From the kitchen and the bar: duck and wine

Sorry for the long hiatus. I am dealing with a job I don’t like, and working on my art, which I do like.

I’m now an officially paid artist! It’s very weird feeling for someone who hated art teachers in elementary, high school and college because the ones I had didn’t teach art, they just had class pets who could do art and ignored the rest of us. There is, I think, the idea of some innate talent but you have to be taught the rest. In a week, I’m doing another show.  This is the cheese plate that sold (the white is from the reflection from the resin on it)

Lately, we’ve been trying a few new things to cook and drink. I finally cooked the last bit of game meat that I bought from D’Artangnan, a duck. It was very good, but they are indeed greasy. I think ours could have used more pricking of the skin to release more of the sub-q fat and a little longer in the oven. We had it with sweet potatoes and carrots that roasted in the fat. I just recently made a quick hash of that in a skillet to crisp it up some. Here is the duck. They are quite a bit different in physiology than a chicken.

We also had some shimmery wine. We got this at the local ren faire, the PA Renaissance Faire at Mt. Hope Winery. They mixed whatever makes liquids like Viniq shimmer (finely ground mica?) with pink Catawba wine and made fairy wine. You can’t quite see how nice it looks in a still photo. Here’s a video of Viniq.

This weekend we’re making yet one more roast chicken when my folks visit. It’s kind of an early xmas, late thanksgiving thing. I’m going to be a sneaky daughter and given them a bible as a present, one not the hard-to-read KJV, and with large print and the apocrypha. I wonder if my dad, who bet me all those years ago I couldn’t read it the bible, will do it himself since he has found he likes reading. He used to always give me such a hassle when I was a young bookworm. Go play outside! Go play with your brother!

Now he knows what its’ like because I can’t resist teasing him.

We also adopted two friendly feral cats.  A huge black one had been hanging about and I got him to like me.  There was also a smaller gray and white one who seemed to get along with him well.  So we brought both in.  The black cat is called Tez, short for Tezcatlipoca, and the other is Aggie, short for Agamemnon, also called Roomba because he loves to roll around on the floor and collect any crumbs.  We have decided to always call our cats aggressive names because those ones all turn out sweet, and the one we named Muffin is the hellion.  She is about 15 now and has screeched at and cowed the the new boys (well, they are neutered).

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From the kitchen and the bar – experiments in game meats and some new wines

the pale lumps are very large garlic cloves

A month or two ago, D’Artagnan (the company that sells fancy meats here in the US) had a really good flash sale and I got a selection of game meats: a duck, venison shanks and a wild boar roast.   We had the wild boar first (actually a hybrid of European wild boar and feral pig that are running amuck in the south of the US).  It was good, though dry and we did lard it with extra pig fat.  The meat is very lean and all the darker color that you see in some pork cuts from regular pork.  I wasn’t that impressed, but I will say that I cook a tasty pork shoulder and am somewhat spoiled about what good pork is.

This weekend we cooked the venison shanks.  They were about 4 inches thick, and were New Zealand venison.  My husband found a recipe for a very garlic heavy braise, and since I’ve been wanting to cook something with a *lot* of garlic (readers will know I consider it a vegetable), we went for it. 

The wine used was a Simply Naked pinot grigio and of course the 4 bulbs of garlic.  We have rosemary and thyme in our garden.  It’s so shady, I’m glad that anything edible grows there.   I also have quite a few really poisonous things, like monkshood, jimsonweed, foxglove, etc. 

The meat was pretty indistinguishable to me from good beef.  We cooked it until the cartilage melted, making the meat succulent.  Not much fat on these, so the sauce isn’t as greasy as a beef based sauce would be.  They do come with the bone in, so I scooped out the marrow.  It was a little strong flavored for me, though I can see how some people would love that.  We just had the rest of the pinot grigio with it and it went surprisingly well with such a dark meat.   It’s nice and light.  We also got a bottle of their unoaked chardonnay, and it was good too, though a little richer than we wanted for the recipe.

We also got a few new wines to try.  We’ve been looking at the less than $10 that the PA Fine Wines and Good Spirits stores have.  If you are of an age in PA, you’ll know these stores to be “state stores”.  One of the wines was Regio Cantina Donpa Aglianico del Vulture 2013.  We really got it because it had this as a description ““This initially shows funky aromas of stalky underbrush, wet soil and a whiff of damp fur that slowly blow off to reveal toast, leather and dried blackberry jam. The dense full-bodied palate evokes prune, chocolate and a hint of tobacco alongside firm tannins.”  Alas, it wasn’t nearly so odd, and I was a bit disappointed.  It is a good dark red wine though. 

That’s it.  Eat and drink well!   If you have a good roast duck recipe, let me know for my next experiment.

From the Kitchen – cake and some random musings

Back to some fun stuff.   I found a recipe for German buttercream frosting on Serious Eats, one of my favorite food sites.  This stuff is very good, not too sweet, and full of tasty tasty fat!  I recently made a spice buy at Penzey’s, my favorite socially concious spice merchant, and used my new vanilla beans.   I did end up using salted butter which was noticeable but fine on a chocolate cake, rather like the salted caramel craze.  I just used a boxed chocolate cake mix.

I honestly can’t frost a cake worth crap. but it tastes good.

This weekend we are going to return to an old recipe, the blue cheese tart.  This time we are going to grab a rotisserie chicken and add the shredded meat to the tart. Should be tasty!

I’ve been watching “The Terror” on AMC.  It’s a horror tale about the failed expedition to find the Northwest Passage back in the 1840s based on this book.  Generally I’m not big horror fan, still having nightmares from watching “Alien”.  But this show grabbed me somehow.  There’s lots of blood, cannibalized bodies, etc, but the characters are interesting.  I very much enjoyed it.  It’d make a great Cthulhu tale if one just added a few tentacles.

Short one today.  Eat and drink well!

 

 

From the Bar: a couple of new things to drink, vindaloo, and a movie

This weekend we made a chicken vindaloo.    This was from the Saveur magazine recipe and it just wasn’t quite what I had grown used to in most indian restaurants.  What the recipe produced was a chicken and potato curry stew but not much of the vinegar tang that I like in vindaloo.  So I ended up taking a can of tomato sauce (I didn’t have tomato paste) and cooking it down with a bit of balsamic vinegar to get the flavor profile I wanted.   Then it came pretty close to what I was wanting.  We had this with jasmine rice. 

We’ve also been trying some new alcohols lately.   With our Indian meal, we tried a new cream liqueur called Somrus.  This stuff is delicious!  It has a wonderful mix of cardamom, rose, and other exotics.  It’s built on a rum base.  We made a lassi and poured some in.   My spouse just poured some over a brownie, which  he has found very good.

We also tried a new wine, Macaw Tannat from Brazil.   This is a nice simple red wine.  The grape is supposedly notoriously tannic but this wasn’t bad at all.  It’s nothing complex or expensive but a decent table wine.  

We also tried a mixed six pack of beers from a local microbrewery, Howling Henry’s.   Pretty good beers, and one really odd but good one, Basil Onion Pale Ale.   This is one of the few beers I’ve had that I’d consider savory, the others being Shock Top’s Twisted Pretzel beer (alas, discontinued) and Dogfish Brewing’s Ta Henket, the Egyptian beer. This would be great in a beer bread.  

Lastly, I’ve been stressed out about work and have been hiding by watching a lot of TV.  We watched the first of the Mythica movies which was a lot of fun.  This is what D&D movies should be.   All the way around a perfectly decent sword and sorcery movie with amazingly decent CGI.  This was partly funded by a Kickstarter request.  Unfortunately, it has Kevin Sorbo in it, who has become a Christian twit in his “God is not dead” type movies, but he’s not bad looking.  In the first, he’s only on screen for about 10 minutes.

That’s all.  Eat and drink well!

 

From the Kitchen – finally that bread that I’ve been trying for a decade + to make and a dip

Well, I finally did it! (happy porcupine dance)

I made a loaf of bread that has all of the holes in it I wanted. It only took more than a decade since I’ve first started trying baking bread.

I started baking bread since I do love that smell through the house. I started baking the standard sandwich loaf that my grandmother made dozens of loaves of, being a farm wife with 5 kids and the usual helpers. She raised this family back when they were still using draft horses along with tractors.

But I wanted a holey, crispy/crunchy loaf like the French are so good at. And it took a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (publishers of Cook’s Illustrated) to make it. I will admit, I’ve made fun of them for years, wondering why someone would need to cook 50 chickens to get something right. But the method of understand and analyze does work in cooking (as it does in the sciences). I’m guessing that someday that recipe will vanish from KCET’s website, so you may have to become a member of ATK or ask me nicely to get it. 🙂  In the photos, you’ll note that a 500 degree oven just about chars parchment paper.

Yes, it take a bit of time to do. It’s worth it. We ate it with warm triple crème brie, cherry preserves and a fig and olive relish mentioned in this post.

So, tah-dah!

I also made their sticky buns and they are amazing! The use of a cooked water and flour roux, a technique from Asia called tangzhong, makes all of the difference. I’m thinking of subscribing so I can have access to all of these all of the time.

We also made queso fundido. I’ve tried this before and just can’t get the liquid texture I like in restaurant versions. So we stumbled upon Herdez Queso dip and it’s perfect. We heated it in the oven until hot, and topped it with fried chorizo (the fresh kind, not the preserved Spanish kind).

That was dinner with Fritos. I love tortilla chips, especially Xochitl brand since they are so thin, but sometimes a girl has to have her Fritos.

 

That’s all.   Eat well!

 

What the Boss Likes – Longwood Gardens (and a quick recipe)

and a bee on a lily

Across the first weekend in September, we went to Longwood Gardens, one of the estates that used to be owned by the DuPont family (the chemical people). This is one of the more famous gardens in the US and is quite beautiful. They just spent $90 million to refurbish the main fountain gardens and were having a series of fountain shows to celebrate. These shows were at night and included colored lights on the fountains, orchestral music and so many fireworks the smoke made the nearly full moon orange. That last salvo made me think of how the Battle of London must have been like.

We chose the night that was going to have the orchestral music we like, Night on Bald Mountain and other dramatic and slightly spooky pieces. I was going to write “No more shows like this for the summer” but they extended the shows! but I do hope they have similar ones next year. The gardens are supposedly fabulous at Christmas time with trees, poinsettias, and fountain shows, though I do suspect it depends on how cold it is to allow those to happen.

The gardens encompass 400 acres (lots of photos below), and some of it is just a grown over field and natural ponds, which amused both of us since we grew up on farms. We had plenty of those to walk through when we were young but they are probably pretty neat to someone who grew up in the city or suburbs. There were some bit that we couldn’t see because they had the fireworks set up in those areas and considering how the show was, it was a *LOT* of explosives.

They are definitely worth seeing if you are within a few hours of south-east/central PA, or come from father away and stay longer and see the cute town of Kennett Square, center of where a lot of mushrooms are grown in PA. We stayed in a very nice bed and breakfast, Inn at Whitewing Farm, a beautiful piece of property off the beaten path but only about 10 minutes from the gardens. We stayed in one of the rooms beside the pond. It did rain like hell for the Saturday we were there, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, and they had to reschedule the fountain show. The Inn was able to accommodate us for an extra night and we thank them mightily for doing so! When we got up early to leave Monday morning, we scared the heck out of some deer helping themselves to the birdfeeders. Just up the road from the inn is Galer Estate Winery, which had some very nice wines, drier than the usual PA sweet ones. There was also this tiny French bakery right at the intersection of E. Doe Run Road and Folly Hill Road; alas they were sold out before we got to them.

Now, before I post the photos, the quick recipe. I discovered that the chimichurri sauce we make for steak is a wonderful base for a curry of all things; that’s handy since we always have some left over.  The chimichurri has cilantro, parsley, lime, garlic and hot pepper in it, it just took a little more to make it a curry. I took a half-cup of the sauce, just added a couple of shakes of powdered cinnamon and ginger (I do love Penzey’s for my spices since they do good things), a cup of milk mixed with a ¼ cup of coconut milk powder (I get mine here: importfood.com), threw in a few of frozen raw chicken legs and cooked it until the chicken was falling off the bones.   Damn but it was good, and reminded me of a good saag paneer curry but with cilantro taking the place of the spinach…. and chicken taking place of the paneer.

It’s our chimicurry!

Photos of Longwood Gardens

 

From the Kitchen, from the Bar and from the garden: a meandering post about various things

I haven’t had a food and drink post for awhile. A handful of weeks ago we decided to see if we could grill whole Cornish hens on our small barreled shaped grill. We didn’t want to butterfly them which would be simpler, but to have a little whole chicken for each of us.

Many years ago, I was a member of a medieval recreation group called the Society of Creative Anachronism. I was friends with some folks who were part of a somewhat parallel group called the Tuchux, a group that recreated fantasy barbarians, and got their name from the rather atrocious Gor books by John Norman (very bad fantasy of a fellow who ends up on a alien planet where his fantasies of submissive women come true). They are quite a bit more egalitarian than the Gor nonsense and were some coolest people I ever met in my sojourn in the SCA (it’s been about a decade since I’ve had any contact with the SCA). At one of their Yule Feasts that I was kindly invited to, we each got a small loaf of fresh bread and a roasted Cornish hen and it was the best feast I think ever had. I wanted to recreate that.

We managed to do so by putting a pile of charcoal on both side of the grill aka indirect grilling and putting the chooks between them for about 45 minutes and then moving them over the dying coals to crisp up the skin for about 15 minutes at the end. I do recommend getting the biggest charcoal chimney as you can get because then you never have to worry about having lighter fluid or having that nasty taste on their food. We use brown craft paper to light ours since some inks smoke like crazy.

As for a recipe, all it was consisted of thawed chooks, with butter stuffed under the skin and smeared over the skin. Continue reading “From the Kitchen, from the Bar and from the garden: a meandering post about various things”