Choose Your Own Adventure: Baked Apples with Leeks, Chestnuts and [Vegan or Not Vegan] Sausage

In a fit of domestic rage induced by two large chicken carcasses taking up the majority of my refrigerator, I decided to (in one weekday night) a) make homemade chicken stock, b) roast two pounds of fresh chestnuts and c) create two versions of a restaurant-quality dinner for my boyfriend and I — one vegan, one not vegan — from thin air.  Don’t ask me why.

Luckily, chicken stock is generally content to entertain itself.  Only a few simple chops and a toss in my brand new 12-quart stockpot and she was ready to go until just before bedtime.  The chestnuts, on the other hand, force you to put some skin in the game.  I saw my fingertips pass before my eyes quite a few times as I attempted to score the sides of these stubbornly encased little beauties.  But all-in-all the prep work was simple:

After thoroughly singeing both thumbs, I finally had enough chestnuts to embark on this ill-conceived culinary adventure: Baked Apples with Leeks, Chestnuts, and Sausage (half vegan half not vegan).

With no clear plan in sight but a vision in place, I assembled the ingredients that either a) I wanted to use up (for instance the leftover vegan “meatballs” from my Ash-e Anar experiment several days before) or b) I thought were necessary components (whiskey for deglazing and milk for moisture):

From there it was on the fly.  I prepared the two different fillings at once side by side — one non-vegan for my boyfriend with rice and no sultanas (lovely plump golden raisins that he hates and I adore), and one vegan with no rice and sultanas for me.

An hour of chaotic improvisation later, I was lucky enough to have these surprisingly gorgeous suckers emerge from the oven.  Hers:

And his:

To top it all off, two hours after dinner I had an enormous vat of delicious homemade chicken stock ready for a quick strain and a night cooling outside on the deck.  Despite a few moments of uncertainty and chaos, it was most definitely a successful Monday night.

Baked Apples with Leeks, Chestnuts, and Sausage

(with your choice of vegan or non-vegan filling)

HER VEGAN FILLING

  1. Heat nonstick spray and saute 1/4 of an onion diced until translucent.  Add 1-2 clove garlic minced.
  2. Add 1 small leek (white and light green parts only), washed thoroughly and chopped. Continue to saute until soft (adding more nonstick spray as necessary).
  3. Push leeks to the side of your pan and add about 1/3 cup worth of vegan sausage substitute, breaking into small pieces as it browns.
  4. Once sausage is thoroughly browned and you have a nice fond (the layer of bits that get crusted to the bottom of the pan when you saute things) going, add a dash of whiskey to deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape off all those good bits.
  5. Throw in a handful of sultanas, a handful of roughly chopped chestnuts, and a tbs or two of chopped flesh from your hollowed apples, and 1/4 cup soy milk.
  6. Continue to heat as you season with thyme, parsley, salt and pepper.  Remove from heat when sauce begins to thicken.

HIS NON-VEGAN FILLING

  1. Melt 1 tbs butter in a saute pan.  Add 1/4 of an onion diced and saute until translucent.  Add 1-2 clove garlic minced.
  2. Add 1 small leek (white and light green parts only), washed thoroughly and chopped. Continue to saute until soft.
  3. Push leeks to the side of your pan and add about 1/3 cup worth of sausage (pork, lamb, chicken, maple — or the vegan substitute if your non-vegan counterpart is up for it — whatever you’ve got), breaking into small pieces as it browns.
  4. Once sausage is thoroughly browned and you have a nice fond (the layer of bits that get crusted to the bottom of the pan when you saute things) going, add a dash of whiskey to deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape off all those good bits.
  5. Throw in a handful of roughly chopped chestnuts and a tbs or two of chopped flesh from your hollowed apples (and sultanas if you like :)), a handful of cooked rice, and 1/4 cup whole milk or cream.
  6. Continue to heat as you season with thyme, parsley, salt and pepper.  Remove from heat when sauce begins to thicken.

ASSEMBLE THE APPLES

  1. Preheat stove to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice off top of each apple (I used gala, because that’s what the corner store had) and scrape out the center with a small spoon or melon baller, leaving about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of flesh.
  3. Fill each apple with stuffing, and place in a baking dish.  Add a small amount of water or apple juice/cider (I had no apple juice so I placed the remaining bits of core from the hollowed apples in the bottom of the dish with enough water to cover the bottom).
  4. Bake for 20-30 minutes until apple is slightly tender to the touch.
  5. Serve with chopped parsley and some grated cheese for the non-vegan (I used a beautiful special-release cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland, Maxx 365 – the aged older brother of Scharfe Maxx, a classic creamy, meaty, and tangy treat — but any non-salty cheese will do, such as gruyere or comte).

Enjoy!

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