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A Feast for Mom

Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the wonderful mothers who devote their time and affections to their families. To honor her, treat her to a delicious, home-made meal complemented with her favorite Sonoma-Cutrer Wine. Mom is sure to be thrilled!

Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Green Olives

Serves 4 – 6
An easy chicken dish with delicious flavors of the Mediterranean.

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 garlic cloves, peeled
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds discarded
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, plus more for garnish (2 teaspoons dried)
Pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika) either agridulce (semi hot) or Picante (hot)
1 small to medium fresh fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup green olives*
Juice of 1 large lemon
2/3 cup drained and crumbled fresh feta cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 375°. Season the chicken well on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof pan or Dutch oven large enough to hold all the thighs in a single layer, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken, skin-side down, and sear until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic cloves to the pan and flip the thighs over. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and has gotten lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the chicken and garlic from the pan and set aside.

With the pan is still hot, add the onions, lemon slices, fennel seed and oregano and season with smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring until the onions have softened and the brown bits on the bottom of the pan have loosened, 6 to 8 minutes. Off heat, stir in the fresh fennel and then nestle the thighs skin-side up in the onion mixture and add the garlic and the olives. Pour the lemon juice over the chicken and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Scatter fresh oregano leaves and feta, if using, over the top and serve.

*Seek out the best green olives you can find such as Volos or Amphissa from Greece, Lucques or Picholine from France, Castelvetrano or Cerignola from Italy. Remember good olives are never canned or jarred.

Grapefruit and Savory Greens Salad with Goat Cheese

Serves 6
A simple salad embraces all of the basic senses of taste: sweet, sour, bitter salty and umami.

3 cups gently packed frisée leaves, creamy centers only (1 large head)
1 bunch Upland cress*
1 medium Belgian endive, cut lengthwise in thick julienne
Honey lemon vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 large Texas red grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
1 5-ounce round soft ripening goat cheese, cut into 6 wedges
1/3 cup toasted, slivered almonds
1 large bunch fresh chervil, thick stems removed

Combine the frisée, cress and endive in a large bowl and toss gently with a bit of the vinaigrette to lightly coat. Arrange artfully on 6 plates along with the grapefruit sections. Place a wedge of cheese on top, scatter almonds around along with the chervil. Serve immediately.

Honey Lemon Vinaigrette
Makes 1 generous cup

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
6 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fragrant honey
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together and season to your taste with salt and pepper. Store covered and refrigerated up to 3 days.
*Upland cress is sold with its roots and soil attached in many markets.

Flourless Chocolate Soufflé

Serves 6 – 8

6 tablespoons light cream (half and half)
10 tablespoons sugar, plus additional for dusting soufflé dish
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 egg yolks
6 egg whites
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375°. Place milk and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, 1 – 2 minutes. Stir in chocolate and cook until melted, another 2 minutes or so. Transfer to a nonreactive bowl (glass or stainless steel), cool for 5 minutes, then beat in egg yolks.

Beat egg whites in a nonreactive bowl until stiff peaks form.

Butter a 10 inch soufflé dish then lightly dust with sugar. Gently mix one quarter of the egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten it. Gently but thoroughly fold in remaining whites. Do not over mix. Spoon batter into dish.

Make sure oven rack is low enough to allow soufflé room to rise as much as 2” above the dish. Bake until puffed, about 30 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.

John Ash © 2015

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