Apples with Blue Cheese, Onions, and Walnuts
Serves 4 as a side dish or first course
2 large, firm, apples that are tart and sweet, like Crispin, cut in half from stem to bottom, then cored and trimmed around the stem and bottom end
1 cup water or vegetable stock
1 large onion, cut in half, peeled, and each half sliced thinly crosswise
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup (lightly packed) crumbled soft blue cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick skillet that has a lid. Add the apples, cut side down, and raise the heat to get the apples going. Cook them this way, uncovered, for 10 minutes, regulating the heat so that the apples get just a little browned on the bottom. Then add the water or vegetable stock to the pan and cover it. When the water starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and let the apples simmer/steam for another 20 minutes. Then start checking them — a sharp knife should go through easily, but the apples should keep their shape. Keep cooking them until they get that way, adding a little water to the pan if necessary. Take the apples out of the pan and put them cut-side up in a small glass or ceramic baking dish and let them cool to just warm.
Meanwhile, melt another tablespoon of butter in a smaller nonstick skillet with a lid. Saute the onion with a pinch of salt for a minute to get it all coated and sizzling. Then put the lid on and cook on low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, stir in the rosemary and some black pepper, and raise the heat. Cook another 5 minutes or so, until the onion is nicely browned. Scrape the onion mixture onto a plate to cool.
In a small bowl, mash the blue cheese with 1 tablespoon of softened butter until very smooth. Stir in the onion mixture and the walnuts. Take one quarter of the mixture at a time and pat it in your hand until it’s flat and will fit on the surface of the apple halves. Place the shaped mixture on an apple half and then do the rest of them.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes to heat the apples through, melt the cheese a bit, and toast the walnuts. Serve hot or warm.
To make ahead: Chill the steamed apples in the baking dish covered with plastic, and then microwave them until they’re warm. Refrigerate the caramelized onion, and then microwave it just to bring it up to room temperature. Combine the cheese, butter and walnuts as directed, then proceed with the recipe.