Monday, March 21, 2011

Coq a Vin and Caesar(ish) Salad. Happy Birthday to Me!

This is my new year’s resolution.  Okay, I’m a few months late, but today is the fist full day of spring.  The equinox means rebirth.   The days start getting longer than the nights, and things can start to grow again.  It’s also my birthday, so it’s the start of my personal new year.  That all sounds more significant to me than midnight on a cold night in winter.  Usually, all I feel on New Years Eve is sadness and annoyance over the fact that I will waste many checks over the next few weeks by putting the wrong date on them!

So, this is my new year’s resolution: to eat locally, to support local farmers and businesses, to reduce my carbon foot print by limiting the distance my food needs to travel to get to my table, and, hopefully, to eat healthier.  I’m already a pretty healthy eater, but there’s always room for improvement.

I don’t plan for a 100% success rate.  In fact, there are things I already know I won’t be eating locally.  Seafood, for example... “But Kate, you live in Milwaukee WI on the beautiful, pristine shores of Lake Michigan.  Can’t you just go out and catch all the fresh fish you can eat?”  How do I spell the sound of my eyes rolling?  There are a few local fish farms where I can get trout, perch, and tilapia, but I like salmon.  And shrimp.  And tuna.  And I’m not finding any of those things around here.  I do, however, have a local fish market.  The same thing goes for spices.  I may not be able to find locally grown Cinnamon, but I can go to my local spice market and still support local business.  There are even things that I know I can find locally that I just might not... like wine.  I’m a wine snob.  Deal with it.  But, again, I have a local wine store that is awesome, so I can still support local business even if my grapes were grown in Spain and France.

I guess I should clarify the point of my experiment.  The point is not to restrict my diet.  I have, in the past, had food and body related issues, and I have found that saying you MAY NOT eat this, that, or whatever, tends to magnify those issues.  My point is only to find as much as I can locally, and to build my meals around that.

So, if you are looking for an militant page demanding that you only eat food grown in your back  yard, and suggesting you raise your own chickens and go without anything you can’t find at your local farmer’s market, this blog is not for you.  But, if you are simply looking for some (hopefully) tasty recipes using local, seasonal ingredients, then share in my journey to becoming a locavore!

Oh, and if you have suggestions for local (within 100 miles of Milwaukee, WI) farms and businesses that you think I should be supporting, please let me know!

Today’s dinner:

Coq a Vin:
(makes 4 servings.  Or, in my house, two dinner servings and about 3 lunches)
I modified this recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Chicken Cookbook

  • olive oil (not local)
  • 6 small shallots (sadly, not local.  None at the Winter Farmer’s Market this week.  But, I did get these from my local Co-Op, so I feel like that should count for something...)
  • 2 large garlic cloves (Local!  But, sadly, the last of what I got from the final fall farmer’s market.  I wasn’t planning for this then.)
  • ½ lb fresh mixed mushrooms (from the Winter Farmer’s Market:
  • 1 chicken, cut into serving pieces (from my chicken man.  Seriously, I have a chicken man.  He delivers chickens and eggs to my house every Sunday.  It is awesome!)
  • ¼ cup brandy (not local... but WI does drink the most brandy per capita of anyone else in the world.  Based on what Internet site I look it, it appears WI accounts for anywhere from 14-90% of the worlds total brandy consumption.  90% seems a little high... but I have been known to put away a few Brandy Old Fashioneds.)
  • 2 cups quality, dry red wine.  (Not local.  I used “Our Daily Red” California Table Wine.  Just make sure you only cook with wine you would want to drink.  Gross wine will make your cooking gross as well.)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (local-ish... I made this stock right around Christmas.  It would have been made from local leftover chicken parts, but probably not much else local.  It was, however, the last cup I had in the freezer, so I will be making more probably next weekend.)
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste (Not local.  Is this something I can make myself?  An adventure for another day.)
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme (Not local.  But, the snow is melted in my back yard and maybe my thyme plant will start growing soon.  Note to self, move some to a pot so you can bring it inside and use it all winter!)
  • ¼ lb thick sliced bacon (local!)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter (local!)
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour (not local, although I think I saw some local flour once at the co--op.  Will absolutely look into that once this bag is gone.
  • 6-8 small to medium potatoes - preferably Yukon gold or red - cut into bite sized wedges.  (I used local Yukon golds!)
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder

Slice your bacon into 1” slices.  In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until crispy.  I like to use my large stir-fry style pan because then I can just do the whole recipe in one pan.  You can also use a large dutch oven, but I like the room and low sides of a large frying pan.  Once crispy, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon.  Add shallots to bacon fat and saute until lightly browned.  About two minutes before the shallots are done, add the garlic.  Once shallots are browned (about 6 minutes total) add the mushrooms and continue to saute until they give off their liquid and most of the liquid has evaporated from the pan.  Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.  Season the chicken all over with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder, or whatever you like to season your chicken with.  Brown the chicken in batches, being careful not to crowd.  You may need to add olive oil throughout the chicken browning process, as the mushrooms probably sucked up all of the delicious, delicious bacon fat.  Once all of the chicken has been browned, take the pan off of the heat and return all of the chicken pieces to it.  Pour brandy over the chicken, and flambe!  (If this scares you, feel free to skip it.  It adds a nice boozy flavor to the recipe, but is certainly not necessary.)  Once the flames subside, transfer all of the chicken to a platter or baking dish, cover, and set aside.

Use red wine to deglaze the pan.  Add stock, tomato paste, and thyme, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Return the chicken to the pot and cover tightly.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and is very tender.  You could probably go as short as 20-30 minutes, but I like to cook it for about 45 minutes to an hour.  I have also made this recipe in the crock pot with modifications.

During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the bacon and vegetables.  Once chicken is done cooking, remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover to keep warm.  Skim as much fat as you can off of the surface of the liquid.  

In a medium bowl, mash together the flour and butter to make a roux.  Whisk about ½ a cup of the cooking liquid into the roux, and then whisk everything back into the cooking liquid (this helps prevent lumps).  Allow sauce to boil gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened into a sauce - about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Return the chicken and vegetables to the pot, and stir to coat with the sauce.

Serve over boiled potatoes.  Before serving, toss potatoes in melted butter, salt, pepper, and thyme.

 Caesar(ish) Salad

(makes croutons and dressing for about 6 salads)

modified (a lot) from the Williams-Sonoma Salad Cookbook

I understand this is not a classic Caesar salad.  But it’s still good.  If it angers you, don’t make it.

  • 2 cups cubed day-old (or older) bread (local!)
  • 3 tbsp plus up to ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil (not local)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic (very last of the local garlic)
  • 2 herring fillets, plus additional for serving (okay, yes.  I know herring is not anchovies.  But they are in the same family.  And no, there is no herring “grown” in WI, but we are home to Ma Baensch, producer of many varieties of herring.  And those products use local WI products (like sour cream, etc.).  So, Caesar salad purists, go ahead and judge me, but I thought it was quite good!)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (not local.  But you could have guessed that considering I don’t live in Worcestershire...)
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar (local!  Yes, I found local red wine vinegar.  And other kinds of vinegar too.  A very exciting find.)
  • mixed greens (local.  Spinach from the farmer’s market and mixed “winter greens” from a local greenhouse.)
  • 1 egg (local, from my chicken man!)
  • Parmesan Cheese (local)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet.  Crush and mince two cloves garlic, and saute it gently in the 3 tablespoons olive oil, to flavor the oil.  Brush oil over cubes, and sprinkle cubes with salt and pepper.  Place in the oven to toast, turning once or twice until golden, about 15 minutes total.  Remove cubes from sheet and allow to cool.  This will probably create more croutons than you need, but they save fairly well in an air-tight bag in the fridge.

Crush the remaining 2 cloves garlic with salt to make a paste.  (I used my mortar and pestle, which I NEVER use, so it was really exciting.  You could also probably use a food processor.)  Crush the 2 herring fillets into the paste.  Whisk in the Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, egg, and ½ tsp pepper.   Slowly whisk in olive oil until it is the consistency you want. This may make more dressing than you need but, again, it will save.  Due to the raw egg, it probably shouldn't be kept more than a week.  Also, disclaimer disclaimer, raw egg can be hazardous to your health.  Do some research on the Internet before eating it.  If you don’t want to eat a raw egg, just leave it out of the dressing.  If you get sick it's not my fault!

Place mixed greens into bowls.  Toss with dressing and top with shaved Parmesan and croutons.  

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