New York City belongs simultaneously to everyone and no one at once. Let me explain. When I was living in France, a friend adamantly told me that New York was not truly and completely “America’s city.” In a way, it belonged to the world, and in this sense, it was his just as much as it was mine.
I am inclined to agree with him.
New York — “everyone’s city”– anonymous and particular piece of everywhere, is often taken to hammers to prove its point. Splinters and shards come undone from the infinite past. It’s a flea market’s findings of these smashed, broken things brought down from high and low places, dusted off, refashioned — sometimes with funny glue.
And so by way of hammers shaped like gavels intent on some kind of order, a new thing is created! It’s awkward and beautiful and doesn’t know what to call itself, but yes, the pizza is kosher and I’ve heard they sell fried chicken at that pork buns place, it’s near that tattoo street– you know the one. Then there’s Belgian frites served with curried sauces, crammed tightly into a wax paper bar that stays stuffed with steam throughout all the seasons (including winter). These places, all mine and yours, will greet you in permutations that erect newness from tradition.
Meanwhile, there will be nights when you walk up the steps at Charles de Gaulle – Etoile in Paris, like they are yours, too: that reassured click-clack. Your face is smooth with cool; wings in your ears spread wide, as you approach the top steps and look up at the colossal and bold face of triumph. Intrepid, Arc of the infinite: its creviced shadows inviting and flitting madly across ripples of the night’s heavy garment.
You will stare at this becoming fixture that holds you young and living, and realize that this is what architecture is meant to do: make you both weak and strong. Convince you that living anywhere is worth it, if just to climb out from underground and feast ravenously on history.
These are after all the things that tacked dreams to the storyboards of your tongue and made pools on the smooth skate surface of your fingernails. But in the fleeting of this feeling, you just as quickly remember that this city, ephemeral as it is, reluctant and stubborn and timeless, can be borrowed, but never kept. They will spend centuries explaining. That’s probably why they’ll serve it to you with heavy cream.
Tarragon chicken is an old classic, but I’m mostly new to cooking with the tarragon herb. So far I love it’s delicateness.
The original recipe I found uses equal parts of cream and broth; but I’ve adapted this one to use much less cream, because for me, the cream functions only to thicken up the sauce and soften the vermouth slightly. I’ve also tossed in a handful of dried apricots (and mushrooms) because there’s just something unexplainably delicious and rewarding about their subtly sweet and slightly chewy texture. When you combine bright chopped jewels of apricot with fresh tarragon something unexpectedly delicious happens. Try it! Try tinkering with the old. Then, pair this dish with a salad of fennel and citrus, to play off the anise-scent of the tarragon sauce.
Loosely adapted from Gourmet (March 2007) via Epicurious.com
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup shallots
- 2-3 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used vermouth)
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2/3 cup chicken broth
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, plus more to taste
- 1 cup chopped mushrooms (such as cremini)
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
- lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
For particularly tender and flavorful chicken, I like to brine it (optional step!) before beginning to cook. To brine: add chicken pieces to a bath of generously salted water and refrigerate. After about 30 minutes, remove from salt bath and rinse with cool water. Pat chicken dry and season with pepper and additional salt, if desired.
Heat oil in a wide, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, then sauté chicken, flipping as needed, until browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Pour off a bit of the excess oil, then heat shallots, garlic, and bay leaf over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until shallots are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Stir in cream, broth, and tarragon.
Return chicken to skillet and cover to simmer, about 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked through (when chicken is pierced, juices should run clear). Stir in dried apricots, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Discard bayleaf.
Meanwhile, fry mushrooms and remaining garlic lightly in a small pan with olive oil until crisp and browned. Add fried mushrooms to tarragon sauce, stir gently and allow to sit a few minutes before serving to allow mushrooms to absorb some of the tarragon.