• ‘Cue, Cocktails And Cake For Memorial Day

    anejoAh, summer. You can feel it coming (here in Norcal, it barely left). But for the rest of the country, we gather that this summer will be particularly welcome. Now, we all know that summer isn’t “official” until the solstice, but around here (and hopefully where you are) summer starts on Memorial Day. And Memorial Day is “opening day” on the farm for weekend barbecue, big pitchers of punches and highballs and lots of dessert. So here are a few links to recipes we think you may want to try this weekend and into the summer (and don’t worry, they are well-tested).

    porkOur favorite summer meals almost all include real, low-and-slow barbecue (we also like steamer clams and lobster rolls, but those are for another post). And our favorite for Memorial Day remains Pulled Pork. We post a link to this recipe every Memorial Day for a reason, it rocks. Pulled pork is inexpensive, easy, feeds an army and tastes great. The only thing you need is time. For the best results you need to plan ahead a day or two- so get started!

    ribsIf you are worried about time, then Memphis-Style Ribs are the way to go. These ribs still benefit from a little extra prep time, but they are easily a one day meal. And, sooooo good. Trust us, make extra.

    brisketFinally, if beef is your thing, then Franklin Style Brisket is a real treat. Again, you get a great dish for a crowd, you just need to take the time to do it right. (We jumped the gun on summer and made this last weekend for some good friends, and it is still one of the best things going).

    fleurIf you happen to imbibe (and we hope you do), summer is the best time for easy punches or highballs. These are drinks that keep you and your guests outside, and not inside mixing drinks all the time. Our favorite summer punch is the Nouvelle Fleur, a sparkling tequila, citrus, St. Germain and Aperol concoction. This drink packs big, thirst-quenching flavors, but is relatively low-strength. Great for sipping.

    laniIf you want an easy punch, but with more, umm… “punch”, then we suggest the Lani Honi. This is a simple mix of white rum, lemon and Benedictine. But even with just three ingredients, the flavors are full and complex. Good stuff and easy to mix in a pitcher.

    monkFor those who like tall, cool summer cocktails, we always suggest bucks like The Kentucky Buck or Kentucky Monk. And for those who like riffs on classics, we love the Upside Down Martini, using vinho verde in place of dry vermouth. Crisp, cold and delightful. Continue reading

  • Weekly Cocktail #62: The Kentucky Monk (And The Kentucky Buck)

    monkHmm…I guess we should start calling these “monthly” cocktails.

    Anyway, things keep moving here at the farm. And times are good. A California horse won the Kentucky Derby, all while we were sipping one of our Mint Juleps. Very Nice. And we have strawberries in the garden (blueberries, too). So while the connection may be tenuous, we started looking for bourbon-based cocktails that use strawberries….as we have said before, it doesn’t take much inspiration to get us mixing drinks.

    monk10monk8And as luck would have it, our latest version of Imbibe magazine just arrived (you do subscribe, don’t you?) and had an article on “new classic” cocktails. The article included some of our favorites like the Bramble and the Jasmine, but it also included a drink we had not tried, the Kentucky Buck. The Kentucky Buck, a creation of Erick Castro, combines bourbon, muddled strawberry, lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters and ginger beer. Basically this is a bourbon buck with more going on. And like most “bucks” (spirits, ginger beer / ale, citrus), is a very tasty drink for summer.

    monk9monk6But since we have a bunch of strawberries (we are a farm / garden, after all), we decided to riff on the Kentucky Buck and bring out more of the strawberries. And the next steps were easy, we doubled the strawberries and then subbed Yellow Chartreuse for the simple syrup. And this is the key, the Yellow Chartreuse works with lemon and bourbon, but also adds sweet herbal notes that compliment the strawberries. What you get is all the sweet / sour flavor of the lemon, strawberries and ginger beer, but also complex herbal flavors all through the sip. Yum. And since Chartreuse is a big player here, we changed the name to the Kentucky Monk. Regardless, we suggest you try either version.

    monk7monk4One last note. We often buck (get it?) the trend and suggest using ginger ale rather than ginger beer in our bucks. While ginger beer can be better at times, we find the quality can be inconsistent and the musky flavors mask lighter spirits like gin (or vodka). But when working with bourbon or darker rums, we do suggest using a good ginger beer, as these spirits hold up to the bigger flavors. Either way, with summer coming, keep bucks in mind when planning your next party…. Continue reading

  • A Gift Guide For The Home Cocktail Enthusiast

    danger9So let’s say you have a friend or family member who is into mixing cocktails. And let’s go a bit further and say they are worthy of a gift. What should you get them? Well, we guess you could get them a bottle of their favorite booze. But since it is their favorite booze they probably have it already. And, truth be told, making drinks doesn’t require much fancy gear.

    Nope, what we suggest here at the Farm is a bit of creative thinking and perhaps giving cocktail gifts that will last. Cocktail gifts that inspire. Cocktail gifts with some “legs”. Gifts that might lead to better drinks…and perhaps even a few more of them. Yup, that’s what we’re talking about. And here are a few suggestions:

    Really Good Vermouth:

    What? Vermouth? The stuff that’s been sitting on the shelf for years for when aunt Edna comes by and wants a Manhattan? Or the bottle you glance at while making a dry Martini? Yes, that stuff. But it can be so much better.

    It turns out that there is some delicious vermouth out there. Vermouth you can happily drink on its own, but also makes for delightful cocktails. (And, by the way, you need to keep vermouth in the fridge after you open it- that’s why that old stuff tastes so bad). Try a few classic cocktails with good, fresh vermouth and you will stop asking for super-dry Martinis and you may rediscover the glory of a good Manhattan.

    So what to buy? There are a lot of choices, but for sweet vermouth we suggest a bottle of Carpano Antica. This is the “grandaddy” of sweet vermouth and it packs a lot of big flavors. Carpano ain’t cheap, but it is good. It also comes in half bottles that are less expensive and fit better in the fridge. The bottle is quite beautiful and will “wow” anyone who is lucky enough to get Carpano as a gift.

    Carpano Antica Bottle-Low-ResOther good sweet vermouth include Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and Dolin. If we got either as gifts we would be very happy.

    vermouth-dolin-dryWhat about dry vermouth? There are a number of good, affordable options, but we suggest a bottle of Dolin Dry vermouth. This stuff simply rocks. Dolin will make for a great Martini, but also adds herbal depth and bittersweet notes to classics like the Scofflaw. And Dolin also happens to come in nifty half bottles. Heck, you could even give a combo pack of Carpano Antica and Dolin Dry to that special someone. Excellent.

    Continue reading

  • Farewell Judy Rodgers

    fires11When I told Carolyn that Judy Rodgers had died of cancer, her face showed the same level of shock, sadness and confusion that I felt upon hearing the news. “How old was she”?, Carolyn asked, “just 57″, I relied. “That’s terrible….too young” said Carolyn “too young”.

    A few hours later, my good friend Chad texted “RIP Judy Rodgers”. Chad knew Judy, as he was a chef in San Francisco in the 1990’s when Rodgers, and her Zuni Cafe, were at their height. Chad, his wife Monica, Carolyn and I spent a number of magical moments together at Zuni. Chad was deeply saddened. So was I.

    I didn’t know Rodgers personally, and only occasionally saw her at Zuni. She was famously private and didn’t crave the limelight, even at the restaurant. There are many more “famous” celebrity chefs out there, but few have the influence or lasting success of Judy Rodgers. She was a hidden treasure, and yet one of our greatest inspirations.

    We are most influenced by those we know. I have both my parents to thank for a love of food, and perhaps more importantly, a lack of fear about food. Food was good and to be enjoyed….period. Carolyn gives me an understanding and love of entertaining and hospitality that is at the core of our lives together. My friend Chad Callahan gave me some of my first exposure to what fine dining really meant, the importance of sourcing the right ingredients and using good technique. Hiro Watanabe, our favorite sushi chef, showed me that it’s best to serve just a few great dishes, and not many average ones.

    When I think about cooking these are some of my touchstones.

    But of the broader influences I have, Judy Rodgers, and the Zuni experience, show up in my cooking almost every day. Her cooking was simple, flavorful and well executed. She used the best ingredients and was unafraid to let them stand on their own.

    These days, many chefs like to tell you what plot at the farm the kale came from, how “heirloom” the seeds are and then use every piece of offal from a pig- just to make an impression. And that is fine. Judy Rodgers would do that if it made the dish better. But if a simple bowl of polenta with a bit of parmesan or mascarpone was the best dish, that is what she would serve.

    And it wasn’t just the food. Zuni was a restaurant that felt, and still feels, like the heart of San Francisco. A strangely shaped, airy space with hidden corners, big windows, a huge wood-fired oven and walls full of art, Zuni captured the city like few other spaces. And it reflected in the customers. From pre-opera suburban diners in their finery to young couples on dates, you saw every age, gender, color and persuasion. Almost all of them with smiles on their faces. Zuni is still that kind of place. I hope it remains that kind of place.

    Many chefs are known by their “signature dishes”, and they are something of a mixed blessing. Most chefs tire of making the same dish, no matter how good or how popular, every day. Judy Rodgers had many signature dishes. The roast chicken, burger, caesar salad, polenta and espresso granita are still standards of San Francisco dining to this day. Rodgers expressed frustration, at times, that she couldn’t take these dishes off the menu. But regardless of her feelings, the dishes were always perfectly executed. When we took the boys to Zuni a few years ago, the burger was just as good as it was when we first went. Rodgers was a pro.

    Ironically, when we moved out of the city and eventually came here to the “farm”, Rodgers became an even larger influence on our cooking through the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. To be honest, it is a dense, detailed cookbook. At times it’s a hard read. It is not entertainment or food porn. But the recipes truly work. And, more importantly, if you want to understand how flavors come together and compliment each other in a dish, then this is the cookbook you need. When we want to learn about a fresh, seasonal ingredient, we most often look to Alice Waters. When we actually cook it or pair it with another ingredient, we look to Judy Rodgers.

    A number of years ago we stopped cooking just by recipe, but by looking at ingredients, flavors and techniques. We jokingly say that we “graduated” and become cooks who can think, and experiment, on our own. Judy Rodgers was a big part of that, and we owe her our thanks.

    We also owe her our thanks for her recipes and techniques that we make here all the time. We pre-salt or “dry brine” our beef, pork and poultry- and it is still one of the most important techniques we use. Her asparagus and rice soup fills our bowls each spring, sage grilled cheese puts smiles on faces at cocktail parties. And Rodgers’ caesar salad is still the best, even if our attempts don’t come close to the original. It is a beautiful dish. A memorable dish.

    So thank you Judy Rodgers. Our prayers go to you and your family. Godspeed.

  • Carolyn’s Christmas Toffee

    Toffee. Good at any time, but best for Christmas.

    Toffee. Good at any time, but best for Christmas.

    And the sprint begins……Now that Thanksgivukkah is over here at the farm, we have only three weeks until Christmas. We also have a few family birthdays, a party to throw, and many to attend, in just 22 days. Yikes! Of course, these events are a delight. Even with the craziness of the holidays, time with friends and celebrating together is something to treasure. The only challenge with all these events is figuring out what to bring as a gift…but Carolyn (like always) has us covered.

    toffee3toffee4toffee5We will bring wine and/or spirits for those who like such things (and, shockingly, many of our friends do like a bit o’ booze) but we often give things we make here at the farm. A lot of Putney Farm jam and fruit butters will be doled out over the next few weeks, and they will be quite tasty (IMHO). But if you are extra-lucky, Carolyn will bring you some home-made toffee. This my friends is the good stuff.

    toffee6toffee7toffee8And not nearly as hard to make as you think. Toffee requires only a few common ingredients, one special tool and a little patience. Basically, if you can read a candy thermometer (or a thermocouple digital thermometer), you can make toffee. And if you mess up, it will still taste pretty good, and you get to try another batch. A fun holiday project and a perfect gift. (Who doesn’t like sugar, butter and chocolate?) Continue reading

  • Holiday Leftover Hash: Something Good For Black Friday

    hashhash4We thought about doing a Thanksgiving turkey recipe for the blog, but truth be told, we aren’t big turkey people. We will be making J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Sous Vide “Turchetta” (turkey breast made like Porchetta) and a beef roast for the Thanksgivukkah holiday. But we will give you an awesome, and easy, recipe to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers- hash. We suggest you forgo the shopping and serve hash for Black Friday Brunch.

    hash5hash6hash7We like turkey or ham sandwiches just fine, but when you can take the leftover turkey/pork/beef, potatoes and veggies, add some seasoning and crisp them up in some bacon fat…well now you are onto something. And that is the beauty of hash. A good hash elevates your leftovers into an entirely new dish, and since most of the ingredients are cooked, it doesn’t take that long or require many pot and pans. Nice. And if you just “happen” to top off the hash with a fried egg or a zippy horseradish sauce…well then you really will have something to be thankful for.

    hash8hash9The key with making hash is to use what you already have and balance flavors and textures. Think about a mix of savory, sweet, vegetal and spicy flavors and soft, creamy and crispy textures (the browning will crisp up the dish). Pretty much any leftover you have may be worth adding, so be creative. And pre-cooked food is better in hash, as you don’t have to worry about even cooking of various raw ingredients. The only “fresh” ingredients we use are bacon, (to get its fat) onions and minced garlic we soften in the grease before adding the other ingredients. We top the hash with either a fried egg or a quick horseradish sauce (prepared horseradish, sour cream, mayonnaise, a touch of mustard, salt/pepper) but steak sauce or simple ketchup are just fine as well.

    hash10hash12hash14For this hash we used leftover beef, roasted butternut squash and boiled Yukon Gold potatoes seasoned with a bit of thyme, cumin and chili powder. It was great. But if we had leftover turkey, sweet potatoes, mashers or even creamed spinach or roasted brussels sprouts, we could use them (most stuffings will also work). Hard to go wrong here, as long as you liked the dish on Thursday, it probably work in hash on Friday….except for the cranberry sauce, best to keep that out of the hash.

    hash15hash13So we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! We hope you cook your turkey in pieces (trust us!), have a few fun cocktails and enjoy time with family and friends. We also hope you stay home on Friday, maybe build a fire, and cook this hash for brunch. Enjoy the day…the “holidaze” are coming.

    hash2

    Holiday Leftover Hash:

    Notes Before You Start:

    • The best way to make hash is to mostly use cooked leftovers. Raw ingredients have different cooking times and can mess up your hash. We suggest just a few softened aromatics and then whatever leftovers you have.
    • Cooking in a cast iron pan or steel skillet will get you the best browning and a crispy, delicious hash.

    What You Get: An easy, delicious and warm dish using up those Thanksgiving leftovers.

    What You Need: No special equipment required.

    How Long? About 25-30 minutes. A few minutes of chopping, otherwise this is as easy as it gets. Anytime dish.

    Continue reading