4 large Gala, Rome, or other large baking apples
1 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons nut liqueur
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
4 small cipollini onions, peeled
3 large garlic cloves, skins left on
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup walnuts
6 ounces loose sweet Italian sausage
¼ cup finely chopped celery
4 teaspoons poultry rub (recipe below)
Poultry rub 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 2 tablespoons coarse salt 1 tablespoon rubbed dried sage 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves 2 teaspoons dried marjoram 2 teaspoons dried rosemary (crushed) 2 teaspoons garlic powder 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 teaspoon paprika ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
For poultry rub: Mix everything together. Store in a tightly closed container for up to 1 month.
1. Light a grill for indirect medium heat, about 350ºF
2. Cut the onions in half through their equators, and then toss with the unpeeled garlic and oil in a bowl. Brush the grill grate and coat with oil. Grill the onions, cut-side down, and the unpeeled garlic directly over the heat until the onions are tender and the garlic is charred in spots, about 5 minutes, turning once or twice. Squeeze the garlic from its skins, and then chop along with the onions.
3. Put a large cast-iron skillet or heavy-duty roasting pan directly over the heat. Add the walnuts and toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes, shaking occasionally. Remove the walnuts from the pan and chop.
4. Add the sausage to the pan and cook until lightly browned all over, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and set aside. Add the celery to the drippings in the pan and cook for 4 minutes, stirring now and then. Add the onions, garlic, sausage, and the poultry rub and cook for 1 minute. Scrape the stuffing into a bowl.
5. Cut the apples in half crosswise and remove the core from each half with a melon baller. Put the apples, cut-side up, in the skillet or in a roasting pan. Fill the center of each half with the sausage mixture. Mix together the apple cider, liqueur, vinegar, and sage and pour around and over the apples. Cover the pan with foil and put the pan on the grill away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until the apples are tender, 15 to 20 minutes more.
6. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Drizzle the apples with the cider syrup from the pan and serve.