20 April 2016

Home Cooked

As Sara Morrow said in Modern Farmer, "Leave it to a woman to revolutionize cattle ranching."  The woman she was writing about is Anya Fernald.  Fernald has been roaming about the food world for many years from traveling around Europe offering help at dairy farms, to working in Italy with Carlo Petrini and Slow Food, to bringing Slow Food to America, to being a judge on Iron Chef, to running a cattle ranch.  I'm already tired!

As CEO of Belcampo, Fernald set out to develop a source for pasture-raised organic meat. There was a farm, then a slaughterhouse, then a butcher shop and restaurant, then multiple locations -- even a resort in Belize, and now, a cookbook.

Home Cooked is just that, home cooked recipes without fuss and flourish. What the recipes do posses is bold flavor that comes from fresh ingredients and a firm lack of fear in using everything her animals have to offer.  There are no foams or tweezers in Fernald's kitchen, there is fire and flame; braises and confits; beef and vegetables covered in sauces and soaked in wine.  It seems that on any given day, a party is just around the corner!

I know one can't, as they so often say, judge a book by its cover, but I love giant, nested bowls, and have some of the same bowls on my shelves, not to mention a beaten up wood table. Also, my favorite recipe in the book is one of my fave recipes. As a child, I never had to eat anything I didn't want to eat, but I had to try everything. It made me an adventurous eater from the start. You might think that whole animal cooking and braised veggies with garlicky sauces might not be something your family wouldn't eat, think again.

Fernald has small children and (aside from being one of my favorite foods) this recipe is her daughter's favorite. I like my chicken hearts skewered on stalks of rosemary, but brown butter has a certain appeal.  Fernald warns that the hearts should never be cooked beyond medium-rare. So remember, brown on the outside, pink in the middle.

Chicken Hearts Cooked in Brown Butter

2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1 1/2 cups chicken hearts 
Flaky salt, such as Maldon, for serving

In a small cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. When the milk solids are beginning to brown and the butter has a rich, nutty smell, add the chicken hearts and cook, tossing them around in the pan as if you’re making popcorn, until browned on all sides, no more than 2 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, sprinkle with flaky salt, and serve immediately. 
Hey, organic meats, big bowls, chicken hearts, we so want to party with this girl. You will, too.

06 April 2016

The Yellow Table

When Anna Watson Carl was growing up, she ate dinner with her family on a big, yellow table. There was nothing particularly interesting about the table, except for the fact that it was yellow.  When Carl graduated from college, her mother gave her the yellow table. While it might not seem like such a great present, the family totem proved to be just the right inspiration. Carl began throwing dinner parties at the table. Over the years, she immersed herself in her passion, food. She wrote, edited, and took off for France, then she uprooted for New York. The economy ebbed and flowed and finally, after much consideration, the yellow table came to New York.

A short time later, the yellow table became The Yellow Table, a blog. While writing the blog, she dreamed of a cookbook and faced those daunting "cookbook questions."  Do you own a restaurant? Do 100,000 people visit your blog -- every day? Do you have a television show?  If you answered no to the preceding questions, well then, you are not going to get a book deal.

Now most folks would be daunted, well, even crushed by this prospect, but Carl, who had spent time writing, editing other people's cookbooks, and setting up photo shoots decided she could do it herself.  She began the process by offering up daily updates on her blog, she logged onto Kickstarter, and took The Yellow Table on the road...not the actual table, but, you know.

Before long, the yellow table that she colored on as a child was transformed into The Yellow Table: A Celebration of Everyday Gatherings. The book is filled with seasonal, easy recipes that you can serve on a table of any color.  "This is my go-to lunch,' says Carl, 'I call it a detox salad, because it’s packed with nutrient-rich vegetables and has protein from the quinoa. To save time, I stop by the Whole Foods salad bar and stock up on shredded carrots, red cabbage, and cooked quinoa. Feel free to toss in some roast chicken if you want a heartier meal."

Detox Kale Salad
4 packed cups chopped kale (curly, Lacinto, red, or a combination), stems removed
1 cup shredded carrots (from about 2 medium carrots)
1 cup shredded red cabbage (from about 1/8 head cabbage)
3/4 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, toss together the kale, carrots, cabbage, quinoa, and avocado.

Pour the lemon juice into a small bowl. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and toss to combine. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, or another splash of lemon if you like. Serve immediately.

Store the salad, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, up to 1 day.

This week, The Yellow Table blog got a fresh, new design. Head over and take a look.

04 April 2016

James Beard's Menu's For Entertaining

Entertaining is another sub-genre in cookbooks that we just love. Now to be totally fair, we have never, ever cooked a menu, nor set a table based upon anything in one of these books, but we do love to watch other people entertain. One of the best loved books on entertaining is James Beard's Menu's For Entertaining.  There are tons of copies out there, and though we have no firm facts, it seems to be one of Book-Of-The-Month Club's best sellers, making the hunt for a nice First Edition a daunting task.

These days, James Beard is known more for awards than recipes, but in the 50's and 60's, if Beard cooked it, it would likely find its way onto a table near you. Of entertaining he wrote:

"Entertaining is my main pleasure, my forte;and beyond that is essential to my livelihood. I do it frequently with little help and often with none at all. It is not unusual for me to arrive home at 5:30 after a full day's work, with eight guests due for cocktails and dinner two hours later."

In moving things around, I picked up Menu's For Entertaining and found it to be beyond charming. Beard cooked before the proliferation of take out, specialty shops, sous vide, and molecular gastronomy.  What would he think today?

As chef's and their restaurants tout their recent listing on the James Beard awards pages here is our favorite recipe from Menu's For Entertaining.

Whole Hominy

Open and wash two No. 2 1/2 cans whole hominy. Heat with 6 tablespoons butter in a covered pan over medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste and add 1/3 cup of sour cream.

Now you, too, can entertain like James Beard.  And don't you feel better about it.

01 April 2016

A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus

There are those cookbooks we read about that are just signed to a contract, so we wait and wait and finally find them on a wish list, with the author's name and just a tentative title, then one day a cover photo appears, and then you pre-order, and finally that pub date comes around and a week or so later, there it is, the cookbook you have been waiting for.

That was the story of Renee Erickson's A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus.  When it finally arrived, it just sat on the table, because we wanted to savor the moment.  Then we got all excited because we wanted to write about it.  And then...

So today, I picked up A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus and began flipping through it like I had just gotten my copy.  So I checked to see what I had written about it.  Like this happens all too often, there was no "there"  there.  How in the world did we never write about this book.  We hang our head in shame.

First, Renee Erickson just looks like she would so much fun, we really don't care if she can cook a lick.  We are also fond of the idea that she went to school to be a painter.  The world needs more cooks who are painters.  She opened her first restaurant when she was young and enlisted her entire family to help her out.  She cooked because she wanted to cook, to offer up a small, fun place for people to break bread.

She learned to cook reading Julia Child and our fave, Elizabeth David, she loves France and her favorite Birthday dinner is steak!  Who doesn't love her?

The book features stories about various providers for her restaurants, stories about the dishes, helpful notes, and the occasional shopping tip. The recipes in the book are seasonal, and organized in menu's.  One can cook a menu or an individual dish.   One of my favorites is Mussels in Cider.
Mussels in Cider

In Blainville-sur-Mer, a tiny town on Normandy’s Cotentin Peninsula, there’s a quirky little restaurant called La Cale, whose official street address is “La Plage,” or, simply, “the beach.” It overlooks the tidal flats that stretch five kilometers into the sea—an area that accounts for more than 10 percent of France’s oyster production—but at high tide, when all traces of aquaculture disappear, it’s simply a beachfront bistro with a few legs of lamb on an open hearth. It’s homey, complete with picnic tables and a “serve yourself ” rule that explains why patrons cut their own bread, fetch their own water, and choose their own wine from a shelf next to the bar. The rule does not explain why the room is adorned in giant needlepoints of various nudes, both male and female, but the artworks add a je ne sais quoi that I’d miss if I returned to find them replaced with something more modest.
When you order mussels there, they come in the pot they were cooked in, steamed in cider and topped with a generous dollop of creme fraiche, which whoever has thought to grab a ladle gets to stir into them just before serving. This recipe is similar. And as you do at La Cale, you should eat a small mussel first, then use its shell as a utensil to pry the mussels out of the remaining shells.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large shallots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 cups dry hard cider
3 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, for seasoning
Kosher salt
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup loosely packed whole tarragon leaves (no stems)
Crusty bread, for serving

In a large, high-sided saucepan or soup pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the shallots and cook, stirring, until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, add the cider, then increase the heat to medium-high. Add the mussels and cook, covered, until they begin to open, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and begin transferring the mussels that have cooked to a large bowl, stirring and prodding until all the mussels have opened and have been transferred to the bowl. (Discard any mussels that do not open.) Increase the heat to high and simmer the cider for 3 minutes, or until it has reduced by about a third. Season the liquid to taste with lemon juice and salt, then reduce the heat to low. Return the mussels to the pot, add the creme fraiche and tarragon, and stir gently until the mussels are warmed through and coated with the cream. Serve immediately, with the bread.

Now if only Renee were here to enjoy them with us.
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