When I was cooking in France, there was a pastry chef who was always running around frantic with all of the things he had to do. He was fairly sure that the executive chef was going to kill him. Sometimes I helped him because I wanted him to get through the night without panicking. Sometimes I also helped him because I loved the smell of that lemon verbena so darn much.
It grew in the garden with the old gardener Emanuel and his three-legged cat and sometimes I would dart out there in the middle of service to get a sprig of rosemary while a plate of food waited under the plate warmer. We didn’t want it to go out without that dash of rosemary. Sometimes I went out to pick the lemon verbena too. Have you ever smelled it? It’s entirely, 110% intoxicating. Maybe even more so than basil. Gasp.
Lemon verbena is more than lemony. It has that third dimension, that je ne sais quoi, that mix of mint-meets-lemon-meets-magic carpet ride.
And so while the head chef walked around yelling and making dramatic gestures and wearing an 80s style pink scrunchy, the paranoid pastry chef and I poached peaches in a lemon verbena bath.
I loved it. And he taught me useful bread baking and dessert skills that pastry chef did. Wherever he is right now, I hope life is calmer for him.
These are some of the things that you’ll need, it’s easy peasy: peaches, white wine, lemon verbena, and sugar.
Add a whole bottle of white wine into a pot. Then add 8 cups of water too.
Then add your sugar.
Add the luscious lemon verbena. I leave the stems on but you could pluck them off.
Bring it all to a boil, give it a stir and then take it off the heat.
Drop the peaches in the pot and let them start to soak up the liquid.
Cover it to help the skin steam.
And after about 45 minutes they will look like this. A bit plump, a bit water logged, and so custardy and soft.
You may want to consider a sponge bath in this liquid. Or at least a dab on the temples. At least I did. Because I’m very strange that way.
When they’re still warm, peel the skin off. They will slip off very easily in an ideal world. As long as they are ripe and well-behaved peaches.
They have a natural seam in the center that you can cut all around to help separate them.
Give them a gentle pull and they will pop right open.
Remove the seed, and there they are in all of their gold and fuchsia glory.
Put them in your favorite serving dish and pour some of the syrup from the pot over them. To give them a glaze and keep them moist.
Garnish with some lemon verbena leaves if you’d like… or even a dollop of your favorite sorbet.
This is the perfect summer dish. The peaches are so soft, they have the texture of cream. And when you use the sweetest of peaches (my favorite are Frog Hollow Farm) it’s a magical dish. Enjoy!