I don't try to keep up with my friends. They are much younger, and they've got jet fuel for blood, I think. Instead, I pause and take photographs. Each time I've been there, it's been a slightly different time of day. Usually morning, but the difference of a half hour completely changes the light. It's interesting how I live by the ocean, and yet I don't take advantage of that often enough. I find myself drawn to walking in places where I don't have to get into the car. Perhaps it's worth the increase in the carbon footprint after all? The smell, the sound, and yes, even the sights are exhilarating.Even though it's whale migration season, I haven't seen any. Perhaps it's time to go out on one of those whale watching boats. I've only done that once, but it was a thrill to cruise slowly next to that gentle giant of the sea. In the meantime, I walk along the shore and content myself with the gulls, and with children signing their works of art in the sand...How do we measure our days? When we have jobs, we know what day of the week it is. We know when it's time to be at work, time for lunch, and time to go home. But what do we know of our days? When we work inside, we don't know much about the changes in the light and temperature that mark the seasons. The earth moves through it's seasons without us. If we shop at farmer's markets, we can get a better sense of the season by what is being offered for sale. It's why I no longer shop in regular supermarkets - except for those occasional things I find so useful, like kosher salt or Dijon mustard. The food which isn't coming from the farmer's market either comes from places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or, on the opposite end of the scale, the Asian supermarkets.
Sometimes the season seems to be dictated by holidays - such as the season for chestnuts. If you want to make something with chestnuts, you'd better get them before Christmas. I hunted for them in 3 different grocery stores this past week and none of them had any. Not even in jars. Which is why I'm glad I had leftovers from the holidays. Because when you're looking to spruce up a chicken with a sauce that's so good it's scary, you just might need chestnuts.
I found a ginormous Rosie chicken at Henry's. It was enough to feed the multitudes. I needed a sauce that was as big as the chicken, and I found one which I doctored. Originally intended as a sauce for a goose, I decided that a bird was a bird, and that this sauce would work well with chicken. It did! The recipe makes more than enough sauce, but it freezes well, so go ahead and make it. You'll be glad you've got it on hand for one of those "ding-dong doorbell, company's here!" kind of days.
Chicken with Chestnuts, Prunes and Cognac
- 1 16-ounce package pitted prunes
- 3 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
- 1 3/4 cups dry red wine
- 1 1/4 cups prune juice
- 1 orange, quartered
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground pepper
- 1 large onion, cut into 8 pieces
- 4 bay leaves
- One large chicken
- 6 tablespoons Armagnac, Cognac or other brandy (I used Courvoisier. Why bother having brandy that you don't want to drink?)
- 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 1 7 2/5-ounce jar steamed or roasted chestnuts
- Chopped fresh parsley
Combine prunes, stock, 1 1/2 cups wine and 1 cup prune juice in heavy medium saucepan. Simmer 10 minutes. Remove mixture from heat. Transfer 12 prunes to small bowl, using slotted spoon.Preheat oven to 375°F. You'll only need half the orange for one chicken. Rub inside and out with cut side of orange. Combine salt and pepper and rub inside and outside chicken. Place orange, onion, bay leaves and 6 drained prunes in cavity. Tie legs together. Place bird on rack in roasting pan, pierce the skin in a few places and pour about 3 tablespoons of the sauce over it.
Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F and roast 30 minutes longer. Continue roasting and basting with wine mixture until done.
Strain prune poaching liquid, reserving prunes. Degrease roasting juices. Add 1/2 cup poaching liquid to roasting pan and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Transfer to heavy medium saucepan. Add Armagnac, remaining poaching liquid and degreased roasting juices. Boil until flavors are intense, about 15 minutes. Knead butter and flour together. Whisk into sauce in small bits and simmer until thick, about 8 minutes. Add poached prunes and chestnuts and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley.I have no idea why the flavors of this sauce penetrated the bird so well. As you can see, I poured the sauce over the bird with the skin on, but the meat was well flavored too. It's possible that this will become my next addiction. I'd better keep those hiking shoes by the door!