Friday, August 5, 2011

Quiet Day in the Kitchen

Not all days in the kitchen are chaos and havoc and catering events. Some days are slow moving and languid. On those days we do a lot of sitting and drinking coffee. Occasionally one or two of us will reluctantly get up and do service.  The other will wipe down the counter- again- and then sit down again. We talk and linger and then leave early. Usually, a quiet day is the function of a number of things: a) the amount of prep done the day before. b) the amount of prep needed for the next day, and c) the other women you are working with. All these things need to fall in line. There has to have been enough prep done the day before that the food can be put up in a short amount of time; the amount/type of prep that needs to be done for the next day needs to be small and not work intensive, and most importantly, you need to be working with women who work well together. Sometimes the stars align and this happens.
What I like most about days like those is actually the moment we leave. The kitchen is spotless and still and hushed in the darkness. Peering in from the outside, I am filled with a strange and overpowering sense of satisfaction and pride. Something about the slowness of day has allowed me to savor it; to really let the experience sink into my bones. Then to door closes and clicks shut. The sunlight is very bright.

When I think of slow days, I think of braising. I've already mentioned the fact that I love to braise. I will braise the heck out of anything I can think of.  I love the way food is transformed through braising- how it slowly mellows and deepens and becomes something else entirely. I love that braising takes time. I love sitting in front of my computer, doing my work, knowing that something is simmering lazily on my stovetop.

Braised Chicken with Cilantro, Lemon and Figs

Adapted from Bon Apetit, Dec. 1996 via Epicurious

Figs are just coming into season here in Israel. There is a hedge of fig trees on my way to my local supermarket, and the smell alone is enough to make you go on a fig buying frenzy. The original recipe calls for dried figs, so if you don't have access to fresh figs, you can use those.

  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 3 1/2- to 3 3/4-pound chicken, cut into 12 pieces

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  •  1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 8 figs, cut in half lengthwise
1. Place flour in large resealable plastic bag. Season flour with salt and pepper. Add chicken to bag; seal bag. Shake bag to coat chicken lightly with flour.

2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add chicken and sauté until brown on all sides, about 7 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to plate. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pot and reduce heat to medium. Add onions and garlic and sauté until golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Add in wine, simmer for a few minutes while scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Stir in broth, 1/2 cup cilantro and lemon juice and bring to boil. Add figs and chicken with any accumulated juices to pot. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender, about 45 minutes. Alternatively, you could put this in a pre-heated oven at 325, also for 45 minutes.

3. Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken to bowl and cover with foil to keep warm. Boil juices in pot until thickened to sauce consistency, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro over and serve.


  1. was feeling so frazzled today and this completely gave me a sense of tranquility. Thanks!

  2. Thanks, Coco. I'm so glad you liked it. I hope today is less frazzled.