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stock time
Friday May 20th 2011

It was raining last weekend, and there is no better time than in the rain to make some stock. I had a bunch of chicken stock from a session a couple weeks ago, so I went ahead and made a veggie stock and a pork stock. Why veggie and pork? Well, veggie is great to have around if you need a very mild stock for a soup where chicken stock would overpower the flavours, and pork is great for braised pork dishes and for dishes where you want a little more umpf than chicken stock. This is not stricktly a Farm Box ingredients post as the quantities needed were more than I had left over from my Farm Box (I picked them up on a Rainbow run), but if you find yourself saving some of these items up over the course of a few weeks then go for it!

For both the stocks I lightly roasted up carrots …

… leeks …

… onions, celery, and a little garlic.

Almost all of it went into the veggie stock. I just put the veggies in a pot, covered with water, and brought it up to a boil and immediately turned it down to a simmer for an hour. For the last 10 minutes I added in a little parsley, a couple sprigs of thyme, and one small sprig of oregano. I was trying hard to control the flavours so that’s why I only did a 1 hour simmering, and why I only put in the herbs for ten minutes.

For the pork stock, I started by roasting up 15 pounds of pork bones (two trays worth of what you see in the picture), then hucked it all in a big pot, covered with water, brought to a boil, turned down to a simmer, and then let it go for FOUR hours. Meat stock requires more time than veggie stock as the intent is also to draw out the collagen from the product. This time the lightly roasted veggies I saved from going into the veggie stock went in to the stock pot for only the last hour.

Both the stocks got cooled in an ice bath, and then it went in to the fridge for the night. This way it is easy to remove the fat from the pork stock – it floats to the top and gets solid and can easily be scooped off the thick stock below. then it was just a matter of putting it all into labeled “deli” containers.

In the end here’s what I ended up with …

That’s the veggie stock on the left – seems like I made 6 1/2 pints. There was more pork stock – looks like 12 1/2 pints.

Is making your own stock worth it? Well, it was about 30 bucks in ingredients, and about 3 hours of active time (full process was over a day). Is that worth it for 19 or so pints of homemade stock? As a comparison, before the chicken stock session a couple weeks ago, we had to buy 2 pints of chicken stock from Bi-Rite. Now, Bi-Rite has high quality product, but I gotta tell you it still paled in comparison to homemade. And those two pints were $6.99. So assuming equal quality, the stock I made was maybe 60 Bi-Rite dollars, and I paid 30 bucks plus labour – if I paid myself 10 bucks an hour then I’d come out even!

world’s smallest chicken
Wednesday May 18th 2011

Sara and Jim invited us over for dinner last night. I asked what I could bring and Sara was a little worried that maybe the chicken they planned might not be enough for all four plus two of us. Did I have another small chicken we could add to the meal? Just a small one. Did I have ever have a small one! Must be the worlds smallest chicken!

Next up, a long post on two different stocks I made last weekend.

Massimo graduates
Monday May 16th 2011

My cousin Massimo has been spending the last 2-3 years doing an MFA at the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute, and Saturday marked his graduation and the affixing of the title Master to his name. We are so excited for him, and got to go out twice to see his show on Treasure Island. And we were also very excited to host him, Meagan, his parents and her parents and a friend from LA for dinner after the graduation ceremonies.

We weren’t quite sure the number of folks until the last minute so I decided to cook up a big turkey that I’ve had a few months since the last bulk delivery day from Marin Sun Farms to our site. I brined it for a day in a simple 50:50 kosher salt / sugar mix, then dried it and rubbed in a spice rub with a bunch of differ spice I heated on the stove and ground up. I think there was coriander, cumin, mustard seed in there, then I added some garlic powder and some tumeric too. I cooked it for about 3 hours  (I think it was about 15-18 pounds) on indirect heat on the BBQ.

I had to restock the coals a couple times which was fine, but the indirectness allowed for a safely unburned skin that got super brown-ish red and crispy. Looks pretty good, no?

I also didn’t want to make anything that had to be served and eaten quickly, as I just wasn’t sure of the timing, so I pulled out some bacon (panchetta from Bocalone, actually) and got it crispy-ish, then added some shallots and 4 big bunches of collard greens.

They cooked down and then I just left them on a gentle low heat until serving. Oh, I might have slapped in some extra bacon fat. Com’on, collard greens just go with bacon fat!

I had soaked up some white beans the night before and got them cooking in some light chicken stock

Then I sauteed up a bunch of shallots, sweated them down, added tons of garlic, and then threw in that bowl of greens you see there in the picture.

After the greens were cooked down a bit, the beans got added and the flavours allowed to come together. Then it was final seasoning time – more-salt-than-you-think-is-healthy, pepper, hot pepper flakes, olive oil, and then the secret which is white wine vinegar. Lots of it too. The beans are so rich and starchy that they need tons of salt, but they also need acid. I guess you could use citrus of some sort, but for my palate the white wine vinegar worked well.

Then I made my “famous” asian style coleslaw, and laid it all out on the table. I say “famous” cuz no matter what crazy seemingly difficult dish I have prepared as part of a dinner, the dish that always gets the most comments when I serve it is the asian coleslaw, and it’s the easiest dish to make! Just thinly slice up some red and green cabbage, add in an onion and/or some fennel bulb, squeeze in some lemon, add some soy sauce (in lieu of salt), some mayo (homemade preferred) and then most importantly some toasted sesame oil. Simple and oh so tasty …

We had a great time with everyone, and we all took turns quizzing Massimo on obscure art questions to check if he earned the Master label. Don’t worry, he passed all tests!

full house (bringing good wine!) for dinner
Friday May 13th 2011

Busy afternoon yesterday! My Aunt and Uncle were joining us for dinner of course, as they’re staying with us for a little while. And Sara’s out of town, so we invited Jim over with the twins so that Jim could actually get some food for himself that wasn’t mushed up leftover baby food! And then my friend Richard, who was also one of the best men at my wedding, texted me that he was in town and taking the red-eye home – could he stop by for a visit on the way to the airport? Of course! The more the merrier!

But first we all met at the Bartlett/22nd street Thursday farmers market to watch Alexis and Emma play in a concert in the market. Aren’t they so cute there playing a “duet” with their teacher Katie?

Then we rushed on home and while Alexis was at soccer practice I scrambled to get dinner for 8 ready.

Sorry, I have no prep or process photos, but here’s what I did.

I soaked some white beans overnight, then cooked them in chicken stock. Separately I sauteed more leeks than you’d think possible, plus the same amount of spring garlic. Then I took every single wintry leaf from the Farm Box and added it in. That’s kale, chard, and that dark spindly one – I forget what it was called. I set that aside and browned up some spicy sausage, added in some chopped carrots from the farm box, and when it was all done I added in the leek/garlic/greens, and a whole bunch of beans from the pot. Then I made some garlic bread to use as a dipping/topping type thing. (As an aside, can someone please explain to me why anyone would buy pre-made garlic bread?! It’s so easy to make. Melt some butter in the microwave, microplane in some garlic, add salt, spread on bread, broil in oven. 2 minutes of work, 5 minutes of time!)
In the end, I made a critical mistake of overcooking the beans making for a more mushy consistency, but the flavour was all there. Great with some drizzle olive oil and hot pepper flakes.

We had already gone through all the strawberries from the Farm Box, so Melinda bought some more at the Thursday market after the girls had finished playing … (Continue Reading…)

You cannot have a two starches on the same dish!
Friday May 13th 2011

Years ago, I decided to have some big dinners at the house where I would replicate the meals from famous movies/events. The eventual goal was the meal from Babette’s Feast (is there any more Clos de Vougeot?) but I only got as far as The Big Night. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s fabulously written and acted and has a big meal at the end for Louis Prima, starting with consume and proceeding through to a big Timpano.

As I was making dinner last night I couldn’t help thinking of the scene where Primo (the brother in the back of the house) tells Secondo (the brother in the front of the house) that the lady in the restaurant can’t have a side order of spaghetti with her risotto because “you cannot a have a two starches together.”

Why’s was I thinking of that? Well, there is one time I know of in Italian cuisine where you’re allowed to break that rule, and that’s by putting small pieces of potato in your pasta.

The fava beans and the potatoes from the Farm Box were looking so so good that I wanted to eat them, and that I’d do a variation of this Italian potato with pasta dish.

First I sauteed up some shallots and garlic, then added the shelled favas, then the greens from the radishes to try to add a spicy note to the dish…

Then I added the parboiled potatoes. This all got topped on top of some spaghetti and mixed in with some pasta water and some olive oil. In the end I think I added too much pasta, and it needed to be a bit more saucy, but it was still pretty tasty.

The pasta was so lightly flavoured and delicate so I didn’t want to pick a wine that would overpower the dish. I pulled out a Muscadet from the fabulous 2009 vintage – from the winery La Tarciere. I can hear you now “What’s Muscadet? I hope it’s not sweet!” Nope, not sweet – that would be Muscat (damn, that’s confusing no!?). Muscadet is a region at the mouth of the Loire River in western France, and the wines from there are made from the grape Melon de Bourgogne. No, this isn’t Bourgogne, like from the Burgundy region. Damn that’s complicated – no wonder consumers have a tough time buying french wine! The wines are lighter in alcohol (this one was 12%) and very mineral and crisp and acidic. This one had spent time on it’s lees, meaning the dead yeast cells from fermentation were left in the vessel with the ageing wine – it gave it a nice minerality and a little more body. In the end a great wine for this dish.

Spring garlic from Massimo Sr.’s garden
Thursday May 12th 2011

My Aunt Helen and Uncle Massie (aka Massimo Sr.) are staying with us while they attend their son (my cousin), Massimo Jr.’s MFA graduation from AISF. My Uncle Massie is, like all good children of Italian immigrants, quite handy in the garden. Isn’t this awesome: they brought some spring garlic with them all the way on the plane! How that got past TSA security I don’t know!

So we planned two preparations for the garlic – on a pizza then another as a topping for some grilled beef.

For the pizza, I took the stem ends and chopped them then sauted them in some bacon fat.

Well, it was sort-of bacon fat. Technically it was lightly cured jowl. Yeah that’s right, some pig cheeks baby!

Then Melinda put both these on some pizza dough with no tomato sauce and just some salt and pepper.

Then after cooking for a bit, she pulled it out and threw a couple whisked eggs on top, with some parmesan, and then back in the oven. Damn fine pizza. She called it pizza carbonara. Well done Pizziaolo Melinda!

The green tops of the garlic tossed with olive oil, s&p and were thrown on an excruciatingly hot grill after the steaks were cooked.

Here’s how they turned out, with some accompanying carrots from the Farm Box. Yumm…

In keeping with the Italian theme (um, there was someone named Massimo at dinner!) I pulled out a nice bottle of 2005 Vitanza Brunello di Montalcino. Don’t be too thrown off by the crazy words. This is made from the sangiovese grape (though the Brunello folks would argue that the clone is so specific as to be different, yada yada yada) and comes from Tuscany, right near Chianti. So if you feel like a Chianti, but want a little more structure and a little more, as I think of it, chocolate-y rich fruit, try a Brunello. This one was nice and rich – hope it didn’t have too much Syrah in it!

hot weather grilling
Wednesday May 11th 2011

It was a hot day the other day and we were having Jim and the twins over (Sara was somewhere awful like Boulevard, or Slanted Door, the poor thing!). Nothing like some warm weather to get the grill fired up.

I had all these good intentions of doing something with the peas from the box, but my little helper thought instead of 5 for the bowl and 1 for the mouth, that it was the other way around! I don’t think that bowl accumulated more than this picture is showing!

The burgers were made with some happy meat from Marin Sun Farms. I’m really getting into putting some  pork in the mix, and I also added a bunch of finely chopped leeks from the Farm Box and also some thyme from the garden, a couple eggs, pepper, and more salt than you think is healthy.

With the grill hot, I decided to just grill up a bunch of the Farm Box veggies and make a sort of salad out of it all. There are kohlrabi there, carrots, garlic chives (I think), but the asparagus wasn’t from the box – it was courtesy of our friends at Pisoni Farms down south a ways.

It all got simply grilled off-direct-heat for a long time till soft, including the garlic chives, then …

… chopped up into decent sized chunks and tossed with a balsamic vinegrette. Yumm!

No pictures of the burgers, sorry, but they were great. Also cooked up some Marin Sun Farms bacon for them too. Ohhh, bacon.

For wine, we had a lovely Alto Moncayo Veraton that Jim brought over. It hails from the Campo de Borja region of Spain and I believe it’s 100% grenacha (aka grenache). Big, bold, spicy and was a perfect match for the burgers and the veggie salad. Thanks for bringing it Jim!