Of all the fancy kitchen terms, “braise”, I think, just might be my favorite cooking word around. And one of my favorite words in the English language. It’s a slow and lazy word, luxurious, full. To braise is to have something utterly amazing in the end that yields results far exceeding this unfussy, simple way of cooking. Braising is the antithesis to dry and boring; it is comforting and welcome no matter the season. When I see the word on a menu, I know that time has eased my food into something that falls off the bone, comes apart with a simple pull of the fork, something that’s been coaxed into a delicate state.
There’s something about braising that calms me as well. When my mind is racing and unquiet, when I am over-thinking (which is something I do a lot), braising somehow makes me slow down and take a breath. There’s something soothing about having a pot in the oven slowly applying heat to whatever it is being cooked, patiently transforming it into a dish. Time and heat and patience. And the smell that fills the house with a sense of home, as if saying “Welcome, here food is cooked with care and love. Stay awhile.” I love that feeling. If I could bottle it, I would give it out to everyone I know. There’s no feeling like it.
Could it be that making a trans-Atlantic move at the age of eleven did it? That sense of childhood home is something I can’t even recall. And moving around so much with boarding school and college and then in New York – home is something you make and create, especially in our fluid world of transient apartments, shifting jobs, career changes, or just a desire to pick up and go somewhere new. What anchors us and makes us feel safe, or at least for me, are meals we make at home. Somehow and apartment, devoid of furniture and pictures and personal mementos, becomes a home the minute you turn the stove on, the minute you set a place setting for yourself, or for others. Home is something you carry with you and the memories you make yourself.
Last Sunday, I had friends over for a Sunday supper. I like these Sunday suppers. They are our way of easing into the work-week. They let us talk and laugh and share. I wouldn’t trade these supper for the world. But in addition to the warmth and joy of these suppers, last Sunday was a meal to be remembered. In fact, the consensus was that this might have been the best thing I’ve ever fed my guests. I made twice the amount for our company and there were no left overs. Even my friends’ kids – who are ever the picky eaters, couldn’t put this chicken down.
Dear readers, this chicken is a thing of beauty. It is something that I implore you to make this weekend. Well, maybe you have Easter menus planned out, but please do it soon. This is something I’ve been meaning to cook for quite some time. And lovely Maggie and ever-so-talented Jeanette have made it and raved about it; so this was destined to be a home run. But I had absolutely no idea just how amazing this dish was. Which is why I am being so persistent in telling you to just please make it. I think you will love it. And I think you will want to make it again and again, the same way that I do. You might lick your plate clean, even if there’s company present.