Maybe it’s the Thanksgiving season (or maybe it’s because I’m entertaining more now than ever!), but I’m developing an obsession with make-ahead side dishes. My perfect evening with guests (holiday or not) involves uncorking a few bottles of wine, throwing a pre-assembled entree into the oven, and either tossing together a salad or serving a few side dishes that are meant to be enjoyed at room temperature.
I was catching up on my Barefoot Contessa episodes the other day when I watched Ina Garten make homemade applesauce, which is a perfect make-ahead dish. The recipe basically involves peeling a few apples, throwing them (along with a few other ingredients) into a Dutch oven, baking the apples for an hour, and then stirring everything together. Easy peasy.
I made a half recipe (4 servings) since I was just cooking for two; double (or triple, or whatever) the ingredients if you’re cooking for more.
First, I zested and juiced 1 large navel orange and 1/2 of a lemon; I put the zest and juice into a large bowl. Next, I peeled, quartered, and cored 1 1/2 pounds of Granny Smith apples (4 apples, in this case) and 1 1/2 pounds of Honeycrisp apples (3 apples, in this case), reserving the peel from one of the Honeycrisp apples. I tossed the apples in the orange and lemon juice/zest, poured the mixture into my Dutch oven, and placed the reserved apple peel on top of the mixture. I added 1/4 cup of packed light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice and covered the pot with its lid.
I baked the mixture at 400F until the apples were soft (1 hour), removed the apple peel, and whisked everything together until the applesauce was smooth. I served the applesauce at room temperature.
The applesauce turned out really yummy, if a bit tart. I loved the thick, creamy texture and the flavor of the spices… It just feels like fall. Next time, I think I’ll use a higher ratio of sweet apples to tart apples (maybe 2/3 sweet, 1/3 tart). To Ina’s credit, the three sweet apples she recommended (Macoun, McIntosh, or Winesap) were not available when I went to the grocery store, so perhaps using the Honeycrisp apples is what set the balance off.
Peeling apples is always a bit of a pain, but I absolutely love that I can put this together, walk away for an hour, stir it together, and let it sit until the meal is ready. I think this recipe is going to come in handy over and over again this fall and winter.
TIPS: The red (Honeycrisp) apple peel goes into the mixture to add color while it bakes. If you don’t care about the color, you can leave it out.
Recipe link: Homemade Applesauce