My mom was in town this weekend, which seemed like a good excuse to cook dinner for her, my brother, and my sister-in-law. It also seemed like a good excuse to ring in the fall with some dishes I've been wanting to try out. I settled on a menu of arugula salad, roast chicken, brussels sprouts with bacon and cider, roast potatoes, and an apple galette for dessert. To keep things interesting, I decided to serve the galette (really just a free-form apple tart) with cheese-spiked whipped cream.
I set off for the Greenmarket around 9:30 on Saturday morning. Now that the weather has turned a bit more brisk, the crowds are thinner, so it's actually feasible to make a full circuit of the market, check out everything on offer, and then start your shopping. The summertime crowds make me way too antsy for that kind of lingering.
On my walk around, I spied several in-season goodies, including gourds and other fall squashes, cauliflower in a rainbow of colors, brussels sprouts on the stalk, and dried flowers and herbs. I also saw huge bunches of eucalyptus, which stuck me as odd. My high school gave out sprigs of eucalyptus at our baccalaureate service (mine is still pressed between the pages of my yearbook), and so I've always associated it with springtime!
Still available, to my surprise, were bunches and bunches of concord grapes. Dark blue with slightly cloudy peels, the grapes are so different from their red and green cousins, with soft, jellied flesh and an ambrosial flavor. And unlike with the tart, crisp grapes, you only need a few to feel satisfied - sort of like the difference between M&M's and a tiny piece of dark, luxurious chocolate.
Knoll Crest didn't have any chickens this weekend, so I bought our five-pounder from the wild game vendor. There were more varieties of apple on offer than I've ever seen before in my life, and I had trouble choosing. Ultimately, I settled on Rome and Granny Smith for the galette, and a few winesaps for munching. I grabbed a couple of pounds of brussels sprouts and some fingerling potatoes, and headed for the Ronnybrook stand to buy some heavy cream and farmer's cheese.
A full half-day of cooking and one overheated kitchen later, we sat down to dinner. The salad, served with a honey and sherry vinegar dressing, was tangy, peppery and cheesy, thanks to some parmesan curls showered on top of each plate. The brussels sprouts with cider weren't quite as apple-y as I would have liked, but man, the bacon was good. My brother, Jeremy, picked the chicken clean, which I took as a good sign.
The best part, though, really was dessert. I based the galette on this recipe from Epicurious, sizing it down a bit to serve just the four of us. The whipped cream with cheese (flavored with a bit of turbinado sugar and vanilla, since the cheese was a bit funkier than expected) paired really well, setting off the sweetness and tang of the apples and the rich, buttery pastry. All in all, a good day's work.
Queenie's Whipped Cream & Cheese
1 pint heavy cream
4-6 ounces soft cheese, preferably farmer's cheese or mascarpone dolce
1 1/2 tsp. good vanilla extract (none of that fake stuff - spring for this)
2 tbs. turbinado sugar
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a hand-held electric mixer with the beaters attached), whip the cream and the cheese together until it holds soft peaks. Stir in the vanilla and the sugar. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 4-6 as an accompaniment to dessert.