Tuesday, May 27, 2008


My friend Ginelle lives up in the wilds of New Hampshire (OK, not the wilds, but comparatively, you know) near where we went to prep school together, and as such has the benefit of having friends who live in Maine and raise chickens. (Apparently, this is not at all unusual in Maine. At least according to Ginelle. Who lives in New Hampshire and is therefore far more of an expert than you or I, unless you happen to live in Maine.)

When she saw my post a few weeks back about Araucana eggs, she sent me these photos of her friend's baby Araucana chicks. Oh my gosh, how adorable. Cute AND (eventually) good at producing tasty eggs. Jackpot!

Dispatch from the field: Union Square Greenmarket.

I broke one of my own cardinal rules on Saturday when I arrived at the Greenmarket after 9 AM. On the subway down to Union Square, I consoled myself, repeating the mantra: "It's Memorial Day; they're all in the Hamptons" over and over again - like if I said it enough times, it would turn out to be true. It didn't.

But it was totally worth fighting the crowds to get to the first asparagus of the season (even if it cost a whopping $8/pound).

I'm hoping the ramps hold out one more week, since the two pounds I bought for pickling were a great success, and I want to repeat the activity this weekend. And this time, I'll do the whole canning thing, for keeps.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Charcuterie takes Manhattan.

When I was growing up, my mom almost always served cold meats, sausage and cornichons with her cocktail hour cheese plates. Since I was not a cheese-eating child, I assumed the saucissons and pickles were for me. I've since realized that she was simply honoring the ages-old tradition of charcuterie, the French art of taking bits of this and that and making delicious terrines, head cheeses and sausages out of the scraps.

Of course, these days, charcuterie isn't all about scraps - foie gras appears almost as frequently as the ubiquitous chicken liver - but don't worry. They still give you plenty of whole grain mustard on the side.

On Saturday night, Cristin and I visited Bar Boulud, the latest and greatest addition to Manhattan's charcuterie scene. Sure, they ("they" being Daniel Boulud, proprietor of Daniel on the Upper East Side) serve real food, too, but the draw is the brightly-lit case of terrines, rillettes and sausages that runs almost the entire length of the bar. Also on offer: a fantastic selection of wines, including three tasting flights. I started my evening with the flight of whites, a collection of white Burgundies, and Cristin sampled the red, which included a Burgundy, a Rhone valley, and a Bordeaux.

We ordered the escargots, which came out of their shells and were served alongside four delectable potato croquettes. Coated in the requisite parsley, butter, and garlic, they were delicious, though not quite as tender as I would have liked.

Next up, the charcuterie! We sampled the pork rillettes, which was the terrine du jour, and the pâté grand-père, a pork and foie gras concoction. Both were delicious; the rillettes were made with olive oil instead of pork fat, which made them wonderfully light, moist and slightly tangy. The rich pate paired beautifully with my flight of whites (and, later, my glass of Meursault). We splashed out and ordered some pommes frites to go along with our meat (I'd heard good things about the fries). To my delight, they came with mayonnaise - I didn't even have to ask! - and were crisp, light and decadently salty.

For dessert, we each ordered the flight of sweet wines and promptly fell in love with the Banyuls. It paired marvelously with the fraisier coupe, and we left floating on a cloud of fortified wine and strawberry cream. Not a bad Saturday night, nor a bad way to kill three and a half hours.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ramps today, ramps tomorrow, ramps forever!

Trying to figure out what to do with the last, precious ramps of the season? Check out these fantastic ideas from Serious Eats: ramp compound butter and pickled ramps. What could be better, easier, or smarter? Keep early spring with you all through the year...

Photo courtesy of Serious Eats.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The incredible, edible egg, part three: fettucine with bacon and ramps.

Ramps have long been a harbinger of spring for rural communities up and down the East Coast, their annual harvest inspiring feasts, festivals, and general revelry. Over the last ten years or so, they've taken on the same role for New Yorkers - their appearance at the Greenmarket and on restaurant tables all over the city trumpets the arrival of a new season.

So when my friend Miya called me to tell me that she'd snagged the first ramps of the season, I was not a little bit jealous. Not to be outdone, I headed to the Greenmarket first thing the next Saturday morning and bought a couple of bunches of my own.

Ramps look like a cross between a leek and a scallion - they have small, tight bulbs white bulbs, slightly reddish or purplish stems, and broad green leaves. Every bit (except for the actual straggly roots) is edible. They taste a bit like an onion crossed with garlic, with a smidgen of mysterious meatiness thrown in for good measure. And they are fantastic with bacon.

As part of my recent Greenmarket-fueled onion and egg orgy, I decided to cook up a plate of pasta with ramps. If you click through to Miya's post, you can find her excellent, carbonara-esque version. I wanted to take another shot at frying up an egg, so I decided to take a slightly different route.

I rendered the fat out of a few lardons, sauteed the ramps, deglazed with chicken stock, and tossed the resulting sauce with some fresh fettuccine, the reserved bacon, and some Parmesan cheese. Topped the whole thing with a fried local egg. Deliciously simple.

There's no official recipe for this - in reality, the sauce isn't all that different from the spring onion cooking method from this post - just use a bit of extra chicken stock, and you're golden!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Danger, Meg Blocker, danger!

OK. So, it's rare that I post about something I don't like - but I can't help it. I am so peeved right now.

Yesterday, I went to Williams-Sonoma to buy a pair of dishwashing gloves. For the last year, I've used a pair of hot-pink Playtex gloves, but I poked a hole in the right thumb last week while washing a knife, so I needed some new ones.

Seduced by the easter-egg colors, the snug fit, and the seemingly slip-proof coating, I spent $12.00, about $5.00 more than I paid for the Playtex version.

Imagine my shock, then, when I put them on just now to wash some glasses. They were so slippery that I immediately dropped and broke a highball. So now I'm off to the drugstore to buy a second set of Playtex gloves. Hopefully they have the hot pink in stock.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The incredible, edible egg, part two: mayonnaise.

In general, people have very strong feelings about mayonnaise. They either love it (like I do) or hate it (like a crazy person might). I like the way it combines the tang of the vinegar with the rich, unctuous oil and eggs. I like it on sandwiches, on french fries, and on, well, just about anything else. Those who dislike mayo are, I think, mainly put off by its appearance (vaguely gooey white stuff) and its mellower-than-ketchup-or-mustard flavor.

Mass-produced American mayonnaise is far milder than commercial European mayos, and vastly different from its homemade counterpart. Homemade mayonnaise is closer in texture and flavor to a hollandaise or a super-creamy vinaigrette than to Hellmann's. (Let it be known, however, that I love all mayonnaise, just in different ways.) It's essentially a suspension of oil in egg yolks and a tiny bit of vinegar (and sometimes lemon juice), more a sauce than a true condiment.

And it's phenomenally easy to make. You just take an egg yolk, muddle it up with some vinegar and mustard and salt, slowly add in some oil, and bam! You've got a sauce fit for french fries or poached salmon or steamed asparagus. You can gussy it up - curry powder works well, or some fresh herbs - and let's not forget that aioli is essentially garlicky mayonnaise.

For lunch on Sunday, I decided that the best thing to do with the chicken I roasted on Saturday night was to make homemade chicken salad. Chicken salad is, for me, really just an excuse to whip up a batch of homemade mayo, something I thought would be a particularly fitting way to highlight another of the gorgeous eggs. I folded the chopped chicken and some cucumber into a dollop of the mayonnaise, added a little shallot, and finished the whole thing off with some garlic chives.

Spooned on top of a toasted crumpet, it was a little bowl of springtime heaven - and all of it, except for the oil, mustard, and crumpet, came from the Greenmarket. Pretty neat, right?

Homemade Mayonnaise
Based on a recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook

1 egg yolk, left at room temperature for thirty minutes
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. champagne or cider vinegar

In a small-to-medium, heavy-bottomed bowl, whisk together the yolk, mustard and salt. Combine the oils in a liquid measuring cup (with a spout) and add to the yolk mixture drop by drop, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to emulsify.

Pause and whisk in the vinegar, then whisk in the remaining oil in a thin, constant stream, whisking all the while. If the emulsion breaks, stop adding oil and just whisk until things come back together, then resume adding the oil.

Salt and pepper to taste, and use to your heart's content! The mayonnaise will keep for about two days, covered, in the refrigerator.

Makes approximately 3/4 cup of mayonnaise, enough in which to dip several bags of Cape Cod potato chips. Not that I speak from experience or anything.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The incredible, edible egg.

Eggs are a truly miraculous food. They enrich, they bind, they nourish, and they color. They come in myriad colors and sizes, but aside from leaner or fatter, the shape is pretty much the same all around.

Eggs are one of the world's great foodstuffs - every culture has had their way with them, and we're really all better off for it. Pickled, coddled, soft-boiled, fried, scrambled, or just stirred into hot pasta, they make everything better. Really.

But until you have had a truly fresh, local, all-natural egg, you just haven't lived. Until you have cracked a speckled blue Araucana egg into a hot pan and watched its orange - not yellow - yolk slide out and stand at attention in the middle of the white (displaying what egg aficionados refer to as "muscle tone"), you haven't made a fried egg the way it was meant to be made.

This weekend, it probably goes without saying, I went a little nutty with a half-dozen local eggs I bought at the Greenmarket on Saturday morning.

First up, lunch. I had some bacon lying around, and had bought some gorgeous cucumbers, red leaf lettuce, wild spring onions (in addition to a few bunches of ramps), and shallots. I decided to combine everything into a delicious bastardization of my favorite salad, frisée aux lardons.

I mixed up a sherry-shallot vinaigrette (adding a bit of honey to mellow out the vinegar and help emulsify things without adding too much oil), cleaned the lettuce, and sauteed the onions in the rendered bacon fat. The cukes went down over the lettuce, then the dressing, then the bacon and onions, and, finally, I fried that blue egg up and put it right on top. Oh, yeah. Seriously good - even better once I'd poked the yolk and mixed the eggy goodness into the rest of the salad.

Still to come, chapters two (chicken salad with homemade mayonnaise) and three (fresh pasta with ramps, bacon, and an egg).

Greenmarket Lettuce aux Lardons

1 small shallot, minced
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. honey
Pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp. sherry vinegar
1 tbs. olive oil

2 strips bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch batons
1 tbs olive oil
5-6 spring onions (or scallions), cleaned, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cups (about 1/4 head) red leaf lettuce, ripped into bite-sized pieces
1 small Kirby cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch half-moons
1 egg

Make the dressing: in a small, heavy bowl, mix the shallot, mustard, honey, salt and vinegar together until combined. Add the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly, until emulsified. Set aside.

Make the salad: Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until crisp and until most of the fat is rendered out. Take the bacon out with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain all but 1/2 tsp. of the bacon fat from the pan, add the olive oil and the onions, and sautée until the onions are tender and slightly browned. Add to the reserved bacon.

Wipe the pan with a damp paper towel, add a bit more olive oil, and fry the egg over medium heat until the white is just set, but the yolk is still runny. Meanwhile, arrange the lettuce, cucumbers, onions and bacon in a shallow bowl or on a plate, and top with the dressing. Once the egg is done, slide it out on top of the salad - and eat right away!

Serves one.
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