There was something smoking when Ollie stepped into the house. At first, she thought it was the turkey as she set down her bottles of wine (one for her family, four for her) and peered into the startlingly empty kitchen but immediately realized it was her great aunt Adelaide, who was ninety-four, strapped to an oxygen tank in the dining room and inhaling deeply on her umpteenth cigarette of the morning.
She hadn’t taken a step forward when her mother came bursting into the kitchen, her blonde hair still in rollers, her big blue eyes wide and only one of them lined in forest green pencil. “Auntie, are you tryin’ to blow up the house? God sakes.” She scowled and ripped the cigarettes from her aunt, who bleated that she was a Fascist. “If I’m a Fascist, then I suddenly feel bad for Mussolini- Olwyn! You’re home!” And she gave her oldest daughter a tight hug.
“Mama.” Ollie smiled despite herself. Her mother always smelled like peppermint in the morning.
“You look skinny.”
“Bless you, Mama.” She’d gained almost eight pounds since she’d moved to the city. Ollie glanced at the Rockin’ Robin clock over the stove. “You realize it’s almost 10?”
Her mother was still in her robe and she gasped. She clutched at her hair. “I know it, I know! Oh God, they’ll be here any minute.” She turned her roughly and shoved her into the kitchen. “Make the mashed potatoes, would you, puddin’?”
Ollie stumbled on the linoleum, calling after her, “I don’t know how to make- okay, well. You clearly don’t care,” and Ollie turned into the kitchen, alone with a counter full of appliances she couldn’t identify in a lineup, a mound of peeled, smoking potatoes in the sink, three covered dishes and the biggest pile of dirty plates and pots she’d ever seen in her life. “Hell.” She looked into the living room at her great aunt, who was trying to light a cigarette with one of her mother’s giant mounds of butter that she laboriously carved into turkeys every year. “Yeah, that’s not a candle, Aunt Adelaide.” Ollie nudged the butter away from her aunt, who scowled at her through the folds of her wrinkled skin, her eyes as yellow as her teeth. Ollie sighed, thinking that her sister would be there soon and the shattering noise that was to soon follow when her triplets turned the living room into a pinball machine. Ollie looked at the table and pictured her uncle Mortimer on his fourth glass of hard cider, waving his arms about the Democrats, and her brother’s new girlfriend, always a prize and almost always with a stripper name, her sister’s comments about how wonderful it was to have a boat in the summer, “A boat, isn’t it marvelous, Mama, when your babies do so well for themselves,” and the piles and piles of endless food. Her daddy falling asleep on the couch after as her mother slaved over the dishes. A warm dish of apple pie in the afternoon when the guests were gone. The droning of football scores.
Ollie dropped a hand on the table. All that and now she had to learn how to make mashed potatoes. She eyed her ancient aunt. “I will give you a hundred dollars for one of those cigarettes.”
Her aunt eyed her back, trying to sense a trap and then peered around her to see if Ollie’s mother was coming. Then, she waved at the seat next to her. “No charge,” her aunt said, dropping a ciggie in her great niece’s palm. “Family smokes for free.”
I sincerely love Thanksgiving the most. Is it sometimes mired in stress and calories and flutterings of family drama? Yes. But it’s built around gratitude. That’s a heavenly thing right there- a meal based wholly around comfort and togetherness and gratitude. And PIE.
Here’s what’s so great about this Apple Pie- have you ever faced a delicious apple crisp-type dessert at Most of America’s Generic Restaurants and think, “This is so great and I am so excited to eat it because it has been a LONG-ass day but man, it would be better if there was a pie crust on this. Oh well. Feelings. Eating. Nom.” OR, you’re sitting at the counter of a diner, chatting up Flo and the rest of the gals and they slide a plate of that homemade apple pie in front of you and the sheriff gives you a wink and you think, “Why am I in an episode of Alice? Also, this stupid thing needs a crumb topping!” I know, right? We’ve all been there!
Listen- there is a dessert of apple that is of both PIE and CRUMB. It exists and now, now it is yours… Go forth and make it now and please all kinds of opinionated people of the apple-dessert persuasion! GO! Go now before I cease making sense!
Apple Crumb Pie with Maple Glaze
Makes one 9-inch pie / Note: Listen, it’s Thanksgiving. Shhh, relax. Stop crying. It’s going to be okay. We’re going to pick our battles here- we’re going to slave over the stuffing and the turkey and those weird, fussy appetizers your Aunt Spiffy insists on having every year and then we’re going to buy pre-made pie crusts and make this killer apple pie/apple crumble hybrid of awesomeness. Okay? Shhhh, it’s all going to be okay. We’re here now.
For Pie & Crumb:
1 and 1/4 Cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
6 TBsp of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 Cup of packed light-brown sugar
3/4 tsp of salt
2 pre-made 9 inch pie crusts, thawed
2 TBsp of fresh lemon juice
3.5 pounds of ripe Granny Smith apples (about 6 large apples)
1 Cup of granulated sugar
3/4 Cup of chopped walnuts
For Maple Glaze:
1/3 Cup of powdered sugar
2 TBsp of maple syrup
1. Preheat your oven to a lovely 375° F.
2. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie tin.
3. Take a medium bowl. Combine 1 cup of flour, butter, brown sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt to make the crumb topping. Work with fingers until clumps form, then put in freezer.
4. On a lightly floured surface, or wax paper, roll the 2 pre-made, thawed pie crusts together to form a 14” circle. Place pie crust gently into pie tin, letting the extra 2” hang over the edge. Refrigerate.
5. Place lemon juice in a large bowl. Peel, core, and slice apples about 1/8” thick, placing them in the bowl as you go. Toss slices with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.
6. Add granulated sugar, walnuts, remaining ¼ cup of flour, and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and mix.
7. Spoon apple mixture into pie crust pressing the apples in firmly. Fold the overhanging dough over the pie filling and press the edges tightly around the pie.
8. Bake pie for 45 minutes and then remove from oven and add crumb topping. At this point, lightly wrap edges of pie with aluminum foil to avoid burning. Return pie to oven and bake for another 20 minutes. (Add another piece of aluminum foil over top of pie if top starts to brown too quickly.)
9. While pie is cooling, mix the powdered sugar and maple syrup together to make the maple glaze. Drizzle glaze over warm pie and serve with vanilla ice cream.