Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits

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We may have mentioned it once or twice, but we’re big fans of wine in general and Virginia wine in particular. We used to live in Charlottesville, the de facto capital of Virginia wine country. There are many perks to living in Charlottesville, but definitely one of them is the proximity to the many wines of the Monticello AVA. There are dozens of wineries and vineyards, as well as breweries and cideries within easy day-trip distance from the center of town.

Sadly, we can’t say the same about SC, but we are lucky enough to remain wine club members at one of our favorites, King Family Vineyards, and receive a shipment of Virginia wine every quarter. In our package of wine from them, there’s always a newsletter with vineyard updates on one side and a seasonal recipe on the other side. When we received our shipment last week, this quarter’s recipe caught our eye! Tonight’s dish, with its fall flavors of cider and apples, is inspired by the one they shared with us.

{Relatedly, hit us up if you want to plan a long weekend or a day trip to Virginia wine country! We have lots of suggestions!}

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Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits

Ingredients: 
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, sliced & halved
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 2 persimmons, chopped
  • 1 large tart red apple, sliced
  • 1 12oz bottle hard cider
  • 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 bunch of spinach
Instructions: 
  1. In a large, high-sided skillet, cook the chopped bacon over medium heat. As soon as the bacon begin to release its fat, add the onions and garlic to the pan.
  2. Cover and sweat for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then remove to the side.
  3. Now increase heat to medium-high, brown the chicken thighs on both sides in the remaining bacon fat. Once browned, remove these to the side as well.
  4. Add the fruit to the pan with the bacon and chicken drippings. Cook for just 2 or 3 minutes, tossing once or twice, to get the fruit slightly browned. And then remove these to the side as well.
  5. Now, deglaze the pan with the cider. Stir in the mustard, fish sauce, herbs, and a few shakes of salt & pepper.
  6. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, return the chicken to the pan. Cover and cook for 6-8 minutes.
  7. Remove lid and flip the chicken. Keep the liquid boiling and allow some to cook off for the next few minutes.
  8. Return all of the rest of the ingredients that were sidelined to the dish. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
  9. Serve the chicken, topped with fruit and onions. Spoon some of the cider mixture overtop.
  10. Once the skillet is emptied of these ingredients, place the spinach in with the remaining liquid. Cover and lower heat. The spinach will be ready to serve on the side once wilted, just another two minutes longer.
Serves 6-8

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Slow Cooker Cider Brats

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Fall leaves, looking towards the Blue Ridge Mountains ❤ ❤ ❤

Not going to lie. I’m mildly obsessed with fall. It’s my favorite season. I may or may not have mentioned this in pretty much all of our posts since the beginning of October. Since this is our first fall in South Carolina, I’m learning that fall comes slowly down here. It’s halfway through the month; the majority of the leaves are still green and we’ve hit the upper 80s several days this week! Ho hum. But fall peeks through now and then. We’ve carved some pumpkins. We’ve made and eaten chili. I’ve worn jeans a few times (albeit with short sleeve tops and sandals…) There are decorative gourds topping every surface in our house. Our neighbors are rockin’ some Halloween window decorations and fake spiderwebs. And best of all, we’ve turned off the A/C and had the windows open for several days!!

So when thinking about making some brats for dinner tonight, I logically wondered how I could make them “fall brats.” Because the traditional and perennially delicious, grilled, topped with mustard, peppers, and onions, tailgate brats apparently don’t scream fall loudly enough for me? (Could have something to do with the fact that we don’t have a grill…)

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Peeking in the fridge/brainstorming, I noticed a bottle of my favorite cider.

[Side note: if you have access to Bold Rock cider, you should check it out. They distribute pretty much only in the Mid-Atlantic. As of today, you can find Bold Rock ciders in Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, DC, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. They have a variety of ciders for your tasting pleasure. My personal favorites are the Virginia Apple, which is a bit more tart, thanks to its origins as a Granny Smith apple, and their drier, champange-style ciders. And if you want to make an amazing and low-key road trip out of it, you should check out their Cider Barn in Nelson County, Virginia. It’s a gorgeous (especially in the fall!) and fun place to visit. Even better, you can combine your visit there with a trip to one of the many wineries and breweries in the area! (In all seriousness, if you want some suggestions of places to check out in the area, we love pointing people in the direction of our favorites!) End side note.]

Deciding to combine my favorite, quintessentially fall cider with these brats was an interesting experiment. I wanted the sweetness of the cider, but didn’t want to ruin the brats with a cloying sweetness. Hence the other ingredients. I think it worked out pretty well. For me, it definitely was a new, sweeter flavor profile. It’s interesting that there is still a strong “meaty” taste and smell, that is countered with the sweetness of apple cider. I think the other new and interesting part of the dish for me was the texture of the brats themselves. I’ve never had brats any way other than fresh off a grill or sauteed in a pan. They’re essentially braised in the crockpot, which gives them a softer texture, without that tautness you would normally feel biting through the sausage.

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Slow Cooker Cider Brats

Ingredients: 
  • 5 large bratwursts
  • 1/2 of a large onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 12 baby carrots
  • 12oz bottle of hard apple cider
  • 12oz bottle of ginger beer
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 turns of black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Place your vegetables in the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with the bratwursts.
  2. In a bowl, combine the ingredients from cider through black pepper. Whisk a few times to combine.
  3. Pour liquid over top of brats & veggies in the slow cooker.
  4. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
  5. Serve however you’d like! Throw the brats and veggies on a bun like a traditional brat or serve them with a little bit of the liquid over top rice or lentils like we did. (I wasn’t really intending the liquid to be a “sauce,” which it’s not, but I enjoyed topping my bowl off with a bit of it.)