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Apple and prosciutto pair with Brussels sprouts in this fall recipe

For apple season, here’s a savory way to use the versatile fruit.

Sept. 23 marked the first day of fall, and with it our desire to go all in on everything the season brings. I saw a robust assemblage of squash at my local grocery store the other day; there is no turning back now.

Apples are growing on trees in places that are not Florida, which means our supermarkets are full of different varieties.

The fruit comes in many different sizes and flavors, from the super tart Granny Smith to the very sweet McIntosh to the more mellow Galas, which are ideal for baking. Because of this, apples are extremely versatile, able to be mashed or sauteed or matchsticked to accompany a variety of dishes.

I’m already making plans for caramel-covered apple pie bars later on this fall, but this week’s recipe uses apples in a savory preparation.

Their natural sweetness and crunchy texture make them a natural contrast for salty meats, and for vegetables in the Brassica family — broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

It didn’t take long to get from there to here: apples and prosciutto and Brussels, a holy culinary triumvirate if there ever was one.

The prosciutto represents any sort of porky cured meat, meaning pancetta or even finely diced ham would work just as well. Also, bacon. What you need is the salt and the fat, which helps render apples and Brussels into a flavor bomb of a side dish.

This recipe is simple, even for a weeknight dinner, but there is one trick: Take the time to slice your Brussels sprouts and your apples into relatively equal pieces. The slices should be pretty thin to ensure they caramelize evenly and cook quickly.

Add a dash of autumnal spice to the mixture with cinnamon and nutmeg, and don’t be afraid to drizzle in more olive oil as the pan dries out. You want some nice crispy bits to counteract the soft cooked texture of the apple.

I like to serve this dish alongside more pork, preferably a tenderloin or chops, but it would also work well as its own bowl, maybe dotted with goat cheese or thick shavings of Parmesan. I think it would even make for a fine room temperature side dish at a potluck, kind of a hearty salad.

Heck, you might even consider hosting a potluck, just so you can make this recipe.

Brussels Sprouts with Apple and Prosciutto

Brussels sprouts with apple and prosciutto, served with pork tenderloin. [MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times]

2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and very thinly sliced

Kosher salt

Black pepper

1 garlic clove, grated

1 large Gala (or other sweet, red) apple, cored and thinly sliced about the same size as the Brussels sprouts

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ cup Dijon mustard

¼ cup white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Stack prosciutto slices on top of one another. Cut stack in half crosswise, then layer stacks on top of one another. Thinly slice. Reserve about ¼ of the prosciutto and place the rest in a hot large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil and stir, allowing the prosciutto to get nice and crispy.

Add Brussels sprouts and another 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Let cook for at least 5 minutes without stirring much, so the Brussels get a nice char. After about 5 minutes, add the garlic and stir to distribute the fat from the prosciutto and olive oil. Let cook another 5 minutes.

Add apples and cook, barely moving, until lightly browned and softer, about 5 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste and make sure seasonings are to your liking.

If Brussels and apples are pretty soft, turn off heat and move skillet to a cold burner. If they’re still pretty crunchy, cook for another 5 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, whisk together the mustard, vinegar and maple syrup. With the pan off the heat, add mixture to Brussels and stir gently.

Serve immediately.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times