There is an intrinsic beauty that can be found in something that is perfectly imperfect. It is attainable and real; it is simple, unpretentious, and accessible. The most interestingly plated or photographed food, in my opinion, is the kind that is a little saucy or crumbly around the edges, allowed to organically find it’s own most comfortable position on the plate or board; it’s not necessarily perfectly in place, or overly finessed. It’s “home-cooked” looking and approachable, and that’s the very thing that makes it gorgeous. Appealing. Do-able. It proudly displays the intention and the love poured into it by the one who prepared it. It softly utters, “Eat me” to the one gazing upon it. Yes, it’s just that upfront. It doesn’t hide itself. It is honest, and is unashamed of any flaws there may be; it seems completely comfortable being exactly as it is. It contains an essence of boldness, without being brash; it is simple yet magnetic. And it silently implores the observer to look inward and dig around for their own authenticity in how they present themselves to the world, and to become comfortable knowing that life is still a work in progress, perfectly imperfect for the time being. And I find that absolutely irresistible, and worth thinking about.
About 8 months ago now when my husband and I decided to embark together on this adventure that is our blog, we made a vow between ourselves that we often return to as our foundational philosophy: that this would be an endeavor of the heart, and would be worth digging deep for in order to find out who we are, what we are all about, and what we truly want to express; otherwise, it wouldn’t be worth doing at all. We knew before we even began that some days, the work involved with it would be wonderfully fulfilling; and other days, we would experience the struggle. That our very own imperfections would be revealed not only to ourselves and each other, but also potentially to everyone else. And how true all of that has been, indeed. In the moments when the imperfections show themselves, it feels uncomfortable on the inside; it becomes about wanting to cover up the vulnerability, about coming up with ways to try to combat experiencing it in the future by doing this, that or the other. But then we stop, and take a breath. It’s too easy to get caught up in the ups and downs, in trends, and all the rest, and begin to drift onto a foreign path where cockamamie ideas are thought up, ones that really have little to do with our original intent. We remind ourselves that this is an endeavor of our hearts. We remember that it’s not about striving for perfection, but about being real. Simple. Approachable. It’s about sharing. And as long as we’re authentic to what has been placed within us, we’re OK. The magnetic sparkle that draws another in, emanates from the heart; from ones true desire. And that is the thing that another human being feels. That is the truth that needs to be trusted.
Food, in all of its simple glory, knows exactly the role it is meant to play; it doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is: nourishing and simple, and a little crumbly around the edges, just like me. Just like you. But it’s OK. It’s not about the perfect recipe, or the perfectly shot photograph; it’s not about someone else saying we’re worthy. It’s about being comfortable in offering our authentic selves up for others to behold, and trusting that that is enough.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Braised Chicken in Porcini Wine Sauce over Buttered Pappardelle Noodles
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3 (.5 ounce) packages of dried porcini mushrooms
1½ cups boiling water
1 package (8 pieces cut-up) chicken, bone-in, skin on
½ teaspoon sea salt, plus a pinch
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus a pinch
2 tablespoons flour, divided use
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken stock, hot
2 sprigs thyme, plus 1tablespoon thyme leaves, divided use
12 ounces (about 1 ½ packages) Pappardelle egg noodles
1 tablespoon cold butter, plus 2 tablespoons room temp, divided use
-Re-hydrate the porcini mushrooms by placing them into a bowl, and adding the 1 ½ cups boiling water; cover with plastic wrap, and allow them to soften a bit for about 15-20 minutes; once slightly softened, strain the mushrooms out of their soaking liquid, and reserve this liquid, or “mushroom stock” (there will be roughly 1cup), as well; set the mushrooms and the hot mushroom stock aside for a few moments.
-Season the chicken pieces with the ½ teaspoon sea salt, the paprika and the ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and sprinkle them evenly with 1tablespoon of the flour; next, heat a 4-quart cast-iron braiser, or large heavy-bottom pan, over medium-high heat; add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the braiser, and once the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces in, skin-side down (work in batches to not over-crowd the braiser), and allow the chicken to sear and become golden-brown, about 4 minutes; then flip over and sear the bone side for about 2 minutes; remove the pieces, and set aside for a moment onto a clean plate; next, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the shallot into the braiser, and stir; add in the re-hydrated mushrooms, stir to combine, and sauté for a minute; next add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the wine, stirring to scrape up any yummy bits on the bottom of the pan; then add the chicken pieces back into the braiser or pan, along with the hot chicken stock, the reserved mushroom stock and two sprigs of thyme; allow this to come to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover, and braise/gently simmer the chicken until tender, for about 40 minutes.
-While the chicken braises, prepare the Pappardelle pasta according to package directions; when cooked, drain the pasta in a colander, and lightly toss with a little olive oil; keep it in the colander, lightly covered with a cloth to keep warm, until ready to serve.
-Once the chicken has simmered and is tender and cooked through, remove the chicken pieces from the braiser and place onto a clean plate to hold; mix together the 1tablespoon of cold butter with the remaining 1tablespoon of flour with your fingers until well combined, and add it to the sauce, whisking it in very well until melted and the sauce has slightly thickened; turn the heat off, and return the chicken back into the braiser or pan to keep warm.
-Place a large non-stick pan over medium heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to it, and once melted, add the Pappardelle pasta to the butter, with the pinch of sea salt and black pepper, to lightly coat the pasta and warm through.
-To serve, add a portion of the buttered Pappardelle pasta to a shallow bowl or plate, top with a piece (or 2) of chicken, and spoon some of the porcini-wine sauce over the chicken and the pasta; garnish each serving with a small sprinkle of the fresh thyme leaves, and serve.