Friday, August 06, 2004

I once had a lover that smelled of savory herbs.

She loved the feel of earth between her toes. I would often find her in the garden, her soft curvy frame covered in a light summer dress and little else. I remember she always had bits of earth under the nails of her strong, tiny hands as she coaxed life from even the most barren of soils. We would often make love in the garden, on warm summer evenings surrounded by the flowers.

I believe that every lover has something to teach us, that is if we are willing to listen. She taught me the art of the cook. Granted up to this point I considered myself a pretty good cook, competent and not afraid of the kitchen. Good, but not great. Skilled but not yet a master, for that I needed a guide a mentor as it were. It was she how threw out my collection of mediocre knives and replaced them all with a single, perfect blade. It was with her I learned the art and timing of herbs, how to add a spice by smell and feel. Now when I walk into a nursery, I close my eyes and inhale the aroma of the plants. When I look at fresh vegetables I don’t see peppers and carrots, I see colors and textures.

As I type this, watching the rain feed the rosemary bush we planted together so many years ago, I wonder what I am teaching those who call me lover?

Yes, we are all a composite of every lover who came before.

This is my favorite dish we used to make together. The first meal I ever cooked in my now priceless Le Cruset pot. A fantastic show piece meal if you want to impress company.

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 6 boneless skinless thighs (less expensive and just as good)
40 cloves of garlic peeled, whole. 3 or 4 heads will do. Use the freshest best you can afford.
Dash Salt
Dash Pepper
½ tablespoon Thyme
½ tablespoon Rosemary
2 cups white wine
Large handful fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 375
You will need a heavy pot that can go from stove top to oven. Something with a good, tight lid.

On stovetop, heat oil in pan. Brown the chicken on both sides, maybe 5 minutes max, and then set aside. Toss the garlic in and brown. You do not want to sauté the garlic, just get it nice and golden brown. Once brown place the chicken on top of the garlic, add the wine, salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary. Cover and place in oven. Cook aprox 45 min. You will know it is done when the chicken is falling apart and the garlic is soft and buttery tasting.

Serve with mashed red potatoes and crunchy chiabata bread. Sprinkle the parsley over the chicken and use the bread to soak up the rich sauce and spread the garlic. I like to serve this with a nice honey dill glazed carrot. The green of the parsley, the orange of the carrot, the reds of the mashed potatoe make for a visual feast

This is a great dish for when company is coming over; they will be welcomed into a home full of the rich aroma of roasted garlic and chicken.

And the next time you find yourself in the arms of a wonderful lover, be sure to say a silent thank you to all the lovers who came before you.