• Fried Fingerling Potatoes With Vanilla Salt

    Pan Fried Fingerling Potatoes With Vanilla Salt.

    Fried Fingerling Potatoes With Vanilla Salt.

    vsalt1One of our favorite things about cooking and blogging is that the more you cook, the more you learn. And when you share with others, inspiration and ideas come from all over the place. And that is the story of this dish. We made a pan seared flank steak a few nights ago and wanted a potato dish. We looked at our standard recipes but also looked for something new, and having hosted Mixology Monday this month, we had all sorts of ideas spinning around. But amidst the slight chaos here at the farm, we do have the occasional moment of clarity.

    vsalt3vsalt5And that moment came from a cocktail recipe and a very pleasant memory. The cocktail recipe was Stir and Strain’s El Jardin de Mi Abuela (a Margarita variant) that included a vanilla salt rim. And that gave us a very pleasant memory. It came from our friend Chad. Chad is a professional chef and in his fine dining days he once served us a langoustine dish with a side of just a few french fries dusted with vanilla salt. The combination of sweet langoustine, potato, salt, fat and vanilla was simply delightful. And the light vanilla aroma was truly memorable. One of our favorite dishes. Ever.

    vsalt7vsalt8We were not going to make french fries on short notice, but we did want to make a pan-fried fingerling potato recipe we saw at Serious Eats a while ago. That recipe uses duck fat (and that would be excellent), but we only had bacon fat and figured it would work with the recipe and we could add vanilla salt to enhance the dish. The recipe also has a few good pieces of technique, it has you boil the potatoes before slicing and frying them. Similar to how we steam our parsnips before roasting them, the extra cooking before the final roast/fry ensures even cooking. The recipe also has you start your potatoes in cold water and bring them up to heat with the water, again making the cooking more even. This is a fussy step for some potato recipes, but if you want to cook the potatoes twice and have them keep their shape, it makes good sense.

    vsalt10vsalt11So while this dish does need a few extra steps, everything is very easy. To make the salt you simply split and scrape the tiny beans from a vanilla pod and combine with kosher salt. Mix them together and store in an airtight container with the used vanilla bean. Best to let the salt sit for a few hours so the vanilla aroma gets into the salt. As for the potatoes, you just boil them, then cool and slice them in half and then pan fry with a flavorful high-heat fat like duck, lard, bacon fat or beef drippings. And if you don’t want animal fat, peanut oil will work just fine. Then you serve immediately with a big sprinkle of the vanilla salt (don’t be sparing with the salt on potatoes).

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  • Pan Seared Flank Steak With Herb Butter

    Pan Seared Flank Steak With Herb Butter.

    Pan Seared Flank Steak With Herb Butter.

    Sometimes you just need some steak and potatoes. And here at the farm, after a few weeks of experimenting with kale recipes and creative Mixology Monday cocktails (think of it as a simultaneous mix of indulging and cleansing), a good back-to-basics dinner is always welcome. And this is where simple recipes really shine, a few good ingredients, a touch of extra time, a little technique and you have a very lovely meal. And there are few simpler, and few better, dishes than pan seared flank steak with herb butter (potato recipe coming soon).

    flank15flank14flank12Flank steak, even with its recent surge in popularity, is a relatively affordable cut of meat with deep, beefy flavor. The key to flank steak is to choose the right cooking method and to serve it thinly sliced against the grain. We can’t stress this enough. But unlike some cuts, the grain on a flank steak is very easy to see, just cut across it. And while it will look prettier if you cut diagonally (or “on the bias”), thin vertical cuts will give you the most tender meat.

    flank11flank10flank8As for the cooking method, we are all for outdoor high-heat grilling (or even a long, slow sous-vide cook, followed by grilling or pan-searing), but the quick, easy way to cook a flank steak is to pan fry it briefly in a very, very hot pan. Just be sure it is a heavy pan (cast iron is very good here), your kitchen is well-ventilated and you use a high-heat cooking fat like bacon fat or peanut oil. Then you cook the flank steak for 5-7 minutes (for medium-rare) on each side, until well-browned, then let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. The meat will finish its cooking during the rest, and the juices will also settle and not run all over your cutting board when you slice. Again, a little extra time makes a difference.

    flank7flank6There are a few other steps that will help take this dish over the top. Pre-salting the meat at least 4 hours, and preferably 6-12 hours, before you cook will amplify the already excellent flavor of the steak. Wiping the steak dry with a paper towel, right before cooking, will remove excess moisture and help brown the outside of the steak and form a beautiful and flavorful crust. And if you want to be a bit fussy (and sometimes we do), take the steak out of the pan when you flip and wait 1-2 minutes before you cook the other side of the steak. The pan cools while you cook, so letting it reheat will help you evenly brown both sides. A few little things, but you will notice the difference. Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday LXX Roundup: Inverted

    Stir and Strain’s El Jardin de Mi Abuela.

    Another Mixology Monday has come and gone, but this time we were hosting. Thanks again to everyone who participated and to Fred Yarm at Cocktail Virgin Slut for reviving and maintaining Mixology Monday.

    mxmologoThe theme was “inverted”, and we will spare you the full back story (post here) and just say the theme was intended to see if we could “flip drinks on their heads” any and all possible ways. And the Mixology Monday crowd certainly delivered. We saw drinks “inverted” on name, spirits, solid/liquid (ice was well used), colors, layers and temperatures. All good stuff. We are “working” our way through as many of the cocktails as we can, and many are very good.

    As for us, we found this theme somewhat more challenging than expected. We created two drinks, but also failed repeatedly to make our third, a champagne-based cocktail that tasted and looked like Napa Cabernet (some things simply aren’t meant to be, and who wants a cocktail to taste like wine anyway?). Oh well. In any event, here are all the cocktails (mostly) in the order we got them:

    BarFlySF gave us three cocktails that invert classics using light instead of dark spirits. We like their use of homemade limoncello as a substitute for darker liqueurs. Their Union Square inverted the New Orleans classic the Vieux Carre.unionsquare1

    BarFlySF then took up our challenge to invert the Manhattan and created the Nemo.


    And finally, BarFlySF, added another post and inverted the classic Brandy Sidecar and created the Pisco Pedicab. Extra points for use of blood oranges.pisco1


    Shake Strain and Sip took the inverted theme to another place altogether and put the drink inside an ice-cube. The Alice’s Looking Glass is a very cool, and very tasty, creation with rye and Aperol in the lead. (We made it with regular ice, still great).——

    901 Very Good Cocktails managed to create a cocktail, discuss the Butthole Surfers (a band from our youth, yes we are that old) and even promote the idea of moderation. We are all for moderation….in moderation.  The Shah Sleeps Cocktail inverts standard cocktail proportions and leads with Amaro Montenegro.Shah


    The Shorter Straw applied the inverted theme to the Super Bowl (we would still like to invert that outcome) and gave us the 35th Minute. The lights went out during the 35th minute of the game and we certainly would have liked to sip this beautiful Rhum Agricole-based cocktail while we waited.


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  • Caldo Verde


    Caldo Verde.

    caldoIt seems to be kale and cocktail week here at the farm. (And we are OK with that, things could be worse.) Kale is in season, and after making a massaged kale salad, we decided to make a kale-based main dish, and we quickly settled on cooking up a pot of Caldo Verde. If you are going to have a kale recipe that will please a crowd, we suggest you take a look at making Caldo Verde. Caldo Verde, one of Portugal’s most popular dishes, is a soup of kale, potatoes and onions that often includes extra herbs, garlic, sausage and pork. This is a hearty soup that is easy to make and uses readily available ingredients. And if its cold outside, there are few things better than a big bowl of this soup.

    calso12caldo10Caldo Verde is also a versatile dish, you can start with a basic version of kale, potato, onion and linguica sausage (or spanish chorizo) and be ready in about an hour. But, if you want to add depth you can make a quick pork stock from ham hocks and add garlic, other herbs, etc. The only issue is time. But since we had some time, our recipe is based on making a ham hock-based stock, using the meat from the ham hocks and building the Caldo from the ham stock. We also add extra herbs to brighten the flavor. But if you don’t have the time, stick to the basic recipe and use salted water or low-sodium chicken stock as the base of your soup.

    caldo11caldo9As for making the dish, if you can boil water and rough chop some ingredients, you can cook a fine batch of Caldo Verde. The only real trick in this recipe is that you use half of the potatoes as a thickener for the stock and add half later to have pieces of potato in the soup. You can mash the potatoes with an immersion blender, potato masher or even with the back of a wooden spoon, but don’t skip this step, the potatoes give extra flavor and silky texture to the soup. Otherwise this recipe is as simple, and as good, as it gets.

    caldo7caldo9So how does Caldo Verde taste? It depends somewhat on the base you use for the soup, but you will get bright kale, rich potato, sweet onions and some spice from the linguica sausage. If you use a ham hock or shank for the soup base, it will be richer and smokier, while water or chicken stock will be a bit brighter flavored and lets the kale lead the dish. But there is one more thing, regardless of how you make your Caldo, it will be good the first day, but even better the second day. So make a big batch and enjoy this soup over a couple of days. You will be glad you did.

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  • Mixology Monday Cocktail #2: Elmer Fudd’s Revenge

    Elmer Fudd's Revenge Cocktail.

    Elmer Fudd’s Revenge Cocktail.

    Mixology Monday drinks are due this Monday, so we are adding another recipe for our “inverted” theme. The last week we spent a good deal of time looking at the bar and pantry and asking “can we invert that?” And the answer always seems to be “yes”, as long as we are willing to stretch the definition of “inverted” (and we are certainly willing to do that). And this cocktail, the Elmer Fudd’s Revenge, does fulfill the theme, even if the connection is a bit ridiculous tenuous.

    elmer4So if you want to understand how the randomness “creative process” works here at the farm, here is how we created the cocktail:

    • We saw a bottle of Laird’s bonded applejack looking lonely on the bar.
    • The first drink we thought of was the Applejack Rabbit (good stuff).
    • Maybe we could riff on the Applejack Rabbit for MXMO.
    • We thought of famous rabbits and Bugs Bunny came to mind.
    • Elmer Fudd never catches Bugs Bunny. Poor Elmer.
    • So what could we “invert”? How about Elmer catching Bugs?
    • If Elmer caught Bugs it would be a bloodbath. (Elmer has some pent-up frustrations.)
    • Hey look, we have some Moro blood oranges.
    • How about an Applejack Rabbit with blood oranges?

    And that’s how we think before we start drinking….so the experiments began. The traditional Applejack Rabbit combines applejack, lemon juice, orange juice and maple syrup. It’s a sweet drink with just enough sour from the lemon juice to tame the maple syrup and orange. But when we used blood oranges, with their tart and berry notes, the maple syrup didn’t play as well. So we used simple syrup. That worked, but we lost the extra character of the maple. We fixed this by subbing 1/2 ounce of rye whiskey for some of the applejack. The spicy rye and blood oranges (surprisingly) play very well together.

    elmer3Elmer Fudd’s Revenge combines applejack, rye, Meyer lemon juice, blood orange juice and simple syrup. This is a dryer cocktail than the Applejack Rabbit, with the applejack and rye in the lead and a bright, tart finish and a touch of berry flavor from the blood oranges. This is a very refreshing sip and an excellent way to use blood oranges in a cocktail, as the color and flavors make the drink, but don’t dominate. The only issue with this drink is that it goes down very easy…But after catching that “wascally wabbit”, Elmer deserves more than one to celebrate.

    elmer1OK, one more “inverted” recipe to go (it’s been in the works for 10 days, not quite there yet).

    elmer5Elmer Fudd’s Revenge:


    • 1 and 1/2 oz. Laird’s bonded applejack
    • 1/2 oz. rye whiskey
    • 3/4 oz. Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
    • 3/4 oz. blood orange juice
    • 1/3 oz. simple syrup (use 1/2 oz. if not using Meyer lemons)


    1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, flute or coupé. Serve.
  • Massaged Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad


    Massaged Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad.

    Of all the vegetables we grow and eat here at the farm, brussels sprouts are one of the most challenging. Our attempts to grow them fail (and they attract a massive amount of aphids) and the only brussels sprouts recipes we like usually have tons of bacon and bacon fat to enhance the flavor. While we do love our bacon, we would like brussels sprouts to taste good on their own. After multiple failures, we usually avoid brussels sprouts, but every once in a while we try a new brussels sprouts dish in a restaurant or see a recipe that sounds promising. Usually, we are disappointed. But not this time. Carolyn tried this salad at a restaurant (Bar Bocce in Sausalito) and we adapted it for home cooking, and it’s very good- we didn’t even have to add any bacon.

    kale10kale7And, oddly enough, what we needed to enjoy the brussels sprouts was some different technique and the addition of another veggie. For the technique, we use finely shaved raw brussels sprouts, and for the extra veggie we added kale. One might not expect two earthly vegetables to compliment each other, but the sweeter sprouts play well with the “briny” notes of the kale. Add some roasted almonds for crunch and nutty flavor, shave on some romano cheese for salt and umami and finish with a bright, acidic dressing and you have a delightful salad.

    kale8kale11Simple enough, but there is one extra step that makes this salad really sing, the “massage”. And no, there is nothing creepy about massaging your kale. What’s really going on is that you add some of the lemon juice from the dressing to the kale and sprouts, mix or “massage” the juice with the greens and then let them sit for 5 to 20 minutes. The acid will actually start to “cook” or soften the kale and sprouts. It makes a big difference in texture of the salad. Usually dressing a salad too early makes it wilt, but for a tough green like kale, this is a good thing. (This approach will work for most kale-based salads).

    kale6kale5A few other notes about this salad. Firstly, the kale and sprouts are very hearty, so you can store the salad, dressed, in the fridge for a few days- so go ahead and make a big batch, if you like. Secondly, if you want to make a vegan version of the salad simply substitute the cheese with caramelized shallots. It won’t be exactly the same, but it will still be very good. And finally, it is best to shave the brussels sprouts with a small hand slicer or mandolin, but if you don’t have these tools use a very, very sharp knife and take your time. Brussels sprouts can be slippery little suckers, be careful…and then enjoy a very healthy and tasty salad.

    Massaged Kale and Brussels Sprouts salad

    Massaged Kale And Brussels Sprouts Salad:

    (Adapted from Bar Bocce)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • We use lacinato kale for this dish but most types of kale will work in this recipe. Just be sure to remove the tough ribs from the middle of the kale.

    What You Get: A good recipe for brussels sprouts that doesn’t hide them behind bacon or fat.

    What You Need: No special equipment required. But a small hand slicer or mandolin would be a big help.

    How Long? About 30 minutes with 10 minutes of active time. Anytime dish.


    • 4 cups kale (we use lacinato), washed and roughly chopped
    • 8 large raw brussels sprouts, washed and thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup almonds
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • Pecorino romano cheese (sub parmesan, if you like)
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly ground pepper

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