Embracing Autumn

The autumn equinox is upon us...

This is a picture from the top of Spencer's Butte, a short hike near my house, that I took a few weekends ago. It was early morning, so the fog still clung to the hillside, and it was the first time I realized that Summer was, indeed, leaving us and Fall was gradually coming to take her place. Now, I've mumbled and moaned about this fact more than a few times in the last few weeks, and I've decided that it's time to stop and smell the fallen leaves, as the case may be.

Autumn really is my favorite time of year (we got partially cheated out of summer here because the rain lasted until July, so I was a little spiteful). Growing up in Colorado there were always the aspens, changing into every color imaginable, and the crisp cool air signaling that sweater season was about to begin (Oh, how I love sweater season!). Here in Oregon, the deciduous trees are fewer between, but the traditions of Autumn are as rich as ever. Loving Boyfriend and I always grab our canvas bags and baskets and head out to Deetering Orchards near Coburg, OR to spend an afternoon picking as many different kinds of organic apples as we can reach and carry home from the trees there (just to clarify: we do pay for them, not just take 'em and run, ). One of Loving Boyfriend's specialties in the kitchen is apple pie - and we've recently modified his mother's passed-down recipe to include a Northwest treat - huckleberries. I love to simmer cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and apples on the stove until they've been reduced to a syrupy concoction that fills the entire house with the rich smell.

And then of course there's Thanksgiving - a food lover's holiday. Minus all of the stress of making a sublime 'afternoon' dinner for a huge group of people like my mother always had to do, I'm now too poor to fly home and too young (and still in school) to have a big family of my own, so my Thanksgivings are filled with friends and the required one or two perfect dishes that I can spend the entire morning on. I love perusing all the food magazines for new takes on traditional recipes and choosing the ones that make my mouth water.

Waking up in the mornings to take our dogs, one's His, one's Hers, out for a morning walk before we go to school, we've really noticed how the air has changed. We've gone from shor
ts and short sleeve shirts to sweatshirts, hats and gloves; and the sunrise has gotten later and later as time goes on. Our evening walks together have moved from after dinner, to after work.

The CSA box has changed to include pumpkins, apples, potatoes, peppers, and even the first winter delicata squash. And our bodies are craving comfort foods; warm, hearty dishes and
evening cups of tea and hot cocoa. We're also beginning our yearly search for a cord of firewood as the nights and mornings are swiftly growing cooler. One of the comfort foods we recently cooked were chicken palliards with a grape sauce.

Chicken Palliards with Grape Sauce, from Bon Appetit

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup of flour
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp butter
1 cup muscat or red grapes, sliced in half (de-seeded if you want)
1 tbsp. shallots
1/4 cup of dry fruity wine
1 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. tarragon

1. Pound the chicken breasts out, and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Dredge the chicken through the flour in a shallow dish.
2. Melt 2 tbsp. of butter in a pan on medium-high heat, then add the chicken to the pan. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until done on the inside. Remove the chicken to a plate and tent foil over the plate to keep the chicken warm.
3. Add grapes and shallots to the same pan, and cook for a few minutes or until tender. Add the wine (we used a Riesling), and cook until it boils. Once boiling, add the cream (we used 1/2 and 1/2 b/c we didn't have cream) and let it simmer until thickened slightly. Stir in tarragon.

We served it with smashed potatoes - both white and purple and drizzled with the sauce. A salad would go nicely also, but we didn't have any. I wish I'd had something to garnish it with (I used all the tarragon my poor plant had left!) as the picture of the finished product doesn't look quite as appetizing as I promise it is; but then again, some things are best in real life.

2 comments from you:

Michèle said...

Hi Michelle, lovely blog! Your post did nothing to help my homesickness, with your talk of apple pies and walks with the dogs. :) Like you, I am a lover of sweater season too, they are poised and ready to go as soon as the weather drops enough. That recipe sounds wonderful, a great dish to ring in the fall. Nice post!

michelle said...

Hi Michele! (Another Michelle!)
Thanks for stopping by. It must be hard to be so far from home, but I can't think of a better place to be. Let me know if I can send you anything to make you less homesick!