Sunday, December 30, 2012

Raven & Rose: First Impressions

I am a complete sucker for old architecture…homes, buildings, barns, cabins. (Regarding the last two, the more decrepit the better.) Maybe it had to do with growing up in older homes, ones with creaking floors, out-of-plumb walls and door jambs and hidden nooks and crannies. The first home Dave and I owned in Sellwood turned out to be the oldest in the neighborhood, with support beams made of logs (including bark) that had been cut from trees on the property.

House-cured gravlax, crumpets, winter chicories.

So it was no wonder I was taken with the story of the Ladd Carriage House, built by William S. Ladd to house his horses and the carriages they pulled through the streets of what was then jokingly known as Stumptown. He arrived three months after Portland was incorporated with a load of alcohol on consignment from a college pal in San Francisco. Ladd then proceeded to make a fortune selling liquor to the new city's thirsty inhabitants and, with that same college pal, set up the first bank north of San Francisco (take that, Seattle). He was elected mayor twice and built a grand home on Southwest Broadway with his horses lodged across the street.

Jasmine and Blood & Sand in the Rookery.

His house didn't survive but the carriage house, amazingly, did. In 2005 the First Christian Church, which had bought the property in 1971, got a permit to demolish it to build a parking lot. (Proving Joni Mitchell was right.) A group, Friends of the Ladd Carriage House, quickly formed to save the building and arranged to move it several blocks away while an underground parking garage was built. The Carriage House was then moved back to its original site.

Mr. David Shenaut.

Restored with the help of historic photographs, the building was subsequently bought by the Mygrant family of Hayward, California, when their daughter, Lisa, who was looking for a spot to open her first restaurant, saw the building was for sale. Long story short, she recruited David Padberg of Park Kitchen as her chef and David Shenaut of the Oregon Bartenders Guild to run the bar program. The restaurant is scheduled to open Jan. 4.

Braised shortrib, horseradish cream, Yorkshire pudding.

I was invited to attend a test dinner recently, and jumped at the chance to preview the space and see what was in the works. While certainly not intended as any kind of review, the dinner went off without a hitch, the bar was spot on and the food was terrific. According to Padberg, the menu will be similar to a European gastropub with "a nod to the British isles." It will feature as many local ingredients and suppliers as he can cram onto it, including eggs from Lisa Mygrant's own chickens. In the initial phase, Padberg said, they'll open with a limited menu of spot-on entrées featuring Northwest ingredients like sturgeon, salmon, mussels and short ribs accented with seasonal produce like root vegetables, chicories and greens.

Working the wood-fired oven.

On the beverage front, the two bars, one in the restaurant dining area and another called The Rookery Bar in the former hayloft, will have a list of house specialties along with classics, as well as an extensive wine and beer selection. I plan on going back in the near future, and I suggest you should, too.

Details: Raven & Rose, 1331 SW Broadway. 503-222-7673.

Look for an upcoming episode of Food Farmer Earth featuring my interview with Mygrant and a tour of the building.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Bread Man Cometh

The bread pictured above just came out of our home oven after two years in the making. (Talk about long fermentation…)

It started innocently enough one day when Dave stumbled across a blog called The Fresh Loaf, a news and information website for "amateur bakers and artisan bread enthusiasts." And enthusiastic they are, to the point of obsessiveness, with a focus that edges right up to crazy. Interestingly, if not surprisingly, it's based right here in Portland, so perhaps that single-mindedness is understandable, considering how this town feels about other foodstuffs like bacon, waffles and fried chicken.

In any case, Dave made a few stabs at baking his own bread using recipes he garnered from various websites and books, even going so far as to start his own sourdough from the yeast left at the bottom of a bottle of Doggie Claws from Hair of the Dog. Results of these experiments were mixed, from lumpen to acceptable, but none had the crisp crust and bubbled interior of the artisan-style loaves he was dreaming of.

Then on Christmas a year ago some friends, aware of his growing interest (read: budding obsession), gave us a book called Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson. Robertson's use of a wet dough fermented over many hours along with his method of baking each loaf in a cast iron Dutch oven became the catalyst Dave needed to start turning out the gorgeous loaves he'd imagined.

This is not to say he's completely satisfied—after all, what obsessive…er…I mean…"enthusiast" is—but he's happy with the results he's getting. And, needless to say, so are those of us who've been lucky enough to have a thick slice warm from the oven or sopped with soup or braises.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Making Spirits Bright: Negus!

Mentioned in classic literature, including the likes of "A Christmas Carol," "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights," negus is a port-based drink warmed with spices and a touch of sugar, then thinned with hot water. It's perfect to bring out after a meal while the company settles into comfy chairs in front of a roaring fire, which is exactly how my friend Antonia served it the other evening.

The amount of port called for in the recipe requires just over a bottle, leaving most of a second bottle for enjoying on its own (or, as noted below, you can just use one bottle), and it only takes about 20 minutes to make. The perfect holiday warmer, it also makes a terrific nightcap.

Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine, 1966

1 qt. ruby port (one 750 ml bottle is adequate)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
Ground nutmeg, to taste (optional)
Whole cloves, to taste (I used four)
1 qt. boiling water

Heat port in large saucepan but do not let it boil. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice, grated lemon rind, cinnamon, nutmeg (if using), and cloves. Let the mixture stand in a warm place for about 15 minutes. In another saucepan, bring a quart of water to boil. Strain the lemon rind and spices out of the port mixture and combine with boiling water. Serve immediately.

Makes about 16 individual servings, but any left over can be refrigerated and reheated.

Food Farmer Earth: Whiskeys, Brandies, Liqueurs

In part two of my interview for Food Farmer Earth with distiller Sebastian Degens of Stone Barn Brandyworks, he describes the different distillation processes he uses to make his signature whiskeys, brandies and liqueurs.

Watch part one of this interview, "Distilling the Essence of Fruit." Get tips from Raven and Rose master bartender Dave Shenaut on "How to Make an Irish Coffee." To get regular updates on local producers featured on Food Farmer Earth, consider a free subscription.

Food Farmer Earth: Distilling the Essence of Fruit

In this interview for Food Farmer Earth, I spoke with distiller Sebastian Degens of Stone Barn Brandyworks to find out how he makes his amazing brandies, whiskeys and fruit liqueurs.

“Yeast never sleeps,” said Sebastian Degens. Which is a good thing, since Degens and his wife, Erika, depend on it to ferment the fruit and grain mashes they distill at their Stone Barn Brandyworks in Portland, Oregon.

As a child, Degens grew up in Germany with distilled spirits like eau de vie and schnapps in the house. He eventually moved to the United States, getting interested in trying to make his own spirits when a Swiss friend, who’d grown up with similar European spirits, mentioned a desire to learn how they were made.

Their research led Degens to attend a three-day intensive workshop in Chicago at Kothe Distilling Technologies, a manufacturer of stills. On returning home, he and Erika started bicycling around various neighborhoods, looking for a small, affordable place that had enough room for the equipment they’d need to start their business.

Read the rest of the article.

Watch the second part of my interview with Degens, "The World of Distilled Spirits." Get tips from Raven and Rose master bartender Dave Shenaut on "How to Make an Irish Coffee." To get regular updates on local producers featured on Food Farmer Earth, consider a free subscription.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry and Happy!

As we launch into the holidays, I want to wish everyone a very warm, merry and satisfying holiday. May your hearts be glad, your tables full of good things to eat and drink and the new year one that is bursting with joy.

Thank you for your kindness and support this past year, and I'm hoping we can share many new and exciting adventures in 2013!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Toast to the End of Time, Pt. 3: Shenaut-be-wan Speaks

When I asked my friend Dave Shenaut what he'd be drinking should the Mayan apocalypse pooh-poohed by sensible types come to pass (surprise!), he took time out from opening the dual bar program at the brand new and much-anticipated Raven and Rose in the Ladd Carriage House to answer my query.

"I picture the end of the world burning like the first bead of light in the eye through the blinds of an otherwise dark, warm and comfortable bedroom," he said. "For some reason, rolling over and pulling the sheets over your head just won't do the trick.

"When the end of the world comes, you might as well quit hitting snooze, get your ass out of bed, face the day and shake up this bracer from the The Savoy Cocktail Book, twisted within reason, of course."

He suggested sipping it slowly while listening to the tune above.

Adapted from The Savoy Cocktail Book

1.5 oz. Four Roses Single Barrel
3/4 oz. orange juice
1/2 oz. Cocchi Americano
1/2 oz. Pierre Ferrand Curacao

Shaken hard and served up with the peel of an orange.

Read the other posts in this series:  A Nod to a Classic and Tiki On!

Great Gifting: A Way with Words

Call me old-fashioned, but I love books. It's obvious from the piles of them we have around the house, sitting in boxes, stacked on the floor and spilling out of bookshelves. We have books in every room in the house, including the bathrooms—no joke—as those who've been here can attest.

One person even started referring to our abode as "The House of Books" for our tendency to pull out reference material whenever a favorite subject (poetry, photography, literature, etc.) came up. And I'm always a bit shocked when I walk into a home that doesn't have any in sight, even for a polite display on the coffee table. What is up with that? It makes me want to start snooping around to see if they've got them hidden out of sight. The bedroom? The oven? The fuse box? Surely they must be someplace!

So when it comes to giving gifts, books are always on my mind. Here are a few that I'll be wrapping up this holiday:
  • Beautiful Corn by Anthony Boutard. Farmer and naturalist Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston says he fell in love over an ad in a seed catalog. “Boy seeking corn. Ad says ‘makes good cornbread,’" he said. "It could have failed, but it grew and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.” This book is a paen to that passion, his lyrical, thoughtful writing based on years of observation, noting and photographing the effects of weather and season on his land. Anyone with an interest in the natural world or organic farming may well fall under its spell, as well.
  • Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast by Hank Shaw. A perfect gift for guys. It's got that living-off-the land attitude without the rough-and-tough, macho baggage. Author Hank Shaw gets readers to start thinking with great essays, plant descriptions and recipes for everything from acorn flour fritters to squirrel stew. A great read…see my review.
  • The Farm to Table Cookbook and The Adaptable Feast by Ivy Manning. Ivy, a Portland food and travel writer for publications like FoodDay, Bon Appetit and Sunset magazine, is one of the most rigorous chefs I know, testing recipes till she knows they're foolproof. Her first book is a guide to eating fresh, seasonal dishes year round with simple recipes that are totally delicious. The second is more personal, documenting her struggle with being an omnivore married to a vegetarian. Her solution to cooking two meals (one for him, one for her) is to make a dish that goes both ways—add beef for her, add enough flavor for him—is conveyed with humor and plenty of recipes.
  • Salty Snacks: Make Your Own Chips, Crisps, Crackers, Pretzels, Dips, and Other Savory Bites by Cynthia Nims. Seattle food writer Cynthia Nims acknowledges our love of all that is salty and crispy but gives us alternatives to buying them in a box full of chemicals and crappy ingredients. Instead, she provides easy recipes to make at home that are full of creative combinations and, most important, lots of flavor: Carrot and Parsnip Chips, Stilton and Walnut Pinwheels, Fennel and Orange Crackers, Salami Chips with Grainy Mustard Dip and so many more.
  • Roots by Diane Morgan. Thank goodness Diane, another widely published Portland writer and teacher, wrote this book and saved me from years of research and trial and error (heavy emphasis on the error). Here is a virtual encyclopedia of all those funny looking-but-incredibly-delicious vegetables I see at our farmers' markets but am sometimes too intimidated to buy. Thank you, Diane!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Toast to the End of Time, Pt. 2: Tiki On!

When I needed suggestions for this series, I couldn't have found a better source than the multi-talented Jacob Grier of Metrovino. Among his many occupations, he can claim street magician, writer, contrarian and bartender, but none beat out being employed at a Libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., for several years. If that isn't a qualifier for surviving the apocalypse, I don't know what would be.

So when I asked him what his idea was for the perfect drink to usher in the end of the world, he didn't hesitate.

"I'd probably go tiki. Maybe a Nui Nui."

A Nui Nui?

"The end of the world could take a long time, and one wouldn't want to greet it with an empty glass," he said. "Thus a big, boozy tiki drink seems appropriate. The Nui Nui also uses one of my favorite cocktail ingredients, allspice dram."

Forthwith, the recipe:

Nui Nui
From the cocktail blog Kaiser Penguin

4 oz. Cruzan Estate dark rum
1/4 oz. pimento liqueur
1/4 oz. vanilla syrup
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. orange juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake well with crushed ice and pour into a fun cup.

Read the other posts in this series: A Nod to a Classic and Shenaut-be-wan Speaks.

Top photo by Benjamin Brink from my article for MIX magazine on Portland's Munktiki. Photo of Nui Nui from Kaiser Penguin.

Food Farmer Earth: An American Baker in Portland

In this interview for Food Farmer Earth, Tim Healea explains how his little t american baker got its name, and says that even after baking tens of thousands of loaves, the magic of bread still bowls him over.

Tim Healea, renowned for the quality of the breads that he makes at his little t american baker in Portland, Oregon, said he never dreamed he’d have a career in the food business, much less own his own bakery. As a matter of fact, he calls his discovery of his passion for bread a complete accident.

Artisan breadmaker Tim Healea.

Growing up the Pacific Northwest, Healea had always wanted to work in the magazine business. So when he graduated from college with a degree in journalism, he went to work at a magazine in New York City.

“I started as an editor for a trade publisher that did magazines for restaurants and retail,” he said. “And I hated it. It was a corporate desk job and it just wasn’t me.”

The finished product.

Thinking he might prefer working with food, he quit the magazine to give culinary school a try. It was there that he ran across "Breads from the La Brea Bakery," Nancy Silverton’s landmark book on artisan bread. He started baking using her recipes and fell in love.

Read the rest of Tim's story.

This week's recipe is for an easy holiday soda bread. Get regular updates on this series about our local food scene by subscribing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Toast to the End of Time, Pt. 1: A Nod to a Classic

It suddenly occurred to me that I was running out of time…and not just to get gifts for friends and family, not to get the tree decorated, the mantel hung with garlands or dotted with candles ready to light.

No, I was running out of time itself.

That's because, in case you've been living in a cave without wi-fi the last few months, some Mayan dudes about a million years ago came up with this thing called the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar (left). To make a loooong story short, their calendar is purported to run out on Dec. 21, 2012. Which means, as you might imagine, that some wackos have been running around with their hair on fire proclaiming that the world is going to end on that date.

So, on the very very off-chance they're right, I want to be prepared. And because the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of what I want to be doing when we all go poof is toasting it with the appropriate libation, I've asked a few of Portland's premier bartenders what their personal choices might be for that purpose.

First up is Brandon Wise, current president of the Oregon Bartenders Guild as well as the self-described "presiding barman" at the newly opened (and widely raved) Imperial and Penny Diner. Wise, a classic guy if ever there was one, chose a classic cocktail called the Last Word as his pick to salute our plunge into eternity.

According to Wikipedia, the Last Word is "a gin-based Prohibition-era cocktail originally developed at the Detroit Athletic Club." It goes on to say that the drink has enjoyed a new burst of popularity thanks to another classic barman, Murray Stenson of Seattle's Zig Zag Café.

If that sounds like a drink you'd like to be draining as the universe come to a screeching halt, here's a recipe to take you out in style.

Last Word
From "The Essential Bartenders Guide" by Robert Hess.

1/2 oz. gin

1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice

1/2 oz. green Chartreuse

1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Read the other posts in this series: Tiki On! and Shenaut-be-wan Speaks.

Top illustration: Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau (the best).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Great Gifting: Last-Minute Market

In the "What were they thinking?" category, all of the big Portland area farmers' markets have sold their last turnip for the month*, leaving those of us with holiday meal shopping, not to mention hostess gift-giving, to fend for ourselves among the hordes running amok at local stores.

Fortunately, some brilliant minds have come up with a Winter Solstice Pop-Up Farmers' Market and Bazaar that will be dispensing local goodness this Saturday at Tastebud restaurant in Southeast Portland. There will be a small, well-curated list of the city's top market vendors taking over the street, the inside of the restaurant and adjoining garage space. They'll be featuring produce for your tables, Tastebud's fabulous Montréal-style bagels and specially assembled, unique gift bags of local goodness that will make you the hottest party guest in town.

  • Persephone Farm: Finest produce around
  • Tamiyasu Orchards: Apples and pears
  • Dee Creek Farm: Goat cheesy & sweet cajeta
  • Ayers Creek Farm: Amazing pantry-stocking dried grains, legumes, corn, jam, plus fresh chicories and more!
  • Lauretta Jean’s: Pie! Pie! Pie!
  • Olympic Provisions: Meat! Meat! Meat!
  • Springwater Farm plus The Soup Annex: Mushrooms (fungi and spores), mushroom broth and delicious hot soup.
  • Tastebud: Open House! Bagels hot and fresh from the oven; Mobile brick oven parked out front with pizzas and cider
  • Anthony Boutard: Beautiful Corn: America's Original Grain from Seed to Plate
  • Karen Brooks: The Mighty Gastropolis: Portland, A Journey Through the Center of America's New Food Revolution (10 am-noon)
Looks like a killer line-up with plenty of holiday food and gift opportunities. Come for lunch and snacks, check a few items off your list and say "Merry Christmas!" to your favorite vendors.

Details: Holiday Pop-Up Market. Sun. (12/22), 10 am-3 pm at Tastebud,3220 SE Milwaukie Ave. 503-234-0330.

* People's Co-op will have their usual market on Wed., 12/19, from  2-7 pm, and Jackie at the Oregon City Farmers' Market informs me that they will have a "Get Your Merry On" market on Sat., 12/22, from 10 am-2 pm.

* * * 

If you're looking for other consumable Christmas items for yourself or for gifting, GoodStuffNW contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food will have his retail warehouse open Friday and Saturday with lovely gift-size (375ml) bottles of various olive oils, plus fennel pollen, salt-packed capers, Katz vinegars, Italian oregano, etc.

Details: Real Good Food Holiday Hours. Fri.-Sat. (12/21-22), 10 am-5 pm. At Activspace, 833 SE Main at 9th Ave., space 122.

Greenery for Your Holiday Table

I'm sure other shoppers have noticed me eyeing the Brussels sprouts in the produce department with a lascivious gleam in my eye and wondered what in heaven's name I must be thinking. In my defense, it's just that I've been obsessing over contributor Jim Dixon's recipe for caramelized sprouts (below).

Since I didn’t cook a turkey last month, we’ll have some form of it for Christmas (turkey thigh confit, and maybe a roasted breast to generate drippings for gravy). That means the usual mashed potatoes and dressing; I also like to have something creamy and something green. This will be the verdant course:

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Red Onion, Honey and Sage

This might edge out the version with whole grain mustard as my favorite way of cooking the little cabbages. Split a pound of brussels sprouts in half from top to bottom, then cut those halves crosswise into 2 or 3 pieces. You’ll end up with a pile of coarsely chopped sprouts along with some bits and pieces.

Toss them all into a hot skillet slicked with a healthy pour of extra virgin; cook them hot and fast, stirring frequently, until they’ve browned nicely, about 15-20 minutes. Take a red onion, slice it top to bottom, then across once or twice so the pieces are slightly larger than normal chopped onion. Add it to the brussels sprouts after they've cooked for about 10 minutes and are getting nicely caramelized. Cook both together for maybe 5 minutes, then add a dozen or so chopped fresh sage leaves, a tablespoon or more of Katz Trio red wine vinegar, about the same amount of good honey, and a couple of good pinches of sea salt. Cook for another 5 minutes. Eat.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Great Gifting: Give a Little, Get a Lot

Making lists, checking them twice…and don't get me started on the whole naughty or nice thing. It's just all too much to keep track of!

So I say opt out, walk away, leave it at the door. No one I know needs more stuff, and the idea of the holidays (and, come to think of it, life in general) is to give joy, spread peace and love and generally try to make the planet a better place, right?

And who wouldn't like—instead of smiling politely and wondering how long they have to display a gift before it goes in the Goodwill pile—to know that they're helping to further the work of those doing good in the world?

There are lots of folks in our community laboring to do just that every day, and are deserving of support for their efforts. Here are a few of my favorites. Please consider giving a gift in the name of your loved ones!
  • Zenger Farm: A working urban farm that models, promotes and educates the community about sustainable food systems, environmental stewardship, community development and access to good food for all. They also provide training for immigrant and refugee farmers in language and business skills as well as urban agriculture.
  • Friends of Family Farmers: Building a strong and united voice for Oregon’s independent family farmers, food advocates, and concerned citizens who are working to foster an approach to agriculture that respects the land, treats animals humanely, sustains local communities, and provides a viable livelihood for family farmers.
  • Organic Seed Alliance: Advances the ethical development and stewardship of the genetic resources of agricultural seed. This is accomplished through collaborative education, advisory services and research programs with organic farmers and other seed professionals.
  • Farmers Market Fund: Improving access for underserved communities to food grown by local farmers and provide opportunities to learn about the benefits of fresh, local food. The Fresh Exchange program provides a dollar-for-dollar match to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) users at three neighborhood farmers markets. In Willamette Week Give Guide under Health & Wellness section.
  • Farmers Ending Hunger: Utilizing the productive resources of Oregon’s farmers to fight hunger, FEH relies on the Oregon Food Bank’s network of social-service programs to distribute locally grown, high-quality food to hungry individuals. To date, more than 7.9 million pounds of fresh produce and commodities like wheat have been donated.  In Willamette Week Give Guide under Social Action section.
  • Xerces Society: Protecting wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. For 40 years, the Society has been at the forefront of invertebrate protection, working with farmers here in Oregon and worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs. Perfect for the bug-lover in your circle!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In Season NW: Creamed Escarole

For some people, the solution to an attack of the doldrums is a trip to an exotic locale to see new sights, smell new smells, hear new sounds. For others, shaking out the cobwebs involves clearing the house of clutter, joining a gym or buying a new wardrobe. Me, I'm a little less dramatic…less shopping my way to happiness or, heaven forfend, facing the demons that have accumulated in my basement, and more taking on a new food challenge.

Cichorium endivia var latifolia, aka escarole.

A few years back the task I assigned myself was learning to cook large hunks of meat, a reaction to both my mother's tendency to turn protein into shoe leather as well as a bad vegetarian patch in my 20s (think clumpy brown rice and you'll get it). That was followed by conquering my fear of leafy greens more complicated than lettuce (once again, upbringing and the 70s play a part here).

Now I'm focused on those foods derisively lumped into the dreary category of "winter vegetables," the sodden, muddy group that is the staple of Grimm brothers soup pots and the bane of seasonal eaters. But I'm bound and determined to find the sunshine in these maligned characters, starting with an easy one, a winter green called escarole.

A member of the endive clan and related to chicories, cichorium endivia var. latifolia looks like a big, hearty head of lettuce rather than the pale bullet shape of its cousin. It's also slightly less bitter than endive and is good in salads—I paired it with some radicchio I'd soaked for an hour or so to leach out some of the bitterness, then tossed it with a hearty Caesar dressing.

It's also hefty enough to use in cooking, though it gets a little mushy and grey in a long-simmered soup. Better to simmer it until just wilted, then serve immediately to preserve its vibrant color and crunchy texture. I'd been experimenting with creamed greens after having some divinely comforting creamed kale at Ned Ludd, and the escarole worked really well with a brief sauté with onions, garlic, bacon and a stir of sour cream.

And dreary? Not according to the licked-clean bowls were cleared from our dinner table!

Creamed Escarole

1/4 lb. bacon slices, cut into 1/4" strips
1/2 onion, diced finely
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large head escarole, roughly chopped, about 7 c. or so
4-8 oz. sour cream
1/4 tsp. Worchestershire sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté bacon in deep skillet until fat is rendered. Add onions and garlic and sauté till tender. Add chopped escarole and quickly sauté till just wilted. Add sour cream and stir to combine along with Worchestershire if desired. Adjust salt to taste and serve.

This also works with kale if escarole isn't available. I've served it as an entrée with puréed squash, polenta and roasted delicata and it's garnered raveds, but rice would be fine, too. It would make a nice side dish on its own with grilled or roasted meat.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Meeting My Meat: Portioning Petunia

I'm not big on rituals. Though I certainly grew up on them, from going to church on Sundays to having tuna casserole on Fridays to going out in the woods in December and cutting our own Christmas trees—the plural because there was the formal tree in the living room and a second, smaller tree in the family room that my brothers and I would decorate with our own homemade ornaments.

Chillaxing in the garage.

But to get back to the point, it looks like I'm launching into a ritual of my own these days. You may remember the series of posts from 2011, "Thinking of Eating: Roger and Me," where I committed to buying half a pig from Big Table Farm and following it from piglet to plate, including attending the slaughter, doing the butchering myself and then recording the meals that were made from the various cuts.

I did less of that last step than planned, but the meat fed my family (and many friends) well for a year or so. It was always referred to as "Roger" as in "We're throwing some Roger on the grill, want to come over?" (I remember some giggling but never being turned down.)

Butchering head to head.

When Clare announced she'd brought two more piglets onto her farm last spring, my friend Linda and I immediately signed on for one of them. Named Rose and Petunia, the piglets fed on the lush grass of the farm supplemented with organic corn, no-soy organic grain and spent chestnuts from a gluten-free brewery. They were switched to chestnuts for the last two months. By late November, just after Thanksgiving, they'd reached their finish weight of more than 300 pounds.

Working the ribs.

Rose and Petunia's last day was spent in the pasture where they'd lived their entire lives, basking in a rare blast of winter sunshine on a bed of fresh hay. The pasture kill that evening was swift and painless, delivered by Richard with his rifle. His knife worked in long, skilled strokes to remove the skin, then he expertly gutted and halved them, saving the head, trotters, kidneys, heart and liver for us to process later.

We transported our halves to Ayers Creek Farm, hanging them in the garage overnight to cool. In the morning, armed with knives and a saw, we began the process of breaking down each half into three large sections called primals, which were in turn cut into roasts, chops and the smaller bits that would be made into bacon, sausages and stew meat.

The head ready to make into scrapple.

As we women butchered, the menfolk worked in the kitchen grinding the scraps of meat and fat to make into sausage. The head went into the oven to roast very slowly until it was fall-apart tender, with the brilliant idea of combining it with Ayers Creek polenta to make scrapple.

Since this was the second time I'd stood in front of half a carcass with a knife in my hand, I found it was a little easier to know where to start. It helped that Linda had done this several times and could guide me back if I lost my way. The first task after cutting the primals was to get the shoulder meat to the kitchen for the sausage, and after that was separating the belly from the ribs and divining the perfect ratio of rib roasts to chops.

Fresh belly, left; bacon-to-be, right.

While we butchered, a cut-and-wrap operation was set up in the garage. Keeping the meat cool during this process wasn't an issue, since the temperature in the Wapato Valley that day hovered in the high 40s to low 50s. Fortunately some bourbon was poured to keep the blood flowing to our fingers. Once we'd worked our way through the leg roasts and Petunia was all wrapped and stowed in our coolers, we went inside to warm up, have dinner and recount our labors over several glasses of Big Table Farm wine.

Petunia, or at least my half of her, is now resting comfortably in the freezer. Dave has smoked the nine pounds of bacon we got from some of the belly meat. The thicker end of the belly we're saving to use for braising and big pots of beans, the jowl will be cured and made into guanciale and there's much discussion over what to do with the rest of the meat in the coming months. And, as with Roger last year, this year we'll be talking about having Petunia for dinner.

To watch an expert butcher break down half a pig and narrate the process, watch this series of short videos from Food Farmer Earth. To take a hands-on class that teaches how to butcher a pig, check the schedule at Portland's Culinary Workshop or Portland Meat Collective. To buy a pasture-raised pig for your freezer, contact Kendra at Goat Mountain Pastured Meats.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Latkes, Fritters, Cakes…Whatever, Just Make 'Em!

No matter what you call them, you can count on Jim Dixon of Real Good Food to be on top of the fried goodness of the season!

I made these recently and wanted to get you the recipe before Chanuka starts on Saturday!

Smoky Sweet Potato & Beet Latkes

Mine were roughly 2 parts sweet potato, 1 part beet, but don’t worry too much about exact measurements. I also peeled the beets, but not the sweet potatoes. And while the orange-fleshed roots are often labeled as yams, they’re really sweet potatoes. You could use the white-fleshed version, but I think the orange ones are sweeter. Golden beets, similar to the pinkish Chioggia beets, are also sweeter; unlike the earthier-tasting red beets, they don’t stain everything in the kitchen.

Make these just like potato latkes (grate the roots, combine with egg and flour, add salt, fry in extra virgin olive oil). Add a teaspoon or more of pimenton, the smoky Spanish paprika. Use a lower cooking temperature, too. The extra sugars in both the sweet potatoes and beets caramelize more quickly and they’ll burn if you’re not careful.

For more details on all things latke, at least from the Real Good Food perspective, start at Secular Latkes. Or go right the basic latke recipe (you can skip the squeezing step with sweet potatoes).

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Personal Heroes: Dave Brubeck

“One of the reasons I believe in jazz is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear.”

- Dave Brubeck, 1920-2012

Listen to one of his most famous compositions, "Take Five."  Read his obituary at the New York Times. Photo by Paul Mello/AP.