Empire Apples

Photo: Danny Kim. Illustrations by John Burgoyne.

A relative whippersnapper in the apple world, the homegrown Empire was concocted by Cornell’s Agricultural Experiment Station and made its debut in 1966. It’s sweeter than tart, with an emphatic snap, crisp flesh, and a flavor-texture profile that surpasses its McIntosh and Red Delicious parents. In his latest cookbook, Mario Batali gives them a full Italiano makeover, stuffing them with figs, drizzling them with Moscato d’Asti, and then topping them off with a piece of Gorgonzola dolce, like a jaunty little Borsalino cap.

Mario Batali’s Baked Apples With Gorgonzola And Figs

1 cup sugar
1 cup Moscato d’Asti
1 cinnamon stick
4 tbs. butter, cut into cubes, plus 2 tbs. for the pan
6 medium apples
3 ripe figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
6 ounces Gorgonzola dolce or cremificato, cut into 1-ounce pieces at room temperature

Preheat oven to 375. Place the sugar, wine, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the consistency of a thin syrup. Remove from heat, and stir in the cubes of butter. (1) Core the apples, and peel them if you prefer. (2) Stuff each fig half into the cavities of the apples. Butter the sides and bottom of a deep baking dish, and place the apples upright in the dish. Pour the Moscato syrup over the apples, place the dish in the oven, and bake for 35 minutes, periodically basting the apples with the pan juices, until the apples are soft but still standing. Remove baking dish from oven, and (3) place a piece of Gorgonzola on top of each fig. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a spoonful of the pan juices over the top. Adapted from Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals From My Home to Yours (Ecco; $29.99).

Empire Apples