The addictive aroma of this recipe will fill your kitchen with the warm scents of fall while you infuse ripe, juicy Honey Crisp apples with the spices of the season.
In the poaching liquid, spicy notes of cinnamon, star anise and cloves join pungent bay leaves and piney rosemary, promising a multi-layered depth of flavor. By adding the flavor-packed apple peels to the pot, Michael captures the sweet-tart essence of the Honeycrisp. Honey underscores the apples’ floral notes, adding a delicate flavor that plain old sugar wouldn’t provide. Meanwhile, mouth-puckering fresh lemon juice adds brightness and balances the sweetness of the fruit.
The wine in the poaching liquid lends an acidic, fermented tang, which also helps save the dish from venturing into super-sweet apple pie territory. A dry Riesling is your best choice here, as its fruit and floral notes echo the warmth of the apples and honey. The dry wine won’t overwhelm the dish with sweetness, but the sugar in the wine and cider makes it possible to reduce the poaching liquid down to a shiny glaze for the duck.
- The perfect poach. Trace the rim of your large, heavy-bottomed poaching pot on a piece of parchment paper and cut out a slightly smaller circle than the one you’ve drawn. This paper circle should fit inside your pot. Placing this custom-sized circle on top of the simmering mixture will ensure that a film does not develop on top of the liquid while cooking. It will also help to keep the apples submerged in the poaching liquid. As long as the apples are submerged, they will cook evenly and won’t discolor.
- Press for success. When straining the poaching liquid, carefully pour it through a fine mesh strainer and press the solid ingredients down with a spatula to force all the deeply flavorful juices through.
- Take it slow. The long, slow cooking time allows the flavors in each ingredient to bloom and meld fully. If you prepare the apples the day before you serve them, be sure to store them in the poaching liquid where they will continue to absorb the flavors of the liquid overnight.
- Fruit flip. Swap out the Honeycrisps for different apple varieties, pears, fresh figs, quinces or slightly under-ripe nectarines. This method of poaching would work well with all kinds of fall tree fruits – just check on the more delicate fruits as they simmer to make sure they don’t overcook and become mushy.
These tools are the ones we find especially helpful when making this dish.
- Apple Corer. An apple corer removes the cores and seeds from apples in one movement. A standard corer is a cylindrical stick that pierces through the center of the apple, leaving the rest of the apple intact. A corer-wedger is a round tool – slightly larger than the diameter of an apple – that simultaneously cuts the apple into evenly sized wedges and cuts out its core with one application of pressure.
- Pastry Brush. A pastry brush looks like a small paintbrush and can be made with natural bristles, silicone bristles or plastic fibers. When reducing sugary sauces in a large pot, always keep a pastry brush in a bowl of water handy. As the sauce simmers, use the wet pastry brush to wash away any sugary specks that splash up against the inner sides of the pot. If the specks aren’t washed away, they form a burnt crust that could adversely affect the flavor of the sauce.
The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish.
Strainer over pot
Small sheet pan with rack
Roasted chicken breast with bacon, swiss chard & poached apples
For a sweat treat, brown some bacon and add diced Swiss chard and finish with some diced poached apples. Serve with roasted chicken breast.