This is a good time of year to be an apple lover in Western New York. While it wasn’t the best year ever for apples due to a late frost and weird weather, apples are still just about everywhere and I call that a very good thing. Roadside stands, farmers’ markets, and even grocery stores are carrying apples that are just about as good as if they were just pulled from the trees. Apples in October are second to none.
Everyone knows how good an apple tastes fresh or dunked into caramel dip, but so many people are missing out on one of my favourite food combinations; fried apples and onions with kielbasa. I was first introduced to fried apples and onions as a kid when I read ‘Farmer Boy’ by Laura Ingalls Wilder. One of Almanzo Wilder’s mom’s specialties was apples and onions fried in bacon grease. It was, in fact, Almonzo’s favourite dish. I didn’t get past that page in the book before I begged my mom to whip up a pan full for us.
It was every bit as good as it sounded on paper. From that day on, it’s been one of my favourite dishes, too… best served when apples are still explodingly crisp and fresh and hold up well to a little time in a hot pan. In my own home, I started frying cubed, garlicky kielbasa in the pan before adding the apples and onions and found that it turned a well-loved side dish into a better-loved main dish. This is one of those dishes that smells so good while it cooks that people congregate in the kitchen peeking at the contents of the pan, trying to sneak bits of sausage from the top of the pan and drooling like Pavlov’s dogs.
There’s something so special about crisp-about-the-edges kielbasa with tender, sweet apples and meltingly tender onions. I lack the vocabulary to explain just how perfect the dish actually is. It’s salty, sweet, garlicky… it’s wonderful.
You have options on how you want to serve it, provided you can keep folks’ forks out of the bowl long enough to get it to the table. Our preferred method is to whip up a batch of mini puff pancakes… (the basic Pannukakku recipe here, but poured into generously greased muffin tins instead of a big pan.)
The soft, custardy puff pancakes sink a little in the center when fresh from the oven, making them the perfect vehicle to hold all those little deep-brown bits of sausage and tender apples and onions.
They soak up all the good sausage grease that might otherwise make an escape. I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you, though, that the stir-fry is equally delicious piled on top of hot egg noodles or fresh, hot rice. Any way you serve it, you’ll feel warm all over. Happy autumn!