Same Old, Same New: Sweeter Savoury Strawberry Basil Sauce

This presentation style is now a trademark.

Now, surely you’re thinking that it’d be hard to get delicious tasting strawberries at this time of year, sure there are store varieties, but nothing can compare to those fresh from the garden. Which is true, but these are from the freezer, I stumbled across a bag of old variety strawberries, the harder, slightly tarter type I grow along with the sweeter new kinds, I say that like I planned it and didn’t just get gifted a lot of strawberry plants a few year ago. In truth you’d imagine frozen anything to be inferior, I’d tell you honestly if they were, I’m not proud, but these are as fresh as the day I froze them, they were picked and frozen within minutes, what amazed me, Dear Reader, was the basil that I chopped and froze in water has retained it’s taste and aroma perfectly too. So, what else could I do but make The Titular Sauce, and since I was making it for rice today I felt like changing things up a little. Again the point of these informal recipe reworks is to share what I’ve learned. I’ll gladly freeze basil the same way next year, I never expected much, but I suppose fresh really does matter, it was a matter of half an hour before it was all harvested from the plant, chopped pushed into ice-cube trays, next year I’ll use the large ones, which recently did their duty for turkey juices (Something on that too).

Okay, sorry for the even more confusing aside, I never promised perfect clarity, just rambling, useful tips. So, there was a holiday called Christmas recently, you may have missed it. But on that day, in the Irish way we overcook a turkey, yes, the Irish overcook meat to a nicety, turkey is dry already, but nothing can match the prowess of an Irish person making sure it’s “done”, which in many a case means almost dehydrated. So, this year we decided to buck tradition and turn things on their heads, or rather their front. We left the turkey breast side down and wrapped it up tightly in tinfoil. It did cook for longer than needed, you can’t get away from that completely in Ireland, remember that beef here is grey, but as we lifted it the carcass split, which was worrying at first, then the brown meat, usual dark grey, was just lightly coloured and, for the first time in my life, delicious, usually relegated to the second day curry, this time it  was fought over. The leg bones slipped out, the breast meat just came away whole, the whole bird feed three people for three days and all that remained was bones. The meat was flavoursome and moist. Cooking it upside-down kept it from drying, the legs from burning and made it a miracle bird to those used to dry, almost tasteless meat. The juices were saved, frozen into cubes and used for gravy, they’ll stay in the freezer a while long. Anyway, sorry for the long aide, onto the dish of the day.

So, strawberries as the nightshade free tomato are firmly a favourite of mine now. They don’t replicate a tomato perfectly, but they impart something of the sweet, tartness that is really very hard, if not outright impossible to find without nightshades or citrus. What I did differently was I left the chicken breasts whole, rubbed them with brown sugar, salt and pepper. They’re golden from the butter and oil the onions were fried in, I kept all the sauce and meat to one pan, more flavoursome that way, not that you can see it under the sauce. The onions are cooked until they just started brown, the chicken goes into a high heat for a minute a side, to get the sugar to caramelise a little, they cook a while and then I remove the chicken to rest and toss it the strawberries and basil, leaving the sole additional sweetness to be the brown sugar sticking to the pan, the whole lot simmers and cooks until everything has melded and melted into this wonderfully contrasting sauce, the slightly sweet onions and the warm, tart strawberries, the pungency of the onion meeting the gentle sweetness of the berry is really something, the richness of the butter giving it an pleasant oily mouthfeel, okay, sorry, that pretentious, but it is good. The chicken, with resting juices, go into the pan for the final few minutes. The sweet potato is cooking while this is with this sweet seasoning, brown sugar in there too, just a simple saute in butter and olive oil, I find the oil stops the need to add too much butter when it dries out, making it soggy after a while. The whole is tossed onto the rice, perfectly steamed, as it has been since I originally found the recipe and figured out the ratios for every kind of rice I use.

So, Dear Reader, a lot for such a basic recipe, but you know it helps to know all you can about what you’re eating, you can adapt and tweak anything if you know how and why it works and if you’re on a restricted diet that kind of skill is vital. It’s easy to get into a rut with food, sometimes you need to play around a little to remind you to enjoy what you’re eating or even just the preparation of food. That’s it for today, Dear Reader, I’ll be back again sooner rather than later, hopefully with something new to share. Take care.

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