It’s a snow day here. A wet and cold snow day.
It was also chilly – but autumn – a few years back when we pulled up to Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. But in that rambling old breakfast palace, it was cold – and then warm – in the best possible way.
In my life there are but two places that qualify as “perfect breakfast.” The foremost morning meal is at Walker Bros. in my hometown of Wilmette, Illinois. The second is at Polly’s.
At Polly’s, you gaze between bites at a clear, green view of mountains and valleys; your plate is graced by endlessly light hotcakes, buckwheat waffles, crackling local bacon and maple syrup straight from the trees.
Today, on a snow day, Polly’s is just a sticky empty plate in the back of our minds. On these days, a warm memory and a quick favorite is required.
So we will make pancakes with Josie’s favorite pancake topper, a sort of fast-track warm fruit compote. A quick-cooked mix of apples and whatever other fruit is handy, it’s cheekily called “fruit compost” around here. Apple Cranberry Compost.
**Attention Alert: if you are a patience-challenged blog reader and don’t wish to see mouthwatering, screen-clawing photos of buttery apples, stop here and just enjoy the Polly’s mug. Otherwise, enjoy!**
Apple Cranberry “Compost”
This is not the most formal recipe you’ll ever read. Let your breakfast ideas loose; if you have blueberries, use blueberries. Or dried cherries. If it doesn’t look thick enough for you, add more corn starch. Nothing about this can go wrong.
It is delicious in any form, including straight from the pan.
Peel and dice a Granny Smith apple or two. This is not diced. This is the prettier photo of the not-yet-diced apples.
Make sure a black lab eats apple peel right at your elbow, or it won’t come out right.
Saute your apples in a little butter over low-medium heat.
Toss in a generous handful of dried cranberries and about 1/2 cup of sugar. You can also add a dash of cinnamon, clove or nutmeg. Or all of them, if you’re feeling spicy.
Cook, stirring, until the fruit is delectably soft, buttery, and shiny.
It will be a beautiful sight. But now you will cover this beautiful sight, and leave it covered for about 5 minutes.
When you peek and it looks like this, you’re close. Uncover and stir.
Pour in approximately one juice glass full of orange juice. Also throw in a sprinkling of corn starch, and a pat or two of butter. How much juice, corn starch, and butter you use will make it as thick – or as thin – as you wish, so add accordingly.
Have I mentioned that nothing cannot be improved by butter?
At this point things will look a little odd – but smell incredible. Stick with it! Stir and stir until those apples begin to break down in earnest.
When it resembles chunky, ruby-studded applesauce, it’s done.
Trust me – the pancakes will thank you.
Everyone nearby, and outside, and down the street will thank you.
And a few happy snow day diners in PJ’s…
…will put you in the breakfast hall of fame – like Polly.