Last Tuesday was a good day. Well, today is a good day, too. But Tuesday was really a good day, bright, dry, cool but not too cool. It was everything a midsummer’s day should be. Should this one turn out as lovely, I’ll be a well contented man.
We have a little place I call the parking lot out back. It is next to the compost heap, a rickety structure I nailed together about 35 years ago when we moved here. The parking lot was the only place where I could not grow anything at all; a patch of hardscrabble which would have fit well into a Steinbeck novel if it had only been the size of Oklahoma. I bounded it with curbstone I acquired from the Midnight Curbstone Supply Corp., and filled it with the product of my pile of scraps right nearby. Into it went those things I might want somewhere else, hence “Parking Lot”, the odd tree, flower, bush, and occasionally something which we might want to eat or flavor a soup with.
It’s not pretty. It is what it is. This summer, though, it is somewhat more than that. It is a riot of growth, both it and the nearby heap, our own kitchen midden:
The top photo is the compost heap, taken over by two volunteers, a Datura (Moon Flower or Angel’s Trumpets) which probably would win a prize if only in a nicer place and one of four volunteer butternut squash plants. The bottom photo shows one of the squash volunteers which has crept into our little arbor in front of the parking lot. A fine 10 inch long teenaged squash matures on the bench. The largest leaves you see are about 18 inches across. The Datura has about one hundred buds on it. I stopped counting somewhere in the 70′s.
I was out there on Tuesday afternoon past just looking at the place, when I noticed that our tarragon plant, which had itself volunteered from last year, was the largest tarragon I’d ever seen. And, up here, tarragon is an annual. The mere fact that it had returned when we noticed it last April was a great surprise.
Anyway, it was so big I could smell its fragrance. That gave me an idea for supper. So I told Mariellen. Actually I asked her permission for a kind of experiment. She thought a moment and gave me the go ahead.
So, I grabbed some little snippers and went out into the jungle. In a minute of so I was back, un-grabbed and uneaten by the vines and tendrils, un-crushed by the steroid pumped squash, and the proud possessor of the most powerfully fragrant handful of rosemary, thyme and tarragon known to man.
Back in the kitchen I got to work slicing, dicing and chopping. It was easy really. Here’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to braise some skinless and boneless chicken breasts with the herbs, a couple of vegetables and add some steamed potatoes for the evening meal. It was a big hit with me and the Missus.
2 Tbsp chopped tarragon
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp chopped thyme
3 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/3 c. white wine
1 c. chicken stock
4 or 5 skinless/boneless chicken breasts
1/4 c. flour
Heat oil in a large saucepan. Dredge the chicken in the flour and place in the oil over medium heat 3 minutes to a side. Remove and place on the side. Add the herbs and garlic to the oil and cook for about 2 minutes…who knows. Cook the stuff until you think you ought to add the wine. Let that stew a little and then add the stock (or some water and a bouillon cube). After a minute more or so put back the chicken and cook on medium, to medium low until chicken is done. Add the salt and pepper now. After the chicken had been cooking for about five minutes I added some carrots to the pot.
The potatoes were simple. In a sauce pan I put about a cup of water with three sprigs of rosemary and thyme each, and placed the four quartered potatoes on the steamer atop that, salted and peppered them and waited until the chicken was almost finished before taking them off the heat.
Serve with a nice white wine.
For the pot I put in a third cup of something from Chile called Albarino. It was very dry and grassy, herbal almost. We drank a couple of glasses of another white called Torrentes, I think. This was a more full bodied white. Are whites full bodied? Anyway, it was a tougher wine than the one the chickens got to bathe in.
We all had fun.
PS: A long time ago Sheila, may she rest in piece, was visiting me before we got married. She stood and watched my mother take about a half hour (she later said when she told the story) dress three clams for herself, first the sauce, then the lemon, after they had been placed just so on the carefully arranged lettuce leaves with two wedges of tomato on a plate. During that time, my father had gulped down a dozen or so and a can of Rheingold. Dad occasionally drank Schaeffer’s, and on Sunday might have a Ballantine Ale. I never saw him drink wine, ever. He would drink Fleischman’s, though, when he couldn’t drink razors. From them both I learned something about eating and drinking. Take time and use the best.
UPDATE! It is early on Sunday morning, August 11th, just a bit after 6:30am. I strolled outside on the cool morning because I was curious about the Datura…our garbage dump Moon Flowers. There were 22 blooms stretching to the sky greeting morning’s light. The other little plant in one of our backyard beds had produced two, and out front by the drive there were six more. A total then…let me see, as I take off my shoes and sox to count…of 30. Angel’s Trumpets heralding the day. The scent is sweet and lively, and covers most of the yard.