For much of my life, autumn has felt like a beginning to me. Starting with grade school, fall marked the start of something new. A new year, with fresh school supplies, new clothes, new classes – and sometimes, new schools (we moved a lot). After college, I taught for a number of years – first elementary, then college – and that autumnal sense of renewal stayed with me. Now, I get that same sensation in the kitchen when September rolls around.
Summer heat is on the wain, at least here in Chicago. The air conditioner can go off, the stovetop and the oven, on. More important, we’re feeling like cooking – and eating – again. Marion baked over the weekend, a delicious cake that will get tweaked and baked again, then show up here. And I made the chicken dish you see above.
Another thing that changes with the season is what’s available in the produce market. We still on the cusp right now, with the last of the berries and stone fruits still beckoning. (Wasn’t this a great year for plums?) And in the nascent garden of our new old house, three little basil plants suddenly took off and are now waiting to be converted to many, many batches of pesto to be frozen for winter meals. But apples are seriously back, in all their bounty and variety.
As I’ve said here before, I’m not an apple eater. Picking up a shiny, crisp apple and biting into just doesn’t work for me. Cooking with them, though, is an entirely different story, especially with savory dishes. They lend a mix of sweetness and slight tartness, while absorbing the umami of the savory ingredients.
With this recipe, capers amp up the tartness, while taking on a bit of the apple’s sweet flavor, a delicious balancing act. Rosemary and a shallot round out the ingredient list – well, and some flour, salt, pepper and oil. Pretty simple. If you don’t have shallots on hand, use an onion and add a little chopped garlic.
This dish starts on the stovetop and finishes in the oven. Its aroma as it cooks is a nice welcome to autumn. So is the flavor.
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Apples and Capers
1 or 2 apples, sliced into thin wedges (see Kitchen Notes)
1 large shallot, sliced
1-1/2 tablespoons capers, drained but not rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided (plus more, if needed)
4 good-sized bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 8 ounces each
salt and freshly ground pepper
flour for dredging
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh coarsely chopped rosemary
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine apple slices, shallot and capers in a large bowl and toss gently with 1 tablespoon of oil to coat. Set aside.
2. Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs and season them generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Dredge in flour, shaking off any excess. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high flame. Place the thighs skin side down in the skillet and brown until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn thighs and brown slightly on the other side, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat under the skillet and transfer thighs to a plate.
3. Add apple mixture to skillet. Season with salt and pepper and add half the rosemary. Gently stir to combine ingredients, making sure apple slices are coated with the rendered chicken drippings in the pan, drizzling in a little more olive oil, if needed. Nestle the chicken thighs, skin side up, in the apple mixture. Sprinkle the remaining rosemary over the pan, concentrating on the chicken pieces.
4. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. An instant read thermometer should register at least 165 degrees F when inserted in the thickest part of a thigh. About halfway through, baste the chicken and apple slices with pan juices.
5. To serve, place chicken thighs on individual plates, spooning the apple mixture on and around the chicken. We served this dish with garlicky mashed potatoes and a mixed greens salad.
How many apples? What kind? Any good eating apple will work. I used a large Gala. Fujis would work, as would many others. Don’t use a red delicious. Don’t buy them. They are awful, bred purely for appearance and shelf stability. If the apples you choose are large, one may well do. For smaller apples, use two. And honestly, if I had used one and a half of the nice, big Galas I had, it would have been a good call.
Related post on Blue Kitchen: Roast Chicken Breasts with Mustard and Sage