Recipe for Disaster with Meredith Graves: Apple Pie & A Tribe Called Quest

Meredith's Bonita apple pie with a gruyere-freckled crustEXPAND
Meredith's Bonita apple pie with a gruyere-freckled crust
Meredith Graves for the Village Voice

[Meredith Graves — Perfect Pussy frontwoman, Honor Press founder, Voice festival correspondent, etc. — loves food to the point where she risks bodily harm for it sometimes. Take this pie, for instance: Meredith baked it in her Bed-Stuy kitchen, and instead of letting the pastry full of molten fruit cool before wrapping it up and bringing it to the Voice, she brought the still-hot pan aboard public transit because she couldn't wait to cut into it. The Applebum — or Bonita Apple Pie — is the first creation Meredith's tackling for Recipe For Disaster, her new weekly column where she'll listen to an album coming out and a recipe that pairs nicely with the music. This week, A Tribe Called Quest are releasing the 25th anniversary edition of People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, and that's how her take on the perfect apple pie came to be.]

Do I love you?
Do I lust for you?

Indeed we do, Bonita. You are hot and desirable. Presumably, though the song does not specify, you are also sweet. And some parts of you, as we've established, are apple-round.

In 1990, a Village Voice review referred to A Tribe Called Quest’s People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm as being “so sweet and lyrical, so user-friendly, you could play it in the background when you're reading Proust.”

But I’m not here to make madeleines and blow another thousand words trying to prove I’ve read a big book by a French guy. I’m here to kick ass, get covered in flour, and enjoy songs about how great girls are. So to celebrate the 25th anniversary of People’s Instinctive Travels, as well as the expanded re-release (out November 13 on Legacy Recordings and RCA Records) we’re making hot, desirable, sweet Bonita Apple Pie.

This pie is a shortcut for anyone seeking an Applebum of their very own, because the crust is made with a heady quantity of smoked gruyere cheese. And if you recognize where I yanked that idea from, then you may also realize that me combining my love for classic hip-hop with my love of Pushing Daisies is probably me reaching Peak Meredith, but mock not — not, at least, until you try this pie. Because this pie is a love spell, and it works.

How do I know? Over the last year, I fell in love with a dude (who coincidentally also really loves this record). When I went to meet his family for the first time, I offered to bring dessert. He told me his dad likes apple pie, so I made this one. Dude’s mom said it was the best apple pie she’d ever had. Dude still loves me. Ergo, magic is real.

(How to find true love if you don’t have a nice butt: Learn to make pie.)

Of course, it’s been scientifically proven that listening to People's Instinctive Travels while you chop your apples will result in a sweeter, more beautiful pie. In the time when it was crafted, between Tribe and De La Soul, a framework was established that shifted society’s understanding of what hip-hop sounded like, looked like, everything that it was, the very it-ness of it. It’s as fundamental to an understanding of hip-hop as the apple pie is to the study of baking.

On the topic of choosing apples: I casually asked a known fruit nerd which apples were the best for pie (let me only say that I hope that someday, someone writes as seductively about me as this guy writes about fruit) and he said to always use a mix. If you’re in New York City then Locust Grove, at the Union Square Market, is the place to go. Pippins, he told me, are good for “tart and firm style.” These are also great words to describe a butt.

I ended up with a mix of Pippins, Jonothan, Mutsu and Blushing Golden, and I came to this by picking up all the apples and smelling them. Jonothan apples, it should be stated, are spicy. It’s really amazing to be surprised by a fruit you’ve known your whole life. It just goes to show you, it’s important to remain open to miracles. 

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BONITA APPLE PIE

For the crust (make the night before):

Tip: keep the flour, sugar, and sea salt, as well as your bowl and mixing implements, in the freezer for at least half an hour prior to assembling your crust. Pie crust holds together best when it’s cold. Your water and/or vodka should be chilled, and your butter, refrigerated.

2.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
2 ½ sticks cold butter cut up into little tablespoony bits or smaller
4 oz. Gruyère, grated (I like the good old-fashioned sorta-gross Boar’s Head smoked gruyere, sold in shrink-wrapped blocks. Half a block is 4 oz. and you can save the rest for the top crust.)
6 tbsp ice water (or a combination of ice water and iced vodka. Unlike water, vodka doesn’t promote gluten development, and it evaporates much faster, which makes for a flakier crust.)

1. Combine chilled flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl (if your freezer can take it, chill the mixing bowl too).
2. Shred half the block, or about 4 oz of cheese, into the flour mixture and stir to combine.
3. Add your chopped butter. At this point, experienced cooks with well-stocked kitchens can cut the butter in using a pastry cutter. You can also do this using two butter knives. If you had the forethought to chill the beaters, you can briskly use a hand mixer. I will often try both of these methods before going at it wildly with one bare hand and a regular fork. The goal is to break the butter up real small within the flour, not to decimate it completely.
4. Add in your six tablespoons of chilled water/vodka and mix until everything forms a dough when you smush it together.
5. Split into two slightly uneven blobs, flatten into discs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

For the filling:

4 cups, or about 6 good-sized apples diced (Take the skin off and I’ll kill you)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (depending on what variety of apples you use, more on this in a second)
2-4 tbsp cornstarch
Fall spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, anise, whatever
1 cup cider (can be subbed for water or almond milk, etc.)

1. Chop the apples haphazardly. Estimate based on what size apple piece would feel good in your mouth. And again, if I find out you peeled the apples, I’ll call the police.
2. Toss the apples with the lemon juice in a medium saucepan.
3. Add the sugar, cornstarch, and spices. Toss to coat.
4. Add cider or alternate liquid, and turn burner to medium or medium-high, depending on how you finesse your stove. Stir almost constantly until the mixture gets thick — you know, like pie filling.
5. Remove from heat, let the mixture cool down for a while.

Assemblage:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Roll out the larger pie crust on a lightly floured surface until it’s large enough to drape at least an inch and a half over the edge of a 9” pie pan. If you’ve never done this before, don’t be surprised if it goes terribly for you the first time, and you have to ball the dough back up and start over. The first time I made this pie, I yelled at it, which, if you believe Dr. Masaru Emoto, probably hurt the pie’s feelings.
3. Roll out the top crust. At this point you can cut it into lattice strips if you’re a fancy man, or go full coverage and poke a pentagram into it, whatever your heart desires.
4. Dump the filling into the pie pan and lay your chosen top crust. At this point, you can do an egg wash. I will occasionally give the crust a quick spritz of oil in lieu of using egg whites. You do you.
6. Lower the oven temperature to 375 and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour.


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