Comfort Me With Apples

I stole the title of this blog post from Ruth Reichl’s food memoir Comfort Me With Apples. This book is the first “food novel” I ever read.

Two years ago, my mom and I waited in line for almost 2 hours at an Ina Garten book signing. To make the wait more interesting, the woman in front of us was a huge foodie and insisted that I read Reichl’s works: Comfort Me with Apples and Tender at the BoneSure enough, two months later I received both books from Santa on Christmas morning. I zipped through these books in a matter of days. I just couldn’t put them down. Reading Reichl’s memoirs was like eating a massive piece of chocolate cake: you know should stop, but it’s just too good to put it down.

I also think it was about this time that I started to consider food writing as a possible career. I was enthralled by the way Reichl transformed food into some sort of higher being. She doesn’t just describe food and its taste, smell, and texture; she develops entire stories and themes around food. I loved the idea that I could take something as universal and biological as food and turn it into my own, unique story. And so began my journey to becoming a food writer…

I still have a long way to go, and who knows how/if/when I will ever get there; but maybe this blog will be a chapter in my own food memoir down the road…

In the meantime, I’ve been in the mood for some New England-y comforting, fall foods during my visit at home this weekend. Keeping theme with Reichl’s book and the bountiful apple orchards in New England, I decided to incorporate apples into a savory dinner. I found a great recipe from FoodNetwork.com that was not only simple and delicious, but also a big hit with my picky family back home: Chicken with Apples, Red Onion and Cider.

After seasoning the chicken and dredging it in flour, I sautéed the chicken breasts until they had a nice brown crust on the outside. I removed the chicken from the pan and placed them on a baking sheet lined with a rack to finish cooking in the oven. In the same pan, I added the apples (I used Macoun, which are similar to McIntosh), red onion, and apple cider vinegar. After the mixture became a little syrupy, I added the chicken broth to thicken it. This cooked for about 10 minutes until it was nice and thick. I added the chicken back to the pan to continue cooking and also to absorb the flavors of the sauce. Off the heat, I seasoned it with some more salt and pepper, and stirred in 2 tablespoons of butter to give it a little more richness and luxuriousness.

On the side, I made one of my favorite fall vegetables: roasted butternut squash. For Thanksgiving last year, I made a vegetable side dish that had a little bit of maple syrup, and it made such a difference. The maple syrup added the slightest bit of sweetness, but also created a nice, brown crust from the caramelization of the sugars. So tonight, rather than just roasting the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper as always, I drizzled some maple syrup and a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg. The squash comes out a beautiful golden color with a few brown spots, where the maple syrup just begins to burn. A sophisticated, gourmet twist on a beloved fall vegetable.

It’s nights like these, making comforting, homey foods and eating with my family, that will inspire me to write my own food memoir some day.

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