Thursday, February 12, 2015

Speed bumps and slow-roasted chicken

You ever have one of those days that just sucked so bad you wish you never got out of bed? When you were already running late for an appointment and then found yourself stuck in molasses-slow traffic, while every other driver on the road seemed to have left his or her brain at home? Or despite your dogged efforts to be productive, you just couldn’t get anything done, because for some strange reason, common sense suddenly took a back seat to politics, bureaucracy and passive-aggressive apathy?

Perhaps it wasn’t just the one rage-inducing circumstance, but rather a myriad of annoying little things that made you wonder if some evil voodoo woman wasn’t actually having a grand old time somewhere, jabbing a million little straight pins into a raggedy doll version of you.

Lately, I’ve been working on perspective by remembering what an incredibly wise guru named Jessica Taylor once said: “If you can go to a hospital’s severe burn unit and feel comfortable whinging about your bad day to the patients there, then fine. You’re having a bad day. Otherwise, it’s just a speed bump.”

And speed bumps are around to remind you to slow down, maybe take stock of where you are and what’s going on around you. Because we all know what happens when we ignore speed bumps and insist on barreling through at full speed, both literally and figuratively. Well, at least my car and I do.

These past couple of weeks, a lot of people I care about have been having some seriously bad days. Some experienced the painful loss of a family member or dear friend (of the two-and four-legged variety). Others found out that they or someone they loved were battling a potentially serious illness. Yet another good friend is caring for a sibling who’s struggling with a life-threatening disease and pain.

I think the phrase “comfort food” was coined precisely for speed bumps and bad days. There are no hard and fast rules for what constitutes comfort food.  Spicy, sour, sweet, tender, crunchy—comfort comes in many different textures and flavors.

And while you can most certainly find comfort food in a favorite restaurant or sometimes even in the supermarket (Come here, Cheetos, mama needs a hug!), my favorite comfort foods are almost always slow-cooked at home with lots of love. Because that’s precisely what you want on days like these—something that makes you feel nurtured, loved and taken care of.

And while comfort food or anything else you may have to offer may not seem like much when you or someone you love is having a bad day, know that every expression of love helps.

So for those of us who are experiencing speed bumps or bad days right now or know someone who is, here’s a recipe for a dish made with lots of love and goodness but not too much effort, because, hey, cooks need comfort too.

Take it slow, take it easy. And whether it’s by way of prayer, presence or comfort food, spread the love as generously as you (okay, as I) would spread butter. Because love, like butter, makes speed bumps, bad days and everything else that much better.

Slow-Roasted Tarragon Chicken with Potatoes and Garlic
Serves 4-6


1 chicken (approx. 1.5 kg), cut into 10 pieces
2-3 potatoes (approx. 500 g) peeled and quartered2 heads garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, divided into 3 portions3 tablespoons olive oil1 tablespoon soy sauceSalt and pepper to taste1/3 cup wine (preferably white, but red will do, too) Procedure:

Pre-heat the oven to 325F/160C.

Wash and dry the chicken pieces and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 ½ tablespoons salt, and (preferably) freshly cracked pepper to taste.

Put potatoes and garlic in a baking dish and toss with 1/3 of the tarragon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt, and freshly cracked pepper to taste.

Place chicken on top of the potatoes, then sprinkle with another portion of tarragon. Pour the soy sauce and the wine over everything.

Cover dish tightly with foil and cook for 2 hours.

Increase heat to 400F/200C. Remove foil from the dish and spoon the pan juices over the chicken. Return dish to oven and cook for 30 minutes more or until the chicken, potatoes and garlic are golden brown.

Garnish with remaining tarragon and serve.

This piece first appeared in the December 4 2014 issue of The Philippine Star.

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