Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sage bush no more...but more Chicken with Sage Browned Butter

I've noticed a number of food bloggers have been very excited about the arrival of spring, posting photos of their flowers and gardens. I, too, had been been bitten by the nice weather and early sproutlings, at least I was until I started cleaning up my herb garden this past weekend - I've discovered that my beloved sage bush has bit the dust -nothing but dead wood.
below is a photo of the bush late last summer as it was blooming (ignore the neighbors chipped paint garage (they've since painted!). That's thyme on the left, and oregano and French tarragon on the right...).
I suspected that something was amiss back then, as it only achieved about 2/3 of it's usual size, reaching only about 24" in height, with none of the leaves being any longer than 5" or so... In years past, the bush sprang up to almost 3 feet tall with leaves as long as 7" - Super Sage! I had so much sage, and I gave most of it away. None of the recipients could ever believe the enormity of the herb I was bringing them, and now, it is no more, nothing but a bare, brown, brittle non-sprouting foot tall stump.

I first planted this sage 11 or 12 years ago from a store bought pot, I think from Miejer. For the several years it didn't do much, barely surviving from year to year with smallish inch and a half leaves and not much in the way of overall yield. Then, suddenly, after the 4th or 5th year, KABOOM! My little plant seemed to just explode with vigor, growing rapidly and producing absolutely enormous leaves averaging 6" long withsome as long as 7½" and well over an inch wide. I've always thought that this happened when the little guy finally pushed it's roots through the thick Ohio clay and in to some good rich stuff waiting underneath. But now...sniff, sniff...I miss it already.

I do have some seeds from last year, so I may try to grow it's children. After my initial sadness, though, I also realize that this is the perfect excuse opportunity to head over to the nursery to pick out a new baby
Ah, there's the silver lining! After all, I've gotta have fresh sage. One of our favorite dishes is a simple broiled chicken recipe I saw on an old episode of "The Frugal Gourmet". Jeff Smith had some guest chefs on making their restaurant's signature dish. One chef made broiled chicken thighs with sage browned butter. It was so simple andd seemed so elegant, that I just had to try it. Big success ensued...
I've never been able to find a video of the episode or a copy of the recipe from it, and i've never really written it down, so I'm just going to wing it here:

Broiled Chicken Thighs with Sage Browned Butter

What you need:
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 stick of butter
16 - 20 large sage leaves
salt and pepper
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

What you do:
Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides.
Put the chicken, smooth side down, on a wire rack in a roasting pan. Be sure spread the thighs out.
Broil the chicken thighs, turning half way through, until done and just crispy on the edges. Remove them broiler, and keep them warm.

In a large(wide) frying pan, melt the butter. Put the sage leaves in the cooking butter in a single layer - don't let them overlap. Keep heating the butter slowly, but do not allow it to boil.
The idea is to:
  1. Fry the sage leaves until they are crisp;
  2. Cook the butter slowly so that it browns but doesn't burn
While frying the leaves, you will need to turn them carefully. As the leaves crisp up, they will turn dark. Once they are dark and crispy, carefully remove them to a paper towel - they will be a bit brittle. The butter should also be turning dark at this point, too.

Place the chicken thighs on the serving plates and sprinkle them with some Reggiano. Keep heating the butter while swirling the pan slowly until the butter browns - you should actually see it turn from it's golden color to a chestnutty brown. immediately remove it from the heat and spoon a generous amount over each thigh - the cheese will sizzle and melt (I love that part!). Top each thigh with at least a couple of sage leave (more if they're small) and serve with either wide egg noodles or fresh made mashed potatoes (either of them buttered with the browned butter). Munch on any extra fried sage leaves...


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