Saturday, August 14, 2010

Meal Plan: August 15 - 21


Roasted Chicken Breast and Potatoes with Carrots, Onions and Garlic

Eggplant Parmesan

Margarita's for Scott's Birthday!

Leftover Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches with homemade french fries

Pasta with Chicken, Vegetables and Garlic


Monday, August 9, 2010

Blueberry picking... and picking and picking

We added 9 half pints of blueberry jam to our pantry today with more to come. I used the low-sugar recipe from and it is INCREDIBLE. You just can't go wrong with their instructions. We spent the latter half of the morning at the Darling Farm in Canaan, VT. The Darlings have been in their home and blueberry farm for 14 years and raise 15 varieties of blueberries and produce their own maple syrup. I had no idea there were some many different kinds of blueberries! Mrs. Darling encouraged us to "mix it up" when picking for for pies, jams and freezing because a hodgepodge of Patriots, Blue Jays, Spartans and the like would enhance the overall flavor. But, she cautioned, only pick Northlands for muffins or scones. They are smaller and will hold baked goods together better.

We arrived with each of us outfitted with our own yogurt container necklace ready to fill them up. Mrs. Darling smiled and handed us 2-quart cans with strong plastic twine. I am sure she could tell that we have mostly been "recreational" harvesters up until now. Well if that were the case, the Darling Farm is a professionally maintained playing field. There were rows and rows of bushes perfectly spaced and the berries were SO abundant. In two hours we picked over 11 pints of berries, half the amount we ultimately want for eating, canning, freezing and baking between now and next season. They're falling fast so we plan to head out again tomorrow.

One thought on harvest-outings. I have realized that fruit-picking should be approached much like a trip to one of the north side beaches on the Cape: pack your lunch the night before and head out as soon as you wake up. It's not as much fun to be out there in the hot sun as you think and you will probably need a nap and definitely a shower when you get back.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fresh Chicken and Roasting Recipe

Tonight I had my first ever fresh chicken. What I mean by that is that it was not only free-range, organic and local, but that it had been slaughtered the day or the day before I had purchased it. It had never been frozen. I bought it from a woman at the Norwich Farmers Market yesterday. She owns Thymeless Herbs in Woodstock, VT and she and her daughter were selling chickens, eggs, herbs as you might guess and a wide variety of eye-appealing (and delicious) baked goods. They reminded me of my favorite children's book, Oxcart Man by Donald Hall about a family in the Upper Valley (I think) who send "everything they made or grew all year long that was left over" with the father to sell at the market in Portsmouth.

I was taken aback by how lovely this bird was. In someways I wish I had taken a picture, but I am mostly glad I didn't. In the end, I realize that it's a chicken. But I took a moment to be thankful for the partnership between the family at Thymeless Herbes and my own. They worked and invested to produce an animal which fed my family and I was able to pay them directly for their labors.

I use something loosely based on Nigella Lawson's Roasted Chicken recipe, or method, really, from her book How to Eat:

After removing the innards, I lay the chicken, breast-up, in a cast-iron skillet and then fill the extra space with chopped vegetables: onions, carrots, whole peeled garlic and sometimes fennel bulb if I have it. I cut a lemon in half and put one half inside the chicken. I sprinkle fresh ground pepper and kosher salt over the top and then pour a dime-sized drop of olive oil on the breast of the chicken and rub the oil, pepper and salt all over the skin. As I am doing this I push as many of the vegetables under the bird as I can. Then I squeeze the other half of the lemon all over the top and drop it into the skillet.

I then roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes per pound, plus 10 minutes. Get out your calculator and use the exact weight to determine the roasting time. If you are really on top of things, throw a couple of zucchini breads into the oven with your chicken to leverage the energy used by the oven. Today I was. It was a pretty rock-star day.

The advantage of using the cast-iron skillet is that when your chicken is done (180 degrees in the thigh joint) you can transfer it to a cutting surface, put your skillet on the burner and make your gravy, taking advantage of all the brown bits on the bottom. To make the gravy, transfer all vegetables to a serving dish, discard lemon and then heat skillet on burner and stir all contents, scraping the bottom. When you have a little bit of a simmer going, throw in the gizzard (not the liver!) The gizzard looks like a heart. Then add a little bit of cornstarch and a then a little bit of chicken stock until you get the consistency that you want. Some people strain their gravy. I never do. I also like orange juice labeled "high pulp."

To make "in the moment stock" add your chicken's neck to 6 cups of water in a pot and simmer. You can also add the out layer (not the paper layer) of the onion you used and the ends of the carrot along with some salt and pepper.

Carve your bird and serve with its vegetable roasting companions and your gravy. Tonight I threw together a Summer Harvest Stuffing. Tomorrow we are planning to make Pesto Chicken Pizza. Had I not been so taken by the beauty of this foul and my own self-satisfaction in how I acquired it, I probably would not have used the livers for the stuffing linked above. I typically save them throughout the year to make pate for Christmas.

Summer Harvest Stuffing Recipe

1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 ear of corn, boiled or steamed, kernels removed
1 chicken liver (optional and presumably from the chicken to be served with stuffing)
2 C bread, cubed or torn into small pieces
1 C stock of choice (I made mine by simmering the neck of my chicken in a pot of water alongside my stuffing)
Salt and pepper to taste

If you are using the chicken liver from your chicken, dice and set aside. If you are going to make your own "in the moment" stock, add neck to about 6 cups of water and heat on back burner, covered.

Heat EVOO in medium sauce pan. When ready, add onions. When onions are translucent, add garlic, zucchini and corn. If at any point from here forward the mixture begins to stick to the pan or burn, add some chicken stock (think: risotto!). When zucchini is BRIGHT green add chopped liver, if using. When the liver is completely browned add the bread along with a ladle-full of chicken stock. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture is thoroughly combined. You may not need to use all 2 cups of your stock, but it will be good to have on hand depending on the density or age of the bread you are using. At the point when it is just a little too moist for your liking put the cover on, remove from heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Just before serving, open the lid and "fluff with a fork" as our trusty StoveTop box always says and enjoy!