Fall has fallen, the autumn leaves are turning, pumpkin spice has hit the shelves, and Halloween candy is finally fading as a major food group in many households. Which also means it’s (still) apple season.
Heading to a local orchard for apple picking is a rite of fall for many, as is overbuying at the farmer’s markets. And at a certain point, there is only so much applesauce, apple butter, and apple pie that one person can stand.
But the lovely thing about apples is that the same sweetness that can be heightened with caramel and warm spices can also be tempered with savory ingredients. Whether it’s adding grated apple to a butternut squash soup or chunks of apple to a rice pilaf, this fruit can be something of a switch-hitter if you want it to be.
One of my favorite desserts has always been baked apples. Stuffed with nuts and dried fruit, enhanced with spice and enriched with a little butter, baked in a golden puddle of apple cider, it is a dessert that always landed in a deeply comforting way for me. But nothing was more of a terrific surprise than when I realized baked apples could also go savory. Do you like applesauce next to your pork chop? Think about a baked apple stuffed with sage and cornbread stuffing next to that same chop. Can you make a meal of stuffed peppers or tomatoes where slow roasting enhances the natural sweetness of the vegetables? The same stuffings that you love in those recipes can often be used interchangeably in a hollowed-out apple.
My favorite savory baked apple is a meal in itself. Stuffed with a combination of Italian hot sausage, cooked rice, parsley, and Parmesan cheese, this is a hearty apple that only needs a small green salad to be a complete lunch or can sit alongside roasted chicken as an amazing side dish. Savory baked apples are a wonderful buffet dish or holiday option, and you can multiply the recipe up nearly indefinitely.
Makes 4 apples
- 4 large tart baking apples, washed and cored and hollowed out, leaving about one inch of apple all the way around
- 2 hot Italian sausage links (or mild if you don’t want the spice) removed from their casing
- 1 cup cooked white rice
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 slice soft white bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
- 1 cup chicken stock (or white wine, beer, or cider)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine the sausage meat, rice, Parmesan, and parsley until well mixed. Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk until fully absorbed, then add to the sausage mix to lighten it up. Divide the stuffing among the apples, being sure to stuff all the way down to the bottom.
Place the apples in a baking dish just big enough to hold them. Pour the stock (or other liquid) into the bottom of the pan and cover the pan with foil. Poke a few holes in the foil to let steam escape and bake for 25 minutes covered.
Remove the cover and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes until the sausage stuffing hits 175 on a meat thermometer and the apples are tender but not mushy, and the tops are slightly browned. Serve hot.