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Queens Chronicle

Apples take center stage

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Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2008 12:00 am

It’s time to clear the decks of spring and summer berries and let a harbinger of fall — the apple — shine.

Red or green, sweet or tart, there’s no way to go wrong with a fruit that’s both delicious and good for you. With essential vitamins and minerals, apples can help prevent cancer and cardiovascular problems, as well as osteoporosis.

Relatively inexpensive and with many varieties to choose from, apples may well be the perfect comfort food for a troubled city in the midst of tough economic times.

And as these two recipes show, apples are much more than snacks — or the main ingredient in the most American of pies.

Apples can also delight as an appetizer, paired with butternut squash and pureed into a flavorful soup.

They can also satisfy the hungriest dinner guest as part of a pot of chicken stew, braised in apple cider to create a fragrant and hearty main course. Toss some apples in with the potatoes before they are mashed, and you have a hearty and delicious bed on which to serve a succulent stew.

There’s an excellent chance the combination of sweet and savory in these recipes will be so satisfying, you might just forget about the apple pie.

CHICKEN CIDER STEW WITH APPLED MASHED POTATOES

2 pounds skinless, boneless

chicken thighs, in 1 1/2-inch cubes

1 1/2 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons butter

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

1 cup each cider and chicken stock

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 large green apples, peeled, cored

and thinly sliced

3/4 cup cream

Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add chicken pieces and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add shallots to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté 2 minutes. Add the cider, stock and thyme and increase heat to medium-high, scraping up any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Return chicken to the pan and cover; reduce heat to low and simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, cook potatoes in a pot of salted boiling water for 10 minutes. Add apples and continue cooking another 10 minutes. Drain well and return potatoes and apples to the pot and mash. Add 1/2 cup of cream, 4 tablespoons butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; stir well.

Add remaining cream and butter to the chicken stew and simmer uncovered another 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Spoon the stew over the potatoes and serve immediately.

Serves 6

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND APPLE SOUP

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 each red and green apples, peeled and cubed

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups cider

Heat the butter in a stockpot over medium heat and sauté the onions until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the squash, apples, parsnips, salt and pepper and sauté another 5 minutes. Add the ginger, the cider and the stock, cover and simmer until softened for about 45 minutes. Let cool. In batches, puree the soup in a blender, thinning the soup with additional stock, if needed.

Serves 6

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