Oct 21, 2012

Brown Sugar Glazed Oven Smoked Pork Roast with Frankie Kimm

This is one of my favorite dishes to serve a group of people.  Partly because everything can be finished ahead of my guests' arrival, and partly because everyone loves it so much.  I've been making this brown sugar glazed, oven smoked pork roast and calling it Korean Bo Ssam, though it really isn't.  But I do like to serve it asian style, with a basket of coconut sticky rice, fresh basil and lettuce leaves, crisp slices of cucumber, my home made jalapeño/cilantro/garlic sauce - and the essential "ssamjang gochujang" sauce from my local asian market.  No matter how you serve this super tender, salty sweet and smoky pork, your carnivorous friends will go crazy over it!  

If you decide to make this for dinner, just know that once it's glazed it can be covered with foil allowed to rest for up to an hour before serving.  

Oct 10, 2012

Jalapeño Jam

I can't believe how productive the jalapeño plant in my Hudson Valley garden has been.  That little bush has produced a couple hundred peppers over the past two months!  I've already frozen a bag of 'em and pickled a jar that'll last me a year.  Normally I'd can or freeze  salsa, but this season my tomato plants all died of blight.  Which left me wondering what to do with all them peppers.  Hot sauce initially came to mind, but I didn't feel all that excited to make it.  Then I remembered the jalapeño jelly a friend of my dad's brought him - I loved how sweet and sour it was (and wondered what the base was made from).  I decided to attempt a batch of it.  The magic ingredient turns out to be apple cider vinegar.  All the jalapeño jam recipes I found were basically vinegar jelly with minced peppers suspended in it.  I love vinegar.  When I was a kid, I regularly consumed gut searing concoctions of strait vinegar and chopped onions.  I'd add Tobasco sauce if it was in the house.  Anyway…it's no wonder I loved that hot pepper jam my dad's friend gave him.  

I'm happy with my how my first batch of jalapeño jam turned out - though the truth is that as much as I love to make jam, I rarely indulge in the strait stuff.  That's not to say that any jam is wasted in our home.  It all goes into pies and tarts and cobblers and cakes.  And today's jam can be used as a key ingredient in something completely different I like to make - sweet and sour oxtail.  But that's another post.

Oct 3, 2012

I Ate Squawfish Part II: smoked fish schmear

In my previous post I wrote about Oregon's bias against a natural predator of salmon - previously called Squawfish, recently renamed the Northern Pikeminnow.  And then I ate one.  Or half of one, anyway.  For this post, I'm going to show you the delicious smoked fish spread I made with the other half of the so-called "trash" fish I caught while angling for steelhead on the Rogue river a couple weeks ago.

Fourteen years of living in New York has had an enormous impact on my diet.  Primarily in the sense that I found the  produce so shitty there that I became determined to grow my own.  I changed my whole life as a result of my dissatisfaction with the quality of food available in New York - and I'm so glad.  I'm ecstatic to be starting my little Hipster Homestead in Oregon now, but there are a few food items I'll miss from the east coast.  Like a real New York bagel to go with my home made Jewish style smoked fish schmear.  Actually, I probably wouldn't even know what Jewish whitefish spread was if I hadn't lived in NYC.  And for that matter, an actual Jewish person.

Sep 26, 2012

I Ate Squaw (and liked it)

Considered a "trash" fish, the Northern Pikeminnow is treated with extreme prejudice by sport fisherman in Oregon.  Previously called Squawfish, they're are often killed and thrown back into the river when landed by anglers hoping to hook a salmon or steelhead.  The practice is supported by the state's department of fish and wildlife - with a bounty on them in the Columbia river basin of up to eight dollars per fish!  This Dudette does not abide.  The Pikeminnow is not an invasive species - it is native to Oregon waters and is a natural predator of young salmon.   Not only do I sense irrational management of our fisheries and lack of respect for wildlife in the policy, but that kind of thinking grates against the values I grew up with.  Namely, that my mother taught my brothers and I that if you purposely KILL an animal, then you EAT that animal.   

So I resolved eat the three pound Pikeminnow I caught while fishing for steelhead on the Rogue river with my dad last week.    I've heard that Squawfish taste bad - whatever that means.  I've heard they're oily.  I've heard they're too bony.  I suspected the fish would taste fine.  I mean, how could a fish that lives in the same waters we eat trout and salmon from - and that eats trout and salmon itself - taste too bad?  I decided I'd cook half the fish the way I do other white fleshed freshwater fish I enjoy -  filleted and dusted with flour, salt and pepper, then lightly fried.  The other half of the fish I would smoke and pressure can along with the steelhead I caught on the Rogue.


Aug 7, 2012

Basil Pesto

Mmmm…pesto.  I've never found a store bought version that can compete with home made, so I crank out about fifteen jars each summer and freeze them for use throughout the year.  I usually run out of the previous years' stockpile around the time my garden is producing a ton of basil - I harvest the leaves and make pesto at least twice during the growing season.  We enjoy it on pasta, pizza, eggs, toast, seared steaks, baked chicken…and I always take a jar of it when we go camping in the Caribbean for thanksgiving.  Home made pesto makes a supreme gift in the middle of winter!  

Basil Pesto 
This recipe makes 5 half pint jars.

a huge bunch of basil (mine weighed about 6 ounces without stems)
10 ounces grated parmesan cheese
at least 6 cloves of pressed garlic
6 ounces walnuts
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Jul 31, 2012

Pickled Jalapenos

Not everything in my home garden is doing great.  The tomatoes - the first I've grown from seeds rather than starts - are a total failure.  Not only are the plants being ravaged by fungi, but I made the mistake of planting them next to a six foot tall fence.  I hoped the fence would offer some support for the plants, instead it's given squirrels such ready access to the fruit that there's none left for me to harvest.  Cranky Frankie.  Oh well…I guess I'll let my attachment to the season's most important crop go.  Other crops are doing surprisingly well.  Like the eggplants and hot peppers.  There are so many jalapeños on the bush that I decided to make one of my favorite condiments with 'em:  I love eggs over easy, smothered with a layer of melty cheddar that's studded with slices of pickled jalapeños.  

For the brine I used approximately:
3 cups of water
3 cups of apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons of kosher salt
2 tablespoons of sugar

Jul 30, 2012

Raising Ducks: Building a Nest Box

Our Welsh Harlequin ducks are now fifteen weeks old.  I expect them to start laying eggs any time within the next month.  I can't wait!  In preparation for this exciting event, I built a couple nesting boxes for the ladies.   My duck rearing book says you'll need one nest for every four or five layers.  I've only got four hens, so two nesting areas should be more than enough.  I'm not even sure they'll use them.  I think it's more likely they'll lay their eggs somewhere in our yard.  I'm hoping the nest boxes - and dummy eggs I put in them - will encourage the ducks to lay in their house, where I can easily gather the eggs each day.  We shall see!  Here's how I made the boxes:

Jul 10, 2012

Cooking With Duck

I'd never cooked duck before we butchered the drakes in our backyard flock of Welsh Harlequins.  I'd barely even eaten duck before, just a couple of bad-to-okay experiences with it.  When I placed my order for ten ducklings (the minimum) with the idea of keeping a few for egg production, I knew I'd eventually have to butcher a few.  

Cooking with duck has been fantastic.  I've been thrilled with what I've made so far, especially the smoked duck.  It was so succulent, savory, delicate and delicious - it exceeded my expectations, and I  hope to make it again.  Perhaps a small duck farm is in my future?  

Sorry I didn't photo document cooking the ducks the way I usually do when I'm presenting a recipe.  I didn't know exactly what I was doing, so I can't say, "this is how you cook duck".  I just want to show you a few delicious possibilities.

Jul 2, 2012

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornmeal Biscuits

I usually make these these biscuits in winter, and almost always to go with a big pot of black bean stew. We're smack in the middle of the dog days of summer in the Hudson Valley, but I had some extra special smoked duck skin that I wanted to use to make beans with, so here are some hot weather biscuits.

I experimented with the proportions in my recipe for a while, trying to figure the highest ratio of cornmeal-to-flour that would work and still make a decent biscuit.  I'm happy with a half cornmeal, half white flour formula at this point.  (Sorry, but these won't work as well with whole wheat flour - not enough gluten.)  I think the addition of an egg helps a lot with the texture.  These have a soft and airy interior, a golden brown top, and a crispy bottom.  That's about all I ask for in a biscuit.  But wait, there's more!  Cheddar cheese and jalapeños put these over the top.  I'd say you can use just about any strong flavored cheese, and if you don't like jalapeños, try some fresh herbs like rosemary, sage...whatever.  I made 'em with blue cheese and cilantro last month and they were really interesting.  And when I use the term "interesting" to describe a food or flavor, I mean it in a good way. 

Jun 28, 2012

Duck Report at Ten Weeks

The flock is now ten weeks old and well into their first moult.   Feathers are all over the yard, in the kiddie pool and the duck house.  The moult will supposedly go on for a few weeks, after which the birds will have grown in their adult feathers and can learn to fly to the best of their abilities, which won't be much.  As domesticated ducks were bred for larger body size, their wings didn't concurrently get bigger - that's why farmyard ducks can't fly away with a passing flock.  Poor kids.  Anyway, here's the lowdown on where we are with our seven ten week old Welsh Harlequin ducks now.  

Food:  Blue Seal is the only place near where we live in the Hudson Valley to buy poultry feed, so we've been using their brand.  For the first eight weeks of their lives, we fed the ducklings a combination of Chick n' Game Bird Starter/Grower Crumbles cut with oats.  Just plain ol' dry oatmeal purchased in bulk at the grocery store.  The concept was to cut the high fat/high protein food with oats so that they didn't develop too rapidly.  If we had been raising the ducks primarily for meat, we could have fed them nothing but Starter/Grower Crumbles and let them fatten up lickedy split.  But we're raising our ducks for egg production, so we want them to develop at a more healthy rate and avoid wing and leg problems that can occur when they grow too fast.  From day one, the ducklings were treated to lots of leafy greens, usually dropped in their water.

Watering Solution for Ducks

I was jogging around southeast Portland last fall when I came upon an urban poultry coop with both chickens and ducks in it.  The chickens looked fine, but the ducks didn't look too happy.  They were dirty and their bills and nostrils were caked with dried mud.  I felt bad for them duckles.

It's not hard to provide ducks with an appropriate water supply, although in Portland, municipal water is surprisingly expensive so I can understand if you don't want to refill a kiddie pool every day during the dry season.  But you can provide drinking water in a manner that's healthy for ducks.  Ducks need to be able to wash their eyes and bills in water throughout the day, so their water source should be deep enough for them to submerge their heads in.  Here's what I came up with to allow for that while minimizing the sloppy mess ducks can make with water.

Jun 4, 2012

Raising Ducks: Butchering the Drakes

I raised and slaughtered my own ducks.  And I would totally do it again.

I'm not saying that it wasn't difficult, because I was definitely stressed when the time came to butcher a few of the beautiful Welsh Harlequins I'd raised from ducklings.  I thought I might cry or be too freaked to do the actual killing.  But I'm a meat eater.  And I care about the welfare of animals.  Actually, I love animals.  It's a confusing predicament, but not an impossible one.  Now, I'm about to get all high-horsey on you because this is such an important issue to me, but the only way I know of to reconcile my carnivorous lifestyle with my love for animals is to see that the animals I eat experience the happiest, most natural existence right up until the moment their lives end.  Equally important to me is that they never know what's coming.  I could have taken my ducks to a poultry processing facility at the farm I've volunteered at, but all I could envision was my sweet duckles being stressed, confused and frightened during the transport to the farm.  That's a real problem with the concept of "humane" meat.  Sure, the animals can be given a natural, even pampered existence right up until the moment they're forced into a trailer or truck, panicked and scared half to death, and transported to a slaughterhouse where they can smell, hear or even see the horror that is about to befall them.  Now if that ain't suffering, well then it's worse: sheer terror.  I couldn't finagle any way around that awfulness if I chose to butcher my ducks off site, so I resolved to kill them at home.  I wanted them to be happy happy duck duck, just eating and swimming and pooping, and then *bink*…duckmeat.  With the help of two most excellent girlfriends, the process went as smoothly as it possibly could have.  I feel relieved that it's done, and what I'll describe as "in tune" with the knowledge that I would gladly raise ducks for meat in the future.

Emotions and ideology aside, the economics of small scale poultry farming look really good.   I borrowed a 250 watt heat lamp, a waterer and feeder from a neighbor.  I purchased a kiddie pool at Walmart for $11.  I bought a bag of pine shavings for $6.  But those are all things you don't absolutely have to buy.  If your house is warm, you can brood ducklings in a box with a light bulb.  They can eat and drink from various containers, and you can use dry leaves, newspaper, burlap, etcetera as bedding.  You will have to buy feed.  I'm raising ducks primarily for egg production, so I feed them a bit differently than I would meat ducks, but here are the figures: eleven Welsh Harlequin ducks (which can be fattened up to six pounds) were raised to slaughter age in eight weeks on one and a half sacks of game bird crumbles, about 40 pounds of oats, and one bag of grit while free ranging on 1/8th of an acre.  I cut their feed with oats to prevent them from growing too fast because that's undesirable for an egg laying flock.  So let's just imagine that I fed them pure game bird crumbles.  Even if I stuffed them with three full sacks of feed, at a cost of $36 here in the Hudson Valley, plus $2.99 for a bag of grit, that's a total cost of under $40 for eleven ducks.  Assuming you have a securely fenced yard and a safe house for them at night, and you butcher them yourself, that's a cost of $3.64 per duck.  Where are you going to get even the cruddiest eating duck for three dollars and sixty four cents?  So worth it, on so many levels.

May 24, 2012

Ducks at Five Weeks

At just over five weeks of age, our flock of Welsh Harlequin ducklings are fairly independent.  We still feed them three times a day and shelter them from predators at night, but the rest of the time they're allowed free access to our yard and their swimming pool.  They barley fit in the foraging run I used to put them in to protect them from hawks - and I've seen neither hide nor feather of a hawk thus far - so as long as I'm not far from home, the ducks are out and about, foraging, swimming, and napping their days away.    

Soon, it'll be time to make duck a l'orange of the drakes.  Right now, I still can't tell which are males or females.  But in about three more weeks, they'll be fully grown and I should be able to differentiate the sexes by the sound of their voices (only females will produce a true quack).  I'm having a hard time accepting that the ducks with darker heads are not males, but my duck rearing sources assure me that I can't judge their sex by color until around 15 weeks of age.  I wouldn't consider keeping them that long for a couple reasons: we've already got too many ducks on our hands, and they supposedly become very difficult to pluck after about ten weeks of age.


On a less clinical note, I truly adore dem duckles.  Just thinking about them warms the cockles of my heart.  I've spent hours and hours watching them, photographing them, talking to them.  They know the sound of my voice and come running when they hear me - whether I'm calling them or not.  When I'm in the yard, they never stray far from me and often settle down for a nap near me.  How could I not love them?  They aren't completely tame, but they can be stroked while eating and picked up without much fuss.  They used to freak out when handled, but now they take it in stride and instead of running away in terror when put down, they just go back to whatever they were doing before.  I purposely haven't put a ton of effort into handling them because the plan has always been to slaughter the males.  Once that deed is done, I will tame the heck out of our remaining egg layers.  And allow my attachment to them to deepen.

May 16, 2012

Raising Ducks, First Month

I slapped together a bunch of video clips from the past four weeks during which we've been raising eleven Welsh Harlequin ducks.  They were ducklings so briefly, I feel rather bittersweet about it.  But even in their awkward half-feathered/half-fuzz phase, I still see them as adorable, wonderful, beautiful animals.

May 14, 2012

Mango Sorbet

I can't believe I existed for 27 years before discovering the wonder of mangoes.  It's not that I'd never tasted one before - just not a good one.  When I moved to New York City I started buying my fruit from a sidewalk vendor outside my lab.  One day, as I eyed his stand deciding what to get, the proprietor handed me a small, yellowish-orange, almond shaped mango.  "You try."  I was skeptical, but my fruit guy assured me they were much better than the other kind  - the big red and orange skinned ones you typically see at a grocery store.  The mango I bought that day was ripe, juicy, velvety smooth, and far more flavorful than any mango I'd had before.  Since then, I've been buying those small almond shaped mangoes whenever they're available.  Even if they aren't totally ripe when you buy them, they ripen on a windowsill much better than the large type - and the texture and flavor are far superior.  I'm not slamming the big mangoes, because if you can find a good one they're delicious.  I'm just saying that if you're like I was in my 20's, "mangoes?  whatever" you may yet have something wonderful to discover.    

Mango Sorbet (4 servings)

4 ripe mangoes (the smaller of the two kinds grocery stores typically sell)
the juice of 1 lime (2-3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup heavy cream (or substitute coconut cream)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar