Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rain, Honey, Calm - a recipe

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this blog are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel

Some days follow a pattern, a pre-arranged rhythm, and there are days that seem to arrive, a bit hastily, and thrust you onto a treadmill of sorts. There are days when the weather is in sync with your plans, be they to take a walk, drive to work, bake bread, weed the garden or write an article. And there are days when the weather feels quite at odds and threatens to dictate your progression or lack there-of through the ever present to-do list.

The drizzle of rain began in the evening yesterday, and has continued on and off since. The tin light-cover over the front door tangs steadily, or only once a minute, adapting its musicality to the elements. As is common on rain days in this world, the nose to nose traffic is backed up far beyond the kids' school's exit deciding my first move post drop-off: to the grocery store. Thrilling I know, but the necessities were in short supply, so gomasio (Leo won't eat rice or pasta without it), toothpaste, yogurt and some veggies later, I as out the door. Next, the post office; next, the bank; next, the pharmacy; next... why not try on some cute spring fashions? Ugh... pasty white thighs, soft tubby back, and why are all the fashions for nearly flat chested girls? It is indecent for me to be seen in public with so much in view. Oh well, good way to save non-existent cash.

On the way home, one last errand to pick up plane tickets to be handled. I drive the loop up to the bridge, park by the ramparts, tightly behind already parked cars as there are no more real spaces. The trick is to be sure the cars to the other side can pass you. The cars you park behind will simply exit by going down off the curb. Curb parking, either fully, on an angle, just two wheels up on it, etc., is a specialty here. Filou waits patiently, as I trot off umbrellaless to get the tickets. Each year at this time, I'm here at this office, with its personnel whom I've gotten to know, witnessed pregnant, sorting through the complicated task of getting my boys and myself to Michigan (or NY) separately and together. The internet cannot handle unaccompanied minors, but happily, Air France can. I pass in front of many boutiques with expensive and lovely clothes (ouch!) but for some reason, I find the designs in the expecting mommy store the nicest. What does this mean? I'm not planning on a third! Or is it just the lovely way they drape large breasts and a bulging tummy in elegant materials?

Home. Breakfast dishes and the last of yesterday evening's dinner dishes to clean up. But absolutely no energy--or rather desire--to do more. With the rain and mud the kids will no doubt tramp in later this afternoon, it would be pointless to clean. Already the myth of Sysiphus dominates my life: The never ending tasks, always to be repeated once done, a rock to be pushed up a mountain, or house-keeping, take your pick.) The sense of accomplishment is so ever ephemeral, rather like the flowering of the cherry trees. Be fully in the present... as this too shall pass.

And so, I serve myself some lunch, yummy left-overs from Tuesday night's beekeeper inspired chicken. Having known Sophie for so long now, and having a slight sweet tooth, I've borrowed quite a bit of her kitchen style. I kept this chicken recipe relatively simple so that all the kids would eat it, but, one could definitely up the quantities of spices, add some curry, or switch to white wine rather than apple juice, as you please, when serving only grown-ups. It is a short hour prep to table, and the prep is no more than 15 minutes. With the rice cooker steaming beside it, I still had time to get the kids to set the table, pull out a load of laundry, and even read an article in the NYTimes.

Honey Spiced Chicken -- version April, 2009

One free-range chicken

(basically the nicest one you can find -- I am very spoiled by the quality of the grocery store chickens in France. See the label. We are assured of its age -- at least 81 days; its nutrition -- 100% vitamins, vegetable, mineral with 80% of that being grains/seeds; its preparation date; the date by which it should be consumed; the temperature at which it should be kept; and given tracing information in the form of either a numeric code or an address to contact should anything be off. Accountability, traceability, no growth hormones. And I have a choice of over 8 different fowls in any given grocery store, including duck, 5-6 chicken options, guinea hens, turkey legs. And, you can open it on a counter. The fowl do not get automatically water-bathed in France. But, you don't get any giblets, those have all gone to the pâté producers.)

an onion or two quartered
a few cloves of garlic -- in their paper
a couple of apples (can be tired), cleaned, and quartered.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons field flower honey (or buckwheat, or garrigue, one with some flavor)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon tumeric
3 tablespoons tamari
2-3 cups apple juice

I used a large pot with a lid (see photos), a "fait-tout" or dutch oven if you will. Truly the easiest way to cook a chunk of meat, and generally easy to clean afterwards.

Pour the olive oil in the pot, put the flame on high and put in the chicken. Brown on all sides. Add the quartered onions, the garlic cloves whole and in their sleeves, and let sweat. Sprinkle on the spices, spoon on the honey over the chicken, drizzle on the tamari, pour in the apple juice. Cover and let cook over a low flame for 45 minutes (depending on the size of your chicken). Check occasionally to be sure the liquid doesn't boil dry, and top off with some water as needed. It will smell wonderful, and when done, you can literally dismantle the chicken into its parts with tremendous ease.

Erick taught me to carve my chicken into four parts (the breast meat and wings, and the thigs and legs), and then to divide these again to get eight good sized serving portions. It is infinitely easier than carving the white meat in slices.

Serve with a large pot of rice (basmati, or brown as you prefer), and some steamed vegetables.

Then, enjoy the left-overs for as long as there are any.

Feel free to add prunes or oranges, to toss in some leeks, carrots, mushrooms, herbes de Provence... the variations are infinite. As my kids well know.

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