Apples move to main plate in entrees |

Apples move to main plate in entrees

Apple tarts. Apple pie. Apple streudel.

When given the chance to make something with apples, many people lean toward desserts. But there are other, more creative and savory ways to highlight apples in cooking.

In the book “An Apple Harvest: Recipes and Orchard Lore,” co-authors Frank Browning and Sharon Silva cover a range of dishes from Apple and Country Ham Risotto to chicken breasts prepared with cider and caramelized apples.

“Apples have a tartness and sweetness called ‘subacid,’ ” Browning says. “They lend themselves well to meat.”

Ellen Kaelin of Kaelin Farm Market in Franklin Park decided to combine the two tastes, making Turkey Apple Paninis in the market’s kitchen.

“We sell an amazing amount of those paninis,” she says. “People really like the combination.”

Kaelin believes people are venturing to orchards like her 140-acre farm and others around the area as people become more aware of the “eating local” concept. When they do, they are introduced to apple flavors they might not have known about. Worldwide, there are as many 7,500 varieties of apples.

One such variety, the Arkansas Black, has been especially popular. An all-purpose apple with a mildly tart taste and hard exterior, the apple is rare in that it can keep in the refrigerator from June or July through the holiday months as the taste develops.

“Arkansas Blacks are good for baking,” Browning says. “They are relatively tasteless at the time of picking, and they have a low juice content, but they sweeten with time.”

They also are popular in area Christmas decor, Kaelin says, because of their rich burgundy color and resilience.

Pennsylvania offers many varieties of apples to choose from when cooking. According to the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Board, growers produce about 440 million pounds of apples each year, making Pennsylvania the fourth-largest apple-producing state in the country.

Lyle Johnson, owner of the Apple Castle orchard in New Wilmington, grows close to 50 types of apples, including some antique varieties.

“A lot of them aren’t as pretty,” he says. “People buy with their eyes, instead of their taste buds.”

While the heritage varieties don’t sell as quickly as newer varieties, such as Jonagolds, people still are curious about them and their history, Johnson says.

Apples are at their sweetest in October, November and December, he says, so they lend a richness to holiday dishes.

“My mother said her mother said when times are lean, if you had a bushel of apples and a bushel of potatoes, you can make anything,” Kaelin says. “When times are rough, you always know you can make it with those two.”

Apple and Country Ham Risotto

This recipe was reprinted with permission from “An Apple Harvest: Recipes & Orchard Lore” (Ten Speed Press, $16.99), by Frank Browning and Sharon Silva.

• 5 cups chicken stock

• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for sauteeing apple garnish

• 3/4 cup diced unpeeled Stayman Winesap, McIntosh, or other firm, sweet-tart apple (1/8 -inch dice)

• 6 tablespoons finely diced country ham (scant 1/4-inch dice)

• 1 1/2 cups arborio rice

• 3/4 cup semidry hard cider

• Wedge of Asiago cheese

• Freshly ground black pepper

• A few paper-thin apple slices sauteed in unsalted butter for garnish

• A few fresh sage leaves for garnish

Pour the stock into a saucepan, place over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to very low to keep the liquid hot.

In a frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the apple cubes and saute, stirring, until lightly browned, for about 10 minutes. Do not allow them to soften, as they will cook further in the risotto. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the ham and rice and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the rice is well coated with the butter. Add the cider and stir for about 2 minutes, or until it is absorbed. Add about 1/2 cup of the hot stock, stir well, and simmer, stirring often, until the stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and allowing it to be fully absorbed before adding more, until the rice is almost cooked. Add the sauteed apple cubes with the final addition of stock. The rice is ready when it is firm but tender and creamy and the center of each grain no longer is chalky, for about 25 minutes total cooking time. You might not need all of the stock, or you might need more liquid, in which case hot water can be used. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Uncover the risotto and spoon onto a warmed serving platter. Using a vegetable peeler, shave curls of Asiago over the top. Follow with a twist of the pepper mill, the sauteed apple slices and a scattering of sage leaves.

Makes 4 servings.

Pork Loin Stuffed with Fresh and Dried Apples

This recipe was reprinted with permission from “An Apple Harvest: Recipes & Orchard Lore” (Ten Speed Press, $16.99), by Frank Browning and Sharon Silva.

For the s tuffing:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onion

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger

• 2 Granny Smith, Newtown Pippin or other tart green apples, peeled, cored and chopped

• 1 cup chopped, dried apples

• 3 tablespoons dried currants

• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

• 1 cup dry hard cider

• Salt, to taste

• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the pork loin:

• 1 boneless pork loin, 4 to 5 pounds, butterflied

• Coarse sea salt, to taste

• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• About 6 sprigs sage

To prepare the stuffing: Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger, and saute for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.

Add the fresh apples and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they begin to take on color. Add the dried apples, currants and chopped sage and stir well. Pour in the cider, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cider is absorbed, for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees.

To prepare the pork loin: Lay the pork loin flat on a work surface and spread the cooled stuffing evenly over the meat. Roll up the loin into its original shape and, using kitchen string, tie at even intervals, pushing back any stuffing that tries to escape from the ends. Season the loin with coarse salt and pepper and tuck the sage sprigs under the strings. Place in a roasting pan.

Roast for about 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is pale pink when the loin is cut into at the thickest point or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest point registers 145 degrees to 150 degrees.

Transfer the pork loin to a cutting board and let stand for about 10 minutes before carving, then snip the strings and cut into slices. Arrange on a warmed platter.

Makes 8 servings.

Honey-Braised Chicken Thighs with Apple

This is a win-win dish: Apple pie spices and honey provide sweetness we d, and diced apples melt into the sweet-savory sauce for the chicken.

Skinless chicken breast halves can be used instead of chicken thighs, but the meat might not end up quite as moist; if you use them, reduce the oven time to 40 to 45 minutes.

The recipe is from The Washington Post.

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

• 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 3 pounds bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (8 large thighs or 16 small thighs), trimmed of excess fat

• 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped (1 cup)

• 2 large, crisp apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

• 3/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons apple cider

• 3/4 cup low-sodium or homemade chicken broth

• 3 tablespoons honey

• 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

Combine the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken thighs.

Heat the oil in a large, shallow ovenproof braising pan or roasting pan large enough to hold all of the chicken, over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs, smooth sides down; if the pan seems crowded, cook the thighs in 2 batches. Cook until the thighs have some brown color, for about 4 minutes, then turn them over and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the browned pieces to a large plate.

After all of the chicken has been browned, add the onion to the pan. Reduce the heat as needed so the onion cooks without burning; this will take 5 to 6 minutes. Add the apple pieces and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, then add 3/4 cup of the apple cider, the broth and honey. Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the browned chicken pieces. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven.

Bake for about 1 hour, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

Transfer the chicken and any intact apple pieces to a serving bowl or platter. Return the pan to the stove, over high heat so the liquid in the pan comes to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons of apple cider and the cornstarch in a small bowl so the cornstarch dissolves, then whisk that mixture into the liquid in the pan.

As soon as the liquid thickens to form a sauce, remove the pan from the heat. Pour the thickened sauce over the chicken and apples. Serve hot.

Apple-Cheddar Mac and Cheese

This recipe is from the US Apple Association.

• Butter to coat casserole, plus 2 tablespoons

• Water to cook macaroni

• 1 1/4 cup dry elbow macaroni (5 ounces)

• 1 1/2 cup small diced, unpeeled, tart green or red apples

• 1/4 cup finely chopped onion

• 2 tablespoons flour

2 1/4 cup whole milk (lower fat milk can be substituted)

• 1 small bay leaf

• 2 1/3 cups shredded sharp white or yellow cheddar cheese (about 10 ounces), divided use

• 1/2 teaspoon dry sherry

• Salt, to taste

• Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

• 1/3 cup plain panko bread crumbs (regular bread crumbs can be substituted)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1 1/2-quart round casserole; set aside.

Cook the pasta in large saucepan according to package directions until al dente. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking; drain well. Return the pasta to the saucepan. Add the apples.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium-heavy saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in the flour; cook and stir for about 1 minute or until fragrant.

Slowly stir in the milk with a wire whisk. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly. Add the bay leaf. Reduce heat to low and cook the sauce for 10 minutes, stirring often.

Remove and discard the bay leaf. Stir in the 2 cups of the cheese and dry sherry. Cook and stir for about 1 minute, or until the cheese is melted. Remove from heat; season with salt and pepper.

Add the cheese sauce to the pasta-apple mixture; gently stir until well combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup cheese and the panko. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes or just until heated through and lightly browned. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 (1 1/4 cup) servings.

Apple-Balsamic Salmon

This recipe makes enough balsamic-apple juice for serving over a rice or barley pilaf. If you prefer less juice, decrease the apple jelly to 3 tablespoons and the balsamic vinegar to 1 1/2teaspoons.

This recipe is from the US Apple Association.

• 4 (12-inch-long) pieces parchment paper

• 4 (4-ounce) skinless salmon fillets, 3/4- to 1-inch thick

• 1/4-1 teaspoon fine sea salt (table salt can be used)

• 1/4 cup apple jelly

• 2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar

• 3/4 cup julienne-cut, unpeeled, Granny Smith or other green apple ( 1/4-inch-by1 1/2-inch-long slivers)

• 3/4 cup julienne-cut, unpeeled Gala or other reddish apple ( 1/4-inch-by1 1/2-inch-long slivers)

• 1/3 cup very thin-sliced and quartered leek (white and light green portion only)

• Rice pilaf, optional

• Course-ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Fold each piece of paper crosswise in half. Cut 4 half-heart shapes 7 inches longer and 4 inches wider than the fillets (the fold edges will be the centers of the hearts). Open each paper or foil heart; set aside.

Lightly sprinkle the salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place each fillet near the center on one side of each heart.

Heat the apple jelly over low heat or in a microwave oven just until melted. Remove from heat; stir in the balsamic vinegar. Spoon the mixture evenly over the fillets. Toss together the apples and leek. Place the mixture evenly on top of the fillets.

Fold the opposite side of each heart up and over the fish and apple mixture. Starting at the top of the heart, fold the edges to seal othe pen sides by making small, tight folds. Twist the tip of the hearts to close the packets. Place the packets on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven for 8 to 12 minutes, until fish flakes easily. (Carefully open the packets to check doneness.)

To serve, cut the packets open by slashing a large X on the top of each, then fold back the paper. Transfer the packets to dinner plates and serve with rice. Or, if desired, remove the fish with the apples from the packets and place slightly on top of the rice; spoon over juices. Season to taste with salt and the pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

Easy Apple-Chicken Curry

This recipe is from the US Apple Association.

• 2 3/4 cups water

• 1 tablespoon light, unsalted butter

• 1 1/2 cups rice

• 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 teaspoon salt, divided use

• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 7 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 6 ounces each

• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

• 2 cups chopped onion, about 1 medium-size onion

• 1 1/2 cups diced sweet red bell pepper, about 1 large

• 1 1/2 cups diced sweet green bell pepper, about 1 large

• 2 large garlic cloves, pressed

• 2 tablespoons curry powder

• 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes

• 1 cup apple cider

• 1 cup chicken stock

• 1/3 cup currants or raisins

• 2 large apples, cored and diced

Bring the water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add the butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt and rice; stir well and return the water to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

Combine the flour, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Slice each chicken breast in half. Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the oil to the pan. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.

Stir in the onions, peppers and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the curry, stirring well. Add the tomatoes, cider, chicken stock and currants. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the apples and chicken to the skillet. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer. Serve over warm rice.

Makes 7 servings.

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