Don’t let Pumpkin Spice steal the spotlight again this fall; there are plenty of other great ingredients to “spice” up your recipes with seasonal flavors! Chef Matthew McClure, executive chef of The Hive Bentonville, shares his favorite flavors of fall, so you can get creative in the kitchen when these ingredients are at their best.
Fall Ingredient No. 1: Apples
Historically, Northwest Arkansas is a huge apple-growing region. Many varieties have been developed here, with the Arkansas Black Apple being the most well-known. After a long, hot summer, the arrival of apples signifies the changing of seasons. My favorite local apple is the Jonathon from A&A Orchard. It has a crisp, refreshing texture, sweet and balanced flavor that is perfect for eating fresh. I use it in salads or as an addition to rich dishes that need a pop of brightness, like Smoked Pork Belly with celery and apples. Check out the recipe here.
Fall Ingredient No. 2: Autumn Squash
We use a variety of these fall squashes throughout the season. I love the way the flavor develops as butternut squash is roasted. That sweet, rich texture loves a little spice from dried chilies. This is my favorite season to cook mainly because it forces you to slow down and let flavors develop.
Fall Ingredient No. 3: Duck
In the Arkansas Delta, millions of migratory birds pass through seeking better living conditions. The locals there claim that it’s the duck hunting capital of the world. Growing up, wild ducks on the dinner table was a real treat. These days, I am in search of different varieties that have been bred to be better table fare. We have been working on our sorghum roasted duck recipe for years at The Hive, and it is one of my all-time favorite ways to prepare duck. When we are able, we get ducks from Across the Creek Farm; they grow a limited amount of ducks that always sell out fast.
Fall Ingredient No. 4: Brussels Sprouts
Growing up, I hated these things. My father would boil the ever-loving crap out of them. As I was learning to cook, I grew to love them. They are absolutely delicious. I can find them at the farmer’s market toward the end of the summer and into fall. Usually left on the stalk.
Fall Ingredient No. 5: Pecans
Fall cannot be enjoyed fully without the addition of pecans. From candied pecans to pecan pie, these magical nuts make for memorable dishes. I have a pecan tree in my backyard which usually yields a decent crop — what I can get before the squirrels do.