Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My new favorite thing: Fried Sage

Have you fried sage leaves in coconut oil? I had not. Until this past weekend, when Highlander and I enjoyed them as a beautiful garnish on this superior soup. It's worth the little bit of trouble.
You need:
1 non-stick pan
1-2 tablespoons of organic coconut oil
Fresh sage leaves
Heat the oil and drop in a sage leaf. If it sizzles and curls a bit, your oil is just right. If it just lays there, you need more heat. If it burns and smokes, turn it down!
Lay out a couple of paper towels and fry the sage leaves for about 15 seconds each. Don't let them get brown! Carefully remove them with a fork and let them drain on the paper towel. These are great on any kind of fall soup.
I eat them like potato chips now. Is there any such thing as an overdose of sage? We shall see...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A delicious way to fight the chicken industry and the federal government.

Check out this article about the federal government bailing out the chicken business.
Someone commented:

It's amazing how the real issue goes over everyone's head.

The problem is consumers want white meat chicken.

Legs and thighs aren't popular. Locavores need to blog chicken recipes that use dark meat, quinoa and artisinal cabbage. That ought to solve the problem.

Alternatively, we could go back to the old days, where you bought a whole chicken - white meat, dark meat, the neck, liver and gizzards.

Um, yeah. We don't eat white meat here at the brick house. I think it's dry and finicky. Also, it reminds me of those Pinterest Recipes that no one has ever really made, but everyone re-pins, anyway. Because if you "pin" it, you did it! Right?!

I digress. As usual.

Chicken thighs, people. They rock. Moist, tender, and inexpensive. Never dry and dusty. Get them from a local farmer. Ask for them. Demand creates Supply.

"But I Don't Know What To Do With A Whole Chicken!!!!"
Really? OK.
Take Tamar Adler's advice.
The Kingston Farmer's Market website posts this excerpt from her lovely book, "An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace." You will find the entire first chapter of this book, here. These are the paragraphs that will help people who don't know what to do with a whole chicken begin:

Chicken is already a mainstay of American diets. Roasted chicken is wonderful and produces great drippings, but a chicken cooked in a pot of water leaves you with several dinners, lunches, and extra broth, and is an appropriate and honest way to do a lot with a little.
Buy a whole chicken at a farmers’ market if you can. They’re much more expensive—up to three times as expensive—as chickens raised in factories, which most, even the ones labeled “free range,” are. The two are completely different animals. As soon as you boil a chicken that was raised outdoors, pecking at grubs, you’ll notice that its stock is thick, golden, and flavorful. When it cools, it will thicken. Chickens that’ve led chicken-y lives develop strong, gelatinous bones, which contribute to the soup you get from them and to how good they are for you. If you’re getting more meals out of your chicken, and more nutrition out of those meals, spending the extra money makes sense.
If your chicken comes with its feet on, cut them off at the knee joint. This is easy, if unsettling the first time you do it. If you end up with chicken feet, freeze them in a plastic bag for making chicken stock, for which there are directions on page 166.
I salt chicken for boiling or any cooking a day ahead, if I’ve planned that far. It gives the seasoning time to take and ensures you don’t end up with underseasoned meat and salty broth. If you forget, salt the chicken more heavily and three hours ahead, and leave it sitting at room temperature, which will help the meat absorb the salt.
If you buy your chicken from a local farmer, there’s a good chance it will come with its giblets (liver, heart, and gizzard) inside, though not attached. I’ve included a recipe for chicken liver pâté on pages 172–73.
If it has been salted overnight, let the chicken come to room temperature before you cook it. The water won’t have to spend as much time heating the meat through, and it will cook before getting tough.
There are two ways to deal with vegetables for a boiled chicken meal. Neither is better than the other. If you’ve got time for an extra step, for a four-pound chicken, put the ends—not tops—of three carrots (or all of one), half an onion, a stalk of celery, any strange leek-looking thing you find, a bunch of parsley stems, a few whole stems of thyme, a bay leaf, and a whole clove of garlic in your pot underneath the chicken and cover it all by three inches of water. The carcass will hold them down, and you won’t have to knock them away when you skim the pot. You could truss the chicken for more even cooking, but I don’t. Set aside whole vegetables to cook separately in the finished broth once the chicken is cooked.
If you don’t have time for extra cooking, add big chunks of carrot, celery, and fennel directly to your chicken pot. Cook them at the same time as the chicken, with the intention of serving them alongside. Potatoes, which will make the broth murky, can be added toward the end of the chicken’s cooking.
This might be blasphemy, but I usually add a whole or half piece of star anise to my cooking water. Star anise is a ubiquitous spice in Asian and Middle Eastern poultry dishes, and the two ingredients have an affinity for each other. I occasionally also add a stick of cinnamon for about five minutes. The combination adds a little extra richness to the broth that’s quite magical.
Let the pot come to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Skim the gray scum that rises to the top of the pot and collects around its sides. You will have to skim it periodically. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your chicken. There is scum in the finest of them, as in any meat or bean.
Cook the chicken at just below a simmer, starting to check for doneness after thirty minutes, and then retrieving each part as it’s cooked. The vegetables might be done before the chicken. If they are, remove them. If the chicken’s done first, which you’ll know by when a leg, wiggled, begins to come loose, remove it.
I cook chickens leg side down because legs take longer to cook. This can make for messy testing for doneness, but I clumsily make do.
If wiggling doesn’t feel reassuring, cut into a piece of leg when you think its time might be up. You will lose some juices, but you’re only losing them into broth, which you’re going to eat anyway. Regardless, that always seems an illogical argument for not testing the temperature of meat. Better to lose a few juices than to over- or undercook an entire piece of meat.
Remove the chicken. Taste the broth. If it doesn’t taste delicious, let it go on cooking.
If you’re going to eat it immediately, let the broth settle, then use a ladle to skim any fat off the top of the liquid by making a little whirlpool with your ladle and lightly skimming what rises to the top of the ladle. This takes practice. If you can wait, put the broth in the refrigerator. Tomorrow there will be a thin layer of fat over the top of the broth, which you can skim off with a spoon and save for sautéing vegetables or spreading on toast.
If I’m making a to-do of it, I serve some of the broth as a first course. In that case, I cook a few vegetables or pasta that are as small and beautiful as I can manage and serve a spoonful of them in each bowl of broth.
If it’s summer, dice a little zucchini and onion and cook them in butter in a pan. If it’s spring, pull a little of the broth aside and cook English peas in a combination of broth and butter. If it’s autumn, little cubes of butternut squash and rice are good. If it’s winter, cook tiny pasta shells or heartier pasta, like tortellini.
Warm enough broth for everyone, then warm the vegetables, grains, or pasta in the broth, and ladle it out in bowls with spoonfuls of each in each.
If it’s a second or third or fourth day soup I’m making, I pick off whatever meat is left on the carcass, heat up my broth, and cook noodles in it, omitting vegetables entirely and using enough noodles that the resulting soup is a golden broth, flush with swollen noodles and little bits of chicken. I like twisted pasta like fusilli and gemelli for this.
For a soup that’s equally delicious but more rustic, toast thick slices of stale bread, put a slice at the bottom of individual soup bowls, and grate Parmesan cheese on them. Ladle hot broth over the toasts and top with lots of freshly cracked black pepper, a little more cheese, and olive oil. Make sure that the pepper is freshly cracked. When you’ve got only five ingredients and pepper’s one of them—and two of the others are bread and broth—the small amounts of attention you put into each is not only tasteable, but where the meaning in the meal resides.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Organic Food is Not Too Expensive.

Shannon Hays is the author of one of my favorite books.

Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture

And she has this to say in answer to the argument that local farmers "charge too much" for their food. 

And I have a sick six year old on the couch who is coming to the end of her movie. Which means she'll be on me like white on rice. I have to switch the laundry around, put another coat of poly on my new table(s) and drink another cup of coffee before I'm ready for the second wave of philosophical interrogation from Madame Zoe. 

Happy Monday!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Canning Dilly Beans

They are salty, spicy, pickl-y (not a word. I know.) and just heaven. I know this because one of my jars didn't seal so I put it in the 'fridge. For later. Or now.

Highlander ran the Quad Cities marathon yesterday morning, and qualified for Boston. (yay!) So I get to figure out what one eats when one is in Boston. (yay!)
I stayed home, roasted a chicken, made peanut butter bars, and ate Dilly Beans.