Fall is finely here, and nothing says fall quite like apples—unless, of course, we’re talking about apple picking.
Halloween is also creeping up on us, which takes my thoughts down a dark and stormy path. When I was thinking of something fitting for fall, but also spooky enough for the holiday I thought about apple picking. It might sound strange, but when I lived in Michigan I lived down the street from a very popular orchard that, in addition to drawing in droves of people in for apple picking, also hosted an annual haunted house and orchard.
Anyone that has gone apple picking, or has apple trees for that matter, knows the feeling in the dark dusk of sunset when you step on a rotten apple that’s fallen from the tree. Hard enough to feel the core through the bottom of your shoe, but deteriorated and decomposing in plain sight, it’s something to expect this time of year. Naturally, this served as my inspiration.
The apples here aren’t actually rotten, as you may have guessed (duh). They’re cored, stuffed with mealy and wormy looking ground pork—among other flavorsome ingredients—before being roasted in the oven until soft and tender. They start to look wonderfully anemic—fanciful, in a way, like they’ve been airbrushed.
I use a melon baller to hollow out the apples. You want to leave around ¼” of apple left of the sides and just slightly more on the bottom (but, it can be a little hit or miss for me on how much I leave on the bottom). Honeycrisps work extremely well because, aside from their great flavor, they retain their shape extremely well when cooked this way. As for the pork “stuffing”, I cook it prior to filling the apples with it to ensure it cooks thoroughly, without turning the apples into complete mush. With some sage and cranberries, and just enough breadcrumbs to hold it together a bit, it tastes like a mouthful of fall. I save the cored bits of the apples, puree and strain them, and use them to make a bit of a gravy for the apples, though you could use apple cider if you want, but I can’t let these autumnal offerings go to waste, even if it is just the core.
You can serve these halved, to reveal the rot and worms within, as part of meal—if you’re one for dinner party dramatics you could cut them open at the table for a big, gross reveal—or whole as a main course, in which case I favor a side of fall fare to go along with. I like a Brussels-Kale Salad—de-rib and finely shred a small bunch of kale, and massage it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle of salt for about 5 – 7 minutes to soften in. Finely shred some Brussels sprouts, by hand or mandolin, until you have roughly equal parts of sprouts and kale. Zest over a little lemon and another glug of extra virgin and toss together gently with your finger tips. Squeeze in a bit of lemon, check for seasoning, and transfer to a serving bowl. You can scatter over walnuts, pomegranate seeds, both, or neither. Best of all, it can be made a few hours in advance.
If you’re looking for a little campy with your creepy, you can’t fail with these Rotten Apples—and just imagine telling everyone, once they get to your house of course, that for dinner they’ll be eating Rotten Apples. Trick or treat!
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