Monday, May 31, 2010

Best of the Spring: Swing Away

I've been on a good run lately.  Hittin' it outta the ball park, taking it all the way, killing it, taking names, destroying it, hitting it spot on, nailing it.  No matter what double entendre you use, I've been freaking good at picking out recipes lately.  Of course, it's always a community effort so thank you Jessi, Trodimon, MelCC and others who have contributed: this good run is for you.

Bo Ssam

First up, way back in March when the days were drizzly and 40 degrees seemed like a heat wave, there was a tweet that started it all.  "Just saw this on @hungrynation (via @food52). Needs to be a pork shoulder dinner experiment." from @tokissthecook.  Our experiment worked so well, I made it again for my mom's 60th birthday.  Talk about momentous.  Talk about delicious.  Talk about hitting one way out of the park. 

Ginger scallion sauce, jalapeno garlic puree, soy sauce. 
Salty, sweet shredded pork shoulder, sugar-vinegared sushi rice

 Fingerling, Asparagus, Goat Cheese Pizza
Right around this time, farmers markets are getting a little bare bones, until aspargus appears.  Bright green shoots just after our last snow bring smiles to the faces of drearied, wearied farmers market shoppers.  We were long overdue for a meeting of the minds:  Trodimon vs some dear friends from college days: MelCC and her indy filmmaker. They met the chickens and the man and gorged on some outstanding, local, fresh pizza.  I appreciate the foods and friends that take you from one season to another.  Talk about easing transition.
 Supplemented by, not-so-local but oh-so-savory Spicy Sausage & Gorgonzola Pizza.
Red Snapper
Up next, something that's been staring me straight in the eye lately.
I've never filleted a fish.  Until 3 weeks ago.  Picking up cooking school certainly does keep you on your toes. I've made a promise, or at least a sincere effort to use one skill per week in my everyday cooking that I have learned and now that we're past julienne carrots, I've had to get my game face on.  One sunny, warm, fatigued Friday night I found myself leaning over the counter at Whole Foods asking the fish monger if I could touch and smell the fish he presented.  The folks next to me who were buying pre-seasoned and breaded cutlets of cod, thought I had gone a bit over the deep end.  Nick the monger was obliging saying, "Yeah this snapper is from the Gulf-- err, not near the oil though?!"  Slick to the touch, firm flesh and glossy eye told me this little guy was a keeper.  

Dragged home, butterflied leaving one side of the flesh still attached to the bones, and nestled on a bed of Spanish White Beans & Spinach. It stared me in the eye, and I stared right back.

Chicken al Mattone
This one hasn't been staring me in the face, but lingering in my mind for almost a year now.  It happens frequently that my memory stores flavors and images, a little more realistic than I believe is normal.  This cover of Bon Appetit from September 2009 has been taunting me since then.  
I'm on the hunt for whole chicken recipes since making friends with a chicken farmer at GCM last summer, and finding that oven roasted whole chicken could get me through a whole week of salads, wraps, sandwiches and more.  Pre-cooked chicken is the perfect summer fare. For this one, you remove the backbone, butterfly the whole chicken and stick it under a brick.  Forget the "marinate for 24 hours"-- none of us have the forethought for such things in summer.  Rub on the oil, herbs and garlic and let it go.  It's hands down the best roasted chicken I've ever had.  So good, I didn't get to snap a picture of it plated before it was inhaled.  I killed this one real good.

I'm just saying, when it comes right down to it, sometimes on momentous occasions, you've got to just hit it out of the park.  Mama Green Sug says, "go big or go home!!"

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Our hens are growing up

Please tell me if you are a pet owner, that it is perfectly normal and healthy to track life on the stages of your pet's growth.  Just as I type that phrase, it feels that this whole 'chickens in the city' is me feathering my nest much more than I had intended.  I swear I'm not nesting.  I'm still running about, taking weekend trips to microbreweries just to get out of the city and see the horizon for a bit.  I have only gone to one Cubs game this year and plan to multiply that number shortly. However.  Sigh.  I'm starting to mark time by this kind of growth:
They started hand-held:
They were little and cute and chirping away in our back porch.

Fluff started disappearing, feet and feathers grew
they learned to how to make friends.
and how to perch.
And then, my dear girls got a real home, not just a cardboard box, brought to you buy
We're calling a chicken condo, rather than coop.  And since they're Old Town hens, they'll probably be getting little Tiffany's bracelets for their second birthday.  Classy ladies.
The hens are happily nested, though still won't be laying until September.  In the meantime I tossed in a few strawberry tops and asparagus ends and the girls went wild.

So I have housed-soon-to-be-nested, happy chickens.  And somehow, as they're now the size that's a bit too large to be held, but not quite yet laying, I think I had better think about where I will grow my beans this year, and when to move the herbs outside.  We're mid-spring-sized chicken.