I smoked a couple of chickens yesterday, and as I was prepping them (pulling the necks and organs out, salting them) Milo walked over and pointed to the offal.
“Ew. What’s all that?”
“Is it edible?”
“Of course,” I said. “You love chicken liver pâté and we had beef heart tacos a while ago.”
“Oh yeah. Can I eat these hearts?”
“Of course you can.”
Keep reading Tastes Like Chicken…
Last weekend we went to Vermont to escape the heat and do some serious relaxing. We brought up a bunch of stuff from the garden and some meat from the freezer so we were well provisioned, though that did not stop us from hitting the Saturday market and getting more food. That evening I went to town on all the bounty, and this meal was the result.
Keep reading Where There’s Smoke, There’s Dinner…
With the warmer weather (leaving aside the inconvenient truth that it snowed today) comes the urge to light fires and char large pieces of animal on them, or at least let said slabs of flesh languish in hot proximity to the fire, bathing in the fragrant smoke until tender and orgiastically satisfying.
Keep reading Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em…
The combination of heat and burgeoning garden have made cooking pretty simple lately. I make the rounds, picking what needs it, and that’s what we eat, with as little actual cooking as possible. But I still feel motivated to mix it up a little, since it definitely makes the family happier and more engaged with dinner; heat saps appetites and the boy is obsessed with catching butterflies so he’ll dash from the table if he sees one out the window.
The humidity and temperature are creeping up again, and in a day or two we’ll be back at full swelter. I took maximum advantage of the cooler spell to do a bunch of outdoor chores, and now I’m back inside with the A/C on 77 (and on the economy setting) in my little office, working on the next article. Once it’s done, though, I have to clean out the wood shop, which is going to be an orgy of filthy misery. (It’s important that you all understand just how horribly hard it is to be me).
To begin, I took a cucumber, four small tomatoes (they’re coming in early), nasturtium leaves, a big purslane plant, and half a zucchini (every meal includes zucchini in some form or another; I’ve been picking them small to avoid overload) and blended them all smooth with a bit of Brother Victor’s sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt. I put the blender jar in the fridge for an hour to chill, then blasted it one more time before serving.
Keep reading Baby, It’s Hot Outside…
What a perfect day. Sunny, breezy, in the low 70s, and smelling of high spring. We went out for most of the day. First, a short detour to look for arrowheads in a spot a neighbor told us has a good reputation. No luck. Then, lunch in Rhinebeck at Gigi, which is a perfectly nice place for lunch. Onward then to a nearby nursery, looking for thornless blackberries. They wanted the utterly ridiculous amount of $25 each for small, scrawny plants, so we left. Dutchess county kind of sucks that way sometimes.
Then, a lovely stroll at the Poets’ Walk, where we got lots of sun and caught the breeze off the river. And last, a stop in Kingston to grab some grub for dinner. In this case, local lamb stew meat and bones. Once home, I roasted the bones and put them to cook with a carrot, a charred onion, a clove, a star anise pod, some parsley, a few peppercorns, and half a cinnamon stick. I also trimmed the stew meat and tossed it in a marinade of wine and coriander, cumin, fennel, and mustard seeds that I ground up with garlic, salt and pepper and mixed in. I did some gardening while the stock simmered, then came in with a handful of mixed herbs and greens to make pesto: radicchio, arugula, dandelion, chives, rosemary, oregano, peppermint, spearmint, thyme, and chrvil. I puréed it all with garlic and lots of olive oil to make a smooth, dark green paste.
Keep reading Very Simple, Very Easy…
Man, has it been nice here. Sunny, well into the 50s, and simply pummeling winter’s stiffening corpse into oblivion. I got a full bed of early, salady things planted, raked, pruned, hacked, and generally kept my heart rate up doing myriad useful things. Yards of primo compost are on the way, with fruit-bearing plants to follow soon behind. Now I know that climate change isn’t real, because braying jackasses like Sean Hannity have pointed out that it actually snowed during the winter, but nonetheless we comfortably had dinner outside on March 10. When winter is actually three months long it’s pretty enjoyable. As long as it doesn’t rain again all summer I think we’re in for a good year. We have some friends not 5 miles West of us who still have lots of snow on the ground, but we’re down to a few dirty piles where the big banks used to be. Bulbs are erupting. It smells different.
So once I decided that we’d be eating outside, my thoughts quickly turned to the shichirin we haven’t used all winter. I considered it a couple of times, but it seemed like too much trouble, and besides it’s a bit tall for use on the table. But on the ground outside, with cushions? Perfect. I marinated some quail in miso, sake, honey, and ume vinegar while the fire got going, and added shredded fennel to the carrot-daikon dish I made on burger night (previous post) and woke it up a bit with salt, . . . → Read More: Oh God, It Burns
I’m too tired to write much about our dinner last night; today was such a giant, frustrating waste of time that it has given me a new understanding of the phrase “wit’s end.” Those of you who stalk follow me on Facebook may have already read all about it, but suffice it to say that I drove 220 miles round trip to Brooklyn for an appointment that was canceled the very minute I arrived. There’s really nothing more satisfying than making time, gas, money, and sanity evaporate in a big wasteful cloud all at once.
Last night, though, was the opposite. I picked up some more of the luscious line-caught swordfish and some corn and came home to try out our new shichirin that had arrived a few days earlier along with a box of binchotan charcoal. It takes a while to heat up, but once it does it’s like your own personal volcano; strips of fish cook to perfection in a matter of seconds, and the vegetables get a delightful char as they soften. In addition to the fish, which I marinated in soy sauce, mirin, and agave nectar, we had the chicken mushrooms from Sunday’s foraging trip (also marinated in a similar mixture for a couple of hours), two of our eggplants cut into batons and soaked in soy, garlic, ginger, nam pla, vinegar, and agave, and slices of sweet potato with salt and yuzu juice.
Apart from how nice it is to cook everything just so- and how much Milo . . . → Read More: Brevity Is… Wit
Another breakfast post- of sorts, anyway- since I went to a nearby Farmer’s Market on Sunday and loaded up on some interesting things. There was a joint selling various bird-related products, so I got some of their pheasant sausage and a variety of eggs: pheasant, wild turkey, and chicken.
The floor is the nicest part of our kitchen.
The sausage, honestly, wasn’t that great. Somewhat oddly spiced- sort of Indian, sort of Italian- and too lean, it had trouble figuring out what it was. But the leftovers were not the worst companion a feta omelet made with turkey and pheasant eggs ever had. There was also some bitter greens pesto from the very last of the overwintered plants: curly endive and treviso. Their replacements are coming in strong, and I needed the bed space for cucurbits, nightshades, and basil.
The same stand also had ground pheasant, and nearby someone was selling ground pasture-raised veal. Since the sausage had been a letdown, a night or two later I figured I’d make my own. So I combined the two meats and spiced them up with garlic, fresh herbs, wine, vinegar, pimentón, and cumin to make a sorta chorizo mixture, then formed it around wooden skewers. A bag of beautiful fat shiitake also got skewered, and marinated in some soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, red wine, and agave nectar, and grilled alongside.
I shaped the brochettes into squared-off logs so they would sit nice and flat on the grill for easier cooking. We made rice. I picked and spun . . . → Read More: To Market, To Market
Having the grill out on the screened porch means that even when it’s bucketing down rain in a torrential fashion we can still enjoy those flavors which evoke sunny, carefree afternoons with the frolicking and the skipping and the frisbees and such. Though I have recently been informed that the grill is no longer welcome on said porch and needs to be trundled out to sit next to my studio until winter. Clearly my wife hates America.
Spatchcocking chickens makes them oh-so easy to grill, and they cook in half the time a whole one needs. It also allows one to save the raw back and combine it with the grilled bones to make an extra-flavorful broth later on. If, say, one has also (hypothetically) recently smoked a couple of chickens for an orgiastic wine dinner, then all of the above can be brothed together into a smoky, grillicious profundity of a stock that promises to elevate (again, hypothetically) a humble risotto into the stratosphere. But I’m getting ahead of myself- that will be a later post.
Rainy days seem appropriate for gathering nettles; they have such a dark green smell and taste that evokes wet Earth. I snipped a pile of tops- they’re already pretty tall, and getting woody- and washed them, then beat them into some of the superlative local polenta from WHF. Our woodland nettles are softer than the field ones, so they disintegrate beautifully under the whisk. Add a grate of some hard local cheese rind (no idea what . . . → Read More: They Eat Chickens, Don’t They?
Growing up, the two main holidays in my family were Passover and Thanksgiving; it was not a coincidence that both center around a meal. These days, since we observe nothing in particular, Sunday was better for us and our guests so that’s when the meal happened. I do have sentimental attachments to the Seder, but only the people- not to the tedium and all the rules. My Grandmother used to make a mean leg of lamb, and my Mom learned from her, but sitting there for what seemed like an eternity before we actually got to eat it was never any fun. Since they’re gone, it falls to me to continue the tradition, only without the waiting and with a few modifications to the technique.
The trick my ancestors used was to cut slits in the meat and poke garlic cloves inside to perfume the meat and cook along with it. I do the same, but I cut the cloves in half lengthwise so they’re thinner, and I wrap each one in a few rosemary leaves before I tuck them in. I also like a spice rub and cooking it on the grill instead of the oven. The above is a whole local lamb leg, with the shank cut off and frozen for another time, prepared thus and well-rubbed with a mixture of salt, pepper, pimentón, cumin, 5-spice, and mustard powder, then left to sit for about three hours to soak up the flavor and come to room temperature.
After a spell on . . . → Read More: Easterly