• Frozen Butter Biscuits

    froze9Make. These. Biscuits. If you take anything from this post, make the biscuits. Trust us. The extra step is a bit of a fuss, but the biscuits you get are just sooo much better. And they are still biscuits. Easy to make, easy to enjoy and welcome by just about anyone who can take some gluten in their diet. If bacon is the one reason many people can’t go fully vegetarian, we bet that biscuits keep a few folks from going fully gluten-free or paleo.

    froze1Biscuits are something of an obsession here at the farm, we always enjoy playing with new recipes and techniques (biscuits are one of the few dishes Carolyn and I both bake- and yes, hers are better). You can play with the flour (AP or pastry / “00″), liquid (milk, buttermilk) or fat (butter, shortening), but the real issue comes down to temperature and technique. In the end you want the fat to stay cold so it layers through the dough and to mix the dough as little as possible to keep from activating gluten in the flour. If you do it right, you get a moist, light and flaky biscuit. Pure alchemy. Joy….and then maybe a nap.

    froze2froze3So how do you do it right? One recipe we like is to use includes pastry flour and then chills the dough before baking (see here). The only bummer with this method is the extra wait before you cook. The other proven method is to grate frozen butter directly into the dry ingredients as you make the dough. This keeps the butter cold as you make the dough- and then you can go right into the oven. The only fuss here is making sure to keep a big chunk of butter in the freezer (we do) and the actual grating, which takes a few minutes and a little elbow grease. It’s worth it.

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  • Weekly Cocktail #60: The Stone 75

    The Stone 75 Cocktail.

    The Stone 75 Cocktail.

    Ah, cocktails. Just when you think you’ve had enough….they pull you back in. And in this case, “had enough” meant that we recently hosted Mixology Monday and had seen our fill of cocktails and photos. We were a bit tired. Time for some tea, maybe a sip of wine, new kegs on tap (an IPA and a crisp golden ale), and perhaps some hard cider to celebrate the season. Cider? Hmm….

    stoneAnd this is what happens once you start mixing drinks and catch the bug. We got a few different bottles of hard cider to play with and suddenly the gears started grinding turning and we were mixing away. This time the inspiration came from a bit of internet research into different styles of cider. While looking at dry vs. sweet cider we saw a recipe for the Stone Fence, one of America’s oldest cocktails and perhaps our original highball.

    stone1stone2The Stone Fence is the simple combination of a big glass of hard cider and a shot of rum, applejack or whiskey. This drink is literally hundreds of years old and the variety of hard liquor simply reflects what was available at any time or different regions. Applejack in New Jersey or rum in Massachusetts, gave way (somewhat) to whiskey, but all still work. At some point, most people added ice to the mix and we get this “proto-highball”. A good sip, particularly if feeling a bit lazy. But as you may have guessed, the big issue is that this is a strong drink. We will forgo the “fell face-first into a Stone Fence” jokes…but you get the idea.

    stone7We decided to play with the basic recipe and craft something with a bit less booze (but just a bit) and a slightly more elegant presentation. We also had some old-school sugar to play with (a piloncillo of Mexican sugar that would be similar to colonial-era sugar) and decided to include it in the cocktail. As for inspiration, we looked to two of our favorite sparklers, the citrusy French 75 and the bitters-heavy Seelbach.

    stone3After some very pleasant experimentation, we came up with the Stone 75. The Stone 75 combines muddled lemon peel and sugar with lemon juice, Cointreau, Jamaican rum, applejack, tiki bitters (Angostura also work) and dry hard cider. Served in a coupé or flute and topped with a lemon twist, this is a very pretty cocktail.

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  • Smoked Chicken With Peanut Coleslaw

    chix1

    Smoked Chicken

    chix11

    Peanut Coleslaw (before mixing)

    Here at the farm we normally post recipes with a mostly well-defined take on the ingredients and process. With this dish there may still be some work to do. But since this version was very good, and we will be tinkering with this recipe all summer, we decided to share it now. The reason for sharing is that the chicken came out incredibly moist and with a sweet, smoky flavor that was enjoyed by all. A winner. (Good enough that we ate it before we could take a shot of individual pieces. Oops.)

    chix3chix4chix5The reason we aren’t “done” is that we consider this a barbecue recipe (serious stuff in these parts) and these recipes require a lot of tweaking on the smoke, rub and sauce. But these pleasant diversions refinements are mostly to fit our tastes. Meanwhile, the fundamentals are already there for everyone to play with: brine the bird and smoke low n’ slow over fruitwood. If this seems like the same basic steps for pork barbecue, that’s because they are. Why not start from a strong foundation?

    chix6chix7chix8But there are a few differences worth exploring. Firstly, chickens don’t cook evenly due to an irregular shape and different target cooking temperatures for dark and light meat. This means you need to alter the shape of the bird for more even cooking (or cook it in pieces, which isn’t a bad idea, btw). You can either truss the bird into a bit of a ball or cut out the spine and flatten the bird as if “spatchcooking”. We flattened our bird, but trussed birds do cook evenly as well.

    chix9Secondly, rather than placing a dry spice rub on the bird, we use a liquid mixture of spice rub, vinegar, molasses and ketchup to baste the bird during cooking. This is traditionally called a “mop” and is rarely used on pork shoulder, but is often used on pork ribs to keep them moist, and this works equally well for chicken. You can also reduce any left over mop into a sauce, if you like. It is also worth noting that we use our standard pork rub on the chicken, but if you have a poultry spice mixture you like, we suggest you try it (this is the area where we will most experiment over the summer).

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  • Spinach With Walnuts And Miso (Horenso No Kurumi-Ae)

    Spinach With Walnuts And Miso

    Spinach With Walnuts And Miso

    It may not sound like it, but to us, this dish is essentially “Japanese creamed spinach”. Just lighter, and probably healthier. What you get is sweet, earthy spinach with rich umami flavors and a creamy texture. This was not what we expected when we made the recipe, but we will take it. This dish is a very pleasant surprise. As Carolyn said “I could eat this every day”.

    spin4spin5spin6And I am certainly happy about that, since the recipe came from Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s excellent cookbook “Japanese Farm Food“. The cookbook was a Mother’s Day present for Carolyn and she chose the recipe. It is always good when the first recipe you try is a winner (particularly if the cookbook is a gift). And we can’t wait to try more of the recipes, a bunch of them look amazing.

    spin7spin8spin9The story behind the cookbook is also very cool. Nancy Singleton Hachisu is an American expat (from Norcal) living in northern Japan with her Japanese husband and children. They run an English language school and grow, cook and preserve their own food. Her cooking is pure, clean, simple and beautiful. This is what she serves her family. Good enough for us.

    spin10spin11spin12This recipe is also a good example of the keys to Japanese home cooking (at least, in our opinion, we do not claim to be experts). A few well-chosen ingredients matched with proper technique give you a dish that is way more than the sum of its parts. In this case you need to quickly blanch, chill and then completely drain the spinach. Squeeze out the moisture more than once. The other trick is to take your time making the dressing and then tossing/folding it into the spinach. But the attention to detail is worth it, this dish is a treat.

    spin3spinSpinach With Walnuts And Miso (Horenso No Kurumi-Ae):

    (Adapted from Nancy Singleton Hachisu)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • How you cool your spinach may depend on your kitchen layout. Just be sure to cool it quickly and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
    • Using a mortar is the more traditional approach and is easier to control (but also takes more work). If using a food processor, chop in quick pulses.

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  • Squash, Coconut And Spinach Curry

    Squash, Coconut and Spinach Curry

    Squash, Coconut and Spinach Curry

    pcurry2We will start by letting everyone know that this is a vegan dish. We will also let everyone know (in case all the bacon posts didn’t give it away) that this is not a vegan, or even vegetarian, food blog. But we are mostly agnostic here at the farm, if we see a recipe that looks good we are going to make or adapt it. And in this case we saw a Sunset Magazine recipe combining squash or pumpkin, coconut and curry. As we like squash and curry dishes (see here), we figured we would tweak the recipe. It only occurred to us after making the dish that it was vegan. But since we never knows who is coming to dinner, we may as well have a few vegan recipes at the ready.

    pcurry5pcurry7pcurry8And, to be fair, we would make this dish any time. The sweet and hearty squash always seems to work with deep, spicy curry, and the coconut milk adds a welcome sweet and creamy dimension. We add spinach both for flavor and some extra greens. The bright, slightly bitter and astringent notes of the spinach play very well with squash and coconut (think Thai soups). We add some citrus for acidity and toasted coconut, dried fruit and peanuts for flavor and texture. Overall, this is a complete dish. Put the curry on some rice, maybe drizzle on some Sriracha, and you are ready to go.

    pcurry9pcurry11pcurry12The only issue with this recipe, and many vegetarian dishes, is that you do need to spend a little extra time to develop the flavors. Let’s face it, animal fat and protein have plenty of flavor and make it easy to quickly add depth to many dishes (think butter or bacon fat). With vegetarian cooking and/or using high-moisture ingredients like vegetables, a few extra steps and a little extra time are needed to remove water (water has no flavor) and concentrate flavor. In this dish, the key is to caramelize both the onions and the squash before adding the spices and coconut milk. The extra browning adds more sweet and umami-like flavors that bring this dish to life. It takes an extra 20 minutes or so, but it’s worth it.

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  • Orange Cake With Dark Chocolate Chips

    Orange Cake With Chocolate Chips.

    Orange Cake With Chocolate Chips.

    It’s January (frankly, a pretty crummy month) and we face a choice, should we start making resolutions or help people break them? Since most resolutions seem to involve people enjoying less food, drink and fun we favor “breaking” resolutions. (Unless you resolve to do more good things for yourself and others, in that case- carry on!) But if you are trying to rid yourself of an otherwise harmless and / or pleasurable indulgence and feel a bit of weakness, or lack of shame, or just admit that you want to live life without regret…well come on over, have a snack, grab a cocktail and enjoy some cake. We will be waiting here at the farm with open arms and a warm kitchen, always. And if you happen to amble by the farm in January, then you might be lucky and get some orange cake with dark chocolate chips.

    ocake3ocake4And thank heaven for citrus this time of year (and good chocolate any time of year). Just when you slog through that last bite of heavy (albeit lovely) holiday food, the oranges and lemons arrive to bring a burst of bright flavor back to winter. The Meyer lemons, cara-cara and blood oranges seem to save the light and bring it back to our houses, right when we need it the most (yeah, yeah, we are in California it isn’t that cold, but whatever ;-). The winter citrus gives us sorbet, cocktails, savory sauces, confections and this cake that combines fresh oranges and dark chocolate. Hard to go wrong.

    ocake5ocake6And very hard to go wrong if you use the best dark chocolate you can find. As a special Christmas gift, the boys and I gave Carolyn a big bag of Mast Brothers dark chocolate chips. The Mast Brothers hail from Brooklyn and have some of the best chocolate we have ever tasted. We are all for local chocolatiers, and many do excellent work- but great is great, and we can’t do better than Mast Brothers chocolate. Simply awesome, and worth a mention all the way out here on the left coast. We usually reserve our best chocolate for eating out of hand, but this cake combines chocolate chunks and a chocolate ganache glaze with sweet, bright orange flavor and a light “cake-y” texture. It is a perfectly balanced bite, and the better the chocolate, the better the cake.

    ocake9ocake10As for the recipe, we adapted it from Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa), who adapted it from the famous Hampton’s bakery and caterer Loaves and Fishes. Good recipes tend to travel well and this is no exception. There are no special ingredients or techniques in this recipe, it just asks for a bit of extra effort and good chocolate. The recipe for the cake is mostly standard, as is the recipe for the chocolate ganache you use to “glaze” the cake. The only extra step is to create an orange syrup and brush it into the cake. But this step does make a difference. Every bite explodes with the sweet oranges and a blast of deep, dark chocolate, but the acid of the oranges and slight bitter edge of chocolate balances the flavor. Good from beginning to end.

    ocake2So when you decide to give up on that resolution about cake, or sugar, or chocolate, or fun…try this recipe out. If you’re gonna break the resolution, it may as well be worth it. Or, even better, just bake the cake and share. No resolutions required (ever).

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