Slice them, dice them, roll them in dough: great fall recipes start with tart apples

October 21, 1992|By Jimmy Schmidt | Jimmy Schmidt,Knight-Ridder News Service

This year's cooler-than-normal temperatures mean the fall apple crop will be smaller and more tart than in years past.

In desserts, of course, we can add sugar to compensate. But we also can use these tart apples in savory dishes.

Apples impart a rich, winey tone to the likes of duck, pheasant, poultry and even the red meats of lamb, beef and game. Apples stand up to sauteing, roasting, grilling and even frying. The firm texture becomes more like a starchy vegetable than a tender fruit.

Cooked apples can be silky with a delicate texture or seared crunchy on the outside with a soft, firm center or even extra crunchy. Go for a texture that accentuates the main ingredient of your dish. For example, for a crunchy breast of duck, choose a technique that will give you a silky or delicate apple.

The most common techniques are:

* Sauteing, in a broad skillet or saute pan over high heat. For a crisp texture, add the apples without crowding to a very hot pan with just a touch of canola or corn oil, cooking to lightly brown the edges, about 3 or 4 minutes.

This works best with diced apples, because heat is applied quickly to all the surfaces. You also can use sliced apples, but they will need to cook longer for the texture to change from raw to merely crunchy.

When done, quickly transfer apples to a strainer. If you don't, the pan juices will soften the crunch.

* For a softer textured apple, modify the technique. Sear over high heat to brown the apples slightly, then turn down the heat to allow them to cook thoroughly. Depending on the variety of apple you're using, some juice may be released. The juice can be reduced to just coat the apples, or it can be collected and added to your sauce.

If the apples brown too much, even at lower temperatures, add a splash of cider, white wine or even water. It will enhance the silky texture as well as the flavor.

You can increase the browning by adding maple or granulated sugar. The sugar also will brown and cling to the apples. Add just 1 tablespoon to a 12-inch saute pan to get the best results. To balance the additional sweet flavors from the sugar, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of cider or red wine vinegar to the pan in the last few seconds of cooking.

* Frying, in wedges or diced in the form of fritters. Select apples with low moisture so the batter clings during cooking. High-moisture apples will release their juices and result in soggy batter, which may fall off the apple. The apple wedges or rings should be about 1/4 -inch thick so they will cook in the same time as the batter. If you want thicker slices, precook by sauteing, then lightly bread and fry. Fry in lighter oils such as canola to allow the natural apple flavor to come through best.

* Roasting. Whole small apples and edible crab apples are terrific when simply oven-roasted in their skins. They may be served whole, glazed with accompanying sauce or dusted with complementary spices in the last minutes of cooking.

The whole roasted apple can be cored easily from the bottom, stuffed with a wild mushroom ragout and served with the apple shape preserved. The presentation is a showstopper, and the ragout inside will surprise your guests halfway through the meal. Whole apples may be stuffed before baking, but the internal temperature is too low to do much more than warm or melt soft cheese. Stuffings that contain poultry, meat and associated juices should be avoided, because of potential bacterial contamination.

Apples also can be cut in large wedges, tossed in a little light oil or butter, seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh herbs then roasted in an oven heated to 400 until browned and tender -- just like potatoes. Stir occasionally to ensure even browning and cooking. Do not cover with foil or the apples will steam and taste quite boring.

Although savory apples stand on their own, they are great additions to your favorite recipes. Try a puree of celery root and potatoes with the addition of applesauce. A puree of apples and a jolt of cider will pick up just about any savory sauce. A compote of seared apple will add flavor and texture to your next potato, gratin or escalloped. Although not as starchy, apples can go just about anywhere a potato goes. Try a few apples in your next pot of leek and potato soup, better known as vichyssoise.

This autumn, discover the more savory personalties of apples. ,, The flavor combinations are limited only by your imagination.

Apple fritters Makes 18 fritters

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup red onion, diced

2 cups of apples, cored, peeled, diced

1 tablespoon superfine sugar (substitute granulated)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup chopped scallion greens

2 egg yolks

2/3 cup of milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks

corn oil to fry

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the butter over high heat. Add onions, cooking until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the apples and sugar, cooking until lightly browned

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