Heritage Tryptophan

Most things worth doing in life will leave you tired at the end. That goes for working out, finishing the Sunday crossword puzzle or watching the six Star Wars movies in one sitting. Now that I think about it, doing that crossword may not be worth the fatigue that follows. But the drowsiness that follows a great turkey dinner should be worth it.

I’ve read more food articles in the last month talking about how the turkey can be only a supporting player alongside a cast of stuffing, gravy and potatoes. But there are great turkeys to be found and they are well worth a trip to the farmers market or even to the farm itself.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be roasting a turkey from Frantzen’s Scenic Acres in Berne, NY. The turkey last year was rich and meaty and needed no gravy or anything else to liven it up. It would be a lie to say that I didn’t enjoy the sauce that came about from a quick deglaze of the pan with local apple cider and some chopped onions, but the turkey more than holds its own.

Heritage turkeys are a bit more delicate and shouldn’t be cooked at very high temperatures. But we all love the dark and crispy skin so I like to pre-salt the turkey the night before cooking and also add a little bit of apple cider mixed with butter and baste the outside near the end of roasting. That assures you the color and crispy texture that you want without any chance of overcooking.

So have a wonderful Thanksgiving and by all means, write in if you have a turkey recipe or even a great farm you want to mention and I’ll put it up…As soon as I wake up from my post-Thanksgiving nap.

Cider Glazed Heritage Turkey

The night before the meal, sprinkle Kosher salt liberally over the turkey and leave in fridge uncovered overnight

Thanksgiving Day

Preheat oven to 325

Peel 4 carrots and 4 parsnips and place in roasting pan

Place an 8-10 pound Heritage turkey on top of vegetables and put pan in oven

Roast for 1 and ¼ hours

In a small saucepan, add a cup of apple cider and 4 tablespoons of butter

Cook on low, stirring to blend

After turkey has been roasting for 1.5 hours, baste the outside with the cider mixture

Sprinkle the outside again lightly with salt

With a meat thermometer, check the thickest part of the turkey thigh. Temperature should read around 165.

When bird has come to temperature, remove from oven. Remove turkey from pan along with parsnips and carrots.

Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of drippings from pan, place pan over 2 burners on stove and add a large chopped onion

Sauté for 5 minutes or until onion softens

Pour in a cup of cider and a half a cup of white wine and scrape bottom of pan with a wooden spoon

Simmer for 5-10 minutes

Season with salt and pepper to taste

Carve turkey and serve roasted veggies and pan sauce alongside

Sautéed Calamari w/ Grape Tomatoes and Summer Herbs

Sautéed Calamari w/ Grape Tomatoes and Summer Herbs

Farmers Market Bill $12/4 servings= $3/serving

Most things that come with a side of marinara are yummy. Mozzarella sticks, mini-calzones, and calamari. In fact, I think after a particularly late night once, I might have ordered an appetizer sampler with all of the above. That’s what happens when you watch all the Police Academy movies back to back. Eventually, it’s 2AM and you start craving something with a side of marinara.

But if it’s earlier in the day perhaps you have good ingredients around, there might be an even tastier option.

The squid from Long Island was described to me by a fellow farmers market shopper as ‘The most underrated thing at any farmers market.’  It’s cheap, extremely easy to prepare, delicious, sustainable, and available much of the year. This time of year, there are plenty of tomatoes as well. And some of you I know are still trying to get rid of herbs from your garden and this is a good way to do it.

I do this with only the tiniest bit of breading and a very hot pan. It certainly has the bite of good calamari, but it’s missing the heaviness of the fried version and the raw tomatoes make the whole thing an ideal warm-weather main course. In fact, I think that after making the dish, you’ll agree that sides of marinara are for late nights and bad movies, but not usually for fresh and seasonal cooking.

Sautéed Calamari w/ Grape Tomatoes and Summer Herbs

Farmers Market Bill $12/4 servings= $3/serving

Heat 2 tablepoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat

Blot dry 1.5 pounds of squid and slice into small rings

Season a half cup of bread crumbs with salt and pepper

Add a teaspoon of white flour

Dredge squid very lightly in breadcrumb flour mixture and place in pan

(If your pan is crowded, do this in smaller batches or the squid may not brown)

Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally

Slice a pint of grape or cherry tomatoes in half

Chop a large handful of basil, tarragon, parsley, or whatever else is fresh

Toss squid with tomatoes and herbs

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon and drizzle with olive oil

Add salt and pepper to taste

Duck, Duck, Summer Berry and Port Sauce

Duck, Duck, Summer Berry and Port Sauce

When the summer berries are in season, you likely think to yourself “I sure could go for a berry smoothie right now. On second thought, I’ll eat a duck.”

But summer berries are indeed wonderful with local, pastured duck. There are several very good duck farmers in the NYC area and their ducks make ideal main courses for nicer gatherings. The meat is rich though and the sweet and gloppy sauces that often accompany duck dishes makes the dish even heavier. Better to go with a simple pan sauce of fresh, local berries that will let the flavor of the duck come through.

One farmer at the Union Square Greenmarket sells a breed called ‘lola’ which is lower in fat but has a much meatier flavor. For a summer duck entrée, a roast lola duck is perfect. I do like to brush the duck with a sweet mixture to help with browning and I use whatever farmers’ market jam I have on hand cut with a little water. Not a difficult step but one that makes the finished dish crispier and more pleasing to the eye.

 

Roast Lola Duck w/ Summer Berry and Port Sauce

Farmers Market bill $35/5 Servings= $7/serving

For jam mixture

Stir together ¼ cup jam and ¼ cup of water and set aside

 

For Duck

Preheat Oven to 375 (convection if you have it)

Trim the extra fat off a 4-5 pound duck

Pierce the skin in several places with a fork

Salt the outside liberally and let sit for 2-3 hours

Roast the duck in a large roasting pan breast side up for around 45 minutes

Carefully turn duck breast side down and roast for another 30 minutes and then check temperature in thigh

If thigh temperature is lower than 160, resume roasting and check every 5 minutes

When thigh has come up to temperature, flip duck again and brush outside with the water/jam mixture

Increase heat to 450 and roast for an additional 5 minutes or until outside darkens

Remove duck from oven

 

For Sauce

Pour all but 2 tablespoons of duck fat from pan and put roasting pan over 2 burners set to medium heat

Add a cup of summer berries along with a sprinkling of salt and some black pepper

Sautee for 3 minutes or so while stirring gently

Remove from heat and add a tablespoon of port and a pinch of sugar if desired

Return heat to medium and sauté for another 3 minutes or until alcohol taste is gone

To serve, carve duck as you would a chicken or turkey and spoon berry mixture over meat. I like the thighs the best but it’s all good. Thanks so much to my friend Francesco for the great photo. You can see more of his work at  francescobertocci.com.

For those who do not keep Kosher: Steamers in Ham Broth

Steamers in Ham Broth

Well hello Kosher readers! While I love the insightful comments you’ve been sending in about my Jewish dishes, I’m not sure this recipe is for you and perhaps you should come back next week for a recipe you might like better.

Pork and shellfish can range from good (bacon wrapped scallops at an office party) to great (Portuguese Clam Stew with Tomato and linguiça) to exquisite (Spanish Paella with Clams and Chorizo). But whatever the specifics of the dish, there is something exciting about the brininess of shellfish with some rich pork mixed in.

I don’t keep Kosher although my grandmother taught Kosher cooking at one point and many of my friends keep Kosher now. Growing up, we never ate Christmas or Easter hams even though I always knew they were tasty. Now I have no problem serving pork in my home, provided it comes from a local, small operation with extraordinarily high animal welfare standards. I think Tamarack Hollow fits the bill and they make a ham that is simply life changing for most of my guests who have tried it. But for some reason, I don’t serve ham all that often and when I do, I rarely save the bones. But the bones themselves are so full of flavor and nutrients that it would be wrong for a true Home Cook Locavore to pitch something that could so easily be used to make another meal. But what really inspired this dish, were the glistening steamer clams from Pura Vida out of Long Island. These clams rivaled those from Northern New England and begged to steamed and eaten. So 2 dozen steamers were on their way home and a ham bone sat in a bowl in the fridge along with some old carrots and an onion or two. While not the usual method of bringing shellfish and pork together, why not make a ham broth and then steam the clams in it making an even brinier and more delicious broth to serve with the clams? A squeeze of lime and a sprig of cilantro brightens up the dish and gives it an almost palate cleansing quality after each bite.

I noticed some great looking Kosher short ribs at the market this week and I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes. For now though, it’s time for pork, shellfish, and some very nice weather.

Steamers w/ Ham Broth (Farmers Market Bill $16/2 Large Servings = $8/serving)

For the ham broth:

Place a bone from a large ham in a stock pot

Add 2 carrots, 2 onions and whatever other veggies you have around along with 2 bay leaves

Cover bone and vegetables with water

Simmer for 2-3 hours, skimming every hour or so

Strain and taste stock adding pepper and possibly some salt (the ham bone adds some salt already and the steamers will be briny as well so go easy!)

 

For Steamers

Add 2 cups of ham stock to large skillet and bring to boil over high heat

Scrub 2 dozen local steamers and place in pan with ham stock

Cover and steam for 5 minutes or so or until all steamers have opened

Spoon a dozen clams into each of 2 serving bowls and pour remaining broth over steamers

Drizzle the juice of half a lime into bowls and garnish with a couple sprigs of farmers market cilantro

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasta with Escarole and Dark Meat Chicken–It’s ok to be bitter

A little bitterness is ok. It’s not so good in relationships, after elections, or in the workplace, but it’s fine in a good Manhattan or tossed with pasta and some leftover chicken. In fact, pastured dark meat chicken is so meaty that a good bitter green really balances the dish. There might be another version of this dish to be made with white meat chicken and a more neutral green like spinach but for me, it’s better go for the fuller flavors. Escarole is available now at many farmers markets but if you have trouble finding it, you could easily substitute mustard greens, ramps, or even arugula. Talk to your farmer. It’s a fun way to do your shopping.

It’s important to stretch farmers market proteins. They are far more delicious than almost any meat to be found shrink-wrapped at the supermarket, but they are also more expensive. There are many reasons for this, most of them related to the higher land and labor costs of smaller scale, responsible farming. but as a home cook, it’s not hard to bring the cost per meal down by doing some creative things with the leftovers and possibly changing your cooking and eating style a few nights a week. (Here is an earlier post about making farmers market chicken more affordable).

Lately, I’ve been enjoying the ‘leftover meals’ even more than the more protein-heavy ones. It might be the season, or it might be the fun of making such tasty meals in such a short amount of time and for so little money. I’m not sure. It didn’t even bother me that I wasn’t invited to the roast chicken dinner that my neighbors threw last Thursday. Actually, that might just be sour grapes. Or bitter ones. It doesn’t matter. This dish is yummy.

Pasta with Escarole and Dark Meat Chicken

Farmers Market Bill $7/2 servings = $3.50/serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil

Pull the meat off 2 chicken thighs or legs

Chop 2 cloves of garlic or 3 stalks of fresh spring garlic

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat

Add garlic and chicken and saute gently for 5 minutes

Add 2 cups of chopped escarole

Add a cup of stock or white wine and lower heat slightly

Cook pasta according to package directions but drain a minute or 2 early

Toss drained pasta into chicken and garlic mixture and re-season with salt, peppper, and some red pepper flakes

Serve in pasta bowls with a quick grating of Pecorino or Parmesan if desired

Mangrove Snapper Tostadas

Fast food Mexican food can be tasty but sometimes I don’t want to think about the 45% ‘real’ filling or wonder when the meat hose was last cleaned out. But tostadas can be fresh, light, and made with local ingredients. If you have good seafood available locally, fish tacos or tostadas can be a fast and delicious weeknight meal.

I first tasted really great fish tacos in Los Angeles where people go so far as to wait in line for half and hour for a hand-pressed tortilla  with perfectly fried fish and cabbage slaw on top. Those tacos are truly things of beauty.

For the home version, I thought it might be better to saute the fish in a pan with some breadcrumbs instead of deep-frying. It makes the dish lighter and the cleanup easier. I found a small fillet of mangrove snapper that had been caught that morning and I had some leftover tomatoes, onions, and poblano peppers from the farmers market as well as half a Florida avocado. I also keep tortillas in the freezer for nights like this.

This works with almost any light fish. I’ve done something similar with tilapia and flounder and the results are just as wonderful. Similarly, feel free to chop up whatever vegetables you have around and throw them in the salsa. It will all be good.

And when you sit down to enjoy your meal, possibly with a margarita or beer in hand, you can rejoice in the fact that you put a light and local Mexican meal on the table without ever using a meat hose.

Mangrove Snapper Tostadas (Farmers Market Bill $12/3 servings= $4/serving)

Salsa:

Dice up a medium onion, 2 poblano peppers, and two medium tomatoes

Season with salt and a squeeze of lime juice

Fish

Beat one egg into a bowl

In another bowl, add about a cup of panko bread crumbs

Add a pinch each of salt, pepper and chili powder to both the bread crumbs and the egg

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat

Dredge an 8-10 oz piece of snapper in the egg and then coat with breadcrumbs

Saute fish for 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through (It’s fine if the fish falls apart or if you need to cut into it to check doneness)

Warm up 3 tortillas in microwave or oven

Break fish apart and top each tortilla with a couple pieces of fish and a hefty spoonful of salsa

I added avocado and bit of sour cream at the end and of course hot sauce would work well too

Pasta w/ Cranberry Beans and Mangalitsa Bacon

Just as I probably wouldn’t classify the movie Airplane as a tragedy, I probably wouldn’t call any dish that includes bacon vegetarian friendly. But many of the problems caused by our typical American diet stem not just from the fact that we eat meat but the fact that we eat so much of it and cutting back might be a good first step. There are plenty of 16 oz steaks on menus all over the place. And yes, they can be delicious. Lots of books about diet and sustainability suggest cutting meat serving sizes down to 3 or 4 ounces. Many times, I find myself hungry after such a small serving. But what if I found perhaps the most delicious and richest meat to cross my palate in a long while? What if it came from a small farm in Florida and had been cured by a man very passionate about bacon? That’s a different story.

The NY Times ran a story about a breed of pig called Mangalitsa that produces incredibly buttery, rich meat. Truthfully, this was something I had wanted to taste in NYC for quite some time but had not been able to find. So I was pleased when the gentleman who runs the Transatlantic Sausage Company at the farmers market in Sarasota offered me a small package of Mangalitsa bacon. He compared it to Italian pancetta or guanciale, both of which you might have tasted if you’ve ever eaten an authentic carbonara. It’s pricey by the pound but it’s used in such small quantities that the cost per serving is lower than a fast food meal deal.

The same week I saw the bacon, I noticed a stunning bin of cranberry beans. Cranberry beans are beautiful at every stage; at the market, after they’re shelled, in the cooking water, and on the  plate.  I posted a recipe for Fava Bean Crostino last spring and the prep is very much the same but they only need to be shelled once. They are sometimes called ‘shell beans’ and have an almost nutty flavor.

I ended up serving the pasta for guests who were used to eating meat. Plenty of meat. But instead of a 5 or even 6 oz serving of meat per person, I used a grand total of 2 ounces for 4 of us. The dish was rich and meaty and satisfied the inner carnivores in all of us. The bacon was smoky and earthy and the beans themselves were hearty in a fresh and sort of ‘snappy’ way.

So no, the dish is not vegetarian and I of course wouldn’t serve it to a vegetarian. But I think all of us should play around with using smaller amounts of better quality meats and then filling out the dish with great seasonal legumes or vegetables. So while I still wouldn’t classify Airplane as a tragedy, I would classify this dish as moving in the vegetarian direction. ‘Vegetarian direction with bacon? Surely you can’t be serious.’

I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.

Pasta w/ Cranberry Beans and Mangalitsa Bacon (Farmers Market Bill $8/4 Servings = $2/Serving)

Set a medium-sized saucepan full of salted water on the stove over high heat

Remove a pound of cranberry beans from their shells and add them to boiling water

Reduce the heat and simmer the beans for around 25 minutes or until tender

While beans are simmering, bring another pot of salted water to a boil

Chop 2 cloves of garlic and 4 oz of the highest quality local bacon you can get your hands on

Add to skillet along with a tablespoon of olive oil and saute over medium heat for around 8 minutes or until bacon just starts to crisp

When beans are done, strain them and add them to the bacon and garlic mixture and saute for another 2 minutes

Add a splash of white wine or stock and turn burner down to low

Cook 3/4 pound of pasta according to package directions

Strain and toss with ingredients in skillet

Add salt and pepper but taste first as the bacon has some salt to begin with

I love to garnish smokey dishes with red pepper flakes