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Have you jumped on the apple wagon? I recently made more room in my fridge and am happy that I can now return to the apple orchard and stock up on more apples. I’ve declared this the Year of the Apple, or maybe it’s more appropriate to say Year (End) of the Apple, and I am collecting apple recipes left and right. So, this week, I have three savory apple recipes to share with you.

First up, a creamy apple cider chicken skillet. The chicken, the apples and the onions all get cooked in the skillet, though not at the same time. First, you cook the apples and onions until the apples are still firm but cooked on the outside, then you remove them from the skillet. Next, you cook the chicken breasts that have been dredged in flour, then you add apple cider and broth to the pan and simmer the chicken until it is done. At that point, you add the apples and onions back to the skillet and add a hefty half cup of heavy cream, and cook it just a little further until the sauce thickens and all the flavors meld together. It turns out quite pretty, and delicious!

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Next, an easy casserole made with chicken sausage (some brands come with apple already in the chicken sausage, giving you bonus apple flavor), stirred with cubed sweet potatoes, apples, and onions, and then a garlic and herb dry soup mix for a little flavor boost. They bake together at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.

And for the third recipe, a couscous salad with apple, fennel, pecans, pistachios and then this author recommended currants, which I’ve never bought before nor can remember seeing at the grocery store, so I plan to use dried cranberries instead. You give the fennel a nice sauté to help bring out it’s flavor and perhaps reduce it’s crunchiness by a bit, and then you mix all the chunky additions in with the cooked couscous and bring it to life with a curry and apple cider vinaigrette. A good dressing, heavy on olive oil and some vinegar for a little tang, really enlivens a grain salad. This recipe already has pecans and pistachios for protein, but if you add some grilled chicken, it’s easily a full meal.

Enjoy!

Creamy apple cider chicken skillet

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons butter

2 apples, peels on and sliced into 1/2-inch thick wedges

2 onions, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup apple cider or unfiltered apple juice

1/2 cup chicken broth

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1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. In a shallow dish, season the flour with the salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour to lightly coat, shaking to remove excess flour, then set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced apples and onions and season with a little salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the fresh thyme. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the apples and onions can soften and brown slightly. The apples should be al dente - not turned to mush but not too crisp still either. Transfer to a second plate and set aside.

Add the remaining butter to the empty skillet along with the tablespoon of olive oil. Once the butter has melted, place the dredged chicken into the pan and cook over medium heat until lightly browned all over, about 2 minutes per side. Add the apple cider and broth to the pan and heat until boiling. Cover, reducing heat to medium-low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through to 160 degrees on an instant-read meat thermometer, about 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts.

Return the apples and onions to the pan with the chicken and sauce. Add the cream and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cider vinegar and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

Sprinkle with additional minced fresh thyme, if desired, then serve with the sauce, apples, and onions spooned over the chicken and mashed potatoes on the side.

Dump-and-bake chicken sausage, apple and sweet potato casserole

2 sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 onion, sliced

12 ounces fully cooked chicken sausage, sliced into rounds

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 envelope (1.25 ounces) savory herb with garlic dry soup mix

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large baking dish (about 9- by 13-inches) with cooking spray.

In the prepared dish (or in a separate bowl), toss together potatoes, apples, onion, and sausage.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together olive oil and dry soup mix. Pour sauce over potato mixture and toss to coat.

Transfer to baking dish; cover with foil, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Curried couscous with apples and fennel

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups pearl couscous

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 fennel bulb, quartered and medium chopped

1 large sweet apple, cored and diced

1/2 cup currants (or dried cranberries)

1/3 cup pecans, chopped

1/3 cup pistachios, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped

For the curry vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic minced

1/2 cup olive oil

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add couscous and cook, stirring often until lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until the broth has evaporated. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl to cool to room temperature. Fluff to separate grains.

While couscous is cooking, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a skillet and cook fennel for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened, stirring often.

Add fennel, apples, currants, pecans and pistachios to couscous. Toss.

To make the vinaigrette: In a blender, combine apple cider vinegar, curry powder, salt, pepper and garlic and blend to combine. While the blender is running, slowly add the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the couscous and toss to combine. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

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