Inspired by the “Poached Chicken Breast and Spring Vegetable Salad” in Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, I set out to make my own spring crudités platter. This would be a lovely way to entertain alfresco in the garden for Saturday lunch. Sparkling wine pairs nicely with this simple but elegant fare. I blanched the vegetables in boiling hot water and then immersed them in ice to make sure the color was preserved and the texture was still crisp. You could serve a herb vinaigrette but I went with a garlic aioli recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables for dipping. Soft boiled eggs rounded out the feast- also good for dipping bread or veg into.
When poaching chicken, it’s best to leave the meat on the bone for more succulence and flavor. The chicken should cook gently at what Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall calls the “tremulous simmer”; bubbles occasionally breaking at the surface. The comforting aroma coming from the kitchen is truly magical. How can it be so good? I don’t know . . . it just is.
I have to admit this was my first attempt at aioli- and it was awesome! I was nervous because so much hype and superstition surrounds this garlic mayonnaise from Provence, France. Aioli is an emulsion of egg yolks, oil, and lemon juice. In Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters writes that aioli is “never to be attempted on a stormy day!” I look forward to making aioli many more times, and eventually developing my own house style. It’s truly a slow food thing: pounding the garlic with a mortar and pestle, adding the oil in drop by drop, whisking until your arm falls off. Sounds like fun, no?
This weekend cook in the moment, taking advantage of the freshness of spring vegetables at the farmer’s market. Know that the produce was harvested just hours ago. Rush it home and handle it with care. Your radishes will never be more vibrant than they are at this moment. Celebrate with a meal simply prepared, like “Spring Crudités Platter with Aioli”. A delicately poached chicken is an honorable dish to serve alongside the spring harvest. Laugh and toast with bubbles and savor the season. It’s a beautiful life!