To make the pie, Claire drove to a farm in Chilmark to buy the right ratio of sweet-tart Macoun and Cortland apples to mild aromatic McIntoshes. It goes without saying that she made the crust by hand – with stone-ground wheat flour and organic butter. Then, in a stroke of inspiration, and mindful of an old New England adage – ”Apple pie without the cheese / Is like a kiss without the squeeze” – she enriched the dough with some grated Vermont sharp cheddar. – Chapter 9, “A Singular Courtship”

Claire grates cheddar cheese directly in the pie dough. To streamline the recipe, you can use a premade crust (or make it yourself with your favorite dough) and add cheese to the apple filling. You still get the sweet-salty cheddar tang that takes this apple pie over the top. Also, Claire bakes the pie in the oven. When we make it – surprise – we smoke-roast it on the grill. This involves setting up the grill for indirect grilling and tossing hardwood chips (preferably apple) on the coals or in the smoker box. But you can certainly make an excellent pie, as Claire does, in the oven (375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes).

Serves 8

apple pie yum

Courtesy Steven Raichlen

  • Prebaked 8-inch pie crust (either homemade or store-bought)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose white flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus pinch for topping
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 large cooking apples (2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp Vermont cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • Vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

1. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high (375 degrees). You’ll also need 3/4 cup apple wood chips, soaked for 30 minutes in cold water, then drained.

2. Prepare topping by combining 1/4 cup brown sugar, flour, and a pinch of salt in a food processor or mixing bowl and cut in butter with short pulses or a pastry blender. The mixture should feel crumbly, like coarse sand. Do not over-process. Set aside.

3. Prepare filling: Core apples and quarter them. Using the grating disk of a food processor or the coarse face of a box grater, grate the apple quarters, skins and all. Remove any large pieces of skin. Stir in the remaining ingredients, including 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add additional sugar, if necessary, to taste. The apple filling should be fragrant and flavorful.

4. Spoon filling into crust and sprinkle butter-flour-sugar mixture on top.

5. Add more coals to the fire, if needed, to maintain a medium-high temperature in your grill. If using a charcoal grill, sprinkle the wood chips directly on the coals. If using a gas grill, place the chips in your grill’s smoker box, or wrap in foil, poke holes in the top with a fork, and place under the grate over one of the burners. Put pie on grill and bake (smoke-roast) until the filling is cooked through and bubbling and the topping is browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably with vanilla ice cream.

This recipe was originally published with the article, Q&A with Food Writer Turned Novelist Steven Raichlen.