28 August 2013

The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook

There is an ongoing joke that in the South, we have our own word for "farm-to-table", we call it dinner.  Face it, the food on your table came from some farm somewhere.  The problem is, that farm might just be in Timbuktu.  We have lamented the fact that the cookbook world has been inundated with "farm-to-table" cookbooks.  When The Countryman Press offered to send us a copy of The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook by Tracey Medeiros we though, here's another one.  When we got the book, we were pleasantly surprised.  Why is this cookbook so different?

You will notice that The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook has no "to" in the title.  It is the Vermont farm table cookbook.   That distinction is important.   When I built a pair of tables for my house, they were based on my favorite farm table.  That table sat in the kitchen of my friend, Barbara, outside of Randolph, Vermont.   The table was huge.  Barbara's brother, Tim made the table with big 4X4 legs and a solid plank top.  That table sat in the same spot for years.  Kids grew up around that table, family was mourned, meal after meal was served, and more than a few drinks were downed.   The last time I was in Vermont, the table was gone.  A kitchen remodel had given way to a smaller table, but Barbara assured me it was safe in her studio after a nail-biting move involving heavy machinery.  I missed that table.

There are thousands of tables like Barbara's in Vermont.  It is the soul of a farm -- the place the farmer drinks a first cup of coffee in the pitch dark of morning; a place to order seeds for the garden, a place to shell peas, a place to feed a family and friends, a place to watch children grow, and more.  It is that table that is the soul of Medeiros' book.

The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook is about those tables and the people who sit at them, morning after morning, day after day, generation after generation.  Yes, the food is beautiful.  Yes, you want to cook it.  And, yes indeed, you want to eat it.  Most importantly, you will know then name of the person who set the ingredients on the table.  You will find four generations of the Shat family raising beef.  Six generations of the Conant's have been working Riverside Farm.  WhistlePig Whiskey is leading a new generation of drinkers to rye on a very old farm.   Misery Loves Co. fed people out of a 1976 Winnebago, and in 2012  they opened an actual bricks and mortar restaurant.  You will meet foragers and pie makers; cheese makers and cider distillers; chefs and teachers, all contributing a piece of their farm to your table.

Nothing makes our table happier than red meat and whiskey, so this recipe is a no-brainer.  Also, we have a whistle pig or groundhog living under our shed.  He comes out every morning and will sit out with the chickens. He is a bit of nuisance, but we have grown fond of him.

New York Strip Steaks with WhistlePig Whiskey Demi-glace Sauce

4 (10-ounce) New York strip steaks, about 1 inch thick, trimmed 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced 
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot 
1 garlic clove, minced 
1/3 cup WhistlePig whiskey 
1 1/4 cups demi-glace or beef stock 
1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Season the steaks generously with salt and pepper.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the steaks and sear 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer the steaks to a baking sheet and bake until medium-rare, 6 minutes.

3. While the steaks are in the oven, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the empty skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, shallot and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully whisk in the whiskey. Return the skillet in the heat and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the demi-glace and return to a simmer. Slowly whisk in the cream and cook until the sauce is slightly reduced. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve.

All find and dandy, you think, but what if your table is in Timbuktu or Alabama or Idaho?  Don't let that stop you from grabbing a copy.  Within a hundred miles, or fifty or even one, you will find a farmer.  She might be making beer in a basement, he might have an acre of okra, they might own 1000 acres with a golf course and vineyard, but somewhere out there, and not that far out there, there are farmers with food for your table.  Take The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook as your inspiration and find them.  Find your local butcher who sources meat, find your favorite whiskey maker, find a dairy with local cream and sit down at your table.  You won't be disappointed.

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