I don’t normally have the attention span to eat the same thing every day, but I ate this sandwich for lunch three days running and was still not tired of it. I kept trying to decide whether to change it up a bit, add a different condiment…and then made it exactly the same way. Again.
This all came about because we thought a particular day was going to be cold and rainy, so we planned a pot roast. As it turned out, the weather all week was ridiculously warm and springlike, but once the beef was defrosted it was too late to back out. We based the braise on the Yankee Pot Roast Redux recipe in Molly Stevens’ All About Braising, using a rolled and tied cross-rib roast from our freezer and cooking it in Strongbow cider, chicken broth and onions, with carrots and potatoes going in near the end. It was fabulous, and we ate it two nights running with polenta and shredded Brussels sprouts, but there were still many leftovers.
Having thought ahead to this predicament, I had picked up a bag of rosemary potato rolls at the co-op, made by the Breadfarm, a wonderful bakery in Edison. These rolls, like so much the Breadfarm does, are spectacular – sour and chewy, with coarse salt on top and plenty of fresh rosemary scattered throughout. When it came time to make my sandwich, I cut a roll in half, toasted it lightly, spread it with mayonnaise (Best Foods), and fit a slice of pot roast onto it. I also remembered that we had a bag of cilantro in the fridge, so I pulled out a few sprigs to add. Squished down well, the ingredients melded together, and positively sang.
I ate that first sandwich and immediately made another.
This month’s Mixology Monday challenge is hosted by Cocktail Virgin, and the theme is tea. Black or herbal, brewed or infused, anything goes as long as it’s tea-based.
When thinking the challenge through, it seemed like we had three basic options: add brewed tea to the cocktail, infuse spirits with tea, or make a tea-flavored sugar syrup. We actually had rather good results mixing brewed oolong tea with aperol and lemon juice, but the drink we became fondest of used the sugar syrup.
The really tough decision was which tea to use. We thought of Lapsang first, with its deep smokiness, but thought that might be too strong. We have some madrona bark tea from Shaw Island which we haven’t yet tasted, but it brews for a long time and we kept forgetting to get it started. One of my very favorite teas, though, is Golden Yunnan, and it seemed like a perfect candidate. Rich and malty in flavor, it seemed like it would go great with booze.
It baffles me that something as wonderful as a scone can often be so awful.
The scones I grew up with (my mother’s) were like rich biscuits: a little fluffy, a little crumbly, with a sweet butter flavor. They might have some currants or a bit of zest, but the main attraction was always the scone itself, plus whatever fabulous jam you smeared on top. They also weren’t too big, so you could have the pleasure of going back for seconds or thirds, perhaps trying a different jam on each one.
Commercial scones, on the other hand, always seem to be huge, floury and dry. Not to mention full of chunks of things: citron, cranberries, nuts – all distractions, in my opinion. This sort of scone gets you to drink a lot more coffee than you normally would, just to wash all that dry plaster out of your mouth. I can never eat more than a bite or two.
They need to be made at home, and eaten fresh. That’s all there is to it.
I wasn’t sure there was any higher calling for alder-smoked salmon than a bagel and cream cheese, but this risotto may have changed my mind.
Some friends brought this salmon to a party at our house (very good friends, indeed). It was from Pure Food in the Pike Place Market, according to the bag, and it was the best smoked salmon I have ever eaten, juicy and tender with just the right amount of smoke and sweet. I was trying to think of some way to use a bunch of it at once, and Jon said, “What about in that risotto we’re having on Thursday?” Hmmm.
It was hard to know what to eat after getting home from Duckfest. We’d eaten so much good food, I found myself wanting meals relatively light on carbs but not too depressingly healthy. I didn’t want to give us whiplash, after all.
This was a dinner that really hit the spot. Jon made up his favorite recipe for kofte kebabs with a mix of beef and lamb, but turned it into meatloaf instead of individual burgers or kebabs. I roasted a panful of cauliflower florets tossed with olive oil, cumin seed and mustard seed, and stirred up some yogurt with fresh garlic, dried mint, salt and pepper.
It was the perfect combination of comforting, spicy and virtuous.
On the third and final day of Duckfest, we made confit, rillettes and pâté.
When we got to the farm on Sunday morning, the table was well laden with leftover bagels, plus a few sheets of freshly made cinnamon rolls.
As we ate breakfast, Kate was beginning the process of rendering the duck fat we’d collected off the carcasses the previous day. She was careful not to get the fat too hot – just enough to melt most of it off of the solids, but not enough to crisp them up.
On the second day, we slaughtered ducks.
Or, to be more precise, some of us slaughtered ducks, and we all plucked, butchered and ate them.
As you might expect, there are some slightly graphic photos in this post (although I left out the worst ones) so proceed at your own risk.
The day began cool and misty.
We met at the farm for strong coffee and vast quantities of freshly made bagels with homemade butter and smoked salmon. The bagels were fantastic – Neal’s wife is an amazing baker.
Garbing ourselves in fetching outfits and accompanied by extremely excited farm dogs, we went out to the duck shed and listened to Neal expound on the finer points of humane slaughter.
Despite growing up around livestock (my family raised dairy goats, chickens, ducks, pigs, sheep and rabbits at various times), I’ve never had much to do with the process of turning a live animal into food. I’m not particularly bothered by the idea of eating animals, as long as they are raised well and killed humanely. All of our food comes from other living things, whether plant or animal. However, it’s a little different when you’ve met the animal you are going to eat, and even more so when you are present at, or responsible for, its death.
Jon and I have been buying more and more of our meat locally, and currently have pork, beef and lamb in our freezer from Skagit and Snohomish County farmers. We haven’t yet found a good source for chickens or ducks, but we’re working on it. But the more we buy whole animals straight from the farm, the more we realize how little we know about actual slaughter and butchering practices, and how to get the most from an animal. I don’t picture us raising animals for meat (not on our current property, anyway), but I really feel that knowing our meat from the ground up makes us better cooks.
Hence Duckfest, a workshop designed for just this sort of situation. We spent the first weekend of 2010 on Shaw Island in Puget Sound, learning to slaughter, butcher and cook ducks. The class was put on by chef and farmer Neal Foley, aka Podchef, and by chef, teacher and author Kate Hill, who graciously came out from her farm and cooking school in Gascony to demonstrate cassoulet and confit making. I love her book (sadly out of print at the moment), and I’ve been wanting to visit her school for a long time, so this was a wonderful opportunity – a taste of France just a few miles from our house!
The workshop lasted three days. We ate a vast amount of amazing food and took far too many pictures, so to spare my patient readers I’ll be writing it up in three installments. Here is day one (Cassoulet):