“Love does not stop. Energy doesn’t stand still. And neither do our homes. They’re pulsing with all that we carry in; they vibrate, hum, resonate with every cry and murmur and snap and cheer of our hearts. They are our second skins, the shells we build, like snails, enlarging and encrusting with the whorls of our days, months, years. They are the most private and most telling of places. There they stand, for the world to see. And for us to make of them what we will.” – Dominique Browning

Dominique Browning, so very eloquently, expresses my exact sentiments. And, her words are truth. The point to being passionate about our homes is life, and striving to live the best possible life. The design and creation of our homes and gardens is not trivial, it is profound business. A business that has never been more important than it is today, considering the fast paced lives many lead.

Therefore, today, I want to share my thoughts about “romance of the ordinary” – the kitchen. For most of us, our kitchens are the hub of our homes and what takes place in these kitchens is enormously important. Although, due to the work and activity which takes place daily in a kitchen, they can easily become ordinary. I am here to tell you, “our kitchens are anything but ordinary.” Preparing a fabulous meal for those you love and setting a lovely table is not a chore, it is a pleasurable opportunity. It is an opportunity to create beauty and memorable moments. A marvelous meal has love in every minute of the preparation. And, in return for your efforts you are rewarded with love, joy and smiles from those enjoying the culinary delight you took time to plan and prepare.

As you may already know, I am passionate about all things related to the home, which includes cooking. Spending time in the kitchen has always brought me great pleasure, simply because those I love have always enjoyed the results and appreciated my efforts. Now, for those of you who do not share my love of cooking, please read on. I may inspire a change of heart.

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Just like many of you, I learned to cook from my mother and grandmother. Mom was an excellent southern (Mississippi) cook and of course this is what I learned. She always encouraged my time in the kitchen, raved about the results, and therefore I was never cautious of cooking or attempting new recipes. The cooking skills I learned from my mother have served Mike, myself and others well for many years and continues to do so to this day. But, let me say, I have discovered there is something more and something different – French cuisine.

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To the French, a meal is an event. And, after many years of cooking the same recipes in the same way I was eager to try and learn something new – “something more.”  Retirement provided the additional time necessary to experiment and learn new ways. But, I was hesitant because I had always felt French food was complicated, fussy, and time consuming. Isn’t it odd how we acquire ideas of things we really know nothing about? This was certainly the case with me and my thoughts regarding French cuisine. Now, I don’t want to mislead you, there are certain French culinary delights which are quite complicated. Their pastries being one example. However, most of the French food I prepare is “peasant” food or country food. While many of these dishes have numerous ingredients, the actual preparation is usually not complicated. And, the numerous ingredients are what leads to the incredible flavor – truly “something more.”

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So, back to the romance. The summer is winding down and this is a perfect time to gather loved ones for “something more.” Today, I am sharing two recipes which honestly are “romance of the ordinary,” guaranteed to bring you love, hugs, and many smiles in return. First, you must set a beautiful stage: Lay a pretty table. Light the candles. Place some flowers in a vase or a few lemons in a bowl as a centerpiece. And, who knows, “Dearie” you may become the next Julia. Bon Appetit!

Serve the following with a salad of mixed greens and steamed baby potatoes. This pairs well with a nice red wine, such as a Côtes du Rhône. Should you not be able to locate this wine, a nice substitute I have found locally is Joel Gott Pinot Noir. And, for dessert, vanilla ice cream with fresh berries. Or, a French finish would be a small assortment of cheese and seasonal fruit. Either way – lovely!

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Braised Chicken in White Wine and Mustard

6 plump Chicken Thighs

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1 cup Sauvignon Blanc wine – (no substitutes)

3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil – and maybe a bit more

2 medium onions, cut in thin slices

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parsley, for garnish – optional

Preheat oven to 375. Heat olive oil in large, oven proof skillet over medium heat and brown chicken on all sides about 6-8 minutes. Remove chicken from pan as it browns. Add onions to the pan, stir, and cook until they are tender and turning slightly golden at the edges, 4-5 minutes (this should be done at medium to low heat – careful not to let the onions burn). While the onions are cooking, in a small bowl wish together the wine and Dijon mustard. Return chicken to the skillet, placing skin side down, and season it and the onions with salt and pepper. Pour wine mixture over the chicken and place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the chicken and then return to the oven and bake another 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Place the pan over low heat, and using a wooden spoon, stir the cooking juices in the pan, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom. Taste the sauce for seasoning, then pour it evenly over the chicken. Garnish with parsley and serve. Note: This may seem like a lot of onions, and, it is. But, trust me it is wonderful. The onions cook into oblivion and make an extraordinary sauce. So, don’t cut back on the onions.

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Raspberry Vinaigrette

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup Raspberry vinegar (not Raspberry balsamic vinegar)

½ cup sugar

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

¼ tsp. oregano

Salt/pepper to taste

Wisk all of the above ingredients together, well. This can be done several hours before serving time and it is fine for it to sit at room temperature.

Additional Information:

Chicken recipe from: On Rue Tatin, by Susan Herrmann Loomis (lovely and informative book)

Raspberry Vinaigrette from: Sandra Lambiotte

Reference to Dearie: Dearie, is a book about the life of Julia Child. I highly recommend the book. I’ll wager you will find lots of surprises – I did.

See you soon,

Sandra