Monday, March 7, 2011

Winter Apples: Let Me Count the Ways

Crispy, creamy, in five or six different storage varieties, apples are one of the best things about Somerville's winter farmers' market.  I have had fantastic fresh local fruit all winter.  No more need to buy those tasteless exotic imports.  No more excuse to try anything but apples.  They are piling up on the counter, in the fruit bin, in my backpack, in the tupperware I take back out of my son's lunchbox at the end of the day.  I think we are starting to understand how Frances felt with all of that bread and jam. 

But a few extra minutes of slicing and a little creativity can shift those apples from a centerpiece that has lost its luster to a hint, a tease, a suggestion...

Winter Apple Salad
serves 4

Last winter, I wondered about just giving up on salad till Spring.  This winter, along with apples the winter farmers' market has greenhouse lettuce, fresh and local every week. 

1 package winter lettuce mix (the cold-loving lettuces are dark and rich, perfect for this salad)
1 apple
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts (the only non-local ingredient!)

Toast the walnuts by spreading in the bottom of a pan, ideally cast iron, over a medium heat and tossing frequently for 10-15 minutes.  Core and slice the apple (do not peel), then cut the slices crosswise into short and wide matchsticks.  Sprinkle the apple, cranberries, and walnuts over the lettuce.

Dress with a white balsamic-walnut oil vinaigrette:

1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar (local apple cider vinegar is a good option if you don't have this)
1/8 cup walnut oil (you can use olive oil too)
1/4 tsp. stone ground mustard (Sherman's Market in Union Square has some from Maine)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, whole but gently smashed to remove skin and release flavor
1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Combine the dressing ingredients  in a glass jar with a good lid and shake well to combine.  Use desired amount and store remainder in fridge for up to 2 weeks. 

Apple-Stuffed Roasted Chicken au Jus
serves 4

1 4-5 lb. chicken
1/2 apple
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic
3 sprigs grappa-soaked tarragon (or other herb)

Fresh tarragon soaked in grappa for about 3 weeks makes a just barely flavored and wildly, brilliantly colored digestif.  After 3 weeks, you should take the tarragon out of the grappa.  It will then save almost fresh for several months in the alcohol fumes, and can be used in any chicken or fish dish where you'd think to use tarragon for all of the fresh herb flavor plus a secret extra something.

Preheat oven to 500.  Wash chicken.  Rub well all over with salt and pepper.  Place apple half, garlic cloves, and tarragon in cavity.  Set in a roasting pan surrounded by about 1 lb small potatoes (I used the last of the little ones I got from Red Fire Farms in the Fall - about the size of fingerlings or new potatoes but actually just the runts from their last harvest- I had to pull off a few sprouts, but they were still perfect!) and 4-8 shallots.  Roast 60 minutes.  Remove chicken from oven, remove everything from pan and cover with tin foil.  Set roasting pan over flame on stovetop.  Add 1/2-1cup chicken broth.  Scrape drippings off bottom of pan, bring to a boil, and let simmer 10-15 minutes.  Serve in a gravey turreen, like you would the "jus" from good steak.

1 comment:

Devouring the Seasons said...

This sounds fantastic! Very jealous of your year-round farmers' market. In our neck of the woods, come October we're pretty much on our own for produce. Don't take those apples for granted!