Ok, ok, I know what you're thinking. Well, one of probably two things.
A) That recipe sounds disgusting! Why would you want to put cheddar with walnuts and chilis?! And let's not even mention that it's in a pie! Pie sacrilege!
B) Mmmmm. Apples, cheese, and nuts. With spice? Count me in! But how to serve it? as a main course or a dessert?!
Well, dear readers, you may be surprised that, in fact, I was a steadfast member of Option A for a long while. The New York Times, in their infinite wisdom, declared that this year was the year of the pie (as opposed to the last few, which were apparently the years of the cupcake. I don't have time to keep up with these things). And among their many "new hip stylish" pie recipes was this little number. The people who developed it (some crazy hippies out in San Francisco apparently) swore to its deliciousness. And if San Franciscans and New Yorkers ever agree on something, well, it's worth a try.
And so I attempted the crazy masterpiece, not sure if this would result in such a horror that I would swear off pie-making for good (not that I was ever what one would call a prolific pie-maker).
But no! Once it was all assembled, baked, and cooled, and the first tentative bite was taken, I could see what both coasts had been saying. It was delicious. Sweet, with just a hint of chili (the New Mexican chilis used in the pie give it a smokey but not fiery flavor) and a great crunch of walnut streusel on top. (By the by, if you were looking to an answer for Option B's dilemma of whether this was a savory or sweet dish, this is most definitely a dessert. The chilis don't diminish at all the significant amount of sweetness in the walnut streusel and apples.
This was chili pie conversion.
Now, this perhaps is not the pie to serve to an unknowing audience. Despite my new-found love of chili pie, the dessert did not win over everyone (my father, in particular, couldn't get over the "weirdness" of it). But never you mind. Go ahead, try it. You'll (probably) like it.
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into dice
1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
5 tablespoons ice water, more as needed
For the filling
5 cups peeled and thickly sliced tart apples, such as Jonagold, Honeycrisp or Granny Smith (I used Granny Smith)
1/2 cup chopped roasted green Hatch chilies, mild or medium hot (see note)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
For the topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1. Make the crust: In a food processor or mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add butter one piece at a time, while pulsing or mixing at low speed, until mixture is fine and crumbly. Transfer to a large bowl and toss well with the cheese. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly with fingers just until dough holds together. To test, pinch a small amount of dough. If it is crumbly, add more ice water. Form dough into a ball, wrap loosely in plastic, then roll into a disk. Refrigerate at least one hour, or up to 3 days, before rolling. (Dough can be frozen for up to a month.)
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a circle at least 11 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan, preferably glass. Turn edges under to make a thick rim; flute rim by pinching into a zigzag pattern. Refrigerate until ready to bake, at least an hour.
3. Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss apples, green chilies and lemon juice together. In another bowl, mix dry ingredients and add to apples and chilies, tossing until thoroughly coated.
4. Make the topping: In a small bowl, mix flour, walnuts and brown sugar. Add melted butter and toss together until crumbly.
5. Bake the pie: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Using a slotted spoon, scoop filling into chilled crust, then drizzle with 2 tablespoons of juice from bottom of bowl. Sprinkle topping evenly over filling. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until filling bubbles at edge and crust is brown. Serve warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
Yield: About 8 servings.
Note: Roasted green Hatch chilies from New Mexico can be ordered from newmexicanconnection.com, and are sometimes found frozen in grocery stores. Drained canned green chilies are acceptable.