The only time I peel and cook apples is when I’m making apple pie or apple sauce, which is only a few times a year. Most of the apples that pass through our home are crushed and pressed whole to make cider. In this process the skins are broken up very fine so that they lend some body and tannin to the drink.
What I mean to say is I don’t actually peel very many apples. But when I do peel those very few apples it bothers me to throw out the skins, because they are actually quite tasty.
So one day instead of dropping those peels in the trash can I dropped them in a pot of hot oil.
It’s difficult to get all the moisture out, to make them brittle and delicate and crisp, without the peels getting too dark and bitter. The trick is to pull them from the oil when the bubbling has mostly subsided: they will still be limp, but once they cool they will be crispy. Toss them with a pinch of salt and a three-finger pinch of sugar and they make a great garnish for any number of sweet or savoury dishes.
Below they are pictured with cornbread pudding, poached apples, and buttermilk ice cream, but they could just as easily be put on top of a bowl of squash and apple soup, or even a plate of grilled pork chops with apple sauce.
The photo above reminds me of a chef I once worked for. One night we ran veal sweetbreads, floured and pan-fried, with chanterelle mushrooms and a reduction sauce. We tasted the first plate, and I asked if maybe the dish needed another component for some colour, some visual contrast. He said, “Five shades of brown is a beautiful thing.”
If kids love anything these days it’s foams and powders. With this in mind one of the young cooks in our kitchen put some fistfuls of gangly apple skins into our dehydrator. Two days later they were perfectly dry, like tumbleweed fragments. Not quite as satisfying to eat on their own as the fried version, but a few brief moments in a blender and they made a surprisingly flavourful apple powder. The cook then mixed this powder into a bowl of whipped butter to make “apple’d butter”. A bit highfalutin for Button Soup, but I thought I’d mention it.