Wednesday, December 19, 2012

GREEK-STYLE PRESERVED LEMON CHICKEN WITH OLIVES

EVERYTHING IS CHANGED


The emotional wounds from Friday’s massacre in Newtown are still raw, the passions still vivid and red hot. Everything is changed and we will never be the same. Those of us who are parents may have been especially touched and now we hug our children just a little tighter before they leave for school in the morning, pull them a little closer each night as they return, exhausted from their active day. We study their every movement, listen to their slow, steady breathing, revel in their laughter and stare into the depths of their eyes, astonished at the life we have created. My sons are adults now, 22 and 24, yet they still are and always will be my babies and I still worry about them, am still astonished by their presence and still attempt to protect and coddle them, no matter how they protest.



The holidays have brought our older son home more often; he arrived on our doorstep almost every night of Hanukkah as the sun set to light the candles, exchange gifts and eat dinner as a family. I sit and watch my two sons, young men, eat pizza or cheese fondue with a man’s appetite and wonder how it is they grew up, tall, handsome, funny, smart. When did this happen? Our life as a family has often been a bumpy road, our sons’ teen years dotted with adolescent woes; we’ve struggled through tragedy and arguments, clothes stuffed in plastic garbage bags and tossed out onto the doorstep, and whatever else parenting brings into our lives. Yet when we actually think about it, when we pause and stare hard at our two sons, we really are thankful. We feel lucky that they have turned out so damn well.

In the wake of Friday’s horrendous tragedy, I do feel lucky – and, I will admit, relieved – each time they walk through the front door. Younger son goes out at night and I still lie awake or in a fitful sleep, waiting to hear the click of the front door, the sound of his step on the floor, the barking of the dog. Then and only then can I finally fall into peaceful slumber.



Many years ago, I was in a horrific car accident. If it wasn’t for the very quick reaction time of the driver of the car that plowed into me I would not have survived. Our sons were about 6 and 8 years old at the time. At the end of this harrowing, terrifying day spent on the side of the road and at the hospital for a battery of x-rays, my husband came and picked me up. Driving home side by side, each one of us lost in our own thoughts, the silence heavy between us, he finally turned to me and cried “Do you realize that you almost left me alone?! Left me to raise our two boys without you?!” We, he and I, have each lost a parent and I have lost a sibling, a dear brother and I know that no matter how much time passes, the wound remains deep and bleeding, the loss heavy, a gaping black hole of sadness. I simply cannot imagine losing a child. So, yes, the loss of those twenty children, mere babies, has cut many of us to the core. And we turn around and face our own children and feel very, very lucky.

And my older son came over to cook. For as much as husband and I both love to cook and as often as we do, our sons never really caught the cooking bug.* Maybe it is, as some would argue, because they never had to cook; the food was always on the table for them to enjoy. Or maybe, yes I will admit, that I scared the begeebees out of them whenever they tried. As my husband will freely tell you, I am not one to share the kitchen with. He sends me packing, refusing to even pull out ingredients and start chopping before I am well away and out of the kitchen. Ah, so I am a perfectionist; what do you want? I will also admit that I might have bit my poor son’s head off a few times this very night in question and I will search high and low for something to blame it on but I won’t bore you with that. Anyway, he came over to cook and not just any dish. No. For weeks he had been berating me, upbraiding me, ranting and complaining because he had offered me a Greek cookbook last Hanukkah, one entire year ago, and I had yet to make one single recipe from it. So he selected a recipe, a Greek-style Preserved Lemon Chicken with Olives, and offered to come over and help.


And so we did. Cook. Greek-Style Preserved Lemon Chicken with Olives packs a true flavor punch: tender chicken infused with the bright, sparkling flavor of lemon, lightly-caramelized onions offering a savory succulence and a handful of olives giving the dish a salty edge. And nothing could be easier! Brown the chicken, toss in the rest of the ingredients, allow to simmer and Bingo! A stunning dish. Simple enough to make with your children, no matter their age. And now one my own son can prepare in his own apartment for his friends.

And before he dropped by, I decided to make Spiral Feta-filled Rolls from the same book as a surprise. I will share this recipe with you on my next post.


So hug your children, spend as much extra time with them as a family and be happy. Maybe I'll cook with my son a little more often now.

* I will be fair. Clem, the older son, makes the absolute best damn Tiramisu on the planet. He also makes a mean Lemon Tart as well.


GREEK-STYLE PRESERVED LEMON CHICKEN WITH OLIVES
Adapted from Vefa’s Kitchen by Vefa Alexiadou – published in French by Phaidon

Serves 4 people

1 preserved lemon
1 fresh lemon
About 6 Tbs (40 g) flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 chicken cut in pieces or 2 leg/thigh sections and 2 breasts
A few tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, trimmed, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
½ cup pitted green olives, soaked in cold water for about an hour
Finely grated zest of one lemon, optional
½ cup (125 ml) water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice 

Cut the preserved lemon in half and then each half in 2 or 4 wedges. Place the seasoned flour in a plate or soup bowl. Pat the chicken pieces clean and dry.

Place a few tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy pot with a lid and heat over medium to medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and a few drops of water spritzed onto the oil sizzle, dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour and brown in the oil; you may have to do this in two or three batches as you do not want to crowd the chicken in the pot. Turn the pieces to brown well on each side; this could take 6 – 8 minutes per piece. Add more oil to the pot if needed.

As the chicken pieces are browned carefully lift them out of the pot and place on a plate.

When all of the chicken pieces are well browned and out of the pot, add the chopped onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring often, until tender and transparent, scraping up the dark bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the chicken pieces back to the pot and continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the onion bits are beginning to brown around the edges. Add the wedges of preserved lemon, the zest if using and the water; drain the olives and add to the pot. Salt and pepper and bring just to the boil, reduce the heat, cover the pot and allow to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add a little more water during the cooking if needed.

When the chicken is cooked, remove the pot from the heat and add the lemon juice.

Serve immediately over mashed potatoes, couscous, mixed grains or pilaf.

16 comments:

Finla said...

I can totally relate to you when you say you are always relieved when you see your young son back home after a night out, i am like that too, the first year Shyama went to college i think for months i made her ring to say goodnight to me otherwise i was so restless, i know i canot do anything as she is there for the whole week , but i am always happy when i see her walking towards the home every friday ( mom will be peeping from the window :-))
Love the look of thsoe spiral bunw i am looking forward for therecipe too, ofcourse love the chicken dish too :-)

Magda said...

I love Vefa's cooking, she's an icon in Greek cuisine and I have made the feta-filled spirals from her book as well. They're delicious. Here, take a look http://mylittleexpatkitchen.blogspot.nl/2010/09/spiral.html
But we never use preserved lemon in Greece. I have never even tried it. I'm curious to see how it tastes.

I can't fathom the pain those parents are in for the loss of their children...

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Such dishes are heavenly! Preserved lemons are so fragrant and add depth to dishes.

Cheers,

Rosa

Amanda said...

I, too, sleep fitfully until I am aware of my wanderers arriving back home. Even though the eldest moved out of home I still leave my mobile phone on at night so she can get to me if she needs to - I wonder when I will grow out of that!
And - control in the kitchen! It's an issue here too. The cooking skills of my 3 are very limited and it's all my own fault - I could never just leave them to it. I always had to hover, overing "advice", "helping out" and just generally taking over. Now it's like pulling teeth to get any of them to cook a meal!

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

6What a touching post, Jamie. My children's safety and welfare is as important to me today as it was when they were young and I can't rest either if I'm not sure all is well with them. They are life's greatest blessing and my heart goes out to the families of those precious little children who were taken from them.ngert

Lisa said...

I was so moved by your post, and the photos of your sons as children about the same age as the ones who died, are beautiful and moving. They made it to an age those children will never see. Like you said, no matter how old they are, they will always be your babies and you will always worry about them. That said, I had no idea you were almost killed in a car accident. I'm so glad you weren't..as I can only imagine the thought of not being there to see your sons grow up, shocked you for a long time.

I love that your sons are so into cooking and the Greek chicken with lemon and olives looks pretty damn amazing - especially with your surprise feta spirals to sop up the sauce! Good food with family and love - can't beat it! xo

Denise said...

I am not a mother; but, felt the need to hug all the little ones in our lives after this. Just a little tighter. Lovely story as always!! Wishing you and your amazing family a brilliant new year and hopefully, our paths will cross one day soon. xo

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Ah, the preserved lemon and olives make this a version of the wonderful Moroccan tagine that was the very first Moroccan dish I ever cooked. We love cooking with our adult kids (and yes, I do share the kitchen, or willingly turn it over to them).

Not Quite Nigella said...

I had no idea about the car accident Jamie! That must have been absolutely terrifying for both you and your family that almost lost you. Absolutely, hug all that you love :)

Carolyn Jung said...

What a scary time that must have been for you. Glad you recovered. And even more glad you shared the story. Just goes to show how precious life is -- something we should never take for granted.

Lizzy Do said...

My children are about the same ages...my 19 y/o wants to drive to hang out with a friend tonight who lives 45 minutes away...and of course, it's snowing and blowing :/ The worries just get bigger as they get older. I can't even fathom what those families in Connecticut are feeling...the loss of a child would leave a huge, irreparable hole in my heart.

But on to the fun stuff...your chicken looks amazing plus I have both preserved lemons and olives in my fridge! How wonderful that your son came to cook it with you. I will check out his tiramisu recipe as that is one of my oldest's favorite desserts...maybe I can teach him how to make it :)

Meeta K. Wolff said...

That feeling of relief when you see your sons --- I am so with you there. As Soeren gets more independent, what I like seeing in him, he is out with friends more often and when he walks through the door - it's like a invisible weight has been lifted from me.
This is a lovely recipe. I've wanted to make preserved lemons for a long time now and now I have the perfect reason to do so!

Rambling Tart said...

I'm so glad you could share this special moment with Clem, Jamie. What a beautiful response to such a devastating situation in the States. Wishing you many, many more happy memories with your boys. XO

Nuts about food said...

I am catching up on all my reading after the holidays. So true, after the massacre we have all been hugging our children a little tighter. It is wonderful that you and your son spent some time cooking together, especially as it is a first for you. I like thinking of my kids and I doing that when they get older.

Mairi @ Toast said...

Happy New Year Jamie! I am back at work & holiday memories are already startng to fade! Using what is likely the last quiet Friday afternoon at work to catch up on some reading. I would imagine your wonderful boys are a testament to you & your husband! This chicken is right up my alley...perfect for summer or to infuse a little brightness in to winter.

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