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FOODQUA R T E R LY
BEFORE THE PLATE, DURING AND AFTER...
THIS ISSUE: American Farm Food
From the Ground Up The Stanley Coats Serial: An Introduction Dirt and Onions farm food recipes and much more...
W O R D S & P H O T O S BY T O M H I R S C H F E L D
A BONA FIDE PUBLICATION
Editor & Publisher: Tom Hirschfeld Editor-at-Large: Phil Kitchel Staff writer: Tom Hirschfeld Staff photographer: Tom Hirschfeld
CONTACT US ANYTIME @ BONAFIDEFARM@ME.COM OR VISIT: FOODQUARTERLY.COM AND EVEN BONAFIDEFARMFOOD.COM ©2013 TOM HIRSCHFELD ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
FROM THE GROUND UP
Whiffs of coffee escape the rim of the cup and ride upward to freedom on small swirls of steam. The smell is as delicious as a Saturday morning. The house is silent with slumber and the urge to be anywhere is non-existent. Even the kitchen sink is empty of dishes and last night’s dish towel, spent, is draped and drying over the divider in the sink. The hour or so at sunrise is mine, when I sit at the kitchen table and watch the light outside go from the melancholy blue of night to the optimistic yellow of a new day. It is the silence that I need. I think about whatever I want; some days casting thoughts
into never-never land because I feel wasteful and free, others feeling intense with concerns and a furrowed brow, but most mornings I simply spend thinking about what needs to get done at home, what’s first on the to-do list, or what we need from the store. Some mornings I like to do little habitual tasks, rote or repetitive actions like sharpening the kitchen knives. With the hanging overhead lights shining down onto the black counter top, a half sheet tray full of knives, and the sharpening stone at body temperature from a warm-water soak, the kitchen becomes a culinary operating table for my routine procedure. The wet stone is like a Tibetan prayer wheel, and as the grit builds under the blade it produces a chant that sounds like a concrete workers trowel as it cuts back and forth over the gritty concrete surface with a rhythmic swooshing sound until a smooth finish is formed. Inevitably my thoughts come around to food.
Out of habit, I start by sharpening a Japanese vegetable cleaver, which plants my mind smack in my garden in mid-summer. The broad, deep-green zucchini leaves are wet with rain, the big leaves like giant cups, and I watch as hummingbirds swoop in and take a morning bath. Then there is the beautiful beak like curve of a tourne knife. It puts me dreamily in French countryside, pulling fall carrots from the ground, the purple, yellow and orange color
of the roots matching the season’s foliage. They will be braised in the fatty juices of a roast to become a tender sugary side dish. Just the smell of a perfect pot roast is as comforting as a good fire. I shy away from the chef’s knife and reach for the filet knife instead. I remember fishing last spring with my father in Florida. We float in the mangroves casting hooks baited with shrimp along the gnarly, knotted roots of the shoreline, hoping to catch redfish and snook, two fish you won’t find in the seafood section at the supermarket. As morning passes, the sun becomes more intense, the fish look for cover and a morning of good fishing comes to an end. On shore the refreshing taste of a cold beer passes over our sea-salted lips while we clean the days catch.Later in the evening after a gin and tonic that is as herbaceous as the smell of an old time barber shop and precipitates a deep hunger, the beat all taste of simple sautéed fish, the perfectly crisp brown edges topped with lemon caper butter and a side of perfectly sautéed fresh green beans is deeply soul satisfying. There is more to it though, my thinking, and I reach for the chef’s knife and I think about our farm. It’s late in the day and I’m walking around from the back of the house after I’ve finished cutting the grass. What I see, my daughter Vivian, standing at the edge of the pea patch, eating, and eating, pea after perfectly sugary, ripe pea. The intensity in her little blue eyes and the smile on her lips says it all. At that moment I know I will always garden.
I have grown vegetables and fruit for years. I didn’t necessarily like the work but I always liked the results. I could grow food I couldn’t find at the grocery, so I did! It provides the freshest ingredients I can find, and, as a chef, that’s what I’m supposed to search out. It goes deeper. Like when I watch Vivian put her hand behind a pea and lift. She isn’t weighing it, more just checking for the right plumpness. She cracks them open while talking (she’s always talking!), looking over at the dogs playing , never really paying attention to the peas in her hands. Rest assured, though, nary a pea falls to the ground. After she cracks the pod, she lifts it to her mouth and shoots her head back emptying the tiny green balls into her mouth just like she is an old soul in the green-pea game. She is only six years old. Don’t for a minute think Lynnie, my four year old, hasn’t gotten in on the game. She can pick carrots like no tomorrow, soft ground or hard. She wraps the green tops in her lit5
tle fingers and gently wiggles until the carrot pops loose without breaking. She does the same with parsnips. Then she washes them over at the spigot, the skins so thin she doesn’t need to peel them, and wanders around like she has a cigar in her mouth, chewing and savoring each orange-y bite.All these little things have become habits for my girls, like standing next to me on a chair at the counter and learning to make biscuits, pie crust or pasta noodles. Or like today when Vivian discovered the joy of tea made with fresh chamomile flowers. They may seem like small things but they all eventually add up to a much greater sum. I pick up the damp terrycloth towel, wipe the gray grit from the blade, pluck the sharpened edge like I’m checking a banjo string to see if it is in tune. It’s razor sharp, and I set it back on the sheet tray. The unmistakable sound of the girls’ feet pitter-pattering across the upstairs floor brings a necessary halt to my thinking time, and I reach for the bowl of whole wheat flour, crack an egg into it, and add the measured buttermilk to the pancake batter. I give it a whisk and then turn on the flame under the pan. Both girls come down the stairs giggling, and I smile and feel a warmth pass over me.
HONEYCRISP APPLE AND YELLOW BEET SALAD
Beets are a staple at our house. Whether pickled, roasted, in a salad or made into borscht they ﬁnd their way to the table on average once a week.
To not have beets growing in the garden is like suspecting your zipper is down while giving a speech in front of a crowd. You just know something is not right. They are one of the ﬁrst vegetables to sprout in spring, we harvest and plant them continually throughout the summer and they are one of the last to be harvested in the fall.
They are, as Amy and I say, the heart-beet.
If you have never eaten beets or think you don’t like them this salad is very much an entry way to their wholesome goodness and even for the connoisseur it will still be a delight.
Serves 4 1 1/2 cups yellow beets, about 3 large or 4 medium, scrubbed clean 1 1/2 cups honeycrisp apples, cut into 1/2 inch cubes 1/3 to 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped 1/3 cup celery, 1/8 inch dice 3 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise, I actually like vegan varieties best for this 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
1. Place the beets into a medium sized sauce pan. Add enough water to cover
them by an inch. Place the pot over medium heat add a teaspoon of salt and bring the pot to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat and gently cook the beets until they are tender. It all depends
on their size but a tooth pick should slide, with very little resistance, to the center.
3. Remove the beets from the water and let them cool. 4. Once they are cool enough to handle slip the beets out of their skins. Cut them
into 1/2 inch cubes.
5. In a mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Add a pinch of salt
and a few grinds of pepper. Mix in the apples, walnuts, celery and beets. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.
ASPARAGUS, HAM AND BUTTER LEAF SALAD
ASPARAGUS, HAM AND BUTTER LEAF SALAD Serves 4 20 tender young asparagus spears 2 heads of butter leaf ham green goddess dressing(recipe follows) tarragon, chopped chives, chopped ﬂat leaf parsley, chopped kosher salt fresh ground black pepper 1. Place a healthy tablespoon size smear of dressing on each plate. 2. Place 5 spears of asparagus onto each smear. 3. Peel back and discard any lettuce leaves that are blemished. This should leave you with the inner pale heart of each butter leaf head. Cut the hearts in half. 4. Using 4 tablespoons of dressing toss the butter leaf lettuce making sure to give it an ample but not a heavy coating, you want to taste the lettuce through the dressing. Add more dressing if necessary, then sprinkle in the herbs. 5. Season the lettuce with salt and pepper, toss again. Place it, attractively, next to each pile of asparagus. 6. Lay on some chunks of ham. Serve.
GREEN GODDESS DRESSING Makes 1 1/2 cups 2 salt cured anchovies, or 4 anchovies in oil 2 tablespoons cider vinegar 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup fresh tarragon, minced 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, minced 2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1. I soak my salted anchovies in milk for half an hour and if I use anchovies in oil I rinse them. Filet the backbone out of the salted anchovies and chop them. 2. Add the anchovies and the rest of the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until everything is combined. Taste and season the dressing with kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Pulse to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning again. 3. Allow the dressing to sit for half an hour before using. Store in the fridge.
CANNELLINI RUNNER BEANS WITH HOT BACON DRESSING
Cannellini runner beans are an heirloom bean. We started growing them for several reasons but the first and foremost is their flavor. They have a very creamy, in a mashed potato way, texture with a wonderful bean flavor. No runner beans? Never fret, you can easily substitute regular cannellini beans in this recipe.
Makes 4 half cup servings 1 cup dry cannellini runner or cannellini beans 2 sprigs fresh thyme 1/2 onion, peeled with root end left intact so it doesn’t fall apart 2 bacon slices, cooked crispy and minced 2 tablespoons bacon fat 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 1 tablespoon minced red onion a handful of ﬂat leaf parsley leaves kosher salt fresh ground black pepper 1.Look through the beans for any rocks or mud then rinse them in cold water. Place the beans into a large pot and cover them by three inches with cold water. Add a teaspoon of salt (trust me science has proven adding salt does not increase the cooking time. It is about the freshness of the beans you purchase ) and the onion and thyme. 2.Place the pot over medium high heat and bring it to a boil. Let the beans boil for two minutes. Be careful not to let the pot boil over. Remove the pot from the stove and cover with a tight ﬁtting lid. Let the beans sit for 2 hours. 3.At the end of 2 hour place the beans back on the stove over medium heat. Remove the lid and let the beans come back to a boil. 4.Reduce the heat and cook the beans until tender but not mushy. Cool the beans. 5.Meanwhile cook the bacon however you normally cook yours. Measure out the rendered grease when the bacon is done. If you don’t have two tablespoons worth add a non-ﬂavored oil such as canola until you have two tablespoons. 6.Combine the oil and vinegar with a few grinds of pepper and a heavy pinch of salt. Set aside. 7.Combine the beans, red onion, bacon bits and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Mix well and add the dressing. Mix, taste and adjust the seasoning. I like lots of black pepper. Serve.
HONEY OAT ROLLS
Simple, straight forward and delicious.
Learning to make yeast bread is one of the backbones of great home cooking. If you already make your own bread on a regular basis you know how spectacular it is to cut into a great loaf or tear into a warm roll. You also know that making bread takes practice and that each time you make bread you learn more about that particular loaf, what it is supposed to feel like when you are kneading it, how it is supposed rise and how high.
Makes 12 rolls 1 cup buttermilk 2 tablespoons honey 2 teaspoons yeast 3/4 cup rolled oats or old fashioned oatmeal 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 egg 2 1/2 to 3 cups white whole wheat ﬂour 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1. Warm the buttermilk to body temperature. Either in a microwave or on the stove, your call. 2. Place the buttermilk into the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast and let it bloom or whisk it in. With the exception of the butter add the rest of the ingredients. 3. Start mixing the dough being sure to add the softened butter well before the dough forms a ball. 4. Mix until the the dough has built some gluten remove it from the bowl and knead by hand for five minutes. 5. Let the dough rise, covered and in a warm draft free area for an hour. Somewhere near the oven or stove is always good assuming it is turned on. It is not going to rise a lot but don’t worry. 6. At the end of the hour remove the dough from the bowl and punch it down. 7. Divide the dough into nine equal pieces. Place them on the counter in an un-floured spot. Form your hand into a cup, fingers together as if you were trying to hold water. Place the palm of your hand, still cupped, onto one of the dough balls. Push down on the dough and at the same time move you hand in a circular motion, sort of like playing a shell game. Keep the dough centered in your palm and the dough will form into perfectly round balls. 8. Place the balls into a nine inch round cake pan that has been greased with butter and dusted with flour. To coat the pan with flour place a tablespoon into the buttered pan and tilt the pan around like you are panning for gold. Make sure the flour goes up the sides too. Empty the excess flour back into your flour container. At this point you can cover the rolls with plastic wrap and refrigerate the rolls overnight or for up to two days. The overnight rest actually builds flavor and will give your final rolls a darker crust which equals more flavor as well. Add a half hour to the final rise time taking into account the cold dough. 9. If you plan to bake them right away cover them with plastic wrap and place the cake pan back into the warm spot and let them rise for another hour. 10.Near the end of the second rise heat the oven to 375˚F. Remove the plastic wrap or damp towel covering the rolls and place them into the oven. Bake them for 45 minutes. 11.About then minutes before they finish baking remove them from the oven and brush the rolls with melted butter. Put them back into the oven and bake them for the final 10 minutes. 12.Remove them from the oven and brush them with butter again. Wait 15 to 20 minutes before serving the rolls. Bread eaten straight out of the oven is not good for your digestion plus it is just sort of doughy tasting. Once the rolls cool down the flavors really shine. Be patient.
BUCKWHEAT, CORN & BUTTERMILK BREAD
This bread is a take on classic Southern style cornbread. In Italy they often combine buckwheat flour and corn flour in an alternate version of polenta and I have always liked the combination. So when I was looking for something new, some sort of new flavor it occurred to me to make this. I am glad I did. This bread goes exceptionally well with with bacon, ham and roast pork. It is also good with braised beef dishes.
Makes 8 pieces 1 cup corn ﬂour 1 cup buckwheat ﬂour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 1/2 cups buttermilk or milk 2 eggs 2 tablespoons canola oil 4 tablespoons bacon grease or butter
1.Heat the oven to 400˚ F. 2.Combine the ﬂours with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then add the buttermilk, oil and the eggs. 3.Whisk the bread mix quickly with a deft hand to form a smooth, well combined, batter. It will be a thick but pourable batter. Set aside. 4.Place the 4 tablespoons of bacon grease into a 10 inch round cast iron skillet or an 8 x 8 square heavy duty cake pan. Place it into the hot oven. Set a timer for 13 minutes. 5.Carefully remove the pan from the oven when the timer goes off. Give the batter a quick whisk or two. Gently and carefully pour the batter into the hot pan. It will sizzle at the edges and the grease may come up over the edges of the batter, this is what you want. 6.Using a dry kitchen towel or an oven mitt, place the bread back into the oven. Set a timer for 20 minutes. 7.Remove from the bread from the oven and it with a dry towel until ready to serve. Serve warm with lots of butter and sorghum.
Stanley Coats, sprawled out in his overalls and dozing on the porch swing, knows he’s becoming the old dog with the saggy balls. The one beginning to get gray around the snout. At the sound of tires on gravel, he lifts his head a little. The dog dozing on the porch ﬂoor below him does the same, and they both crack an eye open to see who’s coming up the drive. The searing pain behind his other eye has abated. Stanley refuses to believe it could have anything to do with a hangover and instead diagnoses himself with becoming his mother. He hopes it’s not terminal. It’s not that he doesn’t love his mother. It’s the naps. For as long as Stanley can remember, sometime between two or three in the afternoon, his mother always took what he has come to call a twenty-minute sink-down.
It’s not an after-lunch food stupor, either; it’s just a time of day when, if he doesn’t lay down and close his eyes, he will fall down. The naps are never longer than twenty minutes; the kind of nap where he feels like he’s falling off a cliff into a sleep that isn’t quite sleep. It’s almost like an out-of-body experience, sometimes even an epiphany, and without actually sleeping he wakes up rejuvenated, almost born again. Stanley sits up and puts his ﬁngertips together like he’s getting ready to pray, then pushes in with his wrists and elbows. Every knuckle in his hands crack. This is his gauge. The deeper they crack, the more rejuvenating the sink-down. He realizes the car was just the mail lady turning around at the mail-box. She’s running late. Stanley goes inside to make a cup of coffee. In college he drank his coffee black, but now he has it with thick unctuous, heavy cream. He gets the little cream container out of the fridge and drizzles some into his cup. The cream is so thick it strings a heavy, honey-like ribbon from cup to container. He unscrews the top half of an Italian stovetop espresso maker, removes the little basket for the grounds, and ﬁlls the bottom with water. He packs the basket with ﬁnely ground coffee, screws it all back together, and puts it on the stove. He turns the burner to Light, a moment elapses, then: Woof! The excess gas ignites hard enough that Stanley feels the concussion against his chest, but he doesn’t ﬂinch. He turns the knob and shrinks the ring of ﬂames to just inside the bottom of the espresso maker. Then he turns his back to the stove, leans against it, and tucks his
hands behind the bib of his overalls. He ﬁnds this more comfortable than pockets. It’s the time of year when the sun warms the outside air early, but it takes a while for the inside of the house to catch up. Stanley feels the subtle warmth of the ﬂame. He doesn’t know what he’s thinking. It’s the silence, or maybe the ringing in his ear, that distracts him, keeps him just on the edge of knowing. He looks over at the kitchen sink. It’s full of dishes. It seems like it’s always full of dishes. Stanley would like to complain, but there’s no one to listen, so he opens the dishwasher and removes the clean dishes. As he puts them up he wonders why this ﬁve-minute job always feels like it takes hours. He feels the same about making pie crusts.
FARRO AND PEA SOUP
With industrialization and by the beginning of the 1900s the canning business began to flourish. Local farms sold to local canneries who intern sold to local grocers. It became big business and peas played an important part. They are a cold weather crop, can be planted early, grow fast, and they are a legume. Because they are a legume they place nitrogen back into the soil. Farmers like that. They planted lots of peas. 20
But the notion of local passed with cannery consolidations and the popularization of frozen vegetables, so much so, that by the 1950’s most local canneries were gone.
Serves 4 1/2 cup pancetta, small dice 1 cup yellow onion, trimmed, peeled and small dice 4 cups beef stock 1 1/2 cups fresh peas 1 cup cooked farro, see note kosher salt fresh ground black pepper flat leaf parsley, minced Note: I cook farro really simply. I put it in a pot of lightly salted water. The water covers the grains by at least three inches. I bring it to a boil, boil two minutes then turn off the heat and cover the pot. I then let the pot sit on the stove for two hours but no longer then three. I drain it and now it is al dente. A half cup of dry will make one cup or more of cooked farro. Heat a three quart heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan along with the pancetta. 1.Render the pancetta until it just starts to get crispy. Be careful not to burn the butter. You may need to reduce the heat to do this but be patient. 2.Add the onions, season them with salt and pepper. Now continue cooking the onions, stirring occasionally, till they are soft. 3.Add the broth and farro. Turn the heat up if you need to and bring the pot to a boil. Add the peas, taste the broth and season it as necessary. 4.Add the parsley and cook the soup until the peas are just tender. Be careful not to overcook the peas. 5. Serve immediately garnishing the soup with more fresh ground black pepper.
HASH BROWNS WITH PEAS AND GRAVY
When I turn on my oven for one speciﬁc purpose I often ask myself is there anything else I need to bake, anything I can prep for use later in the week, is there anything I can squeeze in along side whatever project I am working on. I do so not so much because I want to save energy, although it’s a good reason, but more because it is good mise en place. I love being in the kitchen, could be in the kitchen all the time but my family doesn’t like me there that much. The more I can
do at once, get in and get out of the kitchen and still make great dinners the better it is for everyone. This dish is the result of good mise en place. From making stock and reducing it to a sauce to having baked potatoes in the fridge but the dish is not an afterthought. It is really, really delicious and I hope you think so too. Serves 2 4 russet potatoes, baked till tender then refrigerated overnight 1 cup fresh or frozen peas 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 1/2 cups rich roasted beef stock (page 33) kosher salt and fresh ground pepper 2 teaspoons cold beurre manié (1 teaspoon of ﬂour with 1 teaspoon unsalted butter made into a paste.) 1. Place the stock into a sauce pan and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and reduce the stock to 1/2 a cup. (If the stock has been sitting around for more then a day add half a shallot and a few sprigs of parsley to give your sauce some spark.) 2. Slip or peel the baked potatoes out of their skin. Grate them through the large wholes of a box grater. You should have about 3 cups of potato. 3. Heat an 8 inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. Let it melt and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan. 4. Add half the grated potato, season them with a few grinds of pepper, then a heavy pinch of salt. 5. Add the rest of the potato. Season the top with more salt. 6. Sauté the potatoes until they are very brown and crispy on the bottom side. Turn the potatoes with a large spatula. If you only turn half at a time that is ok, even a quarter. You don’t need to turn it all at once unless you feel comfortable ﬂipping it. 7. Using a fork stab the remaining tablespoon of butter and run it around the edge of the pan melting it and letting it seep onto the bottom side of the hash browns. 8. While the bottom is browning bring the sauce to a hard simmer and add the beurre manié. Whisk it in to the sauce to thicken. Add the peas and keep the sauce warm but don’t let it boil. Taste and adjust any seasoning. 9. Once the bottom is brown slip it out of the pan and onto a large plate. Top with the gravy and serve.
THE CHICKEN MASSACRE AT CROOKED CREEK
As the truck rattles down the long gravel drive and we get close to the orchard, the apple
trees emerge from the light fog and the treetops magically float in a cloud. All because last night’s rain, soaked up by the hot earth, is rising again this morning as steam. Then, through the mist, I begin to see the faint outlines of chicken carcasses strewn about haphazardly–some on their sides, missing wings, their pure white feathers stained red; others with their heads folded under their chests; and some with their chests still heaving, breathing their last. It could be a black-and-white photograph of a Civil War battlefield. Except they’re chickens. My chickens. My throat drops into my stomach. I stop the truck and put it in park. I fling the door open and jump out, telling Lynnie, my youngest, to stay put. I walk briskly out to the killing field. I pick up
Cornish Crosses, or Rocks, are bred to grow to butchering size in 8 to 10 weeks. They eat constantly and can’t run very fast making them the perfect prey.
a couple of the dying birds and do the humane thing, wringing their necks and dropping them in a pile. At first I think it’s a coyote massacre, but I quickly notice that most of the birds have two fang punctures in their skulls, while a few are gutted, their stomachs ripped wide open. I’ve heard that raccoons will bite the heads of chickens and lick away the blood and fluids, which makes the feathers come loose and leaves the chicken bald. When a chicken runs dry, the raccoons leave the carcass and move on. It isn’t hearsay anymore–I’m witnessing this oddity and carnage first-hand. The sky is still gray and it’s drizzling again. The splashes of blood are diluting and spreading in the rain. As the truck idles in the driveway, I look around the scene again, then the smell of wet dead chicken on my hands and exhaust fumes makes me gag. I walk back to the truck. I get in, my shirt wet against the seat, and look down at my lap, confused. I left the chickens in their pen this morning because we left early to run a couple of errands. I figured I would let them out when we got back. It seems the raccoon or raccoons ripped the welded wire right off the side of the pen and killed each chicken one at a time. It’s as if they’d been waiting at the woods’ edge, watching me
leave, seeing those chickens penned up so they couldn’t run–just like the raccoons wanted. It’s as if they’ve been waiting and watching for months, hoping I would make this mistake. It’s not like the chickens could have run, anyway. They were meat birds, one week away from being processed. They were plump–fat, even–and meat birds aren’t meant to run; they aren’t even meant to reproduce. But I had raised them perfectly–maybe the best flock of meat birds I’ve raised. Now 21 of 25 are laying dead in a field being rained on: a total loss; a tragic waste. Back at the house, all I can think is how glad I am that I don’t depend on these birds for my food. Of course, I wanted them to be my food, but I can afford to buy chicken at the store because there are people who raise thousands, even millions of them, and they do it cheaply and, for a couple of extra bucks, even organically. My family and I won’t go hungry. As tragedies will, though, this gets me thinking about how and why I raise these birds. Like wanting to have more eggs than I need, because I don’t find the ones with poop on the shell to be quaint, so I feed the ones with shit on them to the dogs and keep the clean eggs for myself. Isn’t that the idea, to have clean, fresh, great-tasting eggs? And Vivian and Lynnie like chasing the chickens around the yard and hatching the eggs in the spring, and it’s a great experience for them to take care of the hens. They love the looks on people’s faces when they ask, “What are your chickens’ names?” and the girls reply, “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner!” And I like that they know where their food comes from. They’ve seen a chicken butchered, watched me do the crappy job of plucking a bird, and they know that it’s a hell of a lot of work for one meal. Raising organic birds takes time–lots of time–and money. I eat probably the most expensive eggs in the county, and, after the massacre, the most expensive chicken, too. My wife thought I was crazy to get chickens, until she tried the eggs and we breaded and deep-fried our first meat bird. But now I’m wondering if she wasn’t right. Not just because it’s an expensive venture in a bad economy, but because we’ve had some other bad luck lately. It didn’t start out that way–the honeymoon years seemed perfect–but now, four years into it, things are going wrong. Like the time I was at the kitchen sink and looked out the window just as the big Black Langshan rooster jumped three feet into the air, put its talons out, and grabbed at Viv’s back. Viv fell down, and I dropped the dish towel and sprinted to the back door. Then I heard her scream. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard her scream, but this time she wasn’t crying wolf. She cried out in such a complete panic that I had no doubt she needed help, desperately. I’m not a violent person, but that changed in an instant. In a fit of blind rage and adrenaline, I tackled the big rooster, grabbed it by the feet, put my foot on its head, and jerked upward. I broke its neck with such force that I pulled the head clear off, but it was still flopping and spewing dust and blood everywhere. I kicked it away like it was a poisonous snake and immediately checked on Vivian, who was huddled in a corner by the chicken shack, covered in dust and shit. I was shaking. She was crying. I was livid. She was scared.
Rusty’s big boy spurs. It takes a good year for a rooster’s spurs to grow to size in any meaningful or dangerous way but that doesn’t mean they won’t fluff their wings and try to peck you.
But she was more scared than hurt, and she was going to be okay. The rooster had pecked her once in the face about an inch below her left eye, so she was bleeding a little, but her back, because she had on a jacket, was unharmed. I couldn’t put all the blame on the rooster. The girls aren’t supposed to go into the pen alone. We’ve had talks about it. I’ve told them that, because they are at eye level with each other, a big rooster like Rusty will come after them because he thinks they’re going to get his hens. He’s being protective of his flock and, because they’re his size, he will attack. Now, in my kitchen on this wet, bloody morning, I remember pushing the tear-soaked hair away from Vivian’s eyes and tucking it behind her ears, and then, through her tears, between heaving breaths, she giggled a little and asked, “Can we eat him, Dad? Can we eat the rooster?”
A S TO RY
DIRT AND ONIONS
We never had curtains on the windows of our house. The one exception was the guest room. The uncovered windows didn't bother us, but my mom thought it might bother any overnight guests, so she had the guest room ﬁtted for curtains. The curtains were always closed. Not for lack of guests; it's just no one ever bothered to open them. Looking at the windows from the outside, it always felt like we were hiding some family secret. So one day I was throwing rocks at the rust riddled truck planted by the side of the barn--actually, that could be any day because my sister Lynnie and I did that a lot--and happened to look up and see the curtain to one of the windows open. It surprised me, but I wasn't
surprised to see Dad standing there, framed by the window and painted by the late afternoon sun, staring out across the ﬁeld like a portrait in a museum. Dad stared out the windows often when he was thinking, and I think he just wanted a different view, some height to see over the brush. Maybe to make things clearer. Still, the open curtain made the house look different. When you grow up with the things around you always looking the same, sometimes a small change alters everything. I knew Dad was looking across the ﬁeld toward town and the quickie mart. I also knew he was looking at the now-houseless plot of ground that was once the familial anchor of the Mendenhall farm. The house had been torn down, which made the landscape look different to me. But not to dad. Things weren't different; they were changing. Around here, you'd be hard-pressed to ﬁnd a farmer growing food for his own kitchen anymore. After half a century of the proliferation of grocery stores ﬁlled with frozen, canned, convenience food, you would be more likely to ﬁnd the farmer's wife in the frozen-food aisle than in a garden, and their kids blowing up plastic-wrapped burritos in the microwave rather than eating home-cured ham on homemade white bread for lunch. And why wouldn't they? Farm families want and deserve convenience and ease just like the city folk they feed. But I know what dad was thinking, especially now that I am a mother with kids. I don't need to go far to understand what more studied and academic types are pointing out. I live smack in the middle of farm country at the edge of a small town, but, under current conditions and deﬁnitions, I live in what could be considered a borderline if not full-on food desert. The busiest and sometimes only eatery is that god-forsaken convenience store on the corner of Main Street and the state highway. Everybody goes there for pizza rolls, beer, cigarettes, super-sized soda, and donuts. On a Sunday night, it's the most popular joint in town, easily surpassing the long-gone Sunday-evening church supper.
Now I sit at my computer, ordering seeds for this summer's garden, when it occurs to me (and this is true of every relationship) how much the American farm and American food have become disconnected. It's no longer a way of life featuring bucolic homesteads and families toiling away on their 200 acres at a revered and often sentimentalized occupation. No, it is big business. At least here in the Midwest it is. It has become consolidated into the hands of fewer people, leading to corporate farming with a two-crop corn and soybean rotation. It isn't about growing food to eat, it's about growing raw materials for industrial purposes. The corn they plant is more like lumber than food. Dad taught me different, and I think he was right. I do think things run in cycles, and maybe we're coming to an end of this current one in which the greedy, careless corporation rules. I keep 30
thinking that, just like dough that's left too long to rise, it will eventually collapse under its own weight, unable to support itself. It's how things feel right now, but I see little glimmers of hope. I see more gardens in yards than ever. I see chicken houses and signs proudly announcing brown eggs for sale. Farmers markets are ﬂourishing and small farms--"hobby farms"--are more popular than ever. And for every old barn that has gotten a makeover, I've seen string lines laying the straight line for new fences. The little guy is getting back in the game, and the smaller producers are starting to pasture pigs and cattle again. It makes me think about Dad. It makes me laugh, remembering how that damn garden was our ball and chain. Come summertime, we could only leave town between the two seasons, spring planting and fall planting. That's how he divided summer up. Seems like all we did was weed, weed some more, and, oh yeah--weed. He always said, if you plant things,
you're gonna have to weed. It's just part of it. I always told him, "I didn't plant anything, you did, so why should I have to weed?" Of course, he always said, "You eat, don't you?" Then there were all the other things that come with planting, growing, harvesting, and living with the land. Like watching honey bees get drunk on late summer sweet corn tassels. We could hear the hum of their wings and how they buzzed and made a sound like when you wrap wax paper around a comb, put you lips to it and hum. Or when we would uncover baby rabbits buried deep under a thyme bush and they'd look up to us, scared and shaking. I'll never forget the ﬁrst time I tilted my head back and caught raindrops, or how Dad did, too. How the drops tasted like spring and how excited Dad got when he pulled some onions and the pungent smell mingled with the wet dirt. He went on and on about how good that smell was and how the dirt smelled like it should and how I should remember that smell. "Dirt and onions," he repeated, shaking his head and smiling. "Dirt and onions."
RICH ROASTED BEEF STOCK
I did something different here, I decided to use a large high sided roasting pan instead of the usual stock pot. Here is why. Roasting the bones before making a stock adds lots and lots of ﬂavor but instead of then transferring the bones and veggies to a stock pot I chose to simply roast the stock in the oven. It is a great way to make stock. The liquid slowly reduces without sitting on the stove top all day. It stays at a constant temperature so you don’t need to fuss with a gentle bubble, i.e. uh oh it’s bubbling to hard and I need to adjust the heat again. Find a source for good gelatin producing parts. Calves, pigs, or chicken feet add gelatin which will give the stock a great mouthfeel and when you reduce the stock for a sauce the gelatin helps to thicken the sauce so there is no need for ﬂour or cornstarch. The other thing about stock that is really nice, it’s a ratio recipe. Which for me means it is easy to remember and I don’t need to look it up in a book. The basic ratio for a good stock is 100% water, 50% bones and 10% mirepoix. To make it a rich stock you need to roast the bones and I like to bump the bones up to about 60% and the mirpoix to 15%. As in all brown stocks you would add a bit of tomato product too. 33
Because I changed the ratio doesn’t mean I go to the trouble of weighing things out exactly. It just means I bump it up a little, a heaping tablespoon so to speak. Feel free to double, halve or triple this recipe depending on what size roasting pan you have available. Makes 1 gallon 6 to 7 pounds of beef bones, some meaty shanks, knuckles and femurs 1 pound yellow onions, root trimmed and quartered (leave the skins on they add a nice gold color to your stock) 1/2 pound celery, trimmed and chunked 3/4 pound carrots, peeled and chunked 1 or 2 green leek tops you might have(optional) 1/4 cup tomato paste 6 quarts of water 2 bay leaves 1 garlic head halved 6 thyme sprigs 6 parsley sprigs 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns 1/2 teaspoon fennel 4 or 5 Szechuan peppercorns 1. Heat the oven to 400˚F. Place the bones into a large roasting pot. Roast them for 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the bones. Add the onions, carrots, celery, optional leeks and tomato paste. Toss and stir everything. Roast until the vegetables begin to brown. About another 30 to 40 minutes. 2. Once every thing has browned add the water to the pan along with all the aromatics. Turn the heat down to 350˚F and roast the stock for 4 to 5 hours. Make sure you gently stir the bones into the stock once every hour to keep the top edges from really burning instead of browning. Add water if necessary. You will have a strong gallon worth of stock so add water to keep it at the one gallon level, after all you want to get all the ﬂavor out of the bones that you can so you need to cook them the proper amount of time. 3. If having a clear stock is important to you, it is to me, then use a ladle and, without stirring up the sediment, ladle the stock through a ﬁne mesh strainer into a gallon container. Note: if you plan to store the stock cool it in its container in an ice water bath and then refrigerate. It is also much easier to degrease when the fat is coagulated on top.
WHY DO I NEED A CLOCK WHEN I HAVE A MUDROOM
It's supposed to be dirty; it's a mudroom. At least that's what you tell yourself every time you ﬁnd yourself cleaning up God-knows-what in here. This is the room everyone comes through when entering your house. No matter how beautiful you made the front entrance, it will never be as used and comfortable as the mudroom; besides, guests who pass through the mudroom door can call themselves family instead of company; and, really, no one wants to be company. A couple of ﬂies surprise you by relentlessly banging into the screen in the door. Then a waft of pecan smoke from the smokehouse, curling in through the cracks like a genie's ﬁnger tempting you to make a wish, tickles your nose. Then it all comes together in a moment of Zen. You're where you always are, doing what you always do, but sometimes repetition takes you someplace new, like one foot in front of the other. Suddenly, you know: It's Spring. It's suddenly, deﬁnitely Spring, and even though logically you knew it was, the reinforcement on your senses by the world around you is more absolute than the date on the calendar. The mudroom, with the remnants of each day dripped, scattered, and piled on the ﬂoor--in Winter, mittens, wet boots, and chunks of snow; in Summer, mud, ﬂip ﬂops, and tattered dandelion bouquets--is the girdled waistline of the hour glass. It's not the sand below or above it that tells you where you are in time, it's what's right in front of you. The mudroom is just as telling as the green in the woods or the hens starting to lay again because the days have gone from being mostly dark to mostly light. The mudroom is the portal you pass through from one part of the day to the next: out for morning chores; in for a cold lunch; out to mow the grass; in for evening dinner. It engages all your senses and everything is signiﬁcant. Even a simple ﬁngertip on the door's humid windowpane means something. Another waft of smoke drifts in, this time mingled with the scent of what will soon be a cured ham. A rooster crows and you can hear a distant neighbor hammering. You shake your head and smile, then tell yourself it's just a room and you should get back to cleaning it. But you keep smiling. You don't need a watch. You have the time.
CURING & SMOKING A HAM
Curing a ham of this size isn’t at all difﬁcult. You will need to search out pink salt, or curing salt
that is a 93.75% percent salt and a 6.25% nitrite blend. It goes under different names, insta cure #1 or T.C.M to name a few. Himalayan pink salt will not work and is not the same. The reason you want to use curing salt is for the characteristic pink color it gives the meat, the ﬂavor and to prevent spoilage. You can easily double the brine and you may need to if you can’t ﬁnd a snug container or if you are like me and you make two of these hams at a time. We eat one for a nice Sunday dinner and use the other for lunch meat. SERVES 6 1 boneless Boston butt or sirloin pork roast 2 1/2 pounds 1/2 cup kosher salt, 113 grams 1/4 cup brown sugar, 75 grams 4 teaspoons pink salt(sodium nitrite), 22 grams 1/2 gallon water
When you slice into one of these home cured hams and you see the beautiful pink that runs through the meat and gives the ham its tell tale tang you quickly realize you did something good, something right.
1. Combine the salt, brown sugar and pink salt with the water. Use a whisk and whisk until everything is dissolved, the water will become clear and the bottom of the bowl will be free of sediment. Lots of recipes call for heating the liquid but you are no where near a saturated solution so everything will dissolve quite easily in cool water. Put the liquid into the fridge and cool it to below 40˚F. 2. Once the brine is below 40 ˚F place the the pork butt or sirloin into a snug tight fitting container, preferably stainless steel, and pour the cold brine over it. Make sure the pork is submerged in the brine, hence the importance of a snug container. If you have too place a small plate on top to keep the ham from floating. 3. Place the container into the fridge. Leave it in the fridge for a half day per pound, in this case 30 hours. Remove it from the brine and put it on a rack with a tray underneath then put it back in the fridge till the next day. This lets the pellicle form. The pellicle is what allows the smoke to stick to the meat so if you are going to poach the ham for boiled ham you don’t need to build the pellicle. 4. Smoke the ham in a smoker at 280˚ to 300˚ F until the internal temperature of the ham is 150˚F, about 3 hours. You have a couple of other choices here. If you don’t own a smoker you could also bake the ham or poach it as in boiled ham. I have used all three methods and I like them all. 5. Let the ham rest for 15 minutes or so then slice and serve.
HONEST ROAST CHICKEN
A RECIPE IN THE ORAL TRADITION
For all his adult life, Henry Moore was a pit man. He ran his barbecue out on State Rd Y in the old gas-station-turned-donut-shop-now-BBQ. The one past Rabourn Cemetery, on the right just before the bridge that crosses Muddy Creek. It isn't the only BBQ he owned. He had two in Texas before he moved up north with his daughter and her family. Her husband was in the military, stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster.
Although he served all kinds of smoked products--ribs, brisket, smoked hocks, hams--he was a poultry man. He was fond of turkey, but his specialty was chicken. He grew up on a chicken farm. From scooping up shit, scalding them after slaughter, to the crappy job of plucking, he knew chicken, from the egg up. Henry was quiet and introspective. He was a thinking man. He worked to get by and to provide for himself what little he needed--which wasn't much. He lived in a back room of the donut shop, slept on a WWII Army-issue cot with an Army-issue green wool blanket. He told me he was saving his money to help send his grandkids to college. "Having more money than I need is more work than I want," he used to say. I spent a few days with Henry while we were both living in Missouri. What follows are his words. Standing at the old counter, he's prepping 10 chickens for the smoker. I watch, listen, and vicariously learn how to roast a bird as he passes on his knowledge through his actions. "You know, people don't realize it, but chickens today are different then what they were. Back on the farm, when I was little, the birds were thin in the breast. It was obvious the thighs would take longer to cook. We only butchered cockerels because the hens were kept for their eggs." There are 10 birds on the counter. Henry works quickly, one bird at a time. He holds ﬁrmly onto a leg. He pinches out a good tablespoon of salt from a salt box and drops it onto the breasts, then uses his ﬁngers to spread it and work it into the joint of one thigh then the other, using his thumb to get into the crannies. His thick, coal-black hand rubs down the bird with the familiarity a cornerman has with his boxer. The birds get a rubdown top to bottom, then he puts them back in a plastic bag, back into the brown corrugated box they came in, and the whole thing goes in the fridge. Henry pulls out another identical box, removes 10 more birds that got their salt rubdown yesterday, and gives them a cold bath at the faucet, rinsing out the cavities of rosé-colored blood. He puts them onto two trays and puts them back in the fridge. "See, look here at these breasts. They are full. Birds years ago didn't grow like this. This is a cornish cross, a hybrid meat bird. If you go to hatch one of the hen's eggs, knowing full well the daddy rooster is a cornish cross, too, the bird that comes out won't be a cornish cross. "I remember the day the company chicken man came to talk to my daddy. He told daddy how everything we knew about chicken farming was going to change. How these birds grew fast. How chicken would lose its special-occasion status and be everyday food. How they were looking for contractors to grow the birds. He even brought a bunch of peeps to the farm for my daddy to try. We did give them a try. They did grow fast, but they didn't taste as good, at least not to me. "You can't hardly ﬁnd the old birds anymore. You staying for dinner? Of course you staying for dinner." Henry pulls two birds from the fridge. What's the chicken rotation routine all about? "Oh, that's simple. When you smoke things in a smoker, you have to dry it out overnight or the smoke won't stick. And if the smoke doesn't stick, the food comes out looking nasty. So one day I grabbed one of the chickens that I planned to smoke and roasted it. Turns out it works real good and 39
makes the skin crispy on roast chicken. So you salt the birds and let them sit overnight, then you rinse them inside and out and you leave them, uncovered, to dry out overnight in the fridge. I used to roast birds in the oven at a low heat, but now, since I use three- to three-and-a-half-pound birds, I roast them at 425 degrees for about an hour and ﬁfteen minutes; about an hour if I let the bird come up to room temperature ﬁrst." Henry puts both birds onto a sheet tray with sides only about an inch high. He trusses them-apparently he's done this a few times, because he doesn't even seem to notice he tied them. He is speaking the entire time he works. "So in this oven, it works best if I put the breast pointing to the back of the oven for 20 minutes. Then I rotate the chicken so the breast face the door. After another 20 minutes passes, I start basting the birds with the fat that collects in the bottom of the pan. I try to use only the fat; the other juices coagulate and get funky. I baste it at least three times. After the third time, I grab hold and wobble a leg to see if it is loose. I also look to see if the meat has started to pull away from the knees. Both tell me if the bird is done. You just have to roast a bunch of birds before you really get the hang of it." Henry laughs, then casts his broad warm smile in my direction. He sets the chicken out and brings out a few simple sides. At the table Henry pushes out and downward on each thigh. You can hear the skin crackle and clear juices run out into the platter as the pieces separate from the body. He takes a knife and ﬁllets off a breast then slices it cross wise into smaller pieces. We begin to eat, each bite is so delicious, we talk.
CHICKEN LEGS IN TOMATO GRAVY
While the dish does have things in common with Italian-American food I don’t consider it as such. That doesn’t mean its roots aren’t planted somewhere in Italy or New York City but it has, at least in my mind, gained full American citizenship. It is the kind of rustic braise I have come to expect from American farm food. Dishes like this can be found on tables all across the Midwest on any given Sunday. It doesn’t need much beyond
what is on the platter but something green, like slow cooked Romano or green beans, would be a great choice. I like that this is a dish of economy too which is also an earmark of good farm food. Chicken legs are inexpensive but pack lots of flavor and next to the wing it is my favorite piece of the chicken.
Serves 4 olive oil 8 chicken legs 1 cup celery, diced 1 1/2 cups yellow onion, diced 1 1/2 cups carrots, cut thinly on a bias 12 to 18 garlic cloves, peeled 1 cup dry white wine 2 cups tomato sauce 1 cup vegetable broth 1 bay leaf 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water 1 1/2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, minced kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
For the mashed potatoes: 6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch rounds 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/3 cup milk, possibly more kosher salt & fresh ground white pepper
1. Season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oven to 375˚ F. 2. Place a large sauté over medium high heat. Add enough olive oil to the pan so that the bottom is just coated. Add the chicken legs and brown them generously on all sides. Adjust the heat as necessary.
3. Once the chicken is brown remove it to a plate or sheet tray. Add the carrots, celery and onions to the pan. Season them with salt and pepper. Sweat the vegetables without browning them. 4. Once the veggies soften add the garlic and rosemary. Stir the veggies around and once the garlic is fragrant nestle the chicken legs back into the pan. You want you veggies and chicken spooning. 5. Add the white wine and let it reduce to almost nothing. 6. Add tomato and vegetable broth. Bring the liquid to a boil then slide it into the heated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. 7. While the chicken is in the oven make the mashed potatoes. Place the sliced peeled potatoes into a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 4 inches. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt. 8. Place the pot over high heat and bring it to a boil. Once it is boiling reduce the heat to keep the pot from boiling over. 9. After about 15 minutes check the potatoes to see if they are done by inserting a kitchen knife into the middle of one of the larger pieces of potato. If the larger ones are done you are assured the smaller ones will be too. 10. The knife should easily pierce the potato. Drain the potatoes into a colander. Let them steam for a few minutes to rid themselves of excess moisture. 11. Then using a ricer, a mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment either rice, or mix the potatoes till broken down. Add the butter and mix some more. Season the potatoes with a touch of salt and fresh ground white pepper. 12. Add the 1/3 cup of milk. Mix and then taste for seasoning. Adjust the seasoning as necessary and add more milk if the potatoes are too stiff. Be careful as to how liquid you make the potatoes. Error on the stiff side because the tomato gravy will loosen them up a lot as they co-mingle on the platter. 13. Remove the chicken from the oven. Remove the chicken legs to a the plate you had them on before. Place the pan over medium high heat. Add the half the parsley and once the sauce it boiling add the cornstarch slurry and mix it in. Once the gravy comes to a boil it will thicken. 14.Plate the potatoes onto a large platter. Top the potatoes with the chicken legs then the carrots, onions and celery. Ladle the tomato gravy over all and sprinkle on the parsley. Serve.
These could just have easily been made with lamb, beef or venison. Any of these ground meats would be delicious. I just happened to have duck on hand. I am out of duck now so when I make these again I will probably use venison since I have a freezer full from a wonderful hunt this last fall. I have also been known to turn this same mix into meatloaf or burgers. I have found it is always scrumptious no matter the form.
Serves 4 to 6 For the sauce: 3/4 cup red wine 4 cups beef stock 3 juniper berries 2 sprigs thyme 6 coriander seeds 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns 1 teaspoon dijon 1 teaspoon unsalted butter combined 1 teaspoon all purpose ﬂour kosher salt For the meatballs: 12 oz. ground duck, lean beef, or venison 6 oz pancetta, preferably ground or ﬁnely minced 1/2 cup cooked farro, ground or 1/3 cup breadcrumbs 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1 large garlic clove, minced 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1 egg 1.Place a two quart sauce pan over medium high heat. Add the wine and bring it to a boil. Add the juniper, thyme, coriander and black pepper. Once the wine has reduced to about a 1/4 cup add the stock. Bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat and let the sauce reduce in volume to about 1 1/2 cups to 1 cup. 2.Heat the oven to 350˚ F. In a large mixing bowl combine all the meatball ingredients and mix them until evenly combined. Divide the mixture into 16 equal pieces, roll them into balls and place them onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Bake them for 20 to 25 minutes. 3.While the meatballs cook, blend together the ﬂour and butter until you have made a paste. Add the Dijon to the sauce, whisk the sauce and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the butter paste, beurre manié as it is called, and gently whisk it in to thicken the sauce. Simmer the sauce a few minutes to fully thicken. Taste and season the sauce with kosher salt. Strain the sauce. 4.Remove the meatballs from the oven. Put them on a platter and serve with the sauce on the side. Accompany them with roasted Brussels sprouts or any vegetable of your choice.
Round steak always reminds me of Amish or Mennonite country but maybe that is because I
never had round steak till I was living in Missouri. I was working on a story about a Mennonite family and they were kind enough to know a starving young bachelor when they saw one and invited me for dinner. Sprawled out on their table was a wonderful dinner with homemade bread, greens beans, mashed potatoes and so much more. All the things you think of when you think of a farm table. The star of the show was the round steak, a cut of beef from the hind leg of the cow, slow braised and smothered in bell peppers. What it has, in my mind, is one of the quintessential ﬂavors of rural Midwestern cooking, the green pepper beef broth sauce. The pepper steak is unmistakable and it is delicious when good wholesome and fresh ingredients are used.
Serves 6 to 8 1 round steak, about 3 1/2 pounds 2 cups mixed bell peppers, julienned 1 1/2 cup fennel bulb, core remove, julienned 2 cups yellow onion, peeled and julienned 2 tablespoons rosemary, minced 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced 3 1/2 or more cups water 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce kosher salt and fresh ground pepper 1/3 cup green onions, thinly sliced 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons of cold water Note: Season the round steak on both sides with salt. Place it on a rack that is set on top of a sheet tray with sides. Refrigerate the steak, uncovered, for at least 6 hours to overnight and even up to two days. This will dry age, sort of, the steak. It will build ﬂavor and help tremendously when you brown the steak. 1.Heat the oven to 350˚F. Place a 14 inch skillet over medium high heat. When the pan is hot add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Sear the steak until it is very brown on both sides. Be careful not to let the gooey brown stuff stuck on the bottom of the pan burn. That gooey stuff is ﬂavor. 2.Remove the steak to a tray and add the peppers, onions, fennel and garlic. Cook the vegetables until they begin to soften and caramelize. Add the rosemary and fennel seed. 3.Scoot the vegetables to one side and slip the steak back into the pan so it is underneath the veggies. Add the stock and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and make sure everything is comfortable. Place a parchment paper lid on top of the sauce, or a lid. I prefer the parchment round because it lets the steak, sauce and veg caramelize and brown building more ﬂavor but any lid is ﬁne. 4.Bring the stock to a boil then place the pan into the oven and braise the steak for 1 1/2 hours. 5.Carefully remove the pan from the oven and check the steak. It should be very tender. Place the steak onto a platter then put the pan over high heat. 6. Add the cornstarch mixed with water to the sauce and bring it to a boil. Let the sauce thicken. Once the sauce is thick smother the steak with the pepper sauce. Top with sliced green onions and serve.
FARMHOUSE CHOPS IN WING SAUCE
We love our wings in the Midwest but until I made wing sauce, equal parts real butter to hot sauce, I hadn’t had wing sauce. Sadly, and I know it is about cost, I doubt a single wing shop uses real butter in their sauce anymore. The good thing is you can have the real deal, easily, and without having to buy a pre-made version that is less then stellar. This recipe is based on a version of Farmhouse Chicken in Vinegar Sauce which is a classic French dish from Alsace but in order to make it American I thought it needed hot sauce and, well, since pork chops are a staple on the Hoosier plate it just seemed like a natural.
Serves 4 canola oil 4 pork chops 1/2 unsalted butter, 1 stick 1/3 cup hot sauce 1 teaspoon honey 1 teaspoon cider vinegar 1 tablespoon parsley, minced 1 tablespoon garlic, minced 2 tablespoons shallot or red onion, minced 1/2 cup broth kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1. Heat the oven to 375˚F. 2. Season the chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Let the chops sit long enough at room temperature so that the salt dissolves into the meat. 3. Place a large skillet, one big enough to hold all the chops comfortably, over medium high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Brown the chops deeply on both sides. 4. Remove the chops to a sheet tray to rest. 5. Drain any excess oil from the pan. Turn the heat to low and add the garlic and the shallots and let them soften. 6. Add the butter, honey, vinegar and hot sauce. The idea is to emulsify the butter with the sauce so swirl the two together and don’t let it boil. Once the butter has melted and is warm add the parsley and remove it from the heat to a place where it will stay warm. 7. Place the pork chops into the oven and ﬁnish cooking them. They shouldn’t take longer then 10 minutes in the oven but it depends on how long it took you to brown them. 8. Remove the chops from the oven, plate and sauce them. Serve.
Serves 4 2 dozen carrots, 3/4 inch round at their thickest 2 to 4 tablespoons butter, very soft kosher salt fresh ground white pepper 1. Heat the oven to 375˚ F. 2. Peel the carrots while they are still cold. Place them into toss them with the softened butter making sure to rub them end to end so they are completely coated. The carrots being cold will re-solidify the butter making this job easier. Once you have them coated season them with salt and pepper then toss them again distributing the seasoning. 3. Lay the carrots out in a single layer onto a sheet tray. Place them into the oven to roast making sure to turn them every 20 minutes. Roast for one hour or until they begin to brown and are tender. Serve immediately. 50
POT ROASTED GREENS WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS
Serves 4 2 yellow onions, peeled, trimmed and julienned 8 cups mixed greens, collards or any kale peanut or safﬂower oil kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1.Heat the oven to 325˚ F. 2.Place a heavy bottomed 4 quart pot over medium heat. Add enough oil to liberally coat the bottom of the pot. Add the onions and season them with salt and pepper. 3.Cook the onions until they become soft and are just beginning to take on some color. Add half the greens. Drizzle on a little oil and season them with a pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper. Add the rest of the greens. 4.Turn the greens with a pair of tongs making sure they all get coated with oil and are just starting to wilt. 5.Cover the pot with a tight ﬁtting lid and place the pot into the oven. Roast the greens for 1 hour making sure to stir them after 30 minutes. 6.Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve.
DIRTY OATS WITH LENTILS
I spent the better portion of my life never having eaten whole grains and I will never forget the day when Amy, my wife, and I looked at each other after eating a simple bowl of buttered farro with parsley and wondered aloud where had this been all our lives?
For the oats: 1 cup oat groats, rinsed in cold water water salt For the Lentils: 1 tablespoon oil 1 cup Lentils du Puy, looked through for stones and rinsed 1 cup yellow onion, minced 2 tablespoons sage, minced 1 tablespoon garlic, minced 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon allspice 4 cups vegetable broth fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt 1. Place the oats into a large sauce pan and cover by at least two inches of cold water. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. 2. Bring the pot to a boil. Let it boil, being careful not to let it boil over, for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it sit for an hour. 3. Meanwhile get all the ingredients ready for the lentils. 4. Place a 3 1/2 quart enameled Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil to the pot and then the onion. Sweat the onion until it is soft. 5. Add the garlic, spices and lentils. Stir a couple of times then add the broth. 6. Bring the lentils to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer. Simmer the lentils until tender, about 25 to 45 minutes depending on the age of the legumes. 7. Remove the lid from the oats and taste an oat for tenderness. It is probably chewy. It should have some tooth but it shouldn’t be crunchy. If they are crunchy bring the pot back to a boil and simmer the oats till tender. 8. Drain the oats and add them to the lentil pot. Stir them in. 9. Season the pilaf with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. 10.Let the pilaf simmer until the ﬂavors have come together, the lentils and oats have softened and are tender. Serve.
Makes four 4 ounce servings or six 3 ounce tastings 1 vanilla bean split 1 1/2cup heavy cream 1/2 sugar 4 egg yolks 1. Heat the oven to 350˚ F. 2. Pour the cream into a sauce pan. Scrap out the vanilla seeds with the back of a knife and add the seeds to the cream. Bring the milk to the point where bubbles form at pots edge but it is not boiling. 3. Place the eggs and sugar into a mixing bowl and whisk. Temper the sugar/egg mixture by whisking and drizzling in the hot cream all at the same time. 4. Divide the custard evenly between your ramekins. Place the ramekins into a casserole and add boiling water till it comes half way up the sides of the ramekins. Use a spoon to remove any foam. (the picture on the previous page is before defoaming. You want to remove the foamy bubbles.) 5. Cover the casserole tightly with foil. Place into the oven and bake for 26 minutes. Remove the foil and give one of the ramekins a shake. The custard should jiggle like Jello. If it is still liquid in the middle bake, covered, for another 5 minutes. Be careful these custard can go from smooth and satiny to broken and gritty very quickly. 6. When the custard is set remove from the oven, uncover and let cool in the water bath pan. Remove to a dry pan, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
BROWN SUGAR BANANAS
Serves 4 3 or 4 bananas, medium ripe and peeled 1/2 cup unsalted butter, two tablespoons reserved for later 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract a pinch or two of nutmeg 2/3 cup pecans 2/3 cup oats
1.Heat the oven to 425˚F. 2.In the bowl of a mixer combine the brown sugar, salt, and 6 tablespoons of butter. 3.Cream them together with the paddle attachment until ﬂuffy. Add the vanilla and mix a bit more to combine. 4.Scrap the butter/sugar mix out into a 6 by 12 casserole. Spread it evenly across the bottom with the spatula. Place the bananas on top. 5.Into the mixing bowl (don’t bother to clean it out) add the oats, pecans and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Using the paddle attachment combine everything. 6.Sprinkle over the top of the bananas and bake for 30 minutes being sure to baste the bananas with the bubbling butter brown sugar liquid once or twice.
RITES OF PASSAGE
About the Author
Tom Hirschfeld grew up in Indiana, graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Journalism focusing on photojournalism, and moved to New York City sight unseen after making the newspaper rounds for a short bit. After kicking round NYC for a few years freelancing, 6 to be exact, he returned home. Back in Indiana, Tom did all the things he wanted to do: concrete worker, truck driver, and oil salesman, before marrying the most beautiful and wonderful wife in the world. He went back to school for a degree in education, but switched to culinary school and graduated with a degree in culinary arts. After working in restaurants for about 10 years, he bought a building, liquor license, and equipment for his own restaurant–but chucked the whole thing before it ever opened to be a stay at home dad. His family moved to the farm and Tom started taking pictures again after a 20 year hiatus. He started developing recipes, people started to tell him he could write, and that’s were FOOD52 comes in. Tom is currently looking for a publisher. He considers himself the luckiest man in the world to be the dad of two little girls who do their best to keep him young. Awards: On top of FOOD52′s award as the 2012 Best Culinary Publication by the James Beard Foundation Bona Fide Farm Food was also nominated as a 2012 IACP ﬁnalist for best culinary blog.
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