Thirty years ago this week the Froud family, Jim Henson, and David Bowie whisked us to the castle beyond the Goblin City with a wonderfully whimsical and wacky film called Labyrinth. As a lover of fantasy and faerie stories, this film does hold a special place in my heart, especially now the Goblin King has returned to the place where magic dances.
This is mostly why I’d like to cite Jareth, the Goblin King, as my inspiration for this dish. Jareth saddles the strange line between faerie and humanity. He rules over the goblins, and toys with humans, yet he doesn’t feel like he is a part of either one of them. He has a beautiful aristocratic aesthetic, yet is surrounded by the grotesque and disgusting.
Even when he attempts to bring the youthful loveliness of the mortal world to his castle, it never lasts or eventually morphs into a denizen of the underground as the film implies that Sarah was certainly not the first to lose herself among the paths of stone and foliage.
One scene I’d like to make a note of is that of the Masquerade. On the surface, one would think the scene as a page out of Sarah’s fancy for faerie tales to trap her in her dreams. I think there may be a strong possibility that it is actually Jareth’s fantasy as the masked revelers they are a direct parallel to his current goblin court. The walls are white, the clothes elaborate, the wine flowing, and the dances graceful.
If anything this scene Jareth may not be seducing her so much as empathizing with her in his own odd way, and baring his desires — a life of regal grandeur and beauty among his close equals to mask the base animalism that lies underneath. If folklore has told us anything, humans and fae relations are rife with miscommunication as their culture rarely resembles anything like ours.
Just like Jareth started as a lowly goblin, I’m starting this dish with another ingredient common to the goblin city: chicken. To evoke the city’s steampunk flair, I marinated it in some smoky gunpowder green tea — as well as sweet white wine to recall the indulgent Masquerade. To add some sensuality (as well as to tie the scenes together), I poached peaches in this marinade with some honey and fresh thyme. The peach, as you may recall is what Jareth used to lull Sarah into his masquerade — which is fitting as it was considered an aphrodisiac in many cultures. It might be that they’re packed with vitamins, it might be that they were thought to hold magic properties, it might be that eating anything with your hands is considered sensual. Personally? I think it’s because they look like butts.
So here it is, a meal of one who was born in the Labyrinth, elevated and masked with refinement, indulgence, and sexuality. Feel free to add some root vegetables or mushrooms on the side for an extra taste of the underworld. If you’d like a suggestion, I made roasted russet potatoes with black truffle olive oil and lavender-infused balsamic vinegar, and it tasted divine.
Chicken à la Goblin King
Equipment: Gallon-sized Ziploc bag, teakettle, stovetop, slotted spoon, two large mixing bowls, medium saucepan with lid, medium skillet.
- 1 cup strongly brewed gunpowder tea (3 teaspoons of leaves), chilled
- 1 cup sweet white wine
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 chicken breasts
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt (to taste)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- cooking spray
- garlic powder
- black pepper
- About an hour before cooking, place chicken with tea, wine, and olive oil in a ziplock bag and let marinate.
- Place peaches in one mixing bowl. Bring a full kettle of water to a boil. Pour the water over the peaches and let sit. Fill the other mixing bowl with ice water. After 30 seconds, remove the peaches with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water. Remove the skin and discard.
- Pour marinade with fresh thyme into a saucepan and heat on medium-low. Stir in the honey until dissolved, Lower the peaches into the liquid with the slotted spoon. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove peaches from the liquid and set aside. Heat a skillet sprayed with cooking spray on the stovetop until hot. Season both sides of chicken liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add chicken to the pan and cook for 6 minutes on one side, and 5 on the other — or until the internal temp reaches 165° F. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm between two plates.
- Remove the peaches from the saucepan and transfer to a cutting board to let cool. Skim the surface of the poaching liquid and discard any solids, including the thyme sprigs.
- Boil the liquid for another 10 minutes. In a separate cup or dish, dissolve the cornstarch and kosher salt in water and whisk into the saucepan until thickened. Add the butter and melt, whisking it into the sauce until fully incorporated. Turn off the heat and let sit.
- Slice the peaches along the curve of the pit until it comes out easily. Plate the chicken, top with peach slices, some fresh ground pepper, and a few spoonfuls of sauce before serving.