This recipe originated on the sun-drenched island of Hvar, where brilliant patches of lavender and rosemary carpet the soothing green hillsides. It is particularly significant and memorable as it represents my first experience in cooking with lavender, an herb that we now grow commercially and use frequently on our ranch in Southern California. Serves 4 to 6
For this dish, I like to cut a whole chicken into 10 pieces: legs, thighs, wings and 4 pieces of breast. By quartering the chicken breast, each piece resembles the size of a chicken thigh.Thus the cooking time for the white meat is reduced and all pieces are cooked in about the same amount of time. Maybe best of all, this method creates more opportunities to share the white meat.
Wash and pat dry the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat and brown the chicken on both sides, about 3–4 minutes per side. Do not crowd the chicken pieces. If necessary, divide the chicken and brown in 2 batches.
Remove the chicken from the pan and pour off any excess oil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Stir for 5–6 minutes or until onion begins to turn translucent. Stir in the tomatoes. Crush the lavender with a mortar and pestle and add to the tomato sauce. Return the chicken to the pan and pour the wine over all. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the cover and stir in the chopped dried plums. Continue to simmer uncovered until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 15 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve with pasta, rice or polenta.
1 chicken (21/ 2 to 31/ 2 pounds), cut into legs, thighs, wings, and 4 breast pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/ 2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons dried culinary lavender
1 cup red wine
1/ 4 pound chopped dried plums (prunes)
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
Culinary lavender is available at some specialty food stores or online at www.newoakranch.com.
Although many varieties of lavender are suitable for cooking, the variety known as Provence is the most popular.