If, like me, your frame of reference for apples is the dark red, mealy tennis balls served to you in grade school, then it's time to treat yourself to an apple-picking trip. Biting into a fresh, crisp, and juicy apple you just plucked from the tree while standing in the crisp autumn air is just about as far away from that cafeteria as you can get. I make it a ritual every fall, and it always renews my appreciation for this familiar fruit—especially when I go for less common varieties like Macouns, Cortlands, Honey Crisps, Empires, and Japanese Yatakas, that are grown for flavor and texture, not their ability to sit in a produce bin forever.
Those aforementioned Yatakas inspired this dessert, dreamt up after scarfing down an apple while still at the orchard. It had the requisite honey-sweet flavor, but with a lightly fermented brightness and warm nutty quality. Quite frankly, it was the best apple I've ever eaten. But if I can never find it again in grocery stores, at least I can mimic its flavor by roasting other crisp, tart apples in honey and butter, and then whisking the cooking juices with a shot of Calvados and toasted sesame seeds. This “dressing” is then tossed back over the warm apples so they soak up its glory. A dollop of creme fraiche turns the apples into a proper dish, but honestly, I’d eat these apples plain for breakfast, as a side dish for roast pork, or tossed in a blind-baked tart crust for an elegant dessert.
Get the recipe for Honey-Roasted Apples with Calvados and Sesame »