Noilly Prat and Bacon Fat and Apple-Berry Crumble for Boys Who Are Humble

Oscar is my neighbor.  He is twelve and despite the ten and a half year age gap, Helena adores him.  Frankly, so do I.  More Dickon Sowerby from The Secret Garden than Glen Bishop from Mad Men, he has a sweetness about him (a quality I think he inherited from his mother) and an interest in me, the lonely foreign outsider, that’s really endearing.

When Helena and I are out back picking berries he comes to the balcony to chat.  Today, like last weekend, he came down with thick gloves and a pair of secateurs to help.  For an hour and a half he and I collected blackberries while Helena sat on a gently sloping hill eating them and trying to fish out her Thomas the Tank Engine as well as her wooden clown toy she had stuffed down a fox hole.

While in the communal garden Oscar refilled his bird feeders and introduced us to his friend, Mr. Greedy, a chirpy robin red breast he’s been feeding for years.  We talked flowers and fauna and woodland creatures and pest control–a trade he’s learning from his dad.  But they never kill the animals he wanted me to know.  They only trap them then release them into the wild.  Well, maybe except for rats.

After some time Helena was much too stained and sticky and grumpy to remain outdoors.  So we took her and her wooden toy inside.  Thomas, it seems, has gone missing.


As a thank you for all his fruit picking help, I told Oscar and his mother that Helena and I would bring him a crumble of his own.  But first, I’d have to cook Kleine Maus some lunch.  So here is what we had–chicken legs cooked in bacon fat and Noilly Prat.  Below is the recipe.  And below that is the recipe for the apple-berry crumbles I baked.  I hope you enjoy them both.

Bacon Fat and Noilly Prat Chicken Legs:

Knowing that I had chicken legs for lunch, I purposefully left this morning’s bacon grease in a pan.  I reheated it over a medium-high flame then added the chicken pieces that I had rubbed down with Maldon salt and freshly cracked pepper.  I sautéed them and constantly shook them around, so as to avoid sticking, for about 10 minutes.  Then I added a quarter cup of Noilly Prat and allowed everything to sizzle.  I waited until the liquid evaporated and the chicken skin was crispy again.  The result was sweet, salty and aromatic.  It was also stupidly delicious and probably too good for a toddler.  But what can I say?  I love her.  I put truffle oil on her scrambled eggs and cook her nice things.

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Apple-Berry Crumble Ingredients:

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C/Gas5

For the fruit mixture:

blackberries (I used about 6 cups worth)

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced  (not too thin!  otherwise, they dissolve)

the zest of 1 lemon + half a teaspoon of its juice

1 3/4 cup sugar (a mix of Demerara and caster)

1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract

about a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

Combine all ingredients except for the berries.  Those you gently stir in once everything else is mixed.  Take care not to bash them otherwise you’ll have soup.

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For the crumble topping:

1/4 cup flour

1 cup sugar (I use a combination of soft brown and Demerara)

1/2 cup dried coconut

3/4 cup oatmeal

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

6 tablespoons of cold cubed butter

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and use only your fingertips to combine it until it looks like fine meal.  Sprinkle liberally atop your crumble.


Now bake for about 50 minutes or until the topping is crisp and golden brown and the fruit is viscous and bubbling.  Serve with Greek yogurt, whipped cream, or a nice vanilla bean ice cream.



21 thoughts on “Noilly Prat and Bacon Fat and Apple-Berry Crumble for Boys Who Are Humble

  1. hee hee–this is so sweet! What a wonderful neighbor and what fun moments you had. Love that you’re baking for neighbors. Good luck finding, Thomas. And I still have berry envy. AND I learned what noilly prat is today 🙂 Love a good vermouth. Also, the Eat Me stamp arrived yesterday–woo hoo!

    • Excellent! I hope you get good use out of that stamp like I do. I love it. Yeah, Oscar and his family are adorable. He lives with his mom and his older brother who is 15. They also have 2 cats, a fish tank complete with wiggly anemones that’s Oscar’s, and his brother has a snake.

  2. Well, now I’m hungry. Which is bad, because it’s 4am. But, that all looks amaaazing! Your recipes are so well presented I feel that even I could make them. If I do I’m not putting photos up though. Mine won’t look like yours. You can get away with it because your food looks spectacularly perfect! I love it!

    • Thanks, EJ! And I hope you do make some of my recipes. Their really easy. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I don’t like to cook anything that requires tons of prep work or lots of fussing to make. Ancient French recipes that take days to make? No, thank you. I’ll go to a restaurant for that.

    • By the way, I think 4am’s a great time to eat. Generally bowls of cereal or leftovers in the fridge but still. What’s your favorite late night go-to? I’m a Cap’n Crunch girl myself. Crunch Berries or Peanut Butter. I also love almond butter on good toasted bread and a tall glass of chocolate milk.

  3. Good neighbors are the best and you certainly have a cute one! And with not one but two crumbles on top, that has to be one of the best looking stove tops I’ve ever seen! One of the joys of having bacon for breakfast — aside from eating the bacon, of course — is having fresh bacon fat in a pan for that night’s dinner. Yum!

  4. How sweet is that? Every bit of it: berries, wonderful neighbors, robin red breasts, wooden clown toys stuffed down fox holes and (!!) chicken cooked in bacon fat and vermouth! Oh my, and the description of “[m]ore Dickon Sowerby from The Secret Garden than Glen Bishop from Mad Men” is the best. Well, second best after that darling photo of Helena gnawing a chicken leg.

  5. Oh, I enjoyed your post from picking berries in the back, to chicken legs and two delicious cobbles. It sounds like a perfect day…well maybe not exactly if Thomas is down a hole. 🙂

  6. Now, I wish I had read this over the weekend. I came upon the motherlode of blackberries in the mountains, and this would’ve been the perfect excuse to buy more………..

    Also, the picture of your daughter is priceless.

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