Solstice is the cul du sac of winter, a place where the disappearing sun goes to turn around and return home. Winter solstice is a psychological balm for those of us living in Alaska. It marks the end of loss. Tomorrow we will begin to gain daylight, slowly at first, but by late March the Great Hibernation will be over.
However, I was disappointed this morning by -30°F. Again. I have no alternative but to treat these months as Festival months. I will celebrate Solstice, Christmas, and New Years with a Mardi Gras-like fervor. I will hang lights, decorate my table, and feast like the Bacchanals. Mircea Eliade, in The Sacred and the Profane, explains that festivals are a way of maintaining our connection to the Divine:
“In imitating the exemplary acts of a god or of a mythical hero, or simply by recounting their adventures, the man of an archaic society detaches himself from profane time and magically re-enters the Great Time, the sacred time.” Mircea Eliade
Last night, I realized that I had a jar of artichoke hearts in need of eating. I opened them a few weeks ago and realized that they were a good choice for a dark winter’s night… they are in season in spring and last sometimes into the fall. I decided to make a meal that represents my faith in the return of spring. But what to pair them with? Well, in honor of my desire to remain a “Spring Chicken,” I saw chicken as a hopeful choice.
I will give you the recipe on the one condition that you never tell the Hot Boyfriend what’s in it. He asked me if I was trying to “fatten him up” and we joked about the Witch’s desire to consume youth (the Hot Boyfriend is considerably younger than I) in “Hansel and Gretel”. He wondered if I was going to actually put a half a stick of butter in the sauce (the remaining half was lying conspicuously on the counter) and I said “No way!” I hadn’t yet gotten the heavy whipping cream out of the fridge. I thought, as I stirred the thickening sauce, that if I were going to fatten him and eat him for my Solstice meal, this would be a good dish on which to do so. I mused on humanity’s love of fatted animals: Kobe beef, foie gras, pork belly, the Fatted Calf of the Old Testament. And I mused on the pleasure of feeding men, specifically the man in my kitchen. Once he begins training hard again in the spring, I won’t resort to such underhanded methods of pleasure, but for now you must remain complicit in my crimes if you want the recipe.
Fatted Hansel Chicken: or Braised Chicken Tenderloin with Asparagus and Mushroom Sauce
- 1/2 cup shredded Manchego cheese
- 1 cup diced mushrooms (shiitake and crimini)
- 1 cup artichoke hearts (roughly chopped)
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 1/2 stick butter
- white pepper
- 1 clove minced garlic
- Sacrificial Virgin Olive Oil
- salt, seasoning
- 8-10 pieces of chicken tenderloin
In a saucepan, on medium head, add the butter, mushrooms, white pepper, and garlic. When the mushrooms and garlic begin to smell really good, add the cream, half & half, artichokes, and cheese. Cover and let this simmer while you prepare the chicken.
Pat the chicken tenderloins dry and dust them with seasoning (I used a rosemary, garlic, pepper blend). In a large oven-proof skillet on high heat, add the olive oil. Sear the outside of the chicken on both sides (this shouldn’t take long for small tenderloins). Finish the chicken in a 400° oven.
Serve it forth to Hansel. Feel his finger to see if he is fat.