Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wild Duck Tacos

Gifted a mallard,
and a deep appreciator
of water fowl), 
best efforts were put forth to carefully apply the dark gamey meat to the dinner table. 

A really good meal. 

A super fine bird. 

Wild Duck Tacos:
*1 wild duck, defeathered and fully cleaned 
*3 celery stalks
*1 full head of garlic, in skin
*1/2 onion
*sea salt
*black pepper
*2/3 cup tamari
*1/4 cup water
*3 Tablespoons maple syrup
*1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
*1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
*corn tortillas
*sour cream for serving
*chopped scallions
*lettuce for serving

Rise duck with cold water. Pat dry. Place in a dry crockpot with celery, head of garlic and onion. Season liberally with sea salt and black pepper. Pierce duck skin a few times with a sharp knife. 

Place on low heat for the course of a day. Remove duck skin and lift meat from bones with a fork. Transfer to a bowl. Reserve garlic. 

Meanwhile, bring tamari, water, maple syrup and rice vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add 3 cloves of softened garlic from crockpot and ginger. Whisk. Reduce contents by over half. Strain through a sieve and return sauce to saucepan. Add shredded duck meat. Gently simmer until meat has absorbed most of the liquid. 

Serve on warm corn tortillas with shredded lettuce, sour cream, chopped scallions and lime wedges. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Studded Raw Kale Salad

There are a million recipes for kale salad so this is simply just one more, but I want to emphasize how good it is to have this prepared and available in the fridge this time of year. Granted, I am more of a cooked vegetable advocate for cold weather months, but if you aren't fighting a common cold or compromised in any particular way (I leave this diagnostic completely up to relativity), going raw for a spell is a like jumper cables for our winter psyche. A zap of greenness. After all, these greens did not come from the sunny, yet very far away state of California, but from an absolutely beautiful couple with ready smiles from the first day of indoor tailgate market. Sometimes you can look at certain individuals and think: "they probably have really nice soil."
The dried fruit and toasted nuts in this situation are great with a choice sharp or creamy cheese. Have a little plateful and remember, however bleak, these months are sacred.

Studded Raw Kale Salad:
*1 bunch good fresh kale
*1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped
*1/2 cup Thompson raisins or dried cranberries
*1 cup dried apricots, chopped
*1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice
*balsamic vinaigrette of choice

Rinse kale and shake dry. Remove ribs. Then stack leaves and roll tightly together lengthwise. Chiffonade then transfer to a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the almonds and dried fruit. Mix. Then toss in the cheese. Drizzle with a balsamic vinaigrette of choice to coat. Toss and serve.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Local Flat Iron Steak with Rosemary Rub

I've had quite a few conversations lately about eating meat and the decision to do so. This has never been a boring or easy topic for me on this journey as an eater. I write about meat and animals often. Animals are adored creatures over here, not just in real life. And we consume them..often. They give us companionship, affection, literally the coats on our backs to the shoes on our feet, they teach us about the world we live in, the importance of husbandry, and they give us sustenance. 
Seeing eye to eye on this topic is not necessarily my goal anymore, but honoring the animal on the table is. Most of this, for me, is making sure not to prepare a steak like a jack-ass. 

Whatever your plate holds, may it feed you well. 

Local Flat Iron Steak with Garlic Rosemary Rub:
*1 grass-fed flat iron steak (or top blade steak)
*3 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
*3-4 heaping tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
*1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
*1 heaping teaspoon course sea salt
*1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
*1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Place a cast iron grill griddle over medium heat or prepare charcoal grill.
Rinse and dry steak with paper towels. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl combine remaining ingredients. Slather onto both sides of steak.
Sear steak until rare to medium-rare, turing only once during cooking time. Time will vary depending on thickness of cut. Make sure not to over cook.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Southerner's Guide To New Year's

Since moving to the South, learning traditional food-ways (especially those of Appalachian influence)  has shaped nearly every aspect of my everyday cooking. I am grateful beyond words for those who have shared their traditions and stories with me, from my late Grandmother-in-law Zelma's sour cream pound cake to all the local producers who are bringing back the old ways, keeping things like sorghum syrup and fresh gristmill grits on the table. These individuals have added a richness to my personal sense of place greater than any other I have once called home. 

To these mountains; 
to the food gleaned from them,
 to the people within them 
and too all those beyond----
 my deepest gratitude
 a most prosperous 
New Year! 

~My brief rundown of why we eat what we do on the 1st of each New Year. From Wednesday's Asheville Citizen Times. ~

A Southerner’s guide to lucky New Year’s foods

New Year’s holds special culinary traditions across the globe. Most regions include some type of meat, greens and a legume to represent good fortune and prosperity. Since most New Year’s customs are rooted in the immigration and agricultural history of a place, each region celebrates the holiday with unique representations of good luck.
In the South, pork, leafy greens and black-eyed peas are most commonly on the New Year’s menu. Here is a little background as to why:
Black eyed-peas
Black-eyed peas have various reasons for making it on to the New Year’s Day list.
Part of the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah for centuries, black-eyed-peas were brought to the U.S. by Sephardic Jews arriving in Georgia in the 1700s.
Before this, black-eyed peas — domesticated in Africa more than 5,000 years ago — are thought to have originally arrived in the South on slave ships during the mid-1600s, becoming a significant representation of African-American influence on southern agriculture and cuisine.
Mistaken as cattle food, black-eyed peas were left untouched after raids by the Northern Army during the civil war, offering confederate soldiers a critical food source, thus representing good luck.
Also thought to resemble coins, black-eyed peas symbolize financial luck for the coming year. Others believe this particular legume is chosen on New Year’s because they expand so generously, also representing financial gain.
The most common southern black-eyed-pea dish is known affectionately as Hoppin’ John, the leftovers given the name Skippin’ Jenny. Hoppin’ John is traditionally prepared with black-eyed peas or field peas, cooked rice, salt pork or hog jowls and vegetables. Children would often “skip” around the table when it was served.
It is advised among some to eat at least 365 black-eyed-peas on New Year’s day to ensure good luck for each day of the new year.
Pork, a commodity abundant in the South, is often thought of as good luck since a pig’s nature is to root forward and not look back, encouraging us to do the same in the coming year.
In contrast, to consume fowl on New Year’s is thought by some to bring bad luck since birds scratch backward and bring the association of “scratching for sustenance.”
In Southern culture, and many others, pork is a traditional symbol of prosperity and security for the less abundant winter months. Traditionally, a family with a summer fattened hog had little to worry about in the months to come. This is why pork is often thought of as good luck.
And because pork is marbled with fat, consuming pork on New Year’s Day is thought to bring “fat” times.
Leafy greens seem to be included in most regional menus on New Year’s since green represents the U.S. currency.
Polish and German communities greatly influence the traditions of the Midwest, including the consumption of sauerkraut on New Year’s. Cabbage, a late fall crop, takes 6-8 weeks to properly ferment, ready just in time for January meals.
In the South, collards, kale and turnip greens are cold-hardy enough to show up in winter dishes. A flat leaf resembling folding money, collards are the most popular New Year’s choice for Southerners.
Lastly, to continue the tradition of eating foods for monetary luck, the color gold is not to be ignored in a Southern New Year’s feast. This color is usually represented by cornbread, another agriculturally significant food of southern states.
Native Americans were the first to bake with ground corn, passing on the method to early settlers. When wheat was scarce, corn could be used in its place for baking. Traditional corn bread is made with little or no flour, no sugar and plenty of lard.
This year, make sure to embrace the power of tradition and set your intentions high. Begin Jan. 1 with black-eyed-peas for coins, greens for folding money and cornbread for gold. With this combination, brought together by a lucky pork roast — may we strive to move forward and not look back — the upcoming year should be off to a lucky start.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Apple Butter Pinwheels with Pastured Lard Pastry

My grandmother remembers when margarine (Oleo) came with yellow color beads she mixed into the fat before using. Because margarine was first made primarily from beef fat and skimmed milk its color was white, more like lard. But after World War II when there was a shortage of animal fats, margarine became mostly vegetable oil based. It still looked bland and as a substitute for butter, totally the wrong hue. So the industry began dying the hydrogenated oils yellow to mask it's unappetizing natural color and to seem more like the real thing.
Since, we have learned how very dangerous margarine and other hydrogenated oils are to the human body. Increased heart disease being the biggest one. So we've gone back to butter, except not grandma (the campaign for margarine was so successful even today's science doesn't convince this generation otherwise), but we can take it a little further than butter even.....or back that is.
Lard is pretty spectacular for many reasons. Our bodies are able to process it seamlessly, (unlike most vegetable and seed oils) and if you get it from pastured hogs, you can glean healthy amounts of vitamin D, essential fatty acids, good cholesterol and saturated fat. These things are essential for good physical and mental health. You can read a whole lot more on why we should be using pastured lard if you snoop around. But I want to get on to the recipe.
My folks recently brought me a jar of kettle cooked apple butter made during a annual church function this fall, and it is just what apple butter should be: dark, thick and nicely spiced. Apple butter is excellent in pastry because unlike fruit preserves, it is not too sweet.
I was able to use some local leaf lard for a nice flaky pastry to go with it. This lard is special since I know the folks who carefully raised and rendered it. Leaf lard comes from the soft fat surrounding the loin and kidney areas of the pig which makes for the highest quality lard. Most store-bought lard is from all areas of the pig and often hydrogenated to make it shelf stable.
Conventional lard is actually not comparable to pastured lard and not recommended for eating since these pigs are raised indoors on a poor diet, (often bakery waste and conventional grain). Fat from pastured animals is a different thing all around, full of all the good stuff mentioned above.
All together, this is such a satisfying treat. Some crushed almonds add a good little bit of crunch. A fine holiday gift or great with your morning cup of coffee.

Thanks to those who contributed the special components of this recipe.

Apple Butter Pinwheels with Pastured Lard Pastry:
*2 1/2 cups high quality flour
*pinch sea salt
*1/3 cup cane sugar
*8 Tablespoons cold pastured lard
*1 stick unsalted butter
*3-4 Tablespoons ice water
*1 1/2 cups apple butter
*1/2 cup crushed toasted almonds

Pulse flour, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with a blade. Add lard and butter. Pulse until well combined. With blade running, add just enough ice cold water until dough begins to from, but make sure not to add too much. Turn out onto a floured work surface and flatten dough into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. 
Return dough to work surface and roll out into a rectangle to about 1/4 inch thickness. Spread apple butter over entire surface of dough leaving a 1/2 inch border free on one lengthwise side.
Sprinkle apple butter evenly with crushed almonds. Using both ends, roll entire rectangle lengthwise to resemble a log. Carefully transfer to a large piece of wax paper and place in freezer for at least 30 minutes, up to one hour. 
Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. 
Remove pastry from freezer. Using a serrated knife, slice pastry roll into 1/2 inch rounds and transfer to baking sheet leaving 1 inch spaces between each pinwheel. 
Bake for about 20 minutes on center rack, until bottoms of pinwheels are golden. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool before enjoying. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Apple Roses

This may be the first recipe my father has shared not containing elk or venison. Not to say he doesn't enjoy cooking with (or eating) a variety of ingredients, but he is above all, a practical man. A man who enjoys dining on what he procured from nature more than anything.
My most vivid memories of dad are those of him up at the pulpit preaching the Good Word, hiking a good trail or hunting wild game. Winter backpacking with an old-school external frame is right up there as well. He'd always pack a little surprise treat slyly produced while thawing appendages around a crackly fire.
Dad taught me to hike hard, always wear your wool, and set up your tent while the water boils on the camp stove. Then it was time for a treat; something to celebrate all the toil. Maybe a Snickers or some Mrs. Butterworth's to pour over your morning pancakes.
While on the trail, he taught me to appreciate chunky peanut butter on a slab of cheddar. I still like it. I still have a fondness for Mrs. Butterworth's when I pass her friendly glass silhouette in the baking aisle.
Imagine my surprise when I was sent an email containing a collection of naturally lit photos of "Apple Roses" from dad. Where was the usual side of 8 points....or at least some buckshot? 
Turns out he did not make them. These carefully assembled apple flowers were from a friend and fellow minister, J.
Looking at the recipe J sent to dad, along with an array of photographs of the apple florets from various angles on a large white platter, I recognized something....a kindred spirit. I had to make them.

Many thanks to J for taking pride in such a worthwhile pastime: the art of baking. Your apple roses are not only beautiful, but deeply nourishing in their visual display and in every other sense. The fruit preserves smothered between the pastry dough and sliced apples really bring it all home. 

Used here are locally grown Honeycrisp apples with my sister, Becky's homemade Asian pear butter. We opted to make our own pastry dough in lieu of frozen puff pastry which worked out well. 

Quite possibly the perfect surprise to pull from your external-frame and enjoy by the fire.

Apple Roses:
*5 large apples
*Juice from 1/2 lemon
*5 Tablespoons fruit preserves of choice
*1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

Basic pastry crust:
*1 1/4 cups quality flour
*1/4 cup sugar
*1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1/2 tsp sea salt
*8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
*3-4 Tbsp ice water

To slice the apples, place stem side up on cutting board. Working toward the center of the apple, cut thin slices top to bottom until you reach the core. Repeat with the opposite side leaving the core and stem in tact. Place slices in a medium saucepan until all apples are sliced. Cover apple slices with cool water and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce to a very gentle simmer for 2 minutes or until slices are just flexible enough to roll without breaking.

Strain and rinse with cold water. Transfer apples to a clean dish towel to dry. Meanwhile make the pastry.

Place flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a food processor fitted with a blade. Blend. Add the cold butter and blend to a course meal. With blade running, slowly add the ice water one tablespoon at a time until dough forms. Transfer dough onto a floured work surface. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap or parchment and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove from freezer and unwrap. Return to floured work surface. Roll dough into aprox. a 10x13'' rectangle. Cut longwise into five 2'' wide strips. 

Grease 5 of the cups in a muffin tin. Preheat oven to 375.

Working with one strip of pastry at at a time, smear 1 Tablespoon fruit preserves lengthwise down the center of the pastry strip. Place an apple slice on the beginning of the strip allowing half of the slice to exceed the top of the strip and leaving half of the pastry exposed at the bottom. Overlap another slice next to it lengthwise down the remainder of the strip. Fold the bottom portion of pastry up over the bottom of the apple slices. Roll the whole strip onto itself as if rolling a yoga mat to create the apple rose. Gently transfer to muffin tin. Repeat with remaining pastry and apple slices. 

Bake for 45-50 minutes until pastry is golden. If apples begin too fast, loosely cover with parchment until done. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes before carefully loosening each apple rose from muffin tin. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Mix together the teaspoon ground cinnamon with the Tablespoon sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle over top of apple roses. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.