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Now that we are two months away from having our daughter, I love imagining Abby as a little girl. I see her stomping through the forest behind the house where she grew up. I can picture her playing nurse to her 10 or so barn cats. I see her running around with her brother and sister in her apple orchard. The home she grew up in sits on top of a hill and down a gravel road. We joke that her life growing up was a lot like a country song, and she’s got the cowboy boots to prove it. The whole yard and surroundings are so beautiful that when I asked her to marry me, I wasn’t at all surprised when she wanted to be married by the big oak tree at the end of the orchard.

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This past weekend her whole family got together and picked every possible apple in their orchard. It took all the light hours of a Saturday. They pressed the apples in an old-fashioned cider press and made forty gallons total! The guys filled our five gallon brewing buckets to make hard cider, but we were still left with gallons of unpasteurized, straight-from-the-source apple cider so sweet and crisp it puts anything store-bought to shame. Abby and I have been sneaking juice glasses of cold apple cider four or five times a day since we got home. I’m pretty sure one of us left the cap off after a midnight craving last night too – I won’t imply who though.

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This recipe encompasses as much autumn as I can fit in one meal. There are no flashy colors or restaurant tricks I use here except for some fundamental cooking. Let’s be honest, it’s not the prettiest thing we’ve made, but it’s a great weeknight one-pot meal. It also preaches my favorite rule in the kitchen, cook with what you drink. Go get yourself a gallon of apple cider and get in the kitchen!

Cider-Braised Chicken
{gluten-free}

Serves 2-4

2 chicken breasts (boneless, skin-on)
2 large onions, sliced
4 carrots, sliced on the bias
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
1/2 of one large head of Napa cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon caraway
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of a large, heavy pot with cooking oil and heat over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Add chicken breasts skin side down to the pan and cook for about three minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate while you’re cooking the vegetables.

In the same pot, add the onions and about a teaspoon of salt and sweat for about a minute or so. Next, add all remaining ingredients (except chicken breasts) and give it a good stir. Put a cover on the pot for about two minutes, give it another good stir and cook for about ten minutes. The liquid should reduce at this point. Turn the heat down to low, add the chicken breasts and continue to cook for about another five minutes. You know it’s done when the remaining liquid is saucy, not soupy.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm in low, shallow bowls.

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