Saturday, January 7, 2012

Citrus and Sunshine

It's a bit hard to believe, but today is January 7th, and it reached 60 degrees.  The sun was brilliant, and it was wonderful to be outside.  We even hung towels on the line to do most of their drying.  (We finish them in the dryer, since they can get cardboard-y if they dry only in the sun.  And I'll tell you what, for me, fluffy towels are one of life's simple luxuries.)

I also picked parsley from the garden today.  As you can imagine, during most winters, by now the parsley is a pile of green sludge.  Strange things are afoot, indeed.  Like I said in an earlier post, though, you won't hear me complaining!

Tonight's dinner, Sauteed Chicken over Wilted Spinach with Kumquat Sauce, is one that I don't make often.  It relies on kumquats, which aren't too common here in New England.  Strangely, I got two pints of them within a week of each other, one as a joke from one of my husband's co-workers, and one from my sister, in my annual Christmas citrus gift box (oh, how that box makes me so happy!).  I knew immediately that this recipe was on the docket.  The nice thing about kumquats, like most citrus, is that they keep for a long time if properly stored (I keep mine in the apple storage drawer of the refrigerator, and they're good for up to two months...if they last that long, of course.)

The other  nice thing about kumquats, if you're not familiar with them, is their mouth-puckering taste.  I think they seem to have a little bit of all citrus flavors in them; while the first hit is a bitter/sour thing, if you don't immediately spit it out (which I did the first time I ever had them) you get notes of lime, orange, lemon, meyer lemon, and grapefruit...all in one tiny fruit no bigger than a walnut.  They're seedy little devils, so while you can eat them whole (and I do, especially since the ones we've gotten are organic--but rinse them well) you may want to chew carefully, kind of like with seeded grapes.  This recipe calls for slicing them thinly, which means you need to stop frequently to pull the seeds out--some of the ones I used tonight had eight seeds in them!

My dad found the recipe for the chicken dish in the much mourned, late, great Gourmet magazine.  He raved about it, so naturally I had to give it a shot.  And, oh...just yum!  I usually serve it with a side of mashed potatoes, or with crusty bread to mop up the sauce that's left.  Barring that, I'd be willing to lick the plate clean.

Sauteed Chicken over Wilted Spinach with Kumquat Sauce
from Gourmet magazine
(I followed the recipe to the letter, except I doubled the kumquats.  Go with the original three if you're afraid it will be too tart.)

6 kumquats, thinly sliced, seeds removed
1 large shallot, thinly sliced into rings (about 1 cup)
2 bonless chicken breast halves, skin on; patted dry
1 tbsp butter (I used 1/2 tbsp butter, 1/2 tbsp olive okay, I didn't follow it to the letter)
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup water
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
4 cups packed spinach leaves, washed and dried (about one bunch)
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat; melt butter and olive oil.  Season both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper and saute, skin side down, until skin is golden and crisp, about 5-7 minutes.  Turn chicken over and cook until just cooked through, another 5-7 minutes.  Lower the heat if it seems the bottom is browning too fast.

2.  Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm.

3.  Add shallot to fat remaining in skillet and cook, stirring frequently, for one minute.  Sprinkle sugar over shallot and cook, undisturbed, until sugar is melted and golden.  Immediately stir in kumquats, water, vinegar, and red pepper flakes and simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved.

4.  Stir in parsley, and salt to taste.  If sauce is too liquid, simmer until thickened to desired consistency, between 1 and five minutes.

5.  Transfer two-thirds of sauce to a small bowl.  To remainder of sauce in skillet, add spinach and salt to taste, turning with tongs til just wilted.

6.  Divide spinach between two plates, top with chicken.  Spoon reserved sauce over top.

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