“why does dad always get to pick the Christmas tree?”
We were walking through the woods, following the Gearhead. He was wading through scrub grass, well-dusted with snow. He carried the chainsaw.
The night before I said, “the tree is for the kids, you need to let them choose it”.
“but they won’t choose the right tree.”
“it doesn’t matter, it isn’t about the tree, it’s about going out in the woods together.”
“they won’t choose the right tree.”
So, with the ease of a dictator, the Gearhead made his selection, and drowned out the protests of our children with the authoritative whine of the chain saw.
Every year we repeat this most hallmark of family moments; the children deepen their sense of injustice; I fantasize about divorce. It’s very much in the holiday spirit of things.
I won’t bother to describe the ensuing hours that include a certain amount of violent wrestling with the tree stand, a few pictures swiped off the wall by evergreen branches, snow melting onto the wool carpet, Olympian level untangling of fairy lights [wife edits: gold medal goes to the Gearhead for breadth and creativity regarding swear words], and arguments over what music should accommodate our tree ornamentation: Taylor Swift or Sarah Mclachlan’s gorgeous rendition of Joni Mitchell’s River. Shake it off indeed.
Instead, I will say, that once the tree twinkles with decorations, and we sit together on the couch in the glow of rose-coloured memory, we smile and laugh and agree: the tree is beautiful.
There’s no proper segue to this recipe, except to say that a bit of patience is rewarding. Marinate chicken pieces in a beautifully flavoured combination of orange, thyme and pink peppercorns, blast with high heat, and enjoy. Mmmmm, I can almost taste the symbolism.
Roasted Chicken with Orange, Thyme and Pink Peppercorns
(this is loosely based on a recipe from Jerusalem, page 179)
Juice of 1 half lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons course salt
2 tablespoons pink peppercorns, lightly crushed
small bunch fresh thyme leaves
fresh ground pepper
¼ cup water
1 large chicken (4 lb/1.8 kg), cut into eight pieces, or the same weight in skin-on, bone-in chicken pieces (legs and thighs are good)
Put the first 10 ingredients in a large bowl, mix well, add the chicken to the marinade and set aside. Leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 475F/220C. Transfer the chicken and marinade to a roasting pan that allows the chicken to sit comfortably in one layer, with the chicken skin facing up.
Put the pan in the oven and roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven. Lift the chicken from the cooking liquid and set aside (tent loosely with foil to keep warm). Either place the roasting pan over medium heat or transfer to a saucepan to do so. Reduce the cooking liquid until it is a glossy sauce and serve with chicken pieces.