works well also)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
6 cups chopped, peeled, Granny Smith or Macintosh apples (about 2 1/2 pounds)
(Granny Smith will be more tart and will remain firmer after baking when compared to Macintosh)
3 cups light vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine flour, oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.
3. Combine 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and apples in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with oatmeal mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until apples are tender when pierced with a fork. (If crust begins to darken but apples are not yet soft, cover with aluminum foil and continue baking.)
4. Top each serving with a scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt.