Friday, April 17, 2009

Roasting Chickens

Roasted chickens are a common staple in my cooking on the farm - I prepare them a lot. So there will be a lot in the future on this subject. I will repeat over-and-over again how fabulous these chicken are, so I make them for selfish reasons as well as good nourishment for the crew. YUM!!! I have roasted so many chicken over the years (all of them JenEhr's) and I have tried many "tricks". Everyone that I meet has a different way - which has been claimed by the owner as "the best". I have found a way that works for me - a very simple way. I have a two-year-old, so I do not have the luxury of checking in on my bird every 15 minutes. So, I like to turn on the oven and let it go. Also, the less mess the better. And, I have found that cooking at temperatures higher than 375 degrees leaves me with a pan that needs hours/days of soaking. And now to the bondage of the bird - to truss or not to truss. To truss means binding its legs and wings to the body. I perform a "simple" truss on all my chickens - it cooks evenly.

As I look at the menu one thing that pops out at me is that I am using a lot of ingredients that have been "cold stored". I like to eat what is in season. For many reasons: it is fresh, has so much more flavor, and I can find it locally. Here in Wisconsin eating locally is very limited in the winter. So, storing food properly ensures that one can eat local food throughout the winter. Of course I have not figured out how to do this exclusively so I do have to supplement with produce farther than the "eat-within-a-100-mile-radius". In January I start day dreaming of local grown swiss chard.

For this menu I have used cabbage, rutabaga and apples that have survived the winter by cold storing. The cabbage (pictured right, the cabbage on the left has had a few layers removed) looked very scary. It looks rotten on the outside. But, just peel back a few layers and a beautiful cabbage makes its appearance. As for the rutabaga - they are looking a little for the wear and somewhat soft to the touch. I cut off each end, peel them, cut them into "french-fry" sized pieces and soaked them in water. After about 15 minutes that were hard to the touch. Voila!! The apples are from Future Fruit Farm, a CSA that I belonged to in the fall. Ellen and her family grow heirloom apples, crab apples (my favorite), plums and pears. I am big fan of these delicate offerings. I originally signed up because I wanted to feed my son organic apples after I learned that they are #2 in the "dirty dozen". The "dirty dozen" are the top 12 fruits/vegetable that consistently have the highest pesticide contamination. I didn't want him to be consuming pesticides. But, I will save this topic for another day, on to the task at hand, the apples.... I have been successful at storing my apples in my crisper throughout the winter. I am down to a few, so I brought them along to make the apple dessert. I usually make this in the fall when apples are abundant. Plus, the "spice" is great on an crisp fall day. So, you will see this repeated then. I decided this time to add the maple syrup to the icing - apples and maple syrup are two flavors that go together well.

Canning is also a useful way of preserving for the winter. Last year I was in a canning frenzy. I pickled anything and everything I could get my hands on. (So, be prepared for a many canning tips when the summer comes.) I try to use everything. "Waste not..." Especially in these tough times, it is always good to stretch everything. I finished off a jar of pickles and I thought there had to be a use for the delicious dilly juice. These type of things work great in salad dressings. There is an acid component in vinaigrette so I thought I could find a place for it somewhere. And I did - the coleslaw, problem solved.

Okay, I have rambled on enough. Here is the menu/recipes:

Basic Focaccia
Green Cabbage Coleslaw with Pickle Juice Dressing
Roasted Rutabaga - Faux Fries
JenEhr Roasted Chickens
Apple Spice Cake with Quick Maple Icing

adapted from The Joy of Cooking
1 T. instant dry yeast
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. olive oil
1 T. salt
1 T. sugar
1 1/3 c. warm water

1/3 cup olive oil
kosher salt
thyme, rosemary or zatar

Stir together flour and yeast. Add 2 T. olive oil, sugar and salt. Make a well in the bowl. Add the water. Mix together. until all the ingredients are blended. Knead for about 10 minutes. Transfer dough to a light greased (with olive oil) bowl. Turn it over once to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75 - 80 degrees F) until it doubles in volume, about 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
Lightly grease a large baking dish. Place the dough in the dish and spread it out with your hands to all corners evenly. Poke the top with your fingers to form small divots. drizzle the 1/3 cup olive oil around the top, smear with your fingers to cover evenly. Cover with plastic and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles again, about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Sprinkle the kosher salt and desired seasonings on top of the risen bread. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 - 40 minutes. The bread will pull away from the side, have a golden top and should sound hollow when tapped. Remove the bread from the pan an let cool completely on a rack. I use a large spatula to help remove from the pan by lifting out one side and getting my hand underneath the bread.

Green Cabbage Coleslaw with Pickle Juice Dressing
1 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 bunch of green onion tops/chives

c. dill pickle juice
1/4 c. cider vinegar
2 T. poppy seeds
1 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 t. sweet paprika
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
1 - 1/2 c. canola oil

Combine the cabbage, carrots and chives. Set aside

In a blender (or with a hand blender) blend e first 8 ingredients (pickle juice - salt and pepper) until smooth. While the bllender is running slowly drizzle in 1 cup of the canola oil. Taste, if it is too tart slowly add more of the oil. Taste, season with more salt and pepper if needed. Set aside.

10 minutes before serving pour on 1/2 of the dressing, toss. Add more dressing until covered to your liking.

Roasted Chicken

Today I did a very plain roasted chicken - just salt and pepper. You can use any herb/seasoning of your liking.

1 whole chicken - mine usually are 4-6 lbs.
1/4 cup canola oil
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F with the rack in the center of the oven. Rinse and clean out anything that may be in the cavity. Pat dry and truss with butchers string. Combine the oil, salt and pepper. Place bird breast side up in a shallow roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush or rub on the oil mixture all over the bird. Bake for 1 hour - 1 hour 20 minutes. To test if the bird is done, place an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and it should read 170 - 175 degree F. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 - 15 minutes. Do not cut into the bird any sooner, or you will loose all your wonderful juices. Also, do not tent/cover the bird when it is resting or that wonderful golden skin will become soggy.

Roasted Rutabaga - Faux "fries"

6 rutabagas, peeled (optional) and cut into french-fry size pieces
1/4 c. canola
2 t.dried thyme
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl toss the above ingredients until coated. Spread the rutabagas out on a baking sheet. Roast until tender, stirring occasionally, about 40 - 50 minutes. Taste one, add more salt and pepper if needed.

They will not be as crispy as french fries, but they will be tasty.

If you can not find rutabagas, substitute potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Apple Spice Cake with Quick Maple Icing
from The Joy of Cooking

You can make this cake without the icing (if you do not want the sugar rush).

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. packed light or dark brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 t. brandy (optional)
1 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped apples (they do not need to be peeled)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour on 8 x 8-inch pan or line the bottom with wax or parchment paper. Whisk first 7 ingredients (flour - salt) in a large bowl, pinching out any lumps in the brown sugar. In another bowl add the milk, oil, rum and vanilla and stir together until smooth. Stir in the apples. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake 40 - 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 min. Slide a knife around the pan to detach from the pan. Invert the cake and peel of the paper lining (if using). Let cool right side up on the rack.

2 c. powdered sugar, sift if lumpy
1 T. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
3 - 4 T. milk
1/3 - 1/2 c. pure maple syrup

In a medium bowl, beat together on medium speed the sugar, butter, vanilla, salt and milk. While beating, gradually add the syrup until spreadable. Spread the icing on the cake when it has cooled.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First Day Back At The Farm

Finally the snow has melted and spring is in the air! The staff at the farm has been working hard, and I have the pictures to show their efforts. This is just one of the many hoop houses.

I have returned for another season as Staff Chef, cooking for the crew of JenEhr farm on Mondays and Fridays. This is quite a fun job that I have. I show up at the farm and rummage through the "pack shed" for what has recently been harvested. Sometimes with knife in hand, I trek out to a hoop house. And, occasionally one of the eager staff "mates" will bring me in something he/she has just picked, either on his/her own or as a request from me. I then prepare lunch for the staff, which includes dessert. Sometimes I come armed with ideas/recipes and sometimes I just "wing it". I am lucky, the staff is always famished from working since early morning and will eat just about anything, and everything that I prepare. They are such "sports" for trying all my experiments.

I am so excited to be back. And, I was so excited to actually find produce in the pack shed. Yes, lots of produce. Lucky me!!! The produce that Megan brought into me, that was just harvested, consisted of sorrel, greens from the napa family, green garlic (pictured right), and French breakfast radishes. Onions, garlic, cabbage and rutabaga awaited me in the hoop house. Here in Wisconsin one has to rely on proper cold storage to save things from the fall season.

I will post the menu and recipes for what I prepared for the day. I am cooking for a "crowed", but, I will adjust and post the recipes to feed 4. If it is more or less I will state that at the end of each recipe.

There are a few things that I am highlighting today:

1. Sugar River Dairy Yogurt - Sugar River Dairy is a family-owned and operated farm in Albany, WI that produces yogurt from cows that are pasture-grazed and rBGH-free. You can pick it up around town at many locations or farmer's markets. I can't find a website for them at the moment - but when I do I will post it for all to see.

2. Frozen tomatoes - What? That is what I said the first time I was told "we have frozen tomatoes in the freezer that you can use." But, it is a great way to preserve fresh tomatoes in the summer. Just freeze them whole. Then when you use them, just run them under water and the skins peel off magically. They are great for braises because they break down beautifully, and what flavor.

3. JenEhr Farm - I can not forget this fabulous farm. This is where I prepare these meals on Mondays and Fridays. For all information regarding the farm check out the website This website will explain it all.

4. JenEhr chickens - these fellas are pasture- raised. They eat stuff on/in the ground, as well as their custom made feed (that does not contain GMOs or animal byproducts). They get to bask in the sun. They get to walk around. They get to socialize on their own terms, not because they are forced to share a "cell" with others. Oh, and they get a different view of the farm everyday, since their cages are moved daily. The texture or the meat is firm and the flavor is amazing. The bonus, the stock that I make from these "guys" is incredible - very gelatinous. I always save my bones, I usually have a bag-of-bones in the freezer that I add to, waiting for when I have an afternoon to read and make stock.

Today's Menu

Chilled Spring-Greens Soup
Tossed Salad with Curry Sorrel Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
Roasted Cabbage
Tomato/Onion/Garlic Braised Chicken with White Beans and Green Garlic
Pound Cake Topped with Blueberries and Sugar River Dairy Vanilla Yogurt

Chilled Spring-Greens Soup adapted from Seasonal Food by Susannah Blake

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups vegetable stock
3 large handfuls spinach, roughly chopped
1 large handful arugula, roughly chopped
2 large handfuls sorrel, roughly chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and ground pepper black pepper to taste

Place the potatoes and stock in a large pot, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender.Add the spinach, arugula, sorrel, simmer covered for about 2 minutes until the greens are wilted.

In batches, pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. DO NOT fill the blender more that half full, remove the small stopper in the lid and cover the top/lid with a towel, put your hand on the towel. Start with a low speed and work your way up slowly to the fasted speed. (Hot soup expands when you blend it and if you do not follow these tips hot soup might spray all over your kitchen). Pour soup into a large bowl. Stir in wine and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool, and then place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Tossed Salad with Curry Sorrel Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

French breakfast radishes - washed and sliced
greens - washed and dried
tops from green garlic - sliced thinly

6 sorrel leaves
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 t. honey
2 T. poppy seeds
1 t. curry powder
dash of salt
3/4 cup of canola oil

In a blender, blend the first 6 ingredients. Take the stopper out of the blender top. Slowly drizzle the oil in the blender while it is running. Taste, if it is too tart drizzle in more oil. Set aside.

Roasted Cabbage

1/2 large cabbage, or 1 small cabbage, thinly sliced
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange cabbage in a oven safe casserole dish. Cover cabbage with 1/3 cup water. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 -40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Test if done poking with a knife.

Tomato, Onion, Garlic
Braised Chicken with White Beans and Green Garlic

1 whole JenEhr chicken, cut in 8 pieces
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup canola oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
12 whole frozen tomatoes (or 12 tomatoes, skinned or 1 large can of whole tomatoes)
1 bay leaf
2 t. dried oregano
1/2 bag of dried white beans, cooked thoroughly (or 1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed)
1 green garlic - thinly sliced
salt and pepper

Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper, knock off any excess flour. On the stove top heat a large skillet on medium high heat. When the pan is hot add the canola oil. When the canola oil is hot carefully place the chicken pieces in the skillet. Let them brown on one side and then turn to brown the other side. Remove chicken from the pan. If there are any BLACK pieces (brown pieces are good) wipe them from the pan. Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Turn the heat down to medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent - about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, oregano, bay leaf and chicken and cook for 60 minutes, uncovered, at a low simmer. After 40 minutes add the green garlic. If it boils turn the heat down. After 60 minutes add the cooked beans. Cook for 5 minutes more. Remove the bay leaf.

For individual plating: Put a small portion of the cabbage in the middle of the plate, place a piece of the chicken, then spoon the tomato sauce on and around the plate. Enjoy.

Note: The beans were great in this dish. I have made this many times in the past for the crew without the beans or the green garlic.

Cake with Blue-
berries and Sugar River Dairy Vanilla Yogurt

adapted from The Joy of Cooking

2 cups sifted flour (the original recipe called for cake flour, I used bread flour and
it turned out fine, so your choice - use what you have)
5 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract
1 t. grated lemon zest
1 t. grated orange zest
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 t. salt

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 T. orange or lemon zest

1 cup Sugar River Dairy Vanilla Yogurt (or other vanilla yogurt of your choosing)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour on 9 x 5-inch loaf pan or line the bottom with wax or parchment paper

Whisk together in a medium bowl: eggs, vanilla, almond extract, zests. Beat butter in a large bowl until creamy. Gradually add sugar and salt to the butter. Scrape the side of the bowl and beat on high speed until lightened in color and texture, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually dribble in the egg mixture about 1 T. at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the flour in 3 parts, beating on low speed until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 1 hour - 1 hour 10 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Slide a knife around the cake to detach it from the pan. Invert the cake and peel off the paper liner, if using. Let cool right side up on the rack.

While the cake is baking stir together the blueberries, sugar and zest. Set aside.

Slice the pound cake in 1/2 inch slices. Place a slice or two on a place. Place a couple of spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt on top of the cake and top with a few spoonfuls of the berries. Enjoy.