paris, again + lavender chicken with apricots

There is no game (or two) tonight, which means that I can tell you about Paris in June and chicken roasted with honey, lavender and apricots. It also means that I'll probably get a proper sleep and not be distracted from my bed from post-game interviews and the Guardian's ever speedy and amusing match report. If you haven't yet been seduced by penalty shoot-outs or the success of underdogs, record-breaking saves or an awkward selfie between a player and his chancellor, then feel free to skip the next paragraph. 

Because of which game happens on Friday, not the one where, fingers crossed, Colombia beats Brazil, but the first game of the day, it could be that that game kills my desire to write about Paris. You see, Germany plays France. France plays German and although les bleus was my first stop as a fan, I've had a Thomas Mueller jersey in my closet for four years now. Germany is my number one, and so I hope that they'll be Friday's match's number one too.

But this Honey-Lavender Chicken with Apricots, inspired by my trip to Paris and French apricots, is not worth chancing, so I'll play it safe and tell you about it before the game.

 I always seem to visit the Paris in the fall or winter, and so it was a treat to see the city's gardens in colour and its young men in short shorts. Since I had just visited in the fall, I wondered if a summer visit was too soon but, as a friend of mine says, Paris is always a good idea. Plus the weekend heat was the perfect excuse to order glass after cold glass of rose. It was hot enough to drink coffee cold and to walk barefoot on the few patches of grass in the Jardin des Tuileries where walking on grass is allowed. 

It was an indulgent weekend. I drank strong Belgian beer and dry rose. I spent a good chunk of my pay check on caramels at Jacques Genin. I tried the excellent mango passion fruit caramels, but brought only natur back to Munich, where I rationed my buttery gold and practiced my best self control to not eat the caramels all at once. I had an appetizer of foie gras with rhubarb compote and wild strawberries at Frenchie Wine Bar and finished the meal with an apricot tart with herb ice cream and fresh thyme.  

I ate breakfast at Rose Bakery - buttery scrambled eggs served with a parmesan muffin. Good thing that there was a green salad and asparagus as a side to keep everything in check. 

I regularly popped into bakeries that look like jewellery boxes, with pastries that look like gems. 
I finally tried Poilane's signature loaf, and packed a quarter of my carry-on with it and their more exciting Punitons cookies; however, I wish that I had saved room for one of the colourful breads from Gontran Cherrier. Poilane bread is good, but it is similar to the sourdough that is in bakeries here in Munich. Rye bread with red miso, on the other hand, is not and I regret having maxed out my bread allowance too early. The bakery is also great for lunch and I had a bun turned green from herbs, stuffed with guacamole, fresh cheese and arugula. Dessert was a chocolate eclair and it was perfect.

Because even Parisians don't live off of pastries and French food, I gave into the trend that is Englishness and ate haddock fish n' chips from The Sunken Chip by the edge of Canal St Martin. 

Once again, I went to Le Mary Celeste, where each dish made me want to high-five the chef. I did my best to memorize its current dishes so I can make them at home. The endive dish with tamarind may have retired, but the flavour combinations on its ever-changing menu are still working hard. Ceviche de boeuf with jalapenos, peanuts and soya sprouts. More deviled eggs. Terrine de noix et quinoa with chimicurri and hoisin sauce. Pannacotta with grapefruit, caramelized sesame seeds and fresh mint. All high-five worthy.

But beyond wanting to eat, Paris makes me want to cook. Its markets are stocked with lush ingredients. Blushing radishes. Apricots so bright they look like they could glow in the dark.

I'm certainly smitten with apricots, French apricots, and I find that I usually like them best when they appear in savoury dishes - in salads and spicy sauces, with strong cheeses and roasted meats. 

This recipe is simple. It doesn't fool around with reinventing roast chicken, it just adds some lavender to the herb mix and throws some apricots into the roasting pan. The flavour that results is surprising. The chicken has a note of sweetness courtesy of the honey and the collapsed apricots are somewhere in the middle on the sweet-sour scale. Make sure that your apricots are ripe but aren't already falling apart before you even expose them to heat. Make sure to use a runny honey and, for extra points, you can use lavender honey.

I also added two handfuls of small, red French potatoes and think that you should do the same. Roasting a chicken without potatoes in the pan seems like a wasted opportunity to me. As my oven preheated, I quickly boiled them until they were nearly soft and then added them to the pan of chicken and apricots.

Just like Frenchie garnished its apricot tart with fresh thyme, I added thyme to this dish. The two flavours belong and I think that making an apricot sorbet with thyme is the next logical step. Someone get on that while the season is still here!

Honey-Lavender Roast Chicken with Apricots

inspired by Rachel Khoo's Honey Lavender Chicken

serves 4


2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lemon, cut in half
3 sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp dried lavender, crushed
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp honey
sea salt
1 organically raised chicken
6 large apricots, halved and pitted

Preheat oven to 375 F/ 190 C / gas mark 5. 

In a small bowl whisk together the minced garlic, the juice from half a lemon, the thyme leaves, dried lavender, olive oil and honey. 

Place the chicken in a roasting pan, generously salt and pepper it, inside and out, and then slather it with the olive oil mixture. Stuff the other lemon half and thyme stems into the chicken. Place the apricot halves around the chicken and give them a good stir, tossing them with the olive oil mixture in the pan. Add some potatoes too if you wish.

Cook until the skin of the chicken is crispy and the juices run clear, about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the bird.

Remove from the oven, let rest for 10 minutes and then serve.

Guten! And may the better team win! And may the better team be Deutschland.

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