My name is Thomas Lott. I am a proud husband and father of two. Two of my favorite things are football and cooking. I'm no expert in either, but I certainly like to fool around with both. I’ve been a home cook for about 10 years, and been around football since I was 4 years old. This fall, perhaps I’ll find out which one I know better! So I'll be checking in periodically to make a pick - or picks (even I'm allowed a bye week here and there!). Again, I'm no expert, so please don’t go betting the mortgage on my humble picks! From that, I’ll make a dish that has something to do with the game - who I think will win, a star/key player, or other story line. Don’t worry - I’m a home cook so it won’t be anything you can’t do - I promise. I’m still learning so most of these will come from my stash of cookbooks or another recipe floating around the internet. I won’t pawn anything off as my own or pretend there’s some super-secret family recipe that I can't share. Most of these I will probably have made before, others might be an experiment. I hope all will go well, but some may go from stovetop right to the dumpster! I'll be sharing my successes, mishaps, and maybe even a few gratuitous shots of my crew of sous chefs and tasters :-)

I'm always a work in progress, so my food won't *always* be pretty (or healthy!), but it's going to taste good--and if it doesn't I'll tell you that, too. And just so you know, it's also a mathematical certainty that I'll whiff on some of my football picks, too. The whole point is to get better at both! So I hope you keep up with me this fall as I have some fun with the kitchen and the pigskin! I welcome all comments, suggestions, requests and discussions on all things pigskin and kitchen!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Championship Week - Apple Crisp

Well once again I went 1 for 3. Although I really can’t be held responsible for that Auburn play. I don’t want to say it was a fluke….but nobody saw that coming. And I should just slap myself for picking Clemson - maybe it’s the rum from the Carnitas. Anyway, I still think that Bama is one of the top 2/3 teams in the nation. That’s one thing that I hate about college football is there is so much pressure to go undefeated and I just don’t think people understand how hard that feat is. Unless of course you play in a conference like the Big 10.

So now it’s on to championship week! Conference championships have served as a playoff of sorts for the last few years, although in some cases it has been better for some teams to not make their conference championship at all rather than lose in it (Alabama, Nebraska come to mind). But we've all seen many a dream get dashed on this last day before bowl season. I like the conference championship games, but either everyone should have them or no one should have them (And for the record, I don’t think that winning your conference championship is necessarily a requirement to be in consideration for the best team in the country). Let’s take a look at the most important conference championship games with possible national championship implications:
ACC ChampionshipDuke vs. Florida St; Duke is a great story. Hooray for the smart guys. Not a freakin chance. Florida St. wins big.

Big Ten ChampionshipMichigan St. vs Ohio St.; Michigan State’s defense is really REALLY good. I just don’t think at this point they have the offense to beat Ohio St. Plus, Urban Meyer is one of the best big game coaches in the business. He’s like Bob Stoops...only the opposite. Sure he's been beaten, but I can’t recall a time where his team has appeared unprepared in a big contest. I would love to see Michigan St. deliver him his first loss as a Buckeye because I REALLY don’t want to see a Big 10 team in the championship, but just don’t see it. I’m taking the Bucks.
SEC ChampionshipMissouri vs Auburn; First of all, anyone that says they predicted this as the 2013 SEC championship game is lying! Gary Pinkel was on the hot seat, and Gus Malzahn was definitely about to be. What a difference a year makes. This is a big game because the winner here will be waiting anxiously (along with yours truly) for Ohio St. to falter so they can slide into the championship game. Auburn has had some really exciting finishes the past few weeks. You always have to watch for the emotional letdown the week following a major win - let alone two. It seems these guys have to run out of gas soon, right? And with everyone telling them how great they are, can they handle the distraction? I expect a bit of a letdown, but I still think they’ll manage to beat Mizzou. I would like to say, though that there could be a sleeping giant in Columbia, MO. The media and Auburn have been talking all week about should they deserve a shot at the title after the SEC Championship Game. Wait a minute, don't we still have to play the game? That, friends is bulletin board material. We talk about cooking a lot here and this talk of an Auburn victory being a foregone conclusion over the "other" Tigers after a string of emotionally taxing victories is the exact recipe for an upset - so watch out. I believe Auburn is the better team, but don't be surprised if Mizzou uses this as fuel and shocks them.

Well in case you haven't guessed, I really would prefer not to see Ohio St. or any Big Ten team in the national championship, which ironically is going to make me clear my schedule to make sure to watch the Big Ten Championship. It’s all about the green this week so I’m going to show you a cool trick with granny smith apples! A while back we made the apple upside down cake, but this is totally different, definitely easier, and in my humble opinion even BETTER.

Apple Crisp

Start out with 8 granny smith apples. Peel, core and slice them thinly. Squirt a little bit of lemon juice on them to keep from browning.

 Add heavy cream, sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and lemon juice. Stir to mix well.

Spread apples evenly into a 13 x 9 baking dish. I have also used a round iron skillet before which turned out really well, too.

Mix up the crisp topping with a fork. It will be a little lumpy, but not quite like a full on crumb topping.

Spread the topping evenly over the apples.

Bake at 350 for 45 mins to an hour until the apples soften and the mixture starts to bubble. Mine took about 55 minutes, but I start peeking around 40-45.

Let it cool for about 5 minutes and serve with a scoop of ice cream!

This has been a huge hit every time I make it. It's incredibly rich, but it hasn't stopped anyone from making short work of it. Also goes great with a homemade caramel sauce that you can whip up in about 10-20 minutes. I will say though, that most of my patrons love it just fine without. It's one of those dishes that tastes much more like a big production than it actually is! Once you get the apples peeled and sliced, it's a piece of cake. I'll take this over the best apple pie any day of the year!

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Apple Crisp (adapted from Reata)

8 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
1 C Heavy cream
1 C Sugar
¼ C All purpose flour
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ Tsp kosher salt
3 C crisp topping (recipe below)

1)Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 13 x 9 pan and set it aside.
2)Slice the apples into thin wedges. In a large bowl, toss the apple slices with the cream, sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon juice and salt.
3)Layer the dressed apples in the prepared pan and generously spread the Crisp Topping over the apples.
4)Bake for 45-60 minutes until the apples are soft and the mixture is bubbling.

Crisp Topping
1 ½ C flour
1 C Brown sugar (dark or light works)
2 Tsp cinnamon
¼ Tsp kosher salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Cut cold butter into small pieces and mix into dry mixture with a fork, being careful not to overwork the mixture; it should appear crumbly. Makes about 3 cups.

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