Monday, March 18, 2013

The Tale of the Curl

     March 18 - It should have been/could have been warmer and the sun shining, but it wasn't. After all, spring is a mere two days away.  One look out the window took away all of the wishing and guessing.  The red sky in the morning combined with a tight curl of the rhododendron leaves were the foreboding signs of the weather now and to come.  

Mother Nature's thermometer
     Rhododendron leaves are Mother Nature's thermometer.  Normally they are fairly flat.That tight curl means it's not spring so put on the heavy winter clothes - again - to go out to the barn - expect the temperature to be nothing higher than the very low twenties.  Maybe even colder.  But who actually cares after reaching a certain low, anything lower doesn't seem to make much difference.  

     For a barn, the low twenties mean water freezes in the troughs and definitely make a point not to let any splash on your clothes - that is an instant return to the house to change.

      Apparently none of the animals seem to mind the cold, but I can't help but think all would be happier with a good dose of sunshine.

Great for St. Pat's Day or any day, this recipe is adapted from Jane Brody's Good Food Book.

1 lb red potatoes or yukon gold potato -- unpeeled
4 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled 
1/4 cup milk
1 T butter
3 oz cheddar or other hard cheese, grated 
  salt and pepper -- to taste

     Quarter potatoes and boil in lightly salted water until tender.
     Remove potatoes from liquid, set aside. Drain,reserving the liquid,and set them aside to cool. In the reserved liquid boil the cabbage and onion for about 5 minutes- Drain and set
     Peel and mash potatoes with
milk,butter,and salt and pepper,to taste.
     Mix in the reserved onion and cabbage.
     Mix 2/3 of the cheese with the potatoes and transfer to a shallow baking dish.
     Sprinkle  remaining cheese on top.
     Heat in oven and let cheese on top brown slightly.

Extra cheese and bacon won't hurt! 


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Farm Story 6 The Ride or the Eclair?

     The choice is not nearly as dramatic as the enigmatic story of "The Lady or the Tiger," but is nevertheless a window on human nature and the bond between a parent and a child.

     Burnett Farm is located approximately 5 1/2  miles from the nearest small city.  Most likely considered a small town in the early days, one could go there by using local bus transportation to a trolley stop and then take the trolley to the destination. Ethel and her mother would make this trip to town to purchase groceries.

     The trip was probably worth a good half day's time, but at least they didn't have to walk, or would they?

     Ethel knew there was a shop that sold the most tempting of all sweets.  That would be eclairs.  As young children are want to do, the question was put to her mother, " May I have an eclair?"  Her mother, mindful that on a whim for eating an eclair, knew their own trip home would become more arduous. Still, her mother must have looked patiently at her and given her a choice. She explained the consequence of choosing  an eclair.
Home in sight on the other side of Dugway Hill

     There wouldn't be enough money for an eclair and the bus ride home.

     Choosing the eclair would mean a long, almost 2 mile walk, with groceries to carry, and up the proverbial hill - steep and long Dugway Hill - to trudge to the top and over the other side before reaching home.
     Was Ethel's mother secretly keeping her fingers crossed, hoping that her daughter would choose the bus?  Probably not; more likely she was taking in the joy at being able to give her child a choice and delighting in being able to grant a wish.

     Choices, choices, what to do?  On the one hand, staring out at the child, was an irresistible chocolate covered confection with a creamy inside just perfect to sink teeth into and on the other, was a bus ride that would take them and their groceries home in just a short amount of time.  Eclair plus a 45 minute walk carrying groceries versus a bus ride.

     Her mother left the choice up to Ethel.  Did she deliberate over the consequences of the decision she was about to make?  Which would she choose?  Did her mother try to steer her choice in any particular direction?  Well, that part of the story is unknown, but the decision was made.

The eclair eater, first from right.
Brothers  James and  Robert, sister  Lillian 
     And so together they did, with groceries in hand, walk the last leg of the journey home.  And, at least one of them had a spring in her step from the wonderful taste of an eclair.

As always, a  reliable recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated.  In spite of the length, it goes together rather quickly and as with CI recipes well worth the effort.
Chicken Pot Pie with a Savory Biscuit Crumble Crust
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs
3 c chicken broth
2 Tb olive oil oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 medium carrots, 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 small celery stalks, chopped fine
 salt and black pepper 
10 oz mushrooms, sliced thin
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp tomato paste
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 c flour
1 c milk
2 tsp lemon juice f 
3 T minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 c frozen peas
Crumble Topping:
2 c  flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
6 Tb unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1. Bring chicken and broth to simmer in COVERED Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook until
chicken is just done, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Reserve broth. Do not wash Dutch
oven. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, heat oven to 450.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in large bowl.
Sprinkle butter pieces over top of flour. Using a pastry cutter (or fingers) rub butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in Parmesan. Add cream and stir until just combined. Crumble mixture into irregularly shaped pieces ranging from 1/2 to ¾ inch each onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until fragrant and starting to brown, 10 to 13 minutes. Set aside.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrots, celery, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. While vegetables are cooking, shred chicken into small bite-size pieces. Transfer cooked
vegetables to bowl with chicken; set aside.
4. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms; COVER and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have released their juices, about 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir in soy sauce and tomato paste. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, mushrooms are well browned, and dark fond begins to form on surface of pan, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with chicken and vegetables. Set aside.
5. Heat butter in empty Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Slowly whisk in reserved chicken broth and milk. Bring to simmer, scrape pan bottom to loosen browned bits, continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and parsley.
6. Stir chicken-vegetable mixture and peas into sauce. Pour into 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Scatter crumble topping evenly over filling. Bake until filling  bubbling and topping is well browned, 12 to 15 minutes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Freedom and Fun, Good-bye Winter Fun?

   Good-bye winter.  This past Sunday the most delightful sight was viewed in the evening.  The sky was literally filled with various sizes of v-shaped flying forms - the GEESE, the Canada geese were heading north.      Delightful they are when they stay in the sky; not so when they decide to make your pond or a local park their home.


Our horses don't seem to mind the winter. And in fact, witness the sheer joy of their freedom being released after spending the storm cooped up in the barn.

Even the sounds of spring birds were heard this past week.  Maybe it's too early to be the end of winter, but it's not too early to hope.
Fast and easy.  Double the sauce!  Cook's Country recipes are worth having.

Pork Marsala Saute

6 thin-cut boneless pork chops (about ½ inch thick), halved and cut crosswise into ¼ inch pieces
Salt and pepper
¼ cup flour
3 T unsalted butter
8 oz white mushrooms, quartered
1 small onion, chopped fine
¾ cup Marsala wine (most use sweet variety)
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp lemon juice 1 T chopped fresh parsley

Pat pork chops with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Dredge pork in 3 T flour, shaking off excess. Melt 2 T butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add pork and cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove and set aside.  Tent plate to keep warm.

To same skillet, melt butter, add mushrooms, onion, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper and cook until browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir in remaining flour and cook until golden, about 1 minute.  Whisk in Marsala and broth and simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  Add pork, any accumulated juices, lemon juice, and parsley and simmer until pork is heated through, about 1 minute.  Serve.