We recently bought a house on 4 acres just down the road from where we currently live. The house is older, smaller, and needed a complete remodel but we fell in love with it. The lot is beautiful and backs up to wooded Army Corps property, so it will not be developed and has lots of privacy. It also has a two level multi-car garage that will house all of my husband’s tools, and equipment, and vehicles and junk. There’s also a cute little old horse barn with a tin roof that I intend to turn into an outdoor bar/entertainment area. Every time I walk by it I shout “Tiiiiiin Roof! Rusted!” and think I’m the funniest person on earth. I’m not sure if my husband gets the B-52’s reference, but if not, that makes it all the more fun.
The house has ended up being a bit of a money pit, with renovations costing a bit more than anticipated. We put a new roof on the main house, re-wired the entire house, had new plumbing installed as well as HVAC work, and added insulation, in addition to all of the fun, cosmetic stuff we originally wanted to do. You know how on the home renovation shows there’s always some big unexpected expense and they have to make cuts in other areas? Yeah, that’s a real thing. We’ve had to delay some of the desired upgrades and improvements that aren’t “necessary” in order to fund the important stuff (like electricity and water and clean air). It’s been frustrating and a series of disappointments, but we have the end goal in sight. We also have the pool up and running and purchased pool and patio furniture so we are at least able to enjoy the outside while the inside is being worked on. In fact, the kids haven’t once this summer visited our neighborhood pool where we currently live because they enjoy going to the “new house” where they can chill at their very own pool. Even in the chaos that is a construction zone, we have a sense of peace while we’re there. The pool, the land, the trees, the wildlife – it produces a sense of calm. We’re finding the positive in all of the frustrations and are patient knowing eventually it will be ready for us to move in.
While there have been plenty of not-so-fun and expensive surprises, there have been other fun surprises. Our favorite so far is the discovery of apples, grapes, blueberries, and figs. We have fruit! The deer feast on much of it, but the fig bush has been gangbusters. I was laying out at the pool at the new place, thinking about what to make for dinner, and disappointed that I forgot to pick up some harissa paste for the chicken I had originally planned on making. Trying to decide what to do with the chicken thighs in the fridge at the other house, it dawned on me I should incorporate figs somehow, being that we have so many. This is the result.
Balsamic Fig Chicken Thighs
8 bone-in chicken thighs
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt, pepper, and granulated garlic
1/3 cup thinly sliced leeks
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped and stems discarded
2 cups sliced fresh figs
2 Tablespoons cooking sherry
½ cup chicken broth
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
Season the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and garlic. Heat oil in a skillet and sear chicken thighs on each side until browned and crispy. Remove from pan to a baking sheet and place in a 400 degree oven to finish cooking while you prepare the sauce.
In the same skillet used for the chicken, sauté the leeks for one minute, careful to not burn them. Add the figs and thyme and continue to sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add the cooking sherry, stirring to remove any brown bits from the bottom and sides of the pan and mashing up some of the fig slices, then stir in the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and honey. Continue to cook until the liquid reduces and the mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Spoon fig mixture onto the tops of the chicken thighs, and continue to cook another 10-15 minutes in the oven.
Serve with saffron rice (or plain jasmine rice) and a vegetable of choice – it goes great with roasted butternut squash!