Chef Tom, A Wood Sprite Trilogy, and Chicken ….

Reminder: These short stories are from a writing program called Round Robin. Write something every day, set the timer for 12 minutes, the title of each piece is the daily prompt. Stop writing once the alarm goes off.

Wood Sprite

Wildness and gladness for it

The human female child had been sitting crossed legged for some time staring right at the little creature, although she couldn’t see him at all. He was a clever little wood sprite indeed and could change the color of his skin to match the twigs and leaves, and the small rock on which he sat.

Motionless, he carefully watched the girl through his eyelids; her body heat a red glow. He dared not open his sapphire eyes, as jewel-like as they were, for fear of giving himself away. She just might eat him.

Ardythe! Supper! 

The girl ignored her mother’s call the first time, continuing to stay completely still and stare into the dark opening under the lilac bush. She’d gone looking for the little people in the back garden and had suddenly caught movement in the corner of her eye. Glancing quickly towards the blur, the lower leaves of the lilac were the only ones moving. She sat directly in front of the still-shaking leaves and thought that if she didn’t budge, he might come back out.

Ardythe! Now!

Running into the warm kitchen, she exclaimed, I saw him, mummy, I saw him.

Who darling, who did you see?

Cricket. The little person who lives under the lilacs. I named him Cricket because he’s so small and brown.

That’s lovely dear. Now sit and have some soup.

As soon as the child rose to leave, the tiny creature opened his eyes. All that sitting and waiting made him hungry.

To his left a grasshopper came crawling up the stick next to him. Cricket flashed his tiny hand out, grabbed the bug in a tight grip, pulled it struggling into his lap and with his other hand gripped the insect’s head and tore it from its body. He quickly sucked all the sweet soupy juice out of the head, tossing the carcass into the dirt in front of him.

Ye Olde Parking Garage

Parking Garage

Ardythe Buckley bought the Babbling Brooke Inn from her grandmother, who grew up in Riverstick. Nan was too parsimonious to ever leave it to her granddaughter in her will. She remembers sitting at the old woman’s feet, listening to her stories. After supper Nan would have a pipe and a pint, sitting next to the roaring fire in the lobby. She was especially fond of the tales of the little people who, according to her, were still quite active in these parts (said she still catches them out of the corner of her eye). Ardythe was sent out into the garden on more than one occasion with specific instructions to find one. They loved to hide in the bushes, her Nan would say, and their favorite spot was under the lilacs.

The Inn was built on land that used to belong to the Sidhe, ancient inhabitants of Ireland who reputedly had incredible magical powers. Sidhe means “people of the mounds” and referred to the fairy mounds scattered throughout the island.

Ardythe’s Nan kept referring to a corner of the property that was built over a Faery Portal, a place where they would come and go from one world to another. The exact location was vague, but the closest Ardythe could make out was in the very Southwest corner of their parking garage next to the main building.

According to legend (which was according to Nan), once every Harvest moon, the door would open to those from our world. On the eve of the full moon, if you stood at the entrance and uttered the right words, the portal would open, and you could enter the world of Faery. Coming back was a whole other story.

Despite her own near sightings as a young girl, Ardythe mostly took her Nan’s wild tales with a grain of salt. Still, she was curious. She decided to see if they were true. The ancient Gaelic “right words” were left for her in her grandmother’s diary when she passed. On the eve of the Harvest Moon, Ardythe, book in hand, opened the garage door, and moved to the far end to the Southwestern-most corner. There, under an ancient tarpaulin, stood an old tool cabinet, with tall doors and iron knobs.

She opened the diary to the page marked with a violet ribbon. She pulled down the tarp, reached over for the two metal knobs, and drew back the two doors, their hinges complaining in the dark.

Oculus

Sliver of Sunlight

Gareth was a paleographer who loved the ancient manuscripts from the Church of England. One set of folio’s caught his attention as it illustrated what looked to be a list of directives revealing a cache of precious parchments from the very beginning of Christianity. These bits of parchment were called The Scrolls of the Apostles and were thought to be lost.

Through a lot of luck and one rather intimate relationship with a Cardinal, Gareth was able to find and “borrow” a Bishop’s crozier thought to belong to Alphege, one of the first Archbishops of Canterbury.

The manuscript described a church, an ancient structure high on a cliff overlooking the English Channel, not far from Bournemouth. Above the altar, remarkably intact, was a round stained glass window, one of the earliest Rose windows, originally designed in deference to the Holy Virgin, who was referred to as The Rose.

On the floor of the church was a prayer carved in Latin text bordered by a series of small indentations in the stone. These depressions, thought to be purely decorative, proved key to the instructions in the manuscript. On the day of the Summer Solstice, the tip of the crozier was to be placed upright in the centermost hollow. At the sun’s zenith, the light would hit the Rose Window, pass through the oculus, through the crozier, and illuminate a set of words within the prayer, revealing the location of the parchments.

Today is the Solstice. The zenith is nigh. Gareth places the crozier into the middle hole moments before the sun moves into position. He watches as a sliver of sunlight settles onto two words, “Puer Tertius.” Gareth translates the words to “Third Child.”

Per the guidelines, he immediately scans the upper windows between the church walls and the ceiling. One window depicts the Virgin surrounded by three putti. Three children! Only one cherub is clearly pointing down into the church, near the altar, to the Tomb of Alphege.

 =====

 

Chicken Scarpariello

Chicken Scarpariello might not be a traditional Italian dish, but it is delicious. As many versions as there are cooks. Lemon, potatoes, bell peppers, even mushrooms, this recipe has lots of room for innovation.  The recipe is believed to have originated in New York in the United States and “Scarpariello” in Italian means “shoemaker or shoe fixer,” meaning that it is a meager dish.  The second thought on how the dish got its name may is shoemaker refers to the word cobbled, meaning that all the ingredients can be thrown together.  Many recipes use chicken parts (legs, thighs, breasts) but for simplicity’s sake and because they are so forgiving and always juicy, I am using thighs.

Chicken Scarpariello

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
6 whole chicken thighs

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-pound sweet Italian sausage, cut into 1″ slices

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine

3 pickled cherry peppers, stemmed and cut into quarters

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock, or canned reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup Italian parsley, freshly chopped

Directions:
Wash and pat the chicken thighs dry, then season them generously with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet to medium-high. Add chicken, skin side down, leaving room between them so as not to steam. You might have to do it in batches. Let thighs sit without moving for 5-7 minutes to render and brown the skin. Cook the chicken, turning as necessary, until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.

Remove the chicken thighs as they brown and drain them briefly on paper towels. Place them in a roasting pan large enough to hold all of them in a single layer.

Repeat with any remaining chicken, adding more oil to the pan as necessary and adjusting the heat to prevent the bits that stick to the pan from overbrowning. After chicken had been removed, drained, and added to the baking dish, place the pieces of sausage in the chicken fat and cook, turning until browned on all sides.

Remove sausage from the pan and tuck in and around the chicken thighs. Reduce the heat under the frying pan to medium and add the garlic. Cook until golden, being careful not to burn it. Scatter the cherry peppers into the skillet, season with salt and pepper and stir for a minute.

Pour in the vinegar and bring to boil, scraping the browned bits that stick to the skillet into the liquid and cook until the vinegar is reduced by half. Add the white wine, bring to a boil and boil until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sausage in the roasting pan and stir to coat. Place the chicken in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and sticky, like molasses, about 15-20 minutes. If the sauce is still too thin, place the roasting pan directly over medium-high heat on the stovetop and cook, stirring, until it is reduced, about a minute or two.

Once the sauce is thickened, plate on a large platter, sprinkle on parsley and serve.

=CTH=

Chef Tom is currently transitioning from Personal Chef to Private Chef. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at www.hippkitchen.com

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