Early Spring - the sun shines with real warmth but the air is nippy. Bitter cold is gone, but you still need a jacket. You no longer yearn for dense, heavy flavors and stick-to-your ribs dishes but you’re not ready for the light, refreshing and cooling dishes of summer. In short, it’s transition time. From heavy stews of beef, legs of lamb, thick steaks and chops it’s time to turn to chicken and pork and fish enhanced with sauces that warm with a light touch.
Marmalade with Sweet Spices
With chicken or pork, spice is nice. Combine sweet spices (especially coriander, cardamom, clove, anise) with a sweet/tart marmalade (especially orange or apricot); add flavor enhancements such as garlic, ginger, white wine, Worcestershire sauce or herbs such as sage or tarragon that are compatible with the basic sweet/tart elements. Such sauces are quite flexible. The choice of spices and flavor enhancers is yours. It’s hard to go wrong but when in doubt, add a little of each ingredient until you have the taste you want.
Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Marmalade
A simple sauce that brings out both the sweetness of pork loin and its porkiness, perhaps because the sweetness of the marmalade adds to the sweetness of the pork, yet provides contrasts of pork’s mild flavor with the liveliness of the spices.
2-pound pork loin roast
1/2 cup apricot marmalade
2 tablespoons white wine
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Roast the pork loin. I have good results by roasting it at 375F for 15 minutes, followed by about 40 minutes at 325F. Take the roast out when the internal temperature is 135F. Cover lightly with foil for 15 minutes, then cut into 3/4-inch slices.
Combine all other ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Slather the sauce over the pork slices.
The pork roast was served with a winter vegetable combined with a warm but light sauce. Brussels sprouts were topped with a sauce of butter and lemon juice. Butter and grated ginger would also make a great sauce for the sprouts.
Chicken with Coriander-Chipotle Cream
This dish captures nicely both the essence of the culinary transition and fusion fare. The classic French combination of wine and cream takes beautifully to the classic Southwestern combination of coriander, chipotle and lime. Serves 4.
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup coriander leaves + ¼ cup chopped leaves + additional sprigs for garnish
4 (about 1 ½ lb.) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
1½ peppers, chopped fine, from can of chipotle in adobo sauce
Bring heavy cream to a boil, stir in ½ cup coriander leaves and remove from heat. Cover tightly and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain and set aside.
Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil and butter in pan over medium high heat. Sauté chicken breasts for about 5 minutes on one side, until nicely browned. Lower heat and cook other side for about 7 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Remove from pan and keep warm.
Deglaze pan with wine, add lime zest and chopped chipotle and simmer gently for 2 minutes.
Gradually stir cream into pan and cook briefly over low heat. Pour over chicken, sprinkle with chopped coriander and garnish the dish with the sprigs.
Oven Roasted Smoky Chicken
The spring warm-up turns thoughts to the delights of outdoor cooking and the bracing, smoky tastes of grilled and barbecued food. But it’s too cold out there ….still! The solution: a marinade using liquid smoke.
4 bone-in, skin on, chicken breasts or thighs with drumsticks
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon paprika (your choice - hot or not)
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon grated garlic
Rinse chicken in cold water and pat dry. Preheat oven to 400F.
Combine all other ingredients in shallow bowl. Put chicken in bowl and spoon marinade over. Place in refrigerator for about an hour.
Bring chicken to room temperature. Place on rack over baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on size of chicken pieces.
Serve with asparagus or French fries.