Spicy chicken braised in apple cider.
It’s winter in Israel right now. A forceful, cold wind alternates with sudden showers. In the street, people struggle to keep their umbrellas upright while the wind plays havoc. At home, our two cats took a quick turn around the porch this morning and scooted back inside. They’ve wisely decided to hibernate for the duration and are napping on the sofa, dreaming their cat dreams. I look out the window as the day darkens and think of something spicy for dinner, something with curry. That would make a bright spot in the evening. My chicken marinated in apple cider and curry.
Making cider is about the same as making wine. You need to press the juice out of the fruit and ferment it with yeast. Experienced in home-brewing wine and mead, I tried making cider once. But I confess it was a muddy, flat disaster. I’m happy to bring home a six-pack of those small bottles from the supermarket these days, although it’s imported.
Only three or four breweries make apple cider here. Israelis haven’t started taking it seriously yet, although we certainly grow enough apples for cider up in the Golan. My favorite brand, Side Effect, makes a delicate, not-too-sweet alcoholic cider. Talking to the brewery manager at the Beers festival in Tel Aviv last summer, I was glad to learn that Side Effect does the eco-friendly thing and donates the leftover apple pulp to local farmers for enriching their compost and feeding to their goats. One more reason to like local.
But for the chicken. I have Granny Smith apples and a large sweet potato, which will cook alongside the chicken and contribute more subtle sweetness to the dish. A tomato, onions, garlic and herbs. I’ve often made this chicken with 1 tablespoon curry powder, and that’s a good option, but I’ve been experimenting with commercial curry pastes recently. I didn’t expect much from them, but was pleasantly surprised at the flavor and quality. Note: you may substitute a semi-dry white wine like Emerald Reisling for the cider, and it will be good…but definitely different.
The smell in the house while this dish is cooking is divine, and you need only rice and a steamed vegetable or salad to accompany it. Special enough for Shabbat, it keeps well on the hotplate while waiting for the family to assemble and sit down.