Magazine

Cooking

Savory baked apple recipes

Fillings like pork, bacon, and farro take on the fruit’s subtle sweetness.

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty
Savory baked apples with pork, bacon, and mustard.

During the annual apple-a-go-go that is fall in New England, it’s only natural for the fruit to find its way into all sorts of dishes, both dessert and otherwise. This year I’ve taken to baking apples stuffed with savory fillings. They cross-pollinate in terms of flavor, with the fillings taking on subtle sweetness and the fruit acquiring a savory whiff. I developed the recipes using large Idared and Paula Red apples from local farmers’ markets. Other varieties that would work well include Baldwin, Cortland, Rome, and Northern Spy. Along with a vegetable and a salad, the pork-filled and kale-and-farro-filled apples would make a nice, light autumnal meal.

SAVORY BAKED APPLES WITH PORK, BACON, AND MUSTARD

Serves 4

Using Calvados or applejack makes a difference, but you can substitute brandy or cognac in a pinch.

4 large, not-too-sweet baking apples (about 10 ounces each)

Advertisement

1 large slice whole-wheat or multi-grain sandwich bread, crust trimmed, torn into small pieces

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

1/3 cup half-and-half

2 slices (about 2 ounces) bacon

½ cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 medium)

Mark Schou
TIP: To prep the apples for filling, cut about one-quarter off the top. A melon baller is perfect for scooping out the innards to make them into cups. Leave a ½- to ¾-inch-thick wall all around.

Salt and ground black pepper

Advertisement

½ pound ground pork

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard

1½ tablespoons Calvados or applejack

1/3 cup chopped parsley

Advertisement

1½ tablespoons unsalted butter

Cut about one-quarter off the top of the apples. Using a melon baller, scoop away core and seeds. Continue scooping to create a generous cavity with an even, ½- to ¾-inch-thick wall. Chop enough of the scooped-out apple to equal ½ cup and set aside (save the rest for another use).

With the rack in the middle position heat oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix the bread and half-and-half and set aside, stirring occasionally, until bread is softened, about 15 minutes. With a fork, mash the bread to a paste, and set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat fry the bacon until lightly browned, 4 to 7 minutes. Drain bacon on paper towels, and then crumble and set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Return the skillet to medium heat, add the shallots and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the pork and thyme and cook, stirring and breaking up any clumps, until meat starts losing its pink color, about 1½ minutes. Add reserved chopped apple and mustard and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the Calvados or applejack and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until you no longer smell alcohol, about 1 minute. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Add the pork mixture to the bread mixture, stir to combine well, and cool briefly. Add the reserved bacon and most of the parsley and stir to mix (you should have about 2 cups filling).

Sprinkle the cavity of each apple lightly with salt and pepper, and fill with pork mixture, mounding if necessary. Place filled apples in a baking dish just large enough to accommodate them with an inch of space around each and dot with the butter. Carefully pour about 1/3 cup water into the dish and bake the apples until tender when pierced with thin, sharp knife, about 22 minutes (timing will vary; do not overbake or the apples could collapse). Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve hot.

SAVORY BAKED APPLES WITH KALE, FARRO, CRANBERRIES, AND PECANS

Serves 4

Salt and ground black pepper

1/3 cup farro

4 large, not-too-sweet baking apples (about 10 ounces each)

2½ tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

½ pound lacinato kale, stems discarded, leaves chopped (about 3 quarts, lightly packed)

1 cup vegetable broth

½ cup sweetened dried cranberries

½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar

½ cup chopped toasted pecans

¾ cup grated havarti (about 2½ ounces)

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring about 1 quart of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt and the farro, return to boil, adjust heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until grains are just tender, 12 to 18 minutes. Drain farro (you should have about 2/3 cup) and set aside.

Cut about one-quarter off the top of the apples. Using a melon baller, scoop away core and seeds. Continue scooping to create a generous cavity with an even, ½- to ¾-inch-thick wall. Chop enough of the scooped-out apple to equal ½ cup and set aside (save the rest for another use).

In a small Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter, tilting pan to cover the cooking surface. When the foaming subsides, add onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add kale in batches, cooking and stirring each addition until it wilts before adding the next, about 1 minute between additions. Once all the kale is wilted add 1/3 cup broth, adjust heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until pot is almost dry, about 8 minutes. Repeat twice, each time adding 1/3 cup broth and cooking until pot is almost dry, adding the reserved chopped apple and cranberries halfway through the last 8 minutes of cooking. Add vinegar, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste, stir to mix, and set aside to cool briefly. Add the reserved farro, pecans, havarti, and stir to mix. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, or vinegar if desired.

Meanwhile, with the rack in the middle position heat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the cavity of each apple lightly with salt and pepper, and fill with kale mixture, mounding if necessary. Place filled apples in a baking dish just large enough to accommodate them with an inch of space around each and dot with the remaining butter. Carefully pour about 1/3 cup water into the dish and bake the apples until tender when pierced with thin, sharp knife, about 22 minutes (timing will vary; do not overbake or apples could collapse). Serve hot.

> Variation

SAVORY BAKED APPLES WITH LEEKS AND GOAT CHEESE

Serves 4

Follow the recipe for Savory Baked Apples With Kale, Farro, Cranberries, and Pecans, making the following changes:

1) Omit the farro, onion, kale, vegetable broth, cranberries, and pecans. Increase vinegar to ¾ teaspoon. Substitute ¾ cup crumbled fresh goat cheese for havarti.

2) In a medium skillet (with a lid) over medium heat, melt 1½ tablespoons butter, tilting the skillet to cover the cooking surface. When the foaming subsides, add 1½ pounds leeks, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced, 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, and ¾ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until the leeks begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium-low, cover, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the leeks have softened fully and released their juices, about 8 minutes longer. Add the reserved chopped apple and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes longer. Scrape the leek mixture into a medium bowl, add goat cheese, ½ teaspoon pepper, and vinegar, stir to mix well, and set aside to cool briefly. Add most of 1/3 cup of parsley and stir to incorporate it. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning with additional salt, pepper, or vinegar, if necessary.

3) Proceed with the recipe, filling, baking, and serving the apples (sprinkle with remaining parsley) as directed.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to cooking@globe.com.