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The grand exodus

By Sue Ommen

Fri, Mar 7th, 2014
Posted in All Columnists

It is winter in Minnesota and the grand exodus has begun. Temperatures have been frigid, freezing our spirits and tempers. We should be used to our northern clime by now, but after balmy summer breezes and breathless fall landscapes, we fool ourselves each year into thinking reasonable weather might be possible. After all, last winter was not too bad. It is strange how our memories of winter, like childbirth, dissipate soon after the sun widens its path, to bounce around our psyches into a semblance of balm. Now, the cold reality sets in. How I wish we were among the fortunate who flock south.

I googled Indian Rocks Beach on the Barrier Reef Island in Florida, where my mother spent many winters, opening her arms to embrace her children and grandchildren’s visits. We spent sundrenched hours wandering the beach and since the apartments kissed the sand, we’d wake each day to the sound of waves crashing against the shore. We would watch Wally, 90, feed the pelicans and wander down to the beach to exchange a few pleasantries with him. Wally would relate the news of the resort, members often returning each year to become a southern family of sorts. Now, Wally has gone to that great beach in the sky, only returning in our memories to feed the pelicans and say, “Hi! You’re Helen’s relatives, aren’t you?”

We drove to Disney World one year, Cape Canaveral and Busch Gardens, each one a grand adventure with the kids.

Parks circled the area, each with a unique feature and ripe for the exploration of big and small feet. We’d head out at noon, the cheapest time of the day to eat, or so my mother and her friends informed us, to Crabby Bill’s and sit at picnic tables to suck raw oysters on the half shell, and order the catch of the day. I can’t help but lick my lips, thinking of these seafood delights.

Now, my older sister and her husband travel from Tennessee to this same resort, carrying on a family tradition. The owner, Mary Lois, is now in her 80’s, but her daughter plans to carry on the family business. My sister encourages us to come, tempting us with seaside adventures, soothing salt air, and the promise of seafood, prepared in mouthwatering recipes.

I can envision our black lab, Gilbert, chasing a seabird, and Lu fast beside him, as they run in the sand, thoughts of frozen paws and shoveling snow, left far behind.

Herb-Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary

For the chicken:

• One whole chicken (3-1/2 to 4 pounds)

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed

• 1 large lemon, halved

• 1 sprig fresh rosemary

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the sauce:

• 2 cups chicken broth (homemade or low-salt canned)

• 1 cup dry white wine

• 2 large garlic cloves, minced

• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

• 1/4 cup half-and-half

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 450° F. Pat the chicken dry. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Place the garlic, lemon and herbs inside the cavity. Rub the outside with olive oil. Place breast side up on a rack in a small roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes, basting every 10 minutes with pan juices, or with water if needed. Reduce heat to 375° F. Continue to roast and baste for another 30 minutes or until the thigh juices run clear. Internal temperature should be 170° F. Remove from pan and discard the items in the cavity. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Discard any excess fat from roasting pan. Place over medium-high heat. Add the broth and wine; bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Add the garlic and rosemary. Continue to cook until slightly reduced. Add the half-and-half and cook until reduced to desired consistency. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Serve with the chicken and as a topping for a potato, rice or pasta side dish.

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