Wednesday, October 13, 2010

LEMON CHICKEN PASTA et La Semaine du Goût

Le goût est le sourire de l’âme
Taste is the soul’s smile
Léo Ferré


Sweet, happy baby he was, an excited boy ready from the get go to grab onto everything life had to offer. By 11 months he was scooting all over the place, never having walked one step he took off running. Everything interested him, from the stuffed animals we offered to the boxes that they came in, from his building blocks to his socks and all that they could become in what was the magical playground of his mind. My old rickety spice and baking cabinet afforded hours of joyous playtime when mom’s back was turned and out would come the jars and packets, little fingers gleefully dipping into cinnamon and flour then curiously sucked on, tastes of bouillon cubes and dried herbs, little piles of grains and powders surrounding him on the floor, dust of these giddy taste tests trailing after him.

And food. He would sit happily in his high chair from the most tender of ages and taste. The snappy tang of fresh goat cheese, the bite of a clove of garlic, a perfect, bright yellow wedge of lemon causing his little lips to pucker as his teeth pricked each juicy teardrop of the flesh, sweet, gooey chocolate pudding, hummus or guacamole, he loved it all. Before he could even feed himself we would dip our pinky finger into sauces or anything creamy and smooth and push it into his mouth, onto his tongue and he sucked greedily, turning away at not one flavor, aroma or texture. We wanted him to experience food, the diversity of flavors, the scents that made the tastebuds tingle, the colors and the textures, the pleasures of the palate. We wanted him to fall in love with food. And he did. He grew up afraid of nothing, tasting each and every food that was placed before him. I remember my astonishment when he, still in pre-school, walked into the house after school and sniffed then proclaimed quite simply “red peppers!” And indeed there were red peppers roasting in the oven. Or him standing at a buffet table, 6, maybe 7 years old, wolfing down spoonfuls of hummus and baba ganoush.


Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es
Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

This week is La Semaine du Goût, The Week of Taste, in France. La Semaine du Goût is celebrating its twenty-first year of educating children and adults alike about food and taste through special school programs and menus, public workshops and cooking demonstrations by well-known chefs, not to mention all of the restaurants who are offering special menus this week to honor this important event in an effort to bring new taste sensations and food awareness to the French, encourage the discovery of la diversité des goûts et saveurs, diversity in taste and flavors.


I have always been fascinated by flavor, how different flavors and textures interact in the mouth. My childhood was filled with freshly picked strawberries, prickly on the outside, meltingly smooth and sweet on the inside, and tangerines, their bitter oil spurting into my face as my thumb cracked into the skin, their heady scent hinting of the sweet tartness of the fruit.
The bitterness of a pink grapefruit before I would sprinkle it with the sugar that would balance out the strong flavor and crack in between my teeth and sweet, fruity peaches, crisp watermelons, or scavenged coconuts broken open on the driveway, teeth scratching across the white meat. My simple childhood lunchtime sandwiches became a playground where I would blend the sweet and the salty, the smooth and crunchy. Going to a restaurant with my parents allowed me to discover new flavors like seafood cooked in rich, tangy wine sauces or smothered in garlicky butter, southern stews chock full of beans or Greek casseroles, each trip an exciting prospect. I was enthralled with all that was out there in the world and I wanted to taste it all!

And we have raised our sons with a world of food, offering them all the flavors within our reach: American, French, Russian, Italian, Moroccan as well as Indian, Vietnamese, Thai and Middle Eastern among others. We travel the world in our kitchen, at the markets we visit, in the countries we have taken the kids to. Open their eyes by titillating their tastebuds, teach them healthy and whole, local and fresh but teach them culture and history as well. Teach them to appreciate what they have before them, each mouthful, each meal and instill in them the desire to discover and enjoy.


I was looking for a flavorful yet simple meal to make for dinner last night, something that would take few ingredients and even less time yet one that packed a punch. This simple, elegant pasta dish is bright with lemon, the chicken is crispy and tender, and the whole dish made my tastebuds dance. It was satisfying yet light, soulful yet bright and fresh. Nothing better.


LEMON CHICKEN PASTA with peas
For 2 – 3 people

12 – 14 oz (350 – 400 g) raw chicken tenders (aiguillette) or skinless breast
3 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium to large-sized garlic clove, peeled and minced or crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

9 – 10 ½ oz (250 – 300 g) fresh linguine, pappardelle or your favorite pasta
A few tablespoons flour seasoned with salt and pepper for dusting the chicken
Olive oil for browning
3 medium shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup (250 ml) chicken broth
Juice of 1 lemon, about 3 – 4 Tbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup fresh or frozen peas, optional

A few tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves or flat-leaf parsley

Begin this dish early in the day if preparing for dinner or the night before if preparing for lunch. Clean, rinse and pat dry the chicken and cut into very large chunks (I sliced the aiguillettes into two. Place all the chicken in a bowl just big enough to hold them all. Pour the 3 tablespoons lemon juice, the 1 tablespoon olive oil and the minced garlic over the chicken. Salt and pepper , stir so all the chicken is coated in the liquid, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate all day, overnight or at least for several hours. The chicken marinated like this will not only be infused with lemon flavor but once cooked it will be tender and moist.

Once the chicken has marinated, take the bowl out of the fridge and remove the chicken pieces from the marinade. Start a pot with water for the pasta. Salt the water once it comes to a boil.

Heat up about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Toss the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour to coat then shake off the excess flour. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken (you may need to do this in batches as you do no want to crowd them) and allow to cook until the pan side is golden brown and crispy. Turn the pieces over to brown on the other side. Add more olive oil to the pan as needed. As the chicken pieces turn golden brown all over, remove them to a plate.

Cook your pasta in the salted boiling water as you prepare the chicken and sauce. Keep watch over it and drain it when it is done. Place it in a large serving bowl.

Once all of the chicken is browned, quickly and very carefully wipe out the skillet with paper towels then add a couple more tablespoons of olive oil to the hot skillet. Add the chopped shallots and garlic and, tossing and stirring, cook them until they are wilted, tender and caramelizing around the edges, about 2 or 3 minutes. Carefully pour the chicken stock and juice of one lemon over the cooked shallots and garlic. Salt and pepper. Add the peas and lower the heat to allow the broth to simmer for a few minutes until the peas are cooked and tender and the broth and juice are reduced to about half. Carefully add the chicken pieces to the broth just to heat through.

Pour the sauce with the peas and chicken over the cooked pasta and toss gently so the pasta is sauced and the chicken and peas are evenly distributed. Sprinkle the chopped fresh coriander or parsley over the top to toss as you serve.


35 comments:

Happy Cook said...

I wish my daughter was like your son, she was so difficult in ther eating........
The memon chicken looks so so good.

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

A great mid week idea and I can do a version with Quorn (or just do the lemon sauce and peas) for my vegetarian daughter. And believe me Happy Cook, you just have to keep trying. I know, I have a vegetarian daughter who doesn't really like vegetables!

Jamie said...

@Sally & @Finla - this can be done with shrimp or mostly anything light. And Finla the crispy chicken should entice even your daughter :-)

@Sally - I must post a fantastic creamy lemon pasta sauce I make. Will do that shortly! For your daughter! It may already be somewhere on my blog, I must look.

Debugcooking said...

Oh Jamie such a nice post..I simply love your writing...I love pastas will surely try this but will have to do a veggie version ;-)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

It is great when children are adventurous food-wise. You were very lucky.

Like you I am fascinated by flavor and the different combinations that can be created.

That pasta dish is mouthwatering! I love that addition of lemon.

Cheers,

Rosa

sandra said...

;-)))
I love this recipe Jamie! Yum

Cathy said...

What a fabulous pasta dish, lots of flavor but fresh and light. It's a wonderful gift when children are brought up to enjoy all foods and to be adventuresome and curious. Lovely post, Jamie.

elra said...

Your pasta look really delicious Jaime! Nothing more make me happy to see children develop a good taste a bout food !

Sara@OneTribeGourmet said...

I'm making this fab pasta dish tonight! Thank you for the inspiration sweets! :)

RamblingTart said...

What an amazing palate your son has, Jamie! :-) I love the idea of a week of tasting. How wonderful! Your chicken dish looks beautiful and so sprightly and flavorful. :-)

lisaiscooking said...

I love that France has La Semaine du Goût. Although, I bet every week is a Semaine du Goût in France! Your pasta dish sounds bright and delicious, and it's great when that's delivered in a light meal!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

How wonderful that you've helped your children develop a good and adventuresome food palate. They will reap the benefits throughout their lives.

That lemon chicken pasta is fabulous Jamie.
Sam

Ananda Rajashekar said...

Beautifully presented, loving ur plate and with chicken slurp :)

Anonymous said...

This is my first time at your blog and I'll be back! What a great post. When they were younger, my children ate like yours--they were the only children I knew who loved goat cheese, hummus, and broccoli. They still do, and their friends still don't. They don't know what they're missing.... I'm definitely going to make this pasta tomorrow. I think I have to....I own the same pasta dishes as in the picture!

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

Glad to see some French representation! And I totally agree; the texture is really important in dishes. This dish looks fantastic..the taste and textures are spot on. Thanks for sharing.

MeetaK said...

Soeren is very aware of the food we buy, cook and eat. It's something I want to realize is a pleasure and a luxury that is not available to many children in the world. So I try to bring him up flavoring and savoring each dish. This recipe has delicious flavors and looks like the perfect meal!

Jamie said...

@My Carolina Kitchen - Hi Sam!!!!

@Anonymous - Welcome and truly thrilled that you like the blog! Oh do make this dish and report back. This dish WAS made to hold a great pasta meal!

faithy, the baker said...

Delicious!! I could have some pasta right now. and lovely photos!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Jamie, I love how fresh and flavoursome this sounds! :D And I always admire a fearless child!

Junglefrog said...

That looks so good Jamie! I love simple pasta dishes; I think in fact that they are the best out there and combined with fresh lemon...Mmm, that sounds delicious! But I of to cook a different pasta dish for tonight (one with gorgonzola sauce...yum...) but have bookmarked this recipe for future use!

Jamie said...

@Junglefrog - Oh Simone I love gorgonzola sauce but keep thinking of the calories! Sinfully good! This chicken dish is light and perfect for two :-)

UrMomCooks said...

Delicious! Just because my kids are now grown I can make this dish and throw in a big bunch of chard at the end! Way back when, I am not sure I could have gotten away with even peas... But good veggie genes do triumph! My kids eat it all now!

Jamie said...

@UrMomCooks - Ok, I will admit now that only one son was a fantastic eater, the other, well I called him Mr. Persnickety! His dissection of a dish would make a forensic scientist proud! I think now living away from home has worked better than I ever could!

Deeba PAB said...

Oh Jamie, you pull the string of my hearts with this one. He's like my boy... constantly in the kitchen, taking in every whiff, enjoying every crumb, literally eating out of my hand! Beautiful post, and pasta we would love. Gorgeous!!

chefpandita said...

Hello Jamie! if I ever have children I know they will love veggies and all kinds of food just like her mama :) it´s really scary to see how some parents feed their kids fast food and don´t encourage them to eat fresh, healthy food. Lovely recipe as always. xoxo

Barbara Bakes said...

Pasta is one of our favorite meals. Great idea to marinate the chicken in the lemon. It must be amazing.

TKW said...

I think it's wonderful that you've raised such little gourmands! I sure wish you could come work your magic on my picky eaters! They might, however, just eat this dish. I'll have to give it a try.

Sippity Sup said...

Now I don't have kids, so I'll never really understand these sweet moments. But the truth is you write about them so well that you make them feel so universal. Even for folk like me who cannot fully relate. GREG

Jamie said...

@TKW - Ha ha I raised ONE gourmand and one very picky eater! Luckily now that Mr. Persnickety has left home and is living with other young people in New Orleans he is starting to experiment and taste. So never give up hope! But this dish with the crispy chicken pieces and the lemony pasta is sure to please!

Kathryn said...

Yum! I eat pasta for practically every meal :) My favorite fall pasta dish, though, is this pumpkin and goat cheese lasagna! I made it once and I've been hooked ever since!

Mary said...

I really like this recipe and your memories are really sweet to share. Memory is one of God's greatest gifts to us. I hope all is well. Blessings...Mary

EAT! said...

all my favorite flavors in one dish - lemon, pasta and chicken. thanks for a new recipe to try.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

I hope my Ted will be as receptive to international cuisine... he's not doing too bad so far. I haven't put lemon and chicken together for ages... I might do it tomorrow as I'm making a risotto.

OysterCulture said...

What an absolutely delicious sounding dish. I've really discovered the sour elements of late, making adobo right now with the healthy addition of vinegar, and I cannot wait to try your lemon chicken.

Elizabeth said...

This reminds me of my nephew. When he was around 9, allegedly hating all vegetables and happily shovelling in the baked squash that was part of dinner, he said, "Is this heart-of-gold or festival?" and when he learned that it was heart-of-gold, he said that he preferred heart-of-gold but that festival was also good.

Your lemon chicken sounds delightful. If we weren't going to have chicken with roasted fennel and carrots and mashed potatoes tonight, I might have to suddenly change the menu.

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