Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dark Days Challenge week 10 - trout and veggies

This week's dark days meal still seems a bit exotic to me, living in the Midwest - rainbow trout! Farmed trout from Freshwater Farms of Ohio, to be exact. We stocked up on it during their Fish and Shrimp Festival in the fall (although, alas, they ran out of shrimp before we got there.)

I pan-fried the trout and served it over a medley of carrots, daikon radish and snow peas. The trout and all the veggies were local; the sauce (a homemade Asian sauce with soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger and freshly-squeezed orange juice) was not. I am proud of the fact that I can now make my own sauces, even for Asian food - no bottled sauces with dubious ingredients and high sodium content here! The snow peas are one of the items we can usually get at the winter farmers market, and the carrots and daikon radish were unearthed from the crisper drawer, and were probably remnants of our CSA.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dark Days Challenge week 9 - scrambled eggs and bacon

Some nights, the best you can do is scrambled eggs. It's one of those foods I'm just now learning to eat; as I child they were they were the bane of my existence. They were that one food I wouldn't eat, and I was once forced to sit at the table for hours with them, until I finally choked them down, ice cold. Fortunately my mom soon realized that I just didn't like egg yolks; I'd eat any number of egg whites, but the yolks were a no-go.

As an adult with a steady supply of pasture-raised eggs in my fridge, it seemed silly and wasteful not to eat the yolks. I still need something to distract me from the taste (either herbs or marmite, generally) but I can now make a meal of scrambled eggs or an omelet (provided I have toast on the side.)

This week's meal is scrambled eggs from Speckled Hen farm, bacon from Bluescreek, an apple from Gilogly Orchards, and 7-seed bread from Andelain Farms. The butter is from Hartzler's Dairy, and the seasoning in the scrambled eggs is non-local (but is "Sunny Paris" from Penzey's, and is really fantastic in eggs!)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dark Days Challenge week 8 - Welsh rarebit and tomato soup

We've had January weather in earnest this week - plenty of cold and snow. I decided to stay on the comfort-food theme, so this week's meal featured caws pobi, or Welsh rarebit. Beer, cheese, bread - what would be better? In an attempt to add in some vegetables, I whipped up some homemade cream of tomato soup with stewed tomatoes from the freezer. I fully intended to add a salad as well, but in the end I was too tired and hungry to bother. I have definitely learned that I should make the salad first if I plan on serving it!

Welsh rarebit: this was made with raw cheddar cheese made from grass-fed milk from Meadow Maid, along with butter from Hartzler's Dairy, milk from Snowville Creamery, and a little mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, and beer (the beer was decidedly not local, being from Wychwood brewery in the UK. But it was probably my favorite beer thus far for Welsh rarebit. You can actually skip the beer and just add milk or cream, but I like it with beer.) I'm still working to perfect this dish, and I have trouble keeping the cheese and other liquids together in a unified whole. I begin to suspect that the cheese is the problem, but even though it tended to separate, both the thicker cheese goo and the beer-milk-mustard liquid were completely delicious. I served the dish over focaccia bread from the farmer's market (as it was the only bread on hand), and it was a surprisingly good combination.

Cream of tomato soup: I'll admit that I didn't actually add cream - just a little 2% milk at the end to give the soup a little body. This was the first time that the soup didn't come out tasting like marinara sauce! I used a base of onions, garlic, and carrots, sauteing them as I would for any soup. Next I added a pint and a half of stewed tomatoes from the freezer, then added chicken stock to cover. (You could easily use a vegetable stock and keep it vegetarian.) I let the soup cook until the stock reduced (about 30-45 minutes I think), then hit it with an immersion blender. I let it cool a little before adding the milk at the end. It was a far cry from the velvety-smooth canned tomato soup of my childhood, but it had a robust texture and great taste. The only seasonings were salt, pepper, and a little thyme (which I seem to put in everything these days.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dark Days Challenge Week 7 - beef burgundy

With temperatures in the 10's and 20's F, it has definitely been "a big pot of something bubbling away on the stove" weather. I decided to use stew beef this week, and made beef burgundy over mashed potatoes and turnips with a side of Brussels spouts. This version of beef burgundy had grass-fed stew beef from Long Meadows, leeks and thyme from the garden, carrots from Wayward Seed CSA, Cabernet Franc wine from River Village cellars, Ohio-made beef stock, and non-local cremini mushrooms. I used slightly more potatoes than turnips in the mash, since the turnips were incredibly pungent; next time I will use a 50/50 mix, I think, or perhaps slightly more turnips than potatoes. My fridge is still overflowing with turnips, rutabagas and beets from my CSA! The Brussels sprouts were from the very last holdout vendor at the North Market farmer's market.

I'm not sure why I decided to make beef burgundy; it was most likely inspired by the (not local) package of mushrooms that followed me home from the store. I knew I wanted red meat, red wine, and mushrooms together. I used no recipe and have never made this before; in fact, I'm not even sure how I knew what beef burgundy is. I used to read recipe books while I ate, so I'm assuming it was a remembered thing. Also, I know that red meat, red wine and mushrooms all go together very well, and I know the basics of stew-making.

I started by dredging the meat in seasoned flour and browning it. There are a lot of theories behind both the dredging and the browning; I dredge because I like the resulting texture of the meat, plus the slight thickening property of the flour. I brown because once you've dredged something in flour you pretty much have to brown it. Grass-fed beef is lower in fat than regular beef so it needs to be cooked - and browned - at lower temperatures (I never go above medium.)

The thing about stew beef is that it is notoriously tough, and tough meats really need to be braised (which will break down all that chewy connective tissue that makes it tough.) Once the beef was browned I added red wine (the acid in alcohol and fruit can also help tenderize tough meat) and a bit of stock. I put the pot and low and let it cook for a little over two hours, and took my time chopping and adding the leeks, carrots, and finally mushrooms. When the stew was finally done it was a bit more liquid-y than I'd wanted, so I pulled out a few cups of the liquid and reduced it in a saucepan (which isn't as much work as it sounds; I just let it do it's thing on medium-high while I cooked the Brussels sprouts and mashed the leeks and turnips.)