By Elke Probkevitz
This time of year, we’re not sure if we’re still holding on to summer or ready to embrace the fall. The abundance of apples, however, can get us a little excited for what the season has to offer. All the varieties that echo the hues of autumn, and all the recipes to be made, make the season just a little more enticing.
Facts. Apples have been eaten since the beginning of recorded history. The word appel was originally used to describe any non-berry fruit. The seeds of apples can be planted, but the tree that grows will most likely not yield the same kind of apple, and its fruit won’t taste that great! It takes the energy of 50 leaves to create one apple.
Varieties. Today there are about 2,500 varieties of apples in the U.S. alone, although crabapples are the only ones native to North America. There are over 7,500 varieties worldwide. Apples range from tart to sweet. The Gravenstein, Pippin, and Granny Smith are the more tart varieties. Braeburn and Fuji are slightly sweeter, while the Red and Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp are sweeter varieties.
Selection and storage. Look for apples that are firm, unbruised, and of rich, vibrant color. Apples ripen six to ten times faster at room temperature than when refrigerated. If kept in the refrigerator, apples can be stored for three to four months and barely lose any nutrients. Store with a damp cloth in the crisper to keep the moisture and help them last longer. Make sure to get rid of bruised apples to keep unbruised ones from going bad.
Uses. The obvious route would be to eat them straight up or use them for some sort of sweet application, like a pie or other pastry, or make a sauce out of them. Or try something new and savory: Combine with broccoli to make a soup with a balance of flavor. Shred and add to a slaw to complement chicken or beef. Add slices of apple to salad greens or kale and walnuts or hazelnuts. Incorporate chopped apples into a quinoa salad with diced onion, celery, dried cranberries, and fresh lemon juice. Make a sweet-and-savory chicken dish with apples, shallots, and sage. Stuff a turkey breast roast with a pecan-and-apple stuffing. v
Braised Chicken With Mushrooms And Apples
¼ cup olive oil
½ lb. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. flour
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup apple cider
pinch of crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp. butter substitute
Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat until cooked and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a small bowl.
Heat remaining olive oil in skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to skillet. Cook over moderately high heat, about 4 minutes. Turn chicken to brown other side, 3 more minutes. Remove chicken to platter and cover with foil, leaving 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan.
Add apples to skillet and brown over high heat for 2 minutes. Add shallots and garlic, reduce heat to low, and cook 3 minutes. Add in flour and stir to incorporate. Add stock, cider, and crushed red pepper, and bring to a simmer. Return chicken with juices to the skillet, skin side up, and braise in oven for 20 minutes. Remove breast pieces to the platter and continue to cook the rest in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove remaining chicken to platter.
Bring pan with juices to a boil over high heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add in reserved mushrooms and butter substitute, remove from heat, and stir until melted and combined. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon mushroom–apple sauce over chicken and serve.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.