How do we know when the seasons change? This can be importent because increasingly we are told to eat based on the season. Eat what is fresh now, reap the harvest and bring it to the table. Tender pea shoots in the spring, ripe tomatoes in the summer, hearty game in the fall. Eating fresh ingredients is essential to good cooking and seasonal ingredients are freshest, but what if I don't feel like eating summer fare in the summer. What if I am tired of bright, colorful flavors. What if I am ready to move on to something more hearty, more rustic?
Recently, I ate at a restaurant that literally titles itself after the seasons. It tries to stay so up to date that it changes its appetizer weekly. There's nothing wrong with that really, it's a current concept and they are riding that train. However, what if I don't feel like what's current. We may still be in the heat of the August, but I'm tired of mango salsas to go with my grilled fish. Summer vegetables have been fresh and beautiful, but I've never liked zucchini and I don't need any more corn.
That said, I hate when stores display Christmas items in October or clothing stores put out the fall gear before the end of summer. I am just not in the mood to buy a sweater on the way to the pool, and the last thing I want to see is Santa Claus before Halloween. How do I balance living in the season and moving on to the next? On this night, perusing the menu at this seasonal restaurant, I stopped on the pork loin with Cremini mushrooms and polenta. These flavors of butter and cream, roasted comfort goodness, speak to me of scarves and sweaters, not shorts and sun glasses. Had this menu succeeded in sneaking Christmas tree lights into my shopping cart?
The recipe below is from my local paper this summer. It may not be boar ragu or shepherd's pie, but its cream and bacon illicited a comfort response that a tropical salsa would not. The pan sauce is the key, and it coated my insides with the savory goodness I needed. The sage bacon cream sauce is the perfect autumn bridge. The sage reminds us of the garden, while the bacon and cream transition us to coming cool weather and the hearty dishes of fall. It fit where I was and what I wanted, not just in place, but also in mood and emotion. So, listen always to exhortations to cook with the freshest ingredients, but listen to yourself in choosing which of those ingredients will meet your needs that evening. I hope this recipe will meet your needs one night. Adapted from the the Wahsington Post, June 29, 2011. Serves 2.
2 strips bacon, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup corn meal
1 tbsp minced shallots
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp chopped parsely
1 tsp minced sage
1/4 cup heavy cream
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and if insufficient bacon fat is present to saute the chicken breasts, add the oil and butter. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then coat with corn meal, shaking off any excess. Add the breasts and cook until starting to brown on the bottom. Turn the breasts and reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallots and cook a couple of minutes to soften. Add the wine and stock and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. When the chicken is cooked through, remove to a plate. Stir in the parsley, sage and cream and cook a few minutes to warm. If the sauce needs to be loosened, add a little more stock or wine. Plate the chicken breasts and spoon the sauce on top.