Recently I cobbled together some surprisingly delicious new recipes that were so yummy and easy I thought, hey, I should share these! Both were inspired by the aging Fuji apples on my counter, though the results couldn’t have been more different. The first, a spicy apple chutney, helped me make use of my homegrown Walla Walla onions and serrano peppers, while the second was a sweet and fluffy apple pancake. Hmmmm…. I wonder if those would be good together? Okay, well before I get sidetracked, let me tell you about my new love affair with chutney.
As with most of my cooking experiments I’m sure the chutney was influenced by chefs I admire, blogs I read and maybe even a Chopped episode. Chopped makes the most sense because, if we’re being honest, apples, onions and chili peppers sound like they’d be fairly disgusting together. Yet somehow it sounded familiar… and it sounded like a good idea! Believe it or not, it was.
After perusing the interwebs and discovering that this combination of ingredients was a real thing I went for it. I ended up dicing two peeled apples, one onion and one serrano pepper. I put these in a stainless steel pot, added about 1/4 cup each of apple cider vinegar and apple cider and brought it to a boil. As it simmered I added random stuff I had on hand – grated ginger, cinnamon, brown sugar, dried cranberries, thyme, lemon juice, lemon zest – something like that. I lowered the heat and let these simmer for about 45 minutes, giving the flavors a chance to meld and the liquids to reduce down and thicken.
The resulting flavor was intense! The cooked apples and onions gave it a tangy sweetness tempered by the acid zing of the lemon juice and vinegar. Heat from the ginger was a little sharp on the front end while serrano came on slowly, offering a nice sizzle at the end. So it tasted really good but, beyond that, the house smelled amazing!
I was super excited to eat it and also to use the enameled cast iron Le Creuset gratin dish I scored for free at a garage sale (yeah, I’m bragging). First I seared pork chops in the cast iron on the stovetop. I then filled all the empty space with chutney and put it in the oven. Ten minutes later we had juicy chops and a sweet, spicy, salty sauce to smother them with. I so wish I had a photo to share but there just wasn’t time. Those smothered chops barely hit the plate before we found ourselves licking our fingers and utensils clean. Later that week we used the last scoop of chutney on a turkey and manchego sandwich, which perked it up nicely.
Since then I’ve been wanting to experiment with other flavors so when I needed a vegetarian appetizer for a party I decided to make chutney with cheese. I used a heavily modified version of this Roasted Pear Chutney from Epicurious, which must have a typo because no way can it reduce down in 5 minutes, more like 45. I made other adjustments based on my pantry – yellow onion instead of red, brown sugar in place of maple syrup and added a little white wine, dried cranberries and half a Fuji apple, diced.
What’s so nice about this recipe is that while the pears are roasting the rest of the ingredients are simmering away becoming delicious. My pears were not very ripe so they cooked for an hour at 350F during which time the chutney reduced beautifully. When the pears were done I chopped them up and added them to the saucepan. I decided to let them simmer covered for another 15 minutes to let the pears soak up the yummy juices. I will say that it’s really tasty, but excessively sweet (much more than my apple chutney) so I would probably reduce the sugar by half next time, maybe skip white sugar altogether. But hey, what are the holidays for if not abusing our bodies with copious amounts of sweets?
And in case it wasn’t already decadent enough, I then spread it over cream cheese. Lite cream cheese, but still. I was half wishing I had bought brie instead to balance the sweetness of the chutney, but it’s good I didn’t as the hostess had the same thought and served a warm brie with… you guessed it, chutney. Ah well, what are you gonna do?
Now that I’ve got two chutneys under my belt I’m feeling confident that a great chutney can be made with nearly any combination of fruit, sugar, acid, spices and heat. This is my kind of cooking – seasonal fruit, random pantry staples, little to no measuring, lots of room for experimentation. It’s probably my new favorite condiment!
And now that I’ve spent far more time than anticipated gabbing about the wonders of chutney I think I’ll save my Apfelpfannkuchen for another post. Keep an eye out, it’s a goodie. In the meantime if you’ve got a favorite chutney recipe scribble it down in the comments, I’d love to hear it!
Coming soon: Apfelpfannkuchen (because some things just sound better in German)