Thursday, June 26, 2008

Beer Can Chicken


We just demolished almost an entire whole chicken (Back Forty Acres, of course) which I prepared in the time-honored way of chicken a la redneck, in other words, a chicken with an aluminum beer can shoved up its...! In this case the vintage brew of choice was Budweiser, the grill was Weber, and the dry rub was fragrant.

That bird came off the grill smelling of heaven. I couldn't even wait the dictated 10 minutes before performing the can extraction procedure. The chicken was sliced, diced, and parsed between the three of us (accompanied by roasted red potatoes with olive oil and fresh rosemary and a salad of mixed greens from Tantré Farm) and we set to devouring, and devour we did. The skin was perfectly crisped, the meat juicy, tender, and full of flavor. Ever the model of decorum, I pried the meat from the bone with knife and fork until my baser instincts took over and I cast them aside to take hold of the leg with my bare hands and tear the shreds with my teeth in a savage display of carnivorousness (is that even a word?). I didn't care; no one was watching and this was some of the best damn chicken I've ever eaten. Once dinner was finished we clustered around what was left of the chicken to pick it clean, digging around the skeleton to extract every last shred of flesh. I still have paprika under my fingernails.

Beer Can Chicken (from Weber's Big Book of Grilling):
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp granulated onion
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 whole chicken, 4 to 5 pounds ( the one I used tonight was 3.6 lbs)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 16-ounce can of beer (we used a standard 12-oz can because our chicken was smaller)
In a small bowl combine the dry rub ingredients. Remove and discard the neck, giblets, and any excess fat (if present) from the chicken. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Rub all over with a small amount of vegetable oil and season inside and out with the dry rub.

Open the beer can and pour off (or drink!) half the beer. Set the half-full can on a flat surface and slide the chicken over the top so the can fits inside the body cavity. Transfer the bird to the grill, keeping the can upright, and carefully balance it on its two legs and the can. Grill over indirect medium heat until the juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 170 deg F in the breast and 180 deg F in the thigh, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours (depending on bird size). Carefully remove the chicken and can from the grill (don't spill the beer). Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before lifting it from the can. Discard the hot beer. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bounty of the Earth

The contents of my Week 4 share box. Usually I post about each share after I've made some things from the vegetables within, but this week it was all too pretty to just divide into bags and stick in the fridge.

I think...I'm going to make myself a gin smash with some of that fragrant spearmint and contemplate what I can make for dinner tonight.

Just Beet It (Tantré Farm Week 4)

Beets, beets, the musical root, the more you eat, the more you...wait a minute...wrong plant.

Yes, this was the first week beets were included in my farm share box. Having never once eaten beets in my entire life (as far as I know), I had no preconceived prejudice against their taste; indeed, the only things I knew of beets were 1) the pickled and canned ones look kind of gross and 2) their juice will stain everything. More on that in a bit.

I saw, somewhere, a recipe for a roasted beet and goat cheese salad. I can get behind anything that involves goat cheese. I couldn't remember where I had seen said recipe, but a search of the food blogs in my Google Reader lineup yielded this recipe from 64 Square Ft Kitchen. It wasn't the exact one I had my vague memory of, but looked even better. How can you go wrong with roasted shallots, toasted almonds and a honey-lemon juice dressing? I also decided to whip up a quick side dish of wilted beet greens with sesame seeds. Might as well eat the whole beet, right?

Beets and shallots and olive oil, oh my! (And don't forget the salt and pepper!)

Trying to stay loyal to the local!

Can this really be called a salad? I could have eaten this delicious dish as my entire meal.

As for the beet greens:



And sautéed.

Sesame Beet Greens (recipe from the Tantré Farm Week 3 Newsletter or Learning to Eat Locally):
  • Greens from 4 to 6 beets, cut off 1 inch from root
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
Rinse and dry beet greens. Slice them across the stem into 1-inch strips. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, sesame seeds, and about half of the greens. Add soy sauce and the rest of the greens. Cook, stirring, until greens have wilted and stems are tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Now, back to my observation that beet juice will stain everything. And I do mean everything. I managed to avoid getting beet juice on me (a miracle) or anything else on Monday night, the night I made the salad. However...this morning after my run...when I used the bathroom...well, let's just say if I didn't know I had eaten beets recently, I would have thought I was undergoing a catastrophic internal hemorrhage.

You learn something new every day!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Picture of Porcine Perfection

These are sausage patties I made (yes, using my own two hands) using the ground pork from "our hog" from Back Forty Aces. Bacon is visible as well.

I served these for brunch on Father's Day as accompaniment to a massive spinach fritatta I made using the rest of the spinach and green onions from last week's farm share as well as a full dozen eggs from Back Forty (chill, people; there were seven of us who ate the fritatta).

The sausage patties were fabulous. I think the breakfast sausage from the Chelsea Market may have met its match.

Italian Farmhouse Sandwiches (Tantré Farm: Week 3)

As soon as I saw "arugula" on the list of items I was to receive in my share this week the first thing I thought was "farmhouse sandwiches!" Italian Farmhouse Sandwiches are a long-time favorite in my family. Who can argue with open-face sandwiches redolent of garlic and piled high with fresh vegetables and savory meat? I don't even know where the original recipe came from. This is one of those things that is ridiculously easy, requires almost no preparation, and is so good. It's perfect for a hot summer night when you just don't want to turn on the stove or oven because you don't have to cook anything. All you need are a couple of serving platters, a toaster, and you're good to go.

It starts with bread. Big, crusty slices of bread, in this case, Zingerman's Rustic Italian. Big round loaves of white bread make the best foundation.

Other essential ingredients:
Toast the bread slices, then take a garlic clove and rub it all over the hot bread. Drizzle some olive oil on it if you like. Then...stack! It doesn't matter how or what you put on it. Improvise. Be creative. There's no wrong way to put one of these together. There's something for everyone. I like to do one vegetable-centric and one meat-centric slice (and maybe one more if I'm really hungry...somehow that seems to happen a lot with these sandwiches). Of course the fresh arugula from Tantré was a featured ingredient and boy was it fantastic. I piled my sandwiches high with arugula. The basil was snipped from my herb garden not 15 minutes before we sat down to eat.

Ingredients: Demolished!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Crazy Week

I have not been una buona forchetta this week. My farm share is sitting mostly untouched in the fridge. I haven't cooked dinner at home since Monday. Opera rehearsal/performances are kicking my butt! However, John picked up the chickens from Back Forty Acres yesterday so now we have five broilers in our deep freezer. I want to make a whole roast chicken on the grill tomorrow when my parents are visiting as well as the spinach fritatta to end all spinach fritattas for brunch on Sunday.

Sunday is also my last opera performance so next week things will be back to normal.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mustard Seed & Thyme Pork Chops (aka The Pig Has Landed)

Thursday evening we picked up our half hog from Back Forty Acres. 98 pounds of pure porcine pleasure now fill our freezer to the brim. Last night it was time to test (taste?) drive the pig.

All rubbed up and nowhere to go but the grill.

Mustard Seed and Thyme Dry Rub (from Weber's Big Book of Grilling):
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
This is our favorite dry rub for pork. I usually quadruple the recipe and keep it in a small container for instant deployment whenever grilled pork is on the menu. It is delicious. The mustard seeds pop and crackle upon contact with the hot grill grates, releasing a heavenly toasty aroma. The cayenne pepper provides just the right amount of spicy heat.

I confess this is why I could never be a vegetarian. It tasted as good as it looked.

To go with our pork I made roasted potatoes (red potatoes, quartered; olive oil, salt, black pepper, and minced fresh rosemary; toss, arrange on baking sheet, roast for 35-40ish minutes at 400 degrees) and yet another batch of roasted asparagus (seriously, I could eat it with every meal). I made salads using lettuce, radishes, and chopped lemon sorrel, all from this week's farm share.

Gaze upon perfection!

We had our meal with a 2003 Pietra Santa (Cienega Valley, California) Sangiovese.

The pork was tender, juicy, and sweet, the potatoes brown and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the asparagus delicious as usual, and the salad cool and refreshing. There was candlelit ambiance (visible in above photo) and familial merriment. The wine flowed freely (as it always does). We ended the evening with a trip to the Common Grill for dessert.

The catastrophe of Meltdown '08, while still a very sore spot on my heart, did free up the space needed in our deep freezer to accommodate our half hog. And what a hog it is! Pork chops, pork steaks, ribs, hams, shoulder, hocks, bacon, loin roast, liver, and heart. We had the chops last night and bacon this morning for breakfast. Bacon the likes of which I have never seen. I made fun of John for his preferred thickness of 3/16-inch but let me tell you these thick-cut slabs, fried in our cast-iron pan, were so good I probably could have eaten the entire 8-slice package by myself. When John opened it to lay out the slices in the pan, she said, "If I could be in love with meat this would be it."

This Thursday we are also getting 5 broiler chickens from Back Forty Acres. When we were at the farm last week, Stephanie Doll showed us the pasture pens where the broilers live. Somewhere in that crowd of chickens are 5 that will soon be inhabiting our freezer, united once more with their friend the pig from the same farm. Come October we will be getting half a lamb from them, a lamb which I saw with my own eyes. I also saw the laying hens responsible for the eggs currently residing in my fridge. Talk about knowing where one's food comes from. I've shaken hands (and even shared beers with) the people responsible for our beef, pork, vegetables, eggs, and soon to be poultry and lamb. There is something that feels so good, so right about this connection.

Tantré Farm: Week 2

A picture worth a thousand bites.

This leafy bounty brought to you courtesy of my Week 2 share box. The above is composed of green and red leaf lettuces and will provide me with my work lunches all week. A couple big handfuls of this mix, some sliced radishes, homemade low-fat salad dressing, and I have the best-tasting salad in town.

This week's share continued the leafy greens theme of last week:
  • spinach
  • broccoli raab
  • lettuce
  • braising mix
  • radishes
  • green onions
  • garlic scapes
  • lemon sorrel
Wednesday I had less than an hour to throw together something for dinner before I had to go to opera rehearsal. I invented something on the spot that turned out surprisingly well. I sauteéd some onions and garlic in olive oil, added a splash of chicken broth, put the entire bunch of broccoli raab into the pan, covered it, and allowed the greens to wilt. I added the braising mix, spinach, and some chopped-up garlic scapes. By that time the whole-wheat penne was finished, so I threw it on top of the pile of greens and let the heat of the pasta wilt the spinach. A bit of tossing to get everything mixed and I had a lovely healthy dinner with plenty of time to spare before I had to leave.

This morning for brunch I made another vegetable frittata, using spinach, green onions, shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, and some of the lovely brown eggs from Back Forty Acres. Completing our wonderful brunch was bacon from our Back Forty Acres hog and Zingerman's Whole Wheat Farmhouse bread. Talk about a locally-derived meal. The only foods from outside a very tight circle were the shallots and sun-dried tomatoes. If I had left those out, everything we ate for breakfast this morning came from within 20 miles of here, with two sources only 10 minutes away (Tantré and Back Forty, which incidentally are about 2 miles apart).

I'm feeling pretty good about the food I'm putting on my table these days.