It is false spring in Wisconsin. I refer, not to an unexpected January thaw, but to the fact that we have had relatively balmy days since mid-December. No bone-chilling, tooth-rattling cold — yet.
My daylilies are confused and beginning to pop up, not a positive sign for their future health. The birds in my garden are spring birds, singing tunes I seldom hear before April 1.
This is not good. One way or another, we will pay for it. What is the release of spring without the hardship of winter behind it?
And so — and I run the risk of sounding a bit dotty when I say this — little flashes of past springs are sprouting up unannounced in my conscious mind. A split second mental glimpse of the sky on an April day, the feeling of a gray March morning, and the colors of the spring we stayed for all too short a time on the edge of the Dordogne and the Lot, green and lush in some parts and dry and rocky in others.
The photo above offers a sampling of the colors of that season. The pale purple of the lilacs (hidden here), the rich burgundy of the flowering crab and the soft greens of the mosses and lichens provided the perfect frame for the periwinkle shutters and terra cotta roof of our friend’s lovely home.
I thought of those colors when I prepared a chicken dish from McCormick Spices annual flavor forecast, which I talked about a few days ago. This dish pairs crystallized ginger with salted pistachios in a crunchy covering. A splash of honey-tangerine sauce adds a finishing touch.
Ginger-Pistachio Encrusted Chicken with Tangerine Sauce
3/4 cup shelled salted pistachio nuts
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/3 cup tangerine or orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place pistachio nuts and ginger in a hand chopper or processor. Chop until thorough blended and place in a low shallow dish or plate
Dip chicken in egg whites and roll in pistachio-ginger mixture. Coat evenly. Place in shallow, foil-lined or greased oven dish. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.
While the chicken is cooking, blend orange juice, honey and soy sauce. The recipes recommends pouring the sauce before serving. I thought it was a bit thin, so I poured in on the chicken about 5 minute or so before I removed it from the oven. The heat will thicken the sauce.
“Oh my,” said my husband. “This is good. Sweetness with bite.”
Plain Vichy carrots, cooked with just sugar and water, were the perfect side dish. For dessert: Baked pear, flavored with brown sugar and cinnamon, topped with roasted walnuts, and finished with a dollop of mascarpone cheese sweetened with orange honey.
It was, we agreed, the perfect mid-winter meal, with just a hint of spring.