By A.J. Fusco
It’s my favorite time of year … Fall! Actually, it’s more like my “tied with first” time of year. You see, I love summer too, but only when it is between 75°F and 90°F and I am in close proximity to a beach or pool situation. Yes, autumn has its downsides, like pumpkin spiced everything and the end of garden tomatoes, but who doesn’t love hoodie weather and football?
And while spring gets a lot of credit when it comes to fresh produce, we tend to forget about the abundance of fruit and vegetables that start coming in at the end of September and continue even through winter. The thin-skinned summer squashes move out of the way for the thicker-skinned winter variety such as butternut squash, acorn squash, and pumpkin, which are loaded with vitamin D and beta carotene.
Potatoes also love the cooler temperatures, and the nutrient-packed sweet potato is by far one of my favorites to cook with. This root vegetable is full of fiber and, when baked, gets a little boost in the vitamin C department. Hardy, nutritious greens such as kale, collards, and chard also thrive in these conditions and do well in many “cold weather dishes” such as stews and soups.
But none of these signify fall more than the humble apple! Here in New York, we are blessed to have some of the best apples around, with orchards just a short drive away. Apples vary in taste and texture, ranging from tart to sweet and crisp to soft. They also have tons of antioxidants and a high fiber content, all while being low in calories. I prefer Honeycrisp apples because of their balanced flavor and ability to stay firm in texture during cooking, but go ahead and use Granny Smith or Pink Ladys too!
So, when I decided to come up with a dish using some of these fruits and vegetables, I realized they all taste great together. And no dish exemplifies ingredients working cohesively more than a hash! This hash is great for breakfast with an egg or as a side with some pork chops. Just use your imagination and have fun!
Sweet Potato-Bacon-Apple Hash
- 2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
- 2 apples, cubed into 1-inch pieces (if cutting ahead of time, place cut apple in bowl with water and lemon juice to prevent oxidation; this is strictly for appearance, not flavor)
- 4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch strips (also known as lardon in French cooking)
- Small bunch kale, chopped
- 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. chili powder
- Salt, to taste
- Place bacon lardons in a large cast-iron pan or skillet. Turn on medium-low heat. By placing bacon in a cold pan and gently bringing up to temperature, you will end up with less splatter.
- While the bacon cooks, place the sweet potatoes in a damp paper towel and microwave for 5-7 minutes until they are just cooked through.
- Cut the cooked sweet potato into 1-inch cubes; set aside.
- When bacon is cooked but not crispy, remove to paper towels to drain. Add the sweet potato to the skillet, along with the sage, chili powder, and a pinch of salt. If the skillet starts to get dry, add EVOO as needed.
- When the potatoes start to brown, add the kale and apples along with the reserved bacon. Cook until everything is heated through, taste, and adjust seasoning.
A.J. Fusco started Fork and Hose Company in 2011 by as a way to share his passion for cooking with other firefighters. Over time, it grew to a community of firehouse chefs sharing meals and recipes from all over the world, with a focus on healthier cooking. In 2017, A.J.’s dedication to firehouse cooking landed him on Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” twice, and on his first show he won the Salute to Firefighters episode! A.J.’s passion for cooking didn’t stop in the firehouse! He enrolled at the International Culinary Center in Manhattan in 2016 and graduated Top of the Class in the Professional Culinary Arts program. A.J. has worked in professional kitchens in Manhattan and Westchester since graduating and continues to do so on his days off from the firehouse.