The house was clean, the chicken and kugel roasted, and a handsome apple cake waited on the counter. All that was left to do was make salad. The pretty salad bowl from our wedding registry, the one I barely use, was at the top of the tall pantry. My husband would be home in 10 minutes. Company would be here in 20. I decided, against my better judgement and several admonishments from my husband, to get on the step ladder, on my tippy toes and grab the salad bowl. I wanted to be finished before my company came. I wanted everything on the first night of Sukkot to be perfect.
The next thing I remember was falling, and thinking, Oh s***—I am about to be badly hurt.
CRASH, BANG, Shatter. The oven was ruined. There was glass everywhere. I looked up and saw the oven doors irreparably broken, ripped off the hinges, glass everywhere. I stood up and was relieved to discover I was completely unharmed. I don’t know exactly what happened. Did the oven break my fall? Did I grab the handle on the way down? It didn’t matter. I was just glad the oven was broken, instead of me.
My 4-year old-daughter, dressed to the nines like only a preschooler can, came running in, terrified and sobbing. I brushed the glass off myself, scooped her up and placed her on the kitchen table. Everything is ruined! She wept. My Mommy is hurt! The oven is broken forever!
I took her tiny chin in my hand and reassured her. Mommy is fine. Everything is replaceable except for people, and I am okay. We will just buy a new oven. Look - our dinner is still perfect and yummy and waiting for us. But the house is a mess, she wailed, and how will we cook for the holiday!! I’ll clean it, I promised. And the stove top burners still work. I dried her tears and warned her not to come into the kitchen.
I swept up, reapplied my lipstick, and we had the most lovely evening. The kids played and ran wild and counted stars. We feasted on a lovely meal in the beautiful sukkah my husband had built. I showed off the photo I snapped of the wreckage and passed it around and we laughed and laughed. It was a perfect evening.
If you had asked me the day before, I would have said that breaking the oven before a holiday was a nightmare scenario. Especially Sukkot, my favorite holiday, with days of entertaining and hosting. I would have curled up into a ball of anxiety at the mere suggestion. Turns out, breaking my oven on the first night of Sukkot was a good experience, and it taught me a lot.
It taught me to just stop, take a damn deep breath, and look around. Enjoy it. The twinkling lights and stars. The friends and family gathered around wine and pumpkins and a crisp autumn breeze. My kid, still little. My husband, finally enjoying a glass of wine after building and decorating as a family. This was my dream, a Jewish home overflowing with family and friends and love.
It taught me that the only one consumed with creating perfection was me. No one noticed the shift in menu, or that I made coq au vin instead of brisket. People were happy to be there, to laugh, to commiserate, and relax. Maybe, just maybe, it was possible and preferably that I could relax too. This was not “Top Chef.”. This was family.
Lastly, the Great Fall taught me some creativity. Many things proved easier than I thought — the stuffed cabbage was just as good cooked on the stove top, and I can pan roast chicken in a cast iron skillet.
But dessert proved a challenge. This is where Fried Apple Pie came in. Puff pastry, apple cider, and apples cooked until they are soft and browned, almost caramelized. It was an instant winner—I’ll make it even after the new oven arrives.
Old habits die hard, and when they came out, beautifully browned and crispy, I panicked that they were too simple. I asked my husband, should I drizzle over a caramel? Dust them in powdered sugar? Make a quick icing? No, he said firmly, simple and relaxed is best. Biting into hot, crunchy, perfect parcels stuffed with apples and spices, I finally realized he was right all along. Simple is best — and stay off that step ladder.
I-Broke-My-Oven Fried Apple Pie
6-8 Honey Crisp apples
2 tablespoons of butter or your favorite pareve substitute
Two sheets puff pastry ( homemade, or store bought and defrosted)
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup spiced apple cider
¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
2 eggs, whisked
Dice the apples. One could peel them, but I don’t have that type of time, baby. Plus peels add fiber or something, right?
Melt the butter. Add the sugar, spices and apples. Stir to combine. As the apples begin to cook and just begin to brown, add half cup of apple cider, stir and allow them to simmer in that spiced apple goodness.
When the liquid is fully reduced, stir well, add the remainder of the cider, and a pinch more if needed. You want the apples to be fully cooked, completely soft, jammy, almost caramelized in taste. Frying will not cook them further. This part took me about half an hour.
Roll out your pastry about 1/8th of an inch thick. It should be thick enough to easily hold the apples, but thin enough to fold easily. Two sheets will make six fried apple pies. Cut each sheet into three even sections ( don’t halve the strips, you are going to fold them over!)
Gently place the apple filling, centered, on half of each strip. Usebout 3 tablespoons per pie. Using a brush, spoon, or clean fingers (yeah… I couldn’t find a brush that day. ) spread egg yolk on the side with the apple filling and fold over your strip of puff pastry. Use a fork to crimp it closed. Gently cover the pies with your whisked eggs, just about a teaspoon for an egg wash that adds some shine. Place back in the fridge until cold, at least half an hour. You could do this the day before.
Time to heat the oil. You want cold pastry in hot oil, just about 2 inches - you don’t want to deep fry. Fry for 5 minutes a side until it puffs up and then flip, much like frying a donut. Remove when golden brown and cool on paper towels.