Chef's Collaborative interview

As GOOD MEAT gets closer to its publication date, the publicity machine is gearing up. See the wonderful interview Jen Ede of Chef's Collaborative posted yesterday at http://chefscollaborative.org/2010/07/27/member-spotlight-author-deborah-krasner/


December's cold

Winter came in overnight, after weeks of mild weather. The long autumn was a gift, allowing us time to get the outdoor kitchen buttoned up for winter, time to move the outdoor furniture under wraps, stack the wood, and air the mothballs out of our woolens. Most years we never get a chance to get that all done before snow flies. But now that winter is really here, I am so glad.

It's time for braising, my favorite cooking method. I've been braising rabbit a lot lately, and I have a new favorite recipe from my friend Jill's grandmother, who lived in southern Australia. Here it is:

Orange Rabbit Fricassee

Serves 4

1 rabbit, cut in pieces
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices pastured bacon, cut in batons
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup red wine
2 cups chicken, duck or turkey stock, preferably home-made
juice and grated zest of 2 oranges
1/4 cup red current jelly

to finish:
2 cups cooked rice
2 oranges, zested, peeled and segmented

Blot the rabbit and set aside. Mix the flour and salt and pepper, and roll each piece of meat in the seasoned flour. Set this aside on a plate. Set the oven to 325 degrees, and place the shelf in the center of the oven.

Heat a braising pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, and add half the olive oil. When it’s thinned and fragrant, add the bacon batons. Lower the heat and render the bacon fat. When most of the fat has rendered, after 5 minutes, add the onion and carrot and cook it down slowly, stirring as needed, until tender, another 5 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and vegetables from the pot and add the remaining olive oil. When it is thinned and fragrant, arrange the floured meat in one layer. Increase the heat back to medium, and brown the rabbit pieces on both sides, about 6-8 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan, turn off the heat, and deglaze the pan with red wine, scraping up the browned bits. Let the wine reduce by half, using the heat left in the pan. Add the stock, then fresh orange juice and orange zest, and red currant jelly. Turn heat to low and cook until jelly melts. Return the bacon and vegetables to the pot, along with the meat.

Cover tightly, making an inner parchment cover, and bake for 2 hours.

Serve with rice, sprinkling on orange zest, arranging orange segments around the perimeter of the platter.

Turkey time

Here it is November, and we have one turkey left in the freezer from last year's birds. Like all the pastured birds, it has great flavor as well as a chewier texture than industrial birds. I'm going to cook it using a recipe from the new book, rubbing it with a sweet and hot pepper paste, and then serving it with a coffee sauce. I just love this combination of flavors!

Roast Turkey with Ancho Paste and Maple Coffee Sauce
Unstuffed, simple, straight-up roast turkey, brought to surprisingly new heights with a rub of chili, then topped with an unforgettable deep maple coffee sauce. This paste is most lively if you grind the chilis and cumin yourself, but it will also work with dried ground spices. Try grating a little bitter chocolate over the turkey when you serve it.

Serves 6

1 pastured turkey, 8-9 #s
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
3 tablespoons paprika
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey

For the sauce:

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1/2 cup hot strong coffee
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Grade B dark maple syrup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, cut into small pieces

(optional) 1 tablespoon grated bitter chocolate

Bring turkey to room temperature and rinse and blot dry. Combine the spices and salt and oil and rub this paste all over the turkey, inside and out. Massage it in to every nook and cranny. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour to allow the spices to penetrate.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees and set the rack in the lower third. Arrange a roasting rack inside the roasting pan, and put the bird on it, breast side down. Roast, feet first, for about 1 hour, then turn the bird breast side up and roast until or until the internal temperature is 180 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, about 2 1/2 hours in total. If the bird starts browning too much on the breast, tent it loosely with silver foil. Baste as needed, using the fat and juices in the pan. When the bird hits 170 degrees, increase the heat to 375 degrees and pour the maple syrup or honey over the breast to give the skin a sweet glaze. Cook for another 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and let rest.

When the bird is done and resting, start the sauce. Mix the spices and sugar, coffee, Worcestershire sauce and maple syrup together in a saucepan and heat to a boil, stirring. Immediately remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Keep warm over lowest heat until ready to serve, or leave covered off the heat in a warm kitchen. Whisk again before drizzling over the turkey or passing at the table, grating the optional dark bitter chocolate over the meat on a serving platter, if desired.


Processing the birds

Last Saturday was my birthday, and it happened to be the best day to process the 40 meat birds I've been raising since May -- 25 French "Label Rouge" chickens, and 15 French guinea fowl. It took seven of us in an assembly line: one to put the bird in the killing cone and do the deed (that was Kenji, of goodeater.org), one to scald using a turkey fryer (that was Liz), one to use the antique plucker (that was me), one to eviscerate (that was Scott, who was our experienced leader), one to sort entrails into usable food and compost (that was Val, who came from Maine to help), and two inside to dry and pack the chilled birds (that was Lizzie and Adri). Michael helped us catch the birds and held birds in the cones and generally floated to help whoever was in the weeds. It was quite an experience, to raise birds from one day old to packed in the freezer for a year's worth of eating. I calculated that a roast chicken twice a month would be plenty for our needs (they are big 6 pound birds), with small guineas filling in when we wanted smaller poultry.

see Kenji's account here.


shooting pictures for my book

It took a village to shoot the pictures for my book, or at least a few good farmer friends and whole crew from New York. Photographer Marcus Nilsson, his assistant Joy, prop stylist Harry, Food stylist Victoria Granoff (alonghotsimmer.com) and her assistant Karen, and my editor Luisa Weiss (thewednesdaychef.com) constituted the New York crew, arriving with everything they needed to reproduce 30 recipes and shoot them on site. While Marcus photographed my Label Rouge meat chickens, the flock of mixed laying hens, the spotted guinea fowl and our three Icelandic sheep for the book, we also shot Pat and Bob Haas's Dexter cow and newborn calf, and Noah Hoskin's Berkshire pigs and beef cattle, along with photographs of wood piles, barn board textures, landscape and trees in full autumn color. Getting fully into the Vermont spirit, Victoria picked the last green tomatoes from Lizzie's garden, took them back to Brooklyn, and made green tomato catsup. See more here


Papperdelle with wild mushroom sauce

My friend Liz is an expert mushroom hunter, and she sometimes visits the vacations I host and takes us all out to hunt for chanterelles in the woods that border our land. I saw her a few days ago, and she gave me some chanterelles and black "trompette des mortes" mushrooms. I chopped and sauteed the wild mushrooms along with a pound of white button mushrooms in a generous mixture of butter and olive oil, a chopped shallot, and four smashed garlic cloves, along with salt and pepper. I cooked them all down very slowly over low heat for about half an hour, covered for about half the time. When they smelled irresistable, I boiled up the papperdelle ribbons and tossed them gently with the mushroom sauce. It was so wonderful, my daughter said: "Isn't this just like the mushrooms and pasta we had in Rome?" Wild mushrooms make a wet summer worthwhile.


Can you tell which steak is grassfed?

first image from www.fightfatwithfat.blogspot.com and second from www. starchaser22.blogspot.com

Take a look at the images above -- which looks more appetizing to you? I've asked a number of people which steak they would rather eat, and most choose the second steak. You can tell which piece of meat comes from a grassfed animal by looking at the color of the fat. Any large amount of visible fat is a tip-off, but the most telling sign is that yellow fat means yellow corn -- in other words, grain-finished meat. The steak on the top is conventional industrial meat; the steak on the bottom is 100% grassfed, and it shows. But it's not just the visuals that clue you in -- one bite and you'll know definitively. Grassfed beef tastes like beef, with a deep mineral flavor and a satisfying mouth feel. In contrast, grain-finished beef is soft and almost mushy, with a notable lack of flavor (that's why steak sauce was invented). Do a visual and taste test side by side, using supermarket steak and grassfed, and see, feel, and taste the difference.

Best of all, grassfed beef offers unique health benefits: high levels of CLA's (conjugated linoleic acids), vitamins, and anti-oxidants. Grassfed beef actually LOWERS high cholesterol, and has positive health benefits. (All of the studies linking high cholesterol to red meat consumption were based on industrial meat, not grassfed beef). See eatwild.com for more information on the health benefits of grassfed beef).

We have been eating entirely grassfed beef for the last few years, and our cholesterol has gone down dramatically without drugs or any other additional dietary change.


farm dinner

The potatoes, straight from the garden

We started to harvest the potatoes today. This has to be one of my favorite things to do in the garden. It is like a treasure hunt -- you feel around down into the soil, and suddenly you find lots of potatoes in all sizes from fists to fingers and marbles. This year, we planted only French fingerlings -- they are very beautiful, with a core of pink flesh. We also harvested the first ripe cherry tomatoes, some gorgeous Greyzini Zucchini (which ripen faster than traditional zucchinis), round cucumbers, and yellow onions. We just ate the last blueberries from our bush, and four peaches are ripening on the tree we planted last year. For dinner tonight, we're planning a meal made solely from foods we've raised ourselves, a first this season, because of the rainy weather.

The menu:

Steamed fingerling potatoes with olive oil, rosemary and Maine sea salt

Zucchini and onion tart in a hazelnut-thyme crust, made with our own eggs and fresh-cut bacon, adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini

Canned spiced rhubarb (I put up more than 20 jars) with Walpole Creamery ginger ice cream

Steamed Fingerling Potatoes


Birthday Lunch

Last Tuesday my mother-in-law turned 97, and in honor of her birthday, I cooked a special lunch for the whole family. It was a scorcher of a day, so I made an assortment of Moroccan mezes, along with my favorite flourless chocolate cake, and a pasta salad from my upcoming book. The salad has been one of my favorite summer meals for a very long time. Oh hot days, I serve it as a main course or a side dish at room temperature but I find it's good in winter, too, especially alongside roasted lamb.

Three or four years ago, after my youngest daughter spent time in Morocco and introduced us all to fresh mint tea, we started a mint patch in our garden. The trick to this salad is to add the fresh mint at the very last minute, after the dish has cooled to serving temperature.

Orzo Salad with Currants and Mint
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds
6 quarts boiling water
2 tablespoons kosher salt

1/2 pound orzo (also called riso)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup Zante currants

4-5 sprigs fresh mint (about ten leaves, or 1/8 - 1/4 cup when chopped fine)
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Using a small cast iron frying pan, melt the butter until it is fragrant and beginning to color and add the almonds. Cook, stirring, until the nuts brown lightly. Set aside.

Boil the orzo in the salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and put in a serving platter, and toss with the olive oil.

Put the currents in the platter along with the browned almonds. Toss well and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Taste for salt and pepper. When ready to serve, add the chopped mint and toss again.

Here it is, just before I added the mint and stirred it all together. I like to put the almonds on top of the orzo and let it sit like that as it cools -- it helps the oil to drip down and prevent the orzo from sticking.


baby birds

Two of the Guinea Fowl, days after they arrived

Last year was the first year I tried raising a mixed flock of meat birds inside electric poultry netting. We had chicken, turkeys, geese, ducks and guinea fowl and they all tasted delicious. This year, we decided to go with a less diverse flock, keeping them in a poultry tractor that we move every day.

My meat birds were born on July 22, and the next day 25 colored ranger chickens and 15 French Guinea fowl arrived at my local post office in two small perforated cardboard boxes. I chose a new-to-the-US breed, Colored Ranger Chickens (called "Label Rouge" in France), because they are supposed to do better on pasture than the usual White Cornish Crosses. The problem with Cornish birds is that they are the Dolly Parton's of the poultry world -- bred for lots of breast meat balanced on weak little legs. Cornish don't even thrive well under factory conditions (but they gain weight fast, so the mortality rate is acceptable to such producers). When they live on grass, however, they fall over easily, break their legs, or otherwise can't thrive in a natural environment. It is a problem that lots of backyard farmers find very frustrating. These Colored Rangers are new to the United States and I was happy to find them here I got 25 for two reasons: first, they are the minimum order, and second, I figured 25 chickens in the freezer would be a year's worth of roast chicken dinners and stock. I am planning to process them here on the farm this October, with the aid of an acquaintance with more experience, and am planning to keep all of the necks and feet for stock, the innards for paté and the birds themselves for roasting whole.

French Guinea Fowl are larger and meatier than other guineas. While I got these birds mostly to control the tick population in our fields (they eat the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease), I also wanted them to do double-duty as meat birds. We'll be processing all of these birds at about twelve weeks.

I found the design for a chicken tractor online (a portable cage for the birds, which allows them to eat the grass without being in danger of attacks by predators). We put it together in about four hours, at a cost of $150.00. The birds, who are growing visibly every day, are inside it now, having been under a heat lamp for their first two weeks. We move the tractor every day onto a new patch of grass recently vacated by the sheep, and keep them supplied with organic feed and water. As I drag the tractor one length along the grass, the birds walk along inside at the same pace as I drag it. They get really excited as soon as they land on a new patch of grass, and immediately begin chirping and exploring. When you look back at the grass they have been on before, you can really see how much they've eaten it down in just twenty four hours. They also process the sheep droppings and fertilize the soil, depositing their manure at a rate that the soil can absorb.