September 25, 2005

Autumn's Here

Autumn is undoubtedly here. There is a chill in the air, although it has been blessedly sunny so far, and the wind is starting to rattle the gradually baring branches of the trees. Everything is starting to turn to shades of gold and umber. It's time to take out the comforting, hearty foods of the harvest, to turn on the oven and glory in the warmth of the kitchen instead of the oppressive, hot slog of summer. One of my favourite things to make at this time of year is Braised Chicken & Fennel. It doesn't need the same length of time in the oven as beef or pork ribs, but it is full of slow-cooked deliciousness and rich autumn flavours.

I particularly like using sweet potatoes in this dish - the colour gives a little pop to the soothingly pale fennel and garlic cloves, although regular potato (or even carrots) works as well. The fennel becomes very tender here - a melting sort of subtly, brought into sharp focus with a scattering of fennel seeds. The sauce is not thick, but provides a creamy gravy to ladle over each plate, or to mush around a piece of warm, crusty bread.

While I gladly welcome the change to my favourite season, I'm a teensy bit reluctant to let go of summer entirely. Since pizza, to me, is a year-round endeavour, it seemed as good a dish as any to enjoy in these still-sunny last days of September.

I am playing constantly with my crust recipe - walking the thin line between crispy and chewy, hoping for spring in the crumb and a satisfying firmness that will stand up to the toppings - in this case a spicy tomato sauce, some hot Italian sausage (left over from the Braise) and a generous amount of finely chopped green pepper.

All is well in the changing of the seasons.

No comments: