Is there anything in a fruit bowl more accommodating than the apple? Fresh berries wait for no one. Peaches and plums turn soft and mealy in a few days. The greenest bananas will be covered with brown spots within a week while the apple waits patiently. Even when apples pass their optimal ripeness and you put them in the crisper for just a few more days, they can be used in a tart or made into apple sauce. One of the apple’s most overlooked incarnations is as a cider, which can then be fermented into hard cider.
Apple cider is made when apples are pulverized and squeezed, creating an unfiltered liquid that is then pasteurized. Apple cider tastes great cold from the refrigerator or heated with sweet spices and orange peel in a mug with a stick of cinnamon. Adults can punch it up with some bourbon or brandy for a tasty
Apple cider is also used in sauces, marinades and chutneys for pork, chicken and turkey. It adds sweetness and acidity to these meats whose mild flavors come to life.
In this sweet and sour chicken dish, I use both apple cider and Oregon hard cider. I made a few changes to a traditional Jewish dish that embodies the spirit of Rosh Hashanah with honey, apple and raisins. I like to use boneless, skinless thighs because they have more flavor, but you can substitute boneless breasts. The chicken is lightly fried to give it color and then finished in a tangy sauce with apple juice, lemon zest, honey and a touch of cinnamon. I tighten up the sauce with a bit of corn starch and garnish with toasted slivered almonds for some added crunch. Easy and delicious, this dish will please even the most finicky eater. Serve with rice or a nutty wild rice for a great week-day meal.
((youtube|Home Grown Chef Makes Tangy Chicken Thighs in Apple Cider Reduction with Wild Rice))
6 to 8 boneless and skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup slivered almonds
For the sauce:
1 cup Oregon hard apple cider
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup apple cider
Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 three-inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon corn starch mixed with 1/4 cup chicken stock
Season the flour with salt and pepper. Flatten the chicken thighs gently and dredge in the flour. Shake off excess flour. In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over moderate heat until foam subsides. Add the slivered almonds and cook until golden brown. Remove almonds with slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and set aside. Add the chicken to the hot oil and cook over medium heat on each side until golden brown. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Pour out remaining oil leaving the brown bits in the pan. To make the sauce, pour the Oregon hard cider into the pan and stir to remove brown bits and intensify flavor, about three minutes. Add the stock, apple cider, lemon juice and zest, honey, raisins and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil. Add chicken back to pan, cover and turn heat to low. Allow chicken to finish cooking in sauce, about twenty minutes. Lift chicken from sauce and arrange on platter. Bring sauce to a boil and add corn starch-chicken stock mixture a little bit at a time to bring sauce to desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with almonds.