JE T’AIME UN PEU, BEAUCOUP, PASSIONNEMENT, A LA FOLIE!
Our “courtship”, if one wants to call it that, was mighty short and not at all run of the mill. He loves me, he loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not. And 6 months later we finally spoke, a slow dance, a nibble on the shoulder, and our fate was sealed. Does love at first sight exist? Debatable. And it all depends on how you define love. But I knew the second I laid eyes on him that I had to marry him. I just knew.
This was in November. We married the following July. Six months, you say? That’s quite enough time, you say! But for those 6 months, we were apart for 4 of them. I was 2 months in Africa and twice 2 months back in Florida, working and helping to take care of my dying father. But marry we did.
Strange courtship, even stranger proposal. Picture yourself in a Parisian suburb, strolling down the sidewalk on your way to the grocery store. “I have done everything, been everywhere, run wild and sowed my wild oats,” he began (or something similar) “and now I am ready to settle down, have children and live happily ever after,” he said (or most of it). “Ah, but nice Jewish girl that I am, I will not have children if I am not married!” she exclaimed. “Anything you want, I’ll do,” he answered as he took her hand. And it was sealed with a kiss in the produce section.
And they lived happily ever after.
Moral of the story? Even the most unlikely places can be truly romantic.
And the wedding, you ask? Ah, good story! With a proposal and a courtship such as this, would anyone actually think that we would be sucked into the whirlwind and all the frou-frou of a traditional wedding? Engagements, engagement rings, all the doodads and fixings are just not our style and not our philosophy. Even a religious wedding was not in the cards, as we grew up in different faiths. Walking off to City Hall was fine with us. And poor as church mice, we couldn’t afford a fancy shindig anyway. Honey took an old clarinet and traded it in for a 1920’s Zoot Suit at a brocante (junk shop of sorts) and I pulled together a white and blue outfit with just a few francs. His sister, a professional gardener, recreated, replanted the yard and borders at the house we lived in and covered it with plants and flowers, designed my gorgeous bouquet and filled the house with floral arrangements. My in-laws brought over cases upon cases of champagne from their shop. And JP’s Best Man showed up, thinking the whole affair was a big put-on, a joke on all of my future husband’s friends, dressed to kill: pants, shirt, jacket and tie all in red tartan, yet 4 different shades of red, 4 different tartan patterns. And carrying a baby stroller, wondering if this was the reason behind a precipitous marriage. And my witness took one look at him and ran upstairs to change out of her fancy clothes into a colorful gypsy skirt and top.
And then there was the meal for the dozen weddings guests: no fancy caterer for us. We prepared everything ourselves, spending 2 days in my mother-in-laws sweltering kitchen, cooking, stewing, baking, frosting. I made 2 cakes to serve, a light-as-air white sponge cake accompanied by a mixed berry coulis and a deep, dark, rich chocolate layer cake filled and iced with a gorgeous cognac buttercream (which melted and smeared around the top of the cake faster than I could spread or decorate).
Other than making enormous choux puffs from my dad’s recipe which I filled with ratatouille, I don’t remember what else we served except for this wonderful Lemon Chicken. Tangy yet deep and richly flavored with just a tad of sweetness, the bright lemon flavor comes through beautifully and keeps the chicken amazingly moist and tasty.
I now make this favorite dish once in a while, serving it hot for dinner or cool for lunch. It is also ideal to take on a picnic, if a bit messy. But oh so delicious! I have decided to serve it tonight with a wonderful Dirty Rice of sorts, just flavorful enough to shine through on its own, yet mild enough to give all of the glory to my marvelous Wedding Day Lemon Chicken.
And they lived and ate happily ever after!
WEDDING DAY – OR ANY DAY – LEMON CHICKEN
This recipe can easily be doubled – but only fill up your baking dish with enough chicken stock to come not more than halfway up your chicken pieces.
1 chicken, 2 ½ lbs (1 kg), cut into pieces or the equivalent in favorite pieces
1 cup (250 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup (125 g) or a bit less flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (@ 60 ml) vegetable oil for frying
1 Tbs grated lemon zest
1/8 cup/1 Tbs light brown sugar
¼ cup (@ 60 ml) chicken stock
1 lemon, sliced paper thin
Clean the chicken pieces and dab them dry with paper towels. Place them with the freshly squeezed lemon juice in a bowl or recipient just large enough to hold them comfortably. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator to marinate overnight, turning occasionally.
Drain the chicken pieces well. Put the flour, salt, pepper and paprika in a large bowl or platter and blend thoroughly. Roll each chicken piece in the mixture until well coated. Or, alternately, you can fill a large plastic bag with the flour mixture and, working only a couple of pieces of chicken at a time, shake to coat completely. Shake off excess flour and put aside on a clean, dry plate.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan of heavy-bottomed Dutch oven. (As I fried my chicken in 2 batches, I heated half the oil at a time.) When oil is very hot, fry the chicken pieces, a few at a time so as not to overcrowd, on all sides, until well browned and crispy. This may take up to 10 minutes per batch.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Arrange the browned chicken pieces in a single layer in a large, shallow baking dish or pan (I prefer glass or terra cotta).
Pour the chicken stock around the pieces, not filling the dish up more than halfway up the sides of the chicken pieces, then squeeze a bit of lemon juice into the stock (just one good squeeze to add a bit more lemon flavor, not too much).
Sprinkle the chicken pieces evenly with the brown sugar and the lemon zest.
Set a thin slice of lemon on each piece of chicken.
Bake for 40 – 45 minutes until cooked through and tender.
We ate the chicken warm (once everyone got home from work or school) with the Dirty Rice. The next day, I put the leftover chicken and the sauce, which had gelled somewhat, into a saucepan, added a bit more water, maybe ¼ cup (60 ml), and simmered it until heated through.
SIMPLE DIRTY RICE
8 ½ oz (250 g) rice*
Chicken stock or 1 chicken bouillon cube for cooking rice
1 red pepper
1 green pepper, optional
Fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 lemon for a bit of juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* I wanted to use good old Uncle Ben’s but realized too late that I had run out, so I used Basmati.
Precook your rice in the chicken stock or water and one bouillon cube and set aside in a bowl, well covered with plastic wrap to keep the rice from drying out.
Chop the onion and the red pepper into dice. Finely chop a handful of parsley.
Heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil or butter in a large skillet. Cook the chopped onion and red pepper until soft and slightly caramelized a golden brown.
Stir in the chopped parsley, sprinkle on a teaspoon or two of the dried garlic, salt and pepper. Give a squeeze of lemon juice then stir in the cooked rice.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until heated through. Taste, add more salt, pepper, garlic or lemon juice to taste.
Serve hot. With love.