Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sunnyfield's Irish scones

Need I say more?

And, yes, I have Irish music playing.  Frieze Britches / Donnybrook Fair by William Coulter (Crooked Road album), for those of you who like details.

Happy smilin' Irish eyes to you!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pan seared sea scallops with wilted spinach over russet-celeriac mash

1 lb fresh sea scallops----NH-caught are available right now
generous heap of freshly chopped parsley and cilantro
salt, pepper
lemon zest, if you're so inclined

coat and marinate scallops in herbs, oil and seasoning for an hour, maybe two, whatever works.  Twenty minutes can cut it if you're really desperate.

check those tendons for sand/grit!  Nothing worse than crunching down on crud while eating a delectable meal.

when you cook 'em, be sure to use a hot pan (a non-stick one is absolutely fine for creating a nice sear, just be sure to apply the "flip once" rule).  and don't overcook these babies.  even the largest of these bivalves only need 3 or 4 minutes.  mine, tonight, took all of 2 or 3.  tops.

I served ours over a mash of Riverside's russets and Brookford's celeriac.  Threw the two roots, peeled and largely chunked, together into a pot of salted water, cooked until tender, and mashed with a "knob" of butter and a healthy splash of cram.  Wait, not cram, cream.

Meadow's Mirth spinach was tossed on top of the scallops just before killing the heat.  Hardly even wilted.  This spinach does not want to be cooked.  Way better raw.  Like, w-a-y better.

Simple...simple...simple.  No other way.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Almost Spring Chicken Dinner

Smokey Maple Brine: 3/4c kosher salt, 1/2c sugar, 1/2c maple syrup, a bunch of dashes of good quality liquid smoke.  Dissolve all in 4 cups hot water.  Add 4 cups cold water and a couple trays of ice.  Brine for at least 4 hrs, up to 6.

Inspired entirely of the need to free up freezer space over the next 6 months in order to accomodate this upcoming growing season's stash, I pulled out our last General Butler's chicken and a container of stuffing left over from last Thanksgiving.  The stuffing was not your ordinary bread stuffing.  No-no.  It was a vegetable tempeh stuffing, made with all kinds of little goodies that I'll get into later, including tempeh that, too, was a freezer cull in and of its own right.  Being of frugal Yank stock, I seldom throw anything away.  Truly, it has to look like we'd get poisoned for me to throw food away.  Okay, I jest.  A little.

At the farmers' market this past Saturday, I scored several bags of greens from Meadow's Mirth.  This spinach is worth pushing people out of the way for: sweet, buttery, tender-tender-tender (there was no way I was using heat against it for this dinner).  Now listen, be nice to your fellow shoppers. In-line patience starts with you.  Not me, you.

The allure of spinach photography.

So, no heat.  Instead, I tossed it in a very mild champagne vinaigrette, and topped it with the tempeh stuffing. A meal in itself.

That's the last of our butternut squash, too.  I picked up a large, long and slender (don't you even go there) squash from Brookford Farm back in early February at the Exeter market.  Used a third in a risotto concoction one night, and another third, roasted in cubes, for a steak dinner.  Not bad, three dinners from one squash.  But now it's gone...waah.

Okay, so that tempeh stuffing:

Last night I could detect currants, chestnuts and bits of mushrooms.  I had used a mirepoix base (onion, carrot, celery).  I remember the reason for this tempeh stuffing, which means I know I initially used olive oil and vegetable to stock to make it.  Last night I completely fattened it up and drizzled a copious amount of melted butter all over it, and added a layer of toasted pine nuts to its middle ("pine nut surprise stuffing!").  Several splashes of Bragg's liquid aminos (an alternative to soy sauce) also perked it back up.  It was sublime over the spinach, and what I'll be having for lunch today.  'Course, with this time change, it'll feel like breakfast.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Local Bratwurst with Braised Red Cabbage and German Potato Salad

Being of German, Scottish and Norwegian descent, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I discovered bratwurst...Bruce and Mary Jones's 'Patridge Farm' heritage-breed pork beer bratwurst, no less. Say that five times fast. 

I must say, I pulled tonight's dinner out of my...magic hat.  Give a hand to my amazing assistant: The New York Times Cookbook.  I had every darn ingredient on hand.  Yes, I feel very proud.  Very, very proud.

Ale-braised Bratwurst
  • 1 lb beer bratwurst (Patridge farm makes theirs with beer; they participate in the winter FM in Rollinsford)
  • 1-2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 bottle of ale (I used Smutty's Old Brown Dog)
Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon, Apple and Chestnut
  • 3-4 oz. bacon, sliced/diced (I happened to have some of Patridge's jowl bacon in my freezer, but any ol' bacon'll do)
  • lg head of red cabbage, quartered, core removed, wedges sliced into shreds
  • small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lg tart apple, peeled, quartered, sliced thin (I used NH Cider Works/Carter Hill Orchard's mutsu variety. Pretty much a perfect apple.)
  • 1 cup good quality white wine (a dry Riesling is the only way to go)
  • roasted, vacuum-packed chestnuts, 12-14 whole pieces (optional, for sure)
  • healthy pinch of brown sugar
  • knob unsalted butter
  • splash good quality red wine vinegar
  • good salt & freshly ground pepper
Light German Potato Salad
  • 3-4 oz. bacon, same as above
  • 1-2 Tbsp garlic oil (smash a clove with a knife, add it to a couple Tbsp evoo, bring to a simmer, then shut off the heat and let sit until ready to use) 
  • 2lbs new potatoes, scrubbed, boiled or nuked whole until just tender
  • 4-5 scallions, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp yellow or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbsp good quality white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper

We're going to start with the very opposite of this line up.  First, have a beer and some nuts.  You know it.

POTATOES:  Do these first.  They're easy.  I used my 'potato' option on the microwave.  Fool proof.

When the spudskies are done, quarter/halve them while hot, then toss into a bowl with the chopped scallions.

Use a Dutch oven for everything but the brats.  One pot tonight.  Gotta love it.  Well, almost one pot.

First cook the bacon for the potatoes.  Heat the pot over low heat and add the garlic oil.  Add the bacon chunks and let them be for a few minutes.  Stir every once in a while.  Now wait for it... wait for it... ahh, there it is, that wonderful bacon aroma wafting up into your olfactory senses.  Make sure the bacon goes from this...


...this!  Crispy bits o' love!  Poor little pig.  I love pigs.

Set your bacon aside on paper toweling, then strain off all but a couple tablespoons of fat.  Keep your heat on...medium is good...then add the mustard seeds.  They'll start to pop very soon after adding them.  As soon as they do, kill the heat and add the white wine vinegar.  This will deglaze your pot very nicely.  Use a spatula to scrape every last drip--listen to your mother--of this concoction all over your potatoes.  Season with a pinch of salt & pepper...

Gently stir this all together and then cover with that piece of plastic wrap that you have sitting around somewhere.  See?  Done.  Told ya, easy peasy.  (The bacon bits will be added when you serve.)

CABBAGE:  This dish isn't hard, either.  And, it's quite lovely.  I love the word lovely.  Say it with me: lov-uh-lee.  Lovely.

First, turn your oven on to 425.

To begin, wipe the pot clean using that nicely greased paper towel that your 1st batch of bacon is sitting on.  :~)  Over very low heat, add the 2nd batch of chopped bacon.  No garlic oil, no butter, just bacon.  Cook until the bacon starts to brown, 7-8 minutes.  Add the onion and turn up the heat to med-high.  Cook until onion softens.

Once the onion has softened, add the cup of white wine, then the apples and brown sugar.  Stir to combine all those luscious (oooooh, you know I love that word) flavors together...

Speaking of wine...

This dry Riesling, purchased at Ceres St. Wines, was modestly priced (~$25), and soooo worth it.  It complemented dinner with a capital 'C'.  Pale yellow in color, with bright aromas of kiwi and bacon.  I mean, lemon zest.  One might say it has a "supple" texture on the palate, with a bit of sweet apple for fruit.  Yes, I like that word, too.  Supple.  Very much.  This is a nicely balanced wine, and its dry, spicy finish was perfect with all the buttery, bacony, bratwursty flavors.

Next, add all that gorgeous cabbage...

Just stir it all in...

Add in the chestnuts, too.  I left mine whole, but chopped works.

Cover your pot and place in the oven.  Cook for 20-25 minutes, then lower heat to 350 and cook for another 35-40 minutes.  Check occasionally, stirring to prevent sticking.  When done, you'll add that little knob of butter and splash of red wine vinegar.  But before you worry about butter and vinegar, let's tackle the bratwurst, shall we?

BRATWURST:  This part is so simple it's ridiculous!  Pluck your 'wurst links from their packaging and add to a heated pan in which you've brought 1 Tbsp of butter to foam.  Have that bottle of beer opened and handy...

Fresh pork bratwurst from Patridge Farm.  Their version is made with ale and mild spices (sausage recipes include liquid, from cream to wine).  Bratwurst recipes abound, indicative of the many regions in Germany from whence they originated, and there are just about as many cooking methods, from frying to simmering in liquid to grilling.  Some sources suggest pricking the casing before cooking to avoid splitting, while others state pricking is the best way to dry out your sausage.  I chose not to poke holes in mine.  I'm a non-pokey kinda gal when it comes to sausage.  Russets in the oven, on the other hand....

Once they're browned, add in a cup of ale/beer/lager/whathaveyou.  The beer will foam up quite spectacularly, but no worries, it won't boil over.  It's only a cup's worth after all.

Bring the beer and brats to a boil, then lower heat to simmer.  Cover, let cook for 12-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, let's get back to that cabbage dish.  If it's finished cooking in the oven, add the butter and red wine vinegar, stir well, and leave covered until you're ready to plate...

Bring on the plates and forks, and don't forget the mooseturd!

Yum!  Yumyumyumnomnom....  The sweet and tangy braised cabbage was splendiferous with the mild, smooth, buttery sausage. All was very tender, very tasty.  The potato salad, hiding there in the background with its crunchy bacon bit topping and all those tiny pops of flavor provided by the mustard seeds, was killer.  How could it not be when garlicky bacon fat was drizzled all over young potatoes and scallions?

Dessert anyone?