Along with cardboard January tomatoes, the imported Golden Delicious apples found year-round in the grocery department of every grocery store have always struck me as Exhibit A in the case against the industrialization of the food supply. Is any fruit more insipid? Rubbery peel, soggy texture, a bit of sweetness, almost no flavour. Yuck.
So it was always something of a mystery that many French recipes, some by Robuchon and other chefs of high repute, actually specify the variety. My enlightenment came a couple of years ago when I bit into my first locally grown Golden Delicious. Now here was an apple of character, a fruit unlike any other: thick-skinned; shaded from pale green to near-ochre, often blushing red and sometimes splotched with tan; a crisp but yielding texture; heavy with juice, fragrant; intense, tangy, almost winey to the taste.
They're great for eating out of hand and--mais oui, M. Robuchon--unmatched for baking, especially in cakes and soufflés. But where they really shine is in the sauté pan: they hold their shape better than any other apple I know, and that winey flavour makes for a great match with savoury dishes. Core and peel 'em, cut 'em in eighths, sauté 'em in butter or duck fat until golden on both sides, and serve alongside pork (filet, chop or roast), poultry (roasted duck or goose, sautéed or grilled duck breast, duck stew) or even planked salmon.
Or whip up an apple omelet for dessert or late supper:
- Peel, core and cut 2 or 3 apples into quarters or sixths. In an omelet pan, sauté the fruit in 2 tablespoons butter with a tablespoon of granulated sugar until caramelized, stirring from time to time and adjusting the heat so the sugar doesn't burn, about 20 minutes in all.
- Lightly beat 3 eggs. Pour them over the apples. Cook until the eggs are just set, lifting the edges of the omelet so the uncooked egg can run underneath.
- Turn the omelet onto a very warm platter. Working quickly, sprinkle with another tablespoon of sugar. Pour over 2 tablespoons of calvados (or applejack, brandy or bourbon) and light with a match. When the flames die, divide into 2 portions and serve.
Quebec-grown Golden Delicious apples have been at local farmers' markets and neighbourhood fruit stands for about a week now (I've seen them at Jean-Talon Market and the stand on the corner of Côte-des-Neiges and Jean-Brillant). The season is short--they'll probably be around for only another week or so. Seize the day!