Sponsored Post: Happiness Is Cider Braised Pazazz Apples With Coconut “Bacon,” and Garlic

Pazazz apples go savory in this delightful wintry side dish.
Pazazz apples go savory in this delightful wintry side dish.

When I say, “apple,” you say…”pie”?

Chances are you automatically do.

Any way you slice it, there’s nothing wrong with sweet apple pie, especially fresh-baked and still warm. But let’s not forget that apples are also sensational starring in savory fare.

Case in point: “Cider Braised Apples with Coconut ‘Bacon,’ and Garlic,” a fabulous accompaniment to roast chicken, Cornish game hens, turkey, pork loin, sausages, duck or even grilled firm tofu planks.

February is the perfect time to tuck into it, too, since it’s National Cancer Prevention Month. I’m proud to partner with the American Institute for Cancer Research and Pazazz Apples to help spread the word about how apples are high in fiber and antioxidants that can help reduce the risks of some cancers. To learn more about how nutritious apples are and to assess how your own lifestyle choices affect your risk of cancer, go to the informative health check here.

What’s more, those antioxidants also fuel neurotransmitters in the brain that trigger the release of dopamine that boosts mood. That makes apples a veritable “happy” fruit.

Yours truly shopping for Pazazz apples at Safeway.
Yours truly shopping for Pazazz apples at Safeway.

And who wouldn’t want more bliss in their lives, right? All it takes is heading to Albertsons, Safeway, or Vons like I did to pick up some Pazazz apples (about $2.99 per pound), now at peak flavor through June.

These beautiful, bountiful, red-skinned apples with yellow-green striations are full of snap, as well as sweet-tangy juice. A late-season variety, they’re grown by a group of family-owned orchards in North America.

This apple dish is a riff on one for “Cider Braised Apples, Bacon, and Garlic” by Justin Chapple in the November 2023 issue of Food & Wine magazine.

The halved apples get cored before cooking.
The halved apples get cored before cooking.

Cored apple halves are simply seared on their cut sides, then braised in low-sodium chicken broth and apple cider, along with sage and garlic, until tender yet still intact.

The original recipe called for cooking the apples with bacon. But since February is a month all about healthy habits, I decided to swap out the real-deal bacon for vegan coconut “bacon” instead. I added it as a garnish just before serving to keep its crispiness.

Store-bought coconut "bacon.''
Store-bought coconut “bacon.”

Coconut “bacon” is flaked coconut flavored with maple syrup, smoked paprika, black pepper, and liquid smoke. Baked, it is crunchy and chewy with sweet, salty, savory, and smoky notes, as well as a faint coconut taste at the very end. It makes for a quite credible stand-in for bacon — without the cholesterol, but with a whole lot more calcium, iron, and potassium. You can find recipes online to make your own. Or pick up a bag of coconut bacon at retailers such as Whole Foods and Sprouts or via Amazon.

In fact, you could go one further and make this recipe vegan by swapping out the low-sodium chicken broth for vegetable broth instead.

The apple halves get braised in a large pan on the stovetop.
The apple halves get braised in a large pan on the stovetop.

The original recipe calls for small apples. Since Pazazz apples are more ample, I upped the amount of the chicken stock and apple cider, as well as the braising time.

The apples are served with their reduced braising liquid spooned overtop. They are tender, juicy, and possessed of a wine-y sweet flavor just like those in a pie, but decidedly more savory with the garlic slices and the woodsy, subtle menthol taste of fresh sage.

I served the braised apples with roasted chicken thighs and green beans.
I served the braised apples with roasted chicken thighs and roasted green beans.

The original recipe serves 4, with two apple halves per person. Because the Pazazz apples are more generous in size, you could get away with just one half per person. Then again, these are so delicious, it might be a crime to limit yourself to a mere half.

After all, one taste will immediately evoke roaring fireplaces, cozy winter cabins, and plenty of snuggly sweaters — everything wonderful that we love about this time of year.

Apples -- not just for pie.
Apples — not just for pie.

Cider Braised Pazazz Apples with Coconut “Bacon,” and Garlic

(Serves 4 to 8)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 Pazazz apples (unpeeled), halved lengthwise and cored

6 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise

1 sage sprig

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup lower-sodium chicken broth

1 cup unfiltered apple cider

Handful of coconut ”bacon” (homemade or store-bought), for garnishing

Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add apples, cut sides down, and increase heat to medium-high; cook, undisturbed, until well browned, 4 to 5 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to prevent over-browning. Flip apples, arrange garlic, and sage around apples. Sprinkle apples with salt and pepper. Add broth and cider; bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium-low; partially cover, and cook, undisturbed, until apples are tender but retain their shape, about 18 minutes. (Do not flip apples during braising.)

Transfer apples to a serving plate using a slotted spoon; cover with foil to keep warm. Bring cider mixture to a simmer over medium-high; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Spoon cider mixture and garlic over the apples. Sprinkle coconut “bacon” over the top; serve immediately.

Inspired by a Justin Chapple recipe in Food & Wine, November 2023

More Recipes to Make with Pazazz Apples: Baked Frangipane Apples

And: Apple, Brown Rice, Cranberry, Almond & Rosemary Salad

And: Asiago Apple Galette

And: Quick Bread-and-Butter Apple Pickles

And: Cheese Focaccia with Pazazz Apples

And: Williamsburg Wrapples

And: Apple Beehive

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