Apple Crisp: The Anti-Recipe



I made an apple crisp last Thursday. I had 20 pounds of Paula Reds and Empires from my Earth First Farms CSA subscription sitting on my counter when a friend stopped by with her sons for a play date. It’s horribly American, I know, but being the middle of the afternoon and a weekday, I couldn’t possibly just sit down and chat. If we were going to visit, I had to do something with all those apples while we talked. Peeling, coring and slicing fruit for an enormous crisp—a simple, repetitive task with a delicious result—was the obvious solution.

So we gabbed and the kids played and my hands peeled, cored and sliced enough apples to fill a large Pyrex. I paused the conversation just long enough to rummage in the fridge for odd bits of lemons and tossed the apples with the juice. I poured in some sugar and added a little cinnamon. While the oven heated, I dumped a bunch of rolled oats in a bowl, then scooped in some flour, salt, cinnamon and a bit more sugar. I melted enough butter to moisten the dry stuff and mixed it all up. Then I sprinkled the topping over the apples and put the dish in the oven. I baked it until it was bubbling and golden brown on top. Then I served it with some homemade crème fraîche (I admit, I keep a jar in my fridge at all times), but plain old sour cream or even just a scoop of unflavored yogurt gussied up with a little vanilla and sugar would certainly have been just fine. 

And there you have it: my apple crisp “recipe.”

If you were looking for something more specific, I’m sorry. I admit that when I tasted the sheer deliciousness of the crisp I was tempted to recreate it and carefully note each measurement so that I could share them with you. But I thought the better of it, for two reasons: Either you already know how to make a crisp (it is, after all, a classic of American home cooking), or, if you don’t, you are perfectly capable of doing it without a recipe. Really. (How do you know when the apples are sweet enough? You taste them. How do you know if your crisp is done? You look at it. If you’re in doubt, let it cook some more until you’re sure. It's not hard. I swear.)

And here’s a third reason: I suspect that like me, many of you have recipe fatigue. Everyday it seems like there are two or three more recipes online that I just have to try. And that’s before I count the cookbooks and food magazines stacked up in every corner of my house. It’s overwhelming. And, much of the time, it’s unnecessary.

If the thought of flying solo without a recipe scares you, this crisp is the anti-recipe for you.

Go ahead—it will be good. I promise.


lemon juice
rolled oats


I'm sure you don't even need to read this part, but if you've never actually eaten an apple crisp, I suppose it could be helpful.

Mix sliced apples, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon to taste. Mix rolled oats, flour, sugar, and more cinnamon with enough melted butter to make a crumbly topping and cover apples. If you feel like it, throw in some other ingredients with the apples or the topping—chopped nuts, raisins, honey, maple syrup, other spices. Bake for an hour, more or less, in a medium-hot oven until you see the apples bubbling on the sides of the pan  and the top is lightly golden and your kitchen smells divine. Eat some for dessert and more for breakfast. Don't forget the cream or yogurt on top.

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