Michigan in early Fall is a place of beauty. It only gets better with the cool nights that nip at the trees and turn the leaves to wondrous shades of red, gold, and yellow. Southwestern Michigan is replete with apple orchards. At one time in my life I thought that living on an apple farm was my destiny. I dated a wonderful guy whose family owned an orchard. I became familiar with the seasons of apples, cherries and asparagus. I skipped school with a group of my girlfriends right before graduation in order to help his family bring in the asparagus crop. We got in trouble for our largesse, but our principal, Mr. Smull, understanding the importance of the harvest, forgave our sneaky quest and let us graduate anyway. He was prepared to give us trouble if our Mothers’ wrote an excuse that was not the truth. My Mother wrote, ” Please excuse Penny from school yesterday. She was picking asparagus. Thank you.” I was safe and I have never looked at asparagus again without remembering those innocent days.
Our recent trip to Michigan brought back all of those memories. The trees were laden with apples and the countryside was so familiar. Driving the backroads of my childhood was comforting and meeting childhood friends was enlightening. Who knew that the boy who lived in the corner house on my block and who was four years younger than me had always had a crush on me. He and his lovely wife now live in Traverse City and had come to our get together because he wanted to tell me so. They were both delightful and the kind of people that I would welcome in my house at any time.
Spending time with my brother Bill and SIL Barb was the real reason for our visit. In spite of being my little brother, who showed all of the guys my naked baby pictures, he is special. He is the kind of guy who everyone can count on and has been selfless in his support of and sponsorship of mentally challenged adults. He lost one of those friends while we were there and the support from the community was heartening. Barb cooked for the whole family and I will share one of her casseroles with you next time.
We brought back apples. Not the lady apples in this recipe, but great tart Michigan apples. Apple cider is also one of the products of a Michigan Fall. In honor of Michigan, I cooked this chicken and apple recipe last night. It was delicious.
BAKED CHICKEN AND BACON-WRAPPED LADY APPLES ( Gourmet Magazine)
8 thin slices bacon
12 lady apples (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter) I used 4 small apples
6 chicken thighs with skin and bones
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 sprigs fresh marjoram plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning over once, until edges are lightly browned but bacon is still flexible (it will continue to cook in oven), 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet.
While bacon cooks, core apples, if desired, from bottom, with pointed end of a vegetable peeler or a paring knife, leaving stems intact. Wrap a slice of bacon around each of 8 apples, securing ends of bacon by piercing with stem or using half a wooden pick.
Brush a 3 quart (13-by 9-inch) shallow, baking dish with some bacon fat, then add apples to dish and bake, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat bacon fat in skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook chicken, turning over once, until browned, about 8 minutes total. Transfer chicken with tongs to baking dish, rearranging some apples so that chicken fits in bottom of dish, and bake, uncovered, 5 minutes. Pour sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a measuring cup, pressing on and the discarding solids. Add butter and chopped marjoram to sauce, stirring until butter is melted. Pour sauce over chicken and apples and continue to bake uncovered, until chicken is cooked through and apples are tender, about 20 minutes more. I cooked it longer.