Monday, June 3, 2013

Sage Chicken with Cherry Compote

I had a weekend full of experimentation, but in the culinary and the writinary worlds. First, because I bought some cherries, I made what I'm calling sage chicken with a cherry compote. Now, I'll go look up the definition of a compote...

...and it seems to be a suitable word.

The chicken was actually pretty good before the compote, but it was really simple. The cherries made the dish more red and fruity.

So, the compote was:

1 1/4 cup fresh cherries, quartered and with the seeds and stems removed
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp vodka
1 cup water

and I think that's it. I brought it to a boil and then simmered it until it was thicker, but not too thick. After it cooled to room temperature, it was quite tasty.

To make the sage chicken, I just got two chicken breasts, salted and peppered them outside and beneath the skin, then tucked in two sage leaves per breast. To cook it, I heated some oil in a pan, placed the chicken skin side down in the oil to crisp up the skin a little and to make the sage flavor permeate the chicken. Then I moved the chicken pieces to a tray and plunked it into the oven at 350 ˚C for about 20 minutes.

Like I said, the chicken on it's own was quite good but simple. The cherry compote could have been substituted by anything that provides some tartness and liquid. We ate it with bread and a delicious Ceasar salad that I should talk about sometime soon.

I also wrote this. I found myself pushing the language and imagery more, out beyond my comfort zone. I'm thinking I would probably pull it back again, but I'm sitting with it to see what I think.

“I admit it’s beginning to make me anxious, my dear. This Lama, this Sera Lama, could delay the whole program.” Pagani paced back and forth near the foot of her bed. Every other step was uneven due to an arthritic right knee. He had one hand braced against the head of his cane. With his other hand he tussled his white beard.

He looked at her. His voice grew soft, conspiratorial. “Perhaps, my dear, perhaps we can get you into their room, not as a spy, not as a spy, no, but, well, after all, you’re the journalist…you’re here to record things—and you have a gift, we all know that. Why are we waiting? You should be starting your work right away.”

“I don’t disagree with you,” she said soberly. Though she didn’t follow his logic, her curiosity had gotten the best of her.

They went up the elevator and walked along the carpeted hall to Sonam’s room. Dr. Pagani knocked on the door, four times softly, like heartbeats. It was silent inside. Diana thought that perhaps the room was empty after all, that somehow the Dalai Lama had fled the country. But after a moment the knob turned and Sonam’s face appeared from behind the white door. Up close he looked more weathered, more like something carved out of wood and hung outside to be colonized by moss, by lichen, by a satiated caterpillar preparing to entomb itself for transformation. Seeing this face floating into view like a dark moon, a sensation that had been swirling inside of her was nucleated and crystallized: the Dalai Lama had lived too much life to be contained in this dorm room, in this building. His was a life meant to spill over like a flooded river.

“If it is still all right with you, I have brought Diana,” Pagani said. “I thought perhaps she could be of help.”

Sonam turned to her with a smile. He was a man of average height, with a sturdy physique that she attributed to the mountain air he had enjoyed as a baby. She met his eyes and saw the wisdom that one sees looking into the eyes of a wild animal.

“If you don’t mind,” she said.

“You are welcome here.”

What's Peanut Eating? Parsley.


  1. That chicken recipe sounds good. I am undergoing a typical Pavlovian response right about now.

    Hope all is well I your world!

  2. Hi Rick! It's glorious to hear from you. I'm doing okay, more or less. A few more battle scars, but that's to be expected. How are you?

  3. I'm with Rick; I had to favorite this; looks like something even I could cook. Or cajole the ex into when he's visiting for a weekend.

    Peanut eats Parsley? So weird.

    Loved the excerpt. The voice is amazing. You always have just the right tone and pacing for whatever you write Davin.


  4. Hi Donna! The chicken was very easy to make. Just be careful with the hot oil splattering (says the guy who recently burned himself making beer battered fish tacos).

    I've read that a little bit of parsley on top of the dog's food helps with digestion and liver function, so I give it to Peanut every once in a while. I think if the dog is older and has arthritis, you should avoid this. Something to do with oxalate.

    Thanks for the compliments on my writing! I'm working on a big revision right now, as you can tell.

  5. I didn't know that about parsley, but I don't have a dog. Good luck with the revision :)


  6. We have a different recipe for sage chicken, but essentially the only real difference is that we remove the skin and all the cooking is done in a sautee pan. When the chicken is cooked, we remove it from the pan, drain the oil and then add fresh lemon juice and a wee bit of butter to the pan and quickly heat up a lemony chickeny sauce. Usually we serve the chicken with rice and asparagus.

    Interesting about Dr Pagani; that's a side of his personality we haven't seen! He was a sort of Yoda figure of a scientist in the version I read.

  7. I like when you can just use the drippings to make a sauce. That feels French and elegant to me.

    I've always intended for Dr. Pagani to be a confusing character, for readers to not be able to make up their minds about whether or not they trust him and like him. Hopefully that will come out more this time. I like Yoda, but be like him I intended not Dr. Pagani for. (Yeah, I never really watched the movies long enough to figure out his speech patterns.)

  8. I burned myself last night making pizza. A good second-degree burn right on my thumb. I hate anything cooked with fruit, so the compote wouldn't work for me, but Scott's lemony sauce might! I adore sage because I anything most kinds of meat you cook with it end up tasting divine. Your recipe sounds yummy for that!

    I love your whole excerpt! My favorite is your description of Sonam's face and the moss and lichen. I'm excited you're still working on this! Because I want to read it. Still jealous Scott got to read it and I didn't!

    As for Out of Tune, I'm waiting to hear back from Rhemalda about it. When it's got the green light I'm going to print up a manuscript from Lulu (hopefully it will WORK this time) and send one to you and Scott. Then you can read it a lot easier. :)

    1. Ignore those stupid typos. It's the burn! The burn!

    2. Michelle, I'm sorry you burned yourself. I've still got several of my burn scars on my left forearm. In a way, the healing process is fascinating. My skin turned a dark burgundy color and then slowly flaked off. I had a couple of bigger blisters that got popped while I was playing with the neighbor's kid. Those are still visible. Too much information, I know. :)

      I like the metaphor of Sonam's face as a dark moon. I'm still not sure if it's too over the top, though.

      I would love to get a Lulu copy of Out of Tune!!

    3. Michelle, I'm also sorry about your burn. I am happy, however, to report that on Saturday I not only mixed and poured concrete, I used a sledge hammer on some rebellious old concrete I wanted to remove and I still have all of my fingers.

      I can't wait to see what you've done with OOT. A bound copy would be very nice!

    4. Thanks, you two! I've heard from Emmaline that Diane's revision requests for Out of Tune are coming my way soon. Looks like a revise and resubmit sort of deal, so I'm a little nervous to see what needs changing.

  9. mmm...cherry compote...
    and thanks for the reminder of how evocatively you write...makes me want to jump into my own revisions and shoot for something beyond myself.

  10. Hi J.B.! The cherry compote was good. It could probably be improved by someone who actually knows what they're doing, but I enjoyed it. I'm also enjoying pushing myself to write something that is more dramatic and poetic than what I usually write. I think it's making me better even if I decide to dial it down again later.