This post originally appeared on Food52.
Did you see Food52’s back-pocket-dinner-recipe post last month? You should; it could save your dinner someday. And after you read it, you might start thinking in terms of back-pocket everything.
Also, I’m not sure when back-pocket replaced pantry in the last-minute cooking lexicon, but it is a notable improvement. A pantry recipe sounds sad and desperate, but a back-pocket recipe sounds competent and a little sexy, the sort of thing that Brooke Shields would make after putting on her jeans.
Thinking in terms of back-pocket anything is a good way of assessing where you feel confident in the kitchen and where you don’t. I’m good at back-pocket pasta. I’m good at back-pocket leftover roast chicken. I’m okay at back-pocket snack. (Peanut butter, spoon.) I’m exceptional at back-pocket remaining ice cream. (Spoon.)
I’m no good at back-pocket treat, though.
Here’s the problem: On the nights we’re not eating cereal, I have to make dinner. If it isn’t everything it could be, well, dinner will be back tomorrow. (It’s a problem.) But I never have to make a treat. There’s no real raison d'être for a treat, other than desire. And what do I desire? How much time do you have?
You can see why at some point the rest of the family just leaves the kitchen.
Back-pocket pasta is easy: You have limitations. (You have to rescue the broccoli rabe before it turns to the dark side.) But butter and flour and sugar are not limitations. They are possibilities. Who needs possibilities?
Obviously these are problems that are best addressed with a medical insurance policy with minimal co-pays. But a reliable, no-thinking-required recipe helps too: In this case, Dorie Greenspan’s custardy baked apples, from her recent book, Baking Chez Moi. Think of it as a baked crêpe, with stacked layers of apples—a variation on a clafoutis, really. It’s just sweet enough, and it's flexible enough to accommodate what you have. Greenspan suggests substituting pears or firm mangoes; when plums come around again, I’ll try them too. I’ll save the broccoli rabe for the pasta, though.
Dorie Greenspan's Custardy Apple Squares
Makes one 8-inch square cake
Butter for the pan
3 medium apples (juicy, sweet)
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅓ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (but still liquid)
Confectioners’ sugar (optional)