I know what you’re thinking. That title should say “smell the roses.” But we’re not talking about perfume or roses today. We’re going to talk about my herby/floral friend, lavender. I’ve previously covered lavender as a dessert ingredient here. This topic came up the other night and the highly intelligent convo went something like this:
Me: “I like lavender in food. You know, because I like French stuff.”
Other person: “I don’t like lavender. I don’t want my food to taste like perfume. Or soap. It can’t be the star player in the dish.”
I could probably recollect more of the conversation had we not indulged in so many cocktails, but I appreciate the perspective. Floral extracts (rosewater, orange blossom water, violet, jasmine and even my favorite St. Germain ingredient, elderflower) have the ability to become overwhelming if not balanced properly. And interestingly, the lavender-tinged herbes de Provence that I enjoy so much really didn’t become popular until the mid 1970s. In fact, I didn’t eat anything featuring lavender while visiting the south of France. I only found it in bunches or in soaps and other toiletries at the market.
So, while on holiday in Florida visiting Crazy Bob, his lady friend and I took a shopping jaunt over to Sanibel Island where we discovered the Sanibel Olive Oil Company in Periwinkle Place (online as Florida Olive Oil here). They had such a variety of unique oil and vinegar flavors that we thought our taste buds were going to explode. After several tastings, I purchased Lavender Balsamic and Key West Citrus Balsamic (I’ll be experimenting with the latter in the near future). She picked up the Habanero-Lime and Walberry (a combination of strawberry and walnut). Sadly, I’m not finding the lavender in their online store so I may call when I run out or try a different vendor. However, if you are in the Fort Myers/ Naples area, you could easily head over to Sanibel and visit the shop to sample yourself. The owner is quite the conversationalist and in addition to oil and vinegar, he also carries flavored salts, spices, sauces, and other “foodie” delights.
Among many other adventures, Crazy Bob and I managed to visit the Edison & Ford Winter Estates where I picked up some local saw palmetto honey in the gift shop. Both are used in the recipe below, but you could substitute with your own local honey and the balsamic vinegar of your choice if you aren’t partial to lavender.
Lady Sensory’s No Soap For You Lavender-Balsamic Glazed Chicken
1 – 1.5 lbs boneless chicken breasts (I picked up an organic pack of three medium-sized breasts)
2 tsp Herbes de Provence
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup lavender balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey (I used saw palmetto, but use what you have)
With a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, combine and grind the mustard seeds, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper together. Apply to the chicken breasts as a dry rub and pop them back in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or while you get the rest of your ingredients ready. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm oil a large pan (that can transfer from stove to oven) on medium heat. Place garlic in and cook until slightly golden. Put the chicken breasts in the pan and brown on each side until you see the breasts just turning from pink to white (about 7-10 minutes, depending on thickness). Remove the breasts from the pan and place on a plate temporarily. Deglaze your pan with the white wine and vinegar and raise the heat to medium high. You are making a reduction so when the mixture comes to a slight boil, stir in the honey, and turn off the stove top. Return the chicken to the pan and put in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, flipping once and keeping an eye the glaze to ensure it doesn’t burn. I served these with a side of roasted asparagus, but they would be equally tasty with Brussels sprouts, potatoes, or any side dish of your choice. You’ll find the lavender gives the chicken more of a lemon/herb flavor that is balanced by the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar and honey. Top the chicken and side dish with any remaining glaze and enjoy!