Savory Fried Apples with Onions and Sage, and Sweet Fried Apples with Maple Cream Caramel
To me, fried apples are a seductive herald of autumn. When I've got fried apples sizzling up in the pan, I know that I can look out my window and see the kids crunching through fallen leaves, and maybe even expect to see some flakes of snow.
It seems that there are two camps when it comes to fried apples - those who make them sweet and those that make them savory. But why have them just one way? I'll admit that I prefer the savory version, fried apples cooked up with onions and fresh sage and a heavy dose of black pepper. But sometimes, when I'm craving something decadent, fried apples with maple cream caramel fit the bill.
To make savory fried apples, start by melting a few spoonfuls of bacon grease in a cast iron pan over medium heat. Core and thickly slice your apples. You can peel them if you please, but I like the color in this dish. Once the grease has gotten hot, add the apples and toss them around to get coated. Turn the heat to low, cover, and let the apples cook through.
After the apples become fork tender, turn the heat back up to medium, add a sliced onion and a few tablespoons of chopped fresh sage (powdered works fine, too, but use much less), salt to taste, and a lots of freshly ground black pepper. Then fry up the mixture until the apples and onions start to take on a touch of brown. Finish the dish with crumbled bacon, if you happen to have some on hand. Pork and apples are a natural pairing, so this makes a nice accompaniment to pork chops or roast. But this tangy side also goes nicely with roasted chicken, or a rich roasted squash.
To make sweet fried apples with maple cream caramel, start by melting butter over low heat in a cast iron pan. Add peeled thickly sliced apples, and let them fry over medium-low heat until they become tender and golden brown. Flip the apple slices, give them a sprinkling of salt (and a hit of black pepper if you are cooking for grown-ups), and then drizzle the slices with a few spoonfuls of maple syrup. Let the syrup heat up and glaze the apples, and cook for a minute more.
Next, turn the flame down to low, and add enough cream to just coat the apples. Gently, over low heat, let the mixture bubble away for a few minutes until it turns into a luxurious caramel. Don't be tempted to use too high heat here because the cream may separate (which tastes fine, but looks kind of icky).
So, how do you prefer your fried apples?