This crisp weather is ideal for encouraging apples to ripen to perfection on the tree, soon to be eagerly gathered by the basketful. As with most outdoor activities this time of year, the chill simultaneously invigorates and brings anticipation of a warmup indoors somewhere. What better way to encourage that coziness than to take the day’s harvest – from the orchard, or from the market, no matter – and incorporate it into a satisfying dinner?
That’s precisely what the people at Cook’s Country must’ve had in mind when they included in their Cookbook recipes for Apple Cider Chicken, and Brussels Sprout Salad. Though the two preparations appear separately, dozens of pages apart, actually, they’re a good match, as both are warmly comfortable ways to celebrate the harvest.
In today’s featured dish, the chicken benefits from quadruple doses of apples. The sauce uses apple cider, as well as its vinegar counterpart, and a few splashes of apple brandy. Then there are generous pieces of the fruit itself, of course. The poultry snuggles in all this goodness as it bakes, taking in the tangy sweetness in exchange for the savory smoothness it imparts. In the end, the chicken glows with a golden warmth, while the apple nearly melts to tenderness in the bird’s embrace.
The salad, meanwhile, is somewhat related to cole slaw…maybe, though with a mustardy kick, as Dijon replaces the mayonnaise. In addition, toasted pine nuts bring a nice crunch, as well as a nutty silkiness that counteracts nicely the mustard’s tanginess. A scant shaving of cheese grated on top adds traces of saltiness. Along with the brussels sprouts’ slightly sweet freshness, the salad is a great companion for the chicken, and satisfies varying taste points simultaneously.
What better way to enjoy the harvest than with a warmly inviting pair of dishes capturing the green freshness of the season that was, and wrapping it in the warm savor of coziness yet to be? Good cooking’s all about maximizing each moment, each ingredient, in its turn, and this is a great way exult in autumn.
Brussels Sprout Salad
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved, and sliced thinly
- 3 ounces Pecorino Romano, grated (*1)
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, shallot, garlic and half a teaspoon of salt. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, until it’s incorporated. Toss the brussels sprouts in the mixture and let it sit for at least half an hour, up to two hours.
Fold in the pine nuts and add alt and pepper to taste. Serve, with a small amount of Pecorino Romano grated on top.
1 – The original recipe specifies that the Pecorino should be shredded on a box grater’s “large” side. I disagree, as that would make the cheese too chewy, too much of a distraction. Instead, try a microplane’s finer grate.
Apple Cider Chicken
- 3 pounds bone in chicken pieces, trimmed (*2)
- salt and freshly0ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped finely (*3)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons flour
- 1 large Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (*4)
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup apple brandy
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Remove the top rack from the oven, making the middle shelf the “uppermost” level. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Season chicken, both sides, with salt and pepper. Place a large skillet over a medium-high flame and add the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken, skin side down.
Cook thusly for about 10 minutes, until well browned. Slide chicken back and forth every once in a while, to prevent it from sticking. After the skin side is browned, flip the chicken and cook on the other side for 5 minutes, Remove to a plate.
Add onion to the skillet and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme and flour, until the flour is absorbed, about one minute. Add the apple, apple cider and 3 tablespoons of the brandy and bring to a boil, scraping the skillet bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen the delicious golden fond!
Nestle the chicken into the sauce, skin side-up, and roast in the oven for about 12 minutes. Place the chicken on a serving platter and place the hot skillet back on the stovetop. Add the vinegar and remaining tablespoon of brandy, and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce and apples over chicken and serve.
2 – While the cookbook’s instructions suggest a variety of chicken pieces, a mixture of thighs and drumsticks works best.
3 – Two medium shallots are even better, of course.
4 – Skip the peeling. By the time the dish cooks, the apples and their skins both will be soft. Plus, it takes less time this way to prepare the apples, giving them much less of a chance to brown before they’re used. Still, I did spritz the apple pieces with lemon juice to preserve their appearance while they waited to go on stage.