October 10, 2012

Oven Baked Pumpkin Pancakes with Pan-Fried Apple Wedges

You know what one of my pet peeves is? When I have an out-of-office employee come and sign in and say to me, "Gosh, I never realized how many farms there are around here!"

Every single time, I'm tempted to say, "Really? You knew it was called the Garden State, but you didn't realize we had farms?"

Look, New Jersey gets a bad rap. Most people only ever see Newark airport and the Parkway, which are two of the worst parts you can see (well, and Camden. But we won't talk about that). But me? I grew up in suburb that's more sub than urb if ya know what I'm sayin'. It's never unusual to drive past a field and see cows or sheep grazing, or a field of corn, or a roadside farm-stand. On my way to work, I pass a small dairy  farm, 2 horse farms, and at least one family-owned farm. In fact, one day when I was coming home, I was driving past the dairy and I saw two baby calves gamboling in the field. My day was made.

When I was little, we went pumpkin picking on school field trips, and I went apple-picking every year with my family. I had a friend who's parents owned an alpaca farm. And lest you think I grew up in some strictly rural area, you're never really more than a 10 minute drive from a highway or shopping center around here. You've got the middle-of-nowhere feel without the inconvenience.
My point is, these pancakes were topped with hand-picked apples from an orchard not far from my house, and pumpkin-- well, the pumpkin came from a can, but it could have come from the farm stand just down the road. It didn't, but it could have.
Have you ever had a fresh picked apple? Not only do those suckers tend to be huge, but the flavor is so much better than those tiny flavorless things in the grocery store. The brother and sister-in-law went apple picking and brought back a big ole grocery bag of the things. Now, I'm weird. I love apples, I love apple-flavored things, but I hate baking with apples because it's such a pain in the behind to peel and core and chop. Usually I feel like it's a bit of a wasted effort too, because cooked apples tend to be mushy and too sweet and don't taste much like apples.

But then I was flipping through Old Reliable and found a recipe for pan-fried apple wedges. The recipe only called for butter, apples, and apple jelly, and I was intrigued. I reduced the apple jelly slightly, added in just a little bit of brown sugar and just a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. And holy fried apples was it good. The apple wedges were cooked just enough to be soft while still being firm with a bit of a snap, there was such a great apple flavor without being overly sweet, and you just got a slight savory note from the butter. And they're drenched in this sort of sticky apple syrup that tastes like sunlight and crisp fall air and fresh-picked apples (though mostly the third thing). I may have eaten the entire pan of apples by myself.
The only question that remained was what to put them on. Old Reliable suggested serving them as a side to ham or pork, or over pancakes. I wasn't going to bake a ham or roast a pork loin, so pancakes it was. Except I'm kind of pancake-incompetent (I can never figure out how to flip them), so I went with oven-baked. I was going to use a plain recipe that I've used before and liked, but then I remembered all the pumpkin puree I had left over from my last post. What's more season appropriate than apples and pumpkin?

To tell the truth, the pancakes aren't my favorite, but they do go very well with the apples. Neither are overly sweet, so together they're just the right amount. And my pumpkin-loving mother liked them, so it might just be me and the fact that I'm not the hugest pumpkin fan. They're a good vehicle for the apples and isn't that the point?
And in nerd news, who watched the world television premiere of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog last night?

Right? Right? I own Dr. Horrible on DVD, so I'm not sure why I was so excited to watch it with commercials. And I own the soundtrack. And a shirt (but that was for charity, so there). And I can quote the entire movie from memory, and I sing all the songs. You don't want to watch with me unless you're already a fan.

Also, New York Comic Con tomorrow! Anybody else going? Anyone? Bueller?  I got the 4-day pass because I had the vacation time saved, and now I'm kind of wishing I'd gotten the 3-day pass, because no one's available to come with me. *sad face* And I have a wedding on Saturday up in the Catskills, so I don't even know if I'm going to be able to go on Sunday (which is my favorite, because it's kid's day and you see all the little kids dressed up and you see little Captain America fighting a guy in a tiger costume and it's so cute). So if you're planning a wedding, don't plan it for the same weekend as Comic Con. Word to the wise.

Oven Baked Pumpkin Pancakes {Printable Version}

Yield: 4 servings

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the butter in a 9 inch pie plate and let melt in the oven. Swirl the butter
in the plate to coat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk, egg, and brown sugar until well-
combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated. Add mixture to the prepared
pie plate and bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges are browned and the middle is puffy. Slice and
serve immediately. Serve with butter and syrup or Pan-Fried Apple Wedges.

Recipe by Kim

Pan-Fried Apple Wedges {Printable Version}

Yield: 4-6 servings

2 large apples
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup apple jelly
Cinnamon & nutmeg, to taste
Lemon juice

Peel* and core the apples, slicing into thin wedges. Toss the wedges with a few squirts of lemon juice as
you slice to prevent them from browning. Add the sliced apples to a mixing bowl and toss with brown

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the apples in a single layer and cook 5-7
minutes, flipping once halfway through, until the wedges are tender crisp. Stir in the jelly, cinnamon,
and nutmeg, and heat through. Serve over pancakes, waffles, or ice cream, or as a side to baked ham or
roast pork.

*If desired, you can leave the peels on.

Recipe adapted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook