On the menu: Green Chile Cheddar Apple Pie
For most people, fall brings apples, and they come in all sorts of sizes, colors, textures, and tastes. I grew up in an area with lots of apple orchards, and it was always exciting to visit them in the fall and pick as many different varieties of apples as I could. Fall also brings about baking with apples–you know, apple butter, apple pie, applesauce, apple cakes…I could go on.
In New Mexico, however, there’s another reason to get excited. Fall brings green chiles. Not just any old green chile, either. These are the real deal, grown only in the small town of Hatch, and they are hands down the New Mexican contribution to the culinary world. I get to say these things because my cooking companion grew up in Albuquerque, so he knows what’s what about green chile. Every fall since he’s left Albuquerque, he gets a sizeable shipment of frozen roasted Hatch chiles from his parents as a little taste of home. We spend the fall cooking our way through these bags of chile, making green chile stew, chiles rellenos, green chile sauce for huevos rancheros, green chile cheeseburgers, and anything else we can think of.
This year, I wanted to make a pie. When we were in San Francisco last summer, we walked by a place called Chile Pies and Ice Cream, a place known for their green chile apple pie. Green chile apple pie? I was intrigued. By that day on our trip, we were tired, had run out of money, and didn’t want to stop for a piece of their pie (What were we thinking?!), but I put it in the back of my mind and kept it there until I saw a link to a similar recipe from the Denver Post on Pinterest. That was it. I had to make Kevin this pie.
To start the pie, I made a pat-in-the-pan cheddar pie crust from my beloved Joy of Cooking. A pat-in-the-pan crust is always prebaked, and it comes out crunchy and flaky. The flakiness reminded me of shortbread, as little pieces of crust came out as I continued to work with the baked pie shell. It’s quite a brittle crust! I soldiered on and filled the crust with some Granny Smith apples that had been tossed with chiles, lemon, sugar, and a host of spices. I had a choice of streusel topping–I could use walnuts, like they do at Chile Pies and Ice Cream, or I could use piñons (pine nuts) as called for in the Denver Post recipe. Piñons are pretty common in the Southwest, so I decided to use them in my streusel.
We nervously watched the pie bake up in the oven, wondering what in the world it would taste like and hoping we didn’t waste a bag of those precious Hatch chiles. It smelled fantastic, as apple pie should, but we could definitely smell the chile in there. Was it going to be too much?
It was the perfect amount. Friends, we bit into this pie and knew, we KNEW, that this pie was the best one I’ve made yet. Hatch green chiles have a smoky heat that lingered after every bite, and we loved it. The spiced apples were definitely the prominent flavor, but we were astounded at how well the chiles complemented the sweetness of the fruit. The streusel and the crust gave the entire exterior of the pie a nice crunch that we both enjoyed. The streusel was subtly sweet and slightly nutty, and the crust was just cheesy enough without being too overpowering.
Really. This was the best one yet. If you want to find green chiles, you can mail order them here from New Mexico or you can try to find Hatch brand canned green chiles. They are a culinary experience that everyone should try at least once.
3/4 cup extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
6 cups peeled and sliced Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup roasted and peeled green chiles, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons butter, diced in small pieces
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup pine nuts
First, make the crust: toss all ingredients together in a bowl and cut the butter and cheese into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Use your hands to bring the dough together–it may seem unlikely to come together at first, but give it a few squeezes and it will start to form a cohesive dough. When it’s all mixed, shape it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place the cold dough into a 9 inch pie plate and pat it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Crimp the rim of the dough, then prick the dough multiple times with a fork and bake (no pie weights required!) 18-20 minutes, until golden brown. You can prick the dough if you notice that it’s bubbling while it’s baking. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Turn the oven down to 375ºF.
Make the filling: Combine apples and chiles in a large bowl. Add lemon juice, sugars, salt, cornstarch and spices. Gently toss to combine. Fill baked crust with apple mixture. Pour any juice remaining in bowl over apples and dot with butter.
Make the streusel: In a medium bowl, combine streusel ingredients and blend with a pastry cutter or use your fingers. Sprinkle over apples.
Bake the pie: Make a crust shield by wrapping aluminum foil around the outer edge of the crust. This is really important, otherwise the crust will burn quite badly. Bake 30-45 minutes at 375ºF, until apples are firm but cooked through (check with a fork). If the streusel gets too brown (I didn’t have this problem), the pie can be covered in foil to finish baking.
Let pie cool for about 20 minutes, then slice and serve.