I’m a very good cook, but my mother-in-law has me beat in several important categories, including all things poultry and potatoes. We are celebrating Hanukkah at her house this week, and of course she is making her amazing, perfectly crispy and golden brown latkes. They are one of Alex’s all-time favorite foods. I’m doing my own latkes on Christmas Eve, but I’ve already accepted defeat. There is no way mine will ever be as good.
I do want to contribute something to our holiday celebration, though. And one thing I know I can make is an applesauce that will blow any jar of Mott’s out of the water. Normally I just simmer some chopped apples, water, sugar, and spices on the stovetop and then mash it all together with a fork. But for special occasions, I like to get a little bit fancy.
Roasting the apples and pears concentrates their flavor and heightens their natural sweetness. Instead of the usual cinnamon, I flavored this version with maple syrup and vanilla bean. The coconut oil gives the sauce body–it tastes really rich and luxurious. I would say you could substitute dark rum, good brandy, or Riesling for the water, but according to my mother, the psychologist, who uses my blog posts to shrink me, I “talk about wine too much.”
We’re using this sauce for latkes, but it would also be lovely with French toast, pancakes, or waffles, with oatmeal, or even over vanilla ice cream. It will keep for about a week in the fridge, and it also freezes well.
Roasted Vanilla Bean Apple Pear Sauce
Makes 4 cups
Loosely adapted from Martha Stewart
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 pounds tart apples (such as Granny Smith) peeled, cored, and quartered
1 1/2 pounds firm-ripe pears, peeled, cored, and quartered
2 tablespoons coconut oil (solid, not melted)
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Whisk the maple syrup, water, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a 9-x 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. With a small, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Using the back of the knife, scrape out the seeds. Whisk the seeds into the pan and toss the spent bean in, too.
Arrange the apples and pears in an even layer in the pan over the maple syrup mixture. Dot with the coconut oil. Roast until the fruit is very tender, about 35 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean. Transfer the fruit and juices to a large bowl and puree with an immersion blender. (Alternatively, puree in batches in a food processor or regular blender.)