Not Your Ordinary Farm, Farmer or Chef. Now lets make Prosciutto


FARM VISIT.
Not your ordinary Farm in Guilford Vermont on a snowy day.
http://notyourordinaryfarm.com/
 

In small towns, word travels pretty darn fast and farmers talk a great deal to each other about who they are selling to.  After about a year into establishing solid farm partnerships, it was not long before my phone and email were  flooded with messages from growers and producers peddling their respective offerings. I started feeling bad. I wanted to support as many as I could, not realizing that this appease everybody thing is actually counterproductive for both parties. So I sat down and figured out what products I wanted.  Then I tasted samples, and chose the highest quality, and yummiest ingredients  from what I consider to be the best farms in the area.  20 plus farms later I had my beef, lamb, rabbit, chicken, rabbit, veal, game birds and tons of produce.  The only thing missing was duck.  In walks Judy Sopinki of “Not Your Ordinary Farm” in Guilford VT.  
She kindly said she had never raised ducks before. I began to explain to her that there are a number of pork producers in the area as well as lamb, chicken and beef. Great Tasting Ducks however are all coming from upstate New York and are usually the bi-product of Foie gras which is totally a unsustainable modle of raising ducks. She called a few weeks later informing me of  her newest experiment involving cute little ducklings. It was a bit challenging at first and we had some serious feather issues to overcome. I mean the first batch I had to sell skinless duck confit! Now, Judy is my supplier for Muscovy ducks. What is not so ordinary about this farm? I guess it is the dainty ribbon tied bloody bags of dead meat! Or the fact that she is filling a void in the food system in Southern Vermont instead of saturating the market with what the majority of farmers are producing. These types of partnerships add tremendous value to the NEW food system.She is also a Clevlander claiming the polish ghettos of Broadway and Fleet as her stomping grounds. She came in wanting to fill the void of another animal not listed previously and that  is  most “ordinary” chefs’ favorite meat; pork.  Just as this farm, I am not that “ordinary” of a Chef.  I have never eaten pork except by mistake.   My most enjoyable  mess up was when I would eat the  fried chicken livers from Moxie in Beachwood Ohio with Jonathan Bennett’s super yummed out Catalina dressing.  I did not know the ingredients until it was my turn to prep it: eggs, paprika, vinegar, tomatoes, onions, and sugar were emuslsified with bacon fat! Whoops! Until I was a teenager I had never eaten an OREO or a Starburst due to the lard content.  (To my excitement they changed the recipe at the height of  my junk food eating career).  Back to this “Not so ordinary” farmer, Judy…I told her I was not interested in pigs, but a non gavage(d) free range duck line would be awesome.   (Gavaged means force fed).  These ducks would give me my last piece that I needed to have a menu full of local sustainable products from farmers that I know and respect.   Super important and super delicious!
This is a productive C-Town and old school farmer-chef relationship.  Local food is so much more than slapping a farms’ name on a menu. Chefs, visit your farms, it is about the connection. It is about reciprocation. We are now in talks about her growing sustainable Foie http://www.foodista.com/blog/2011/08/16/sustainable-farming-chef-dan-barbers-foie-gras-parable#  for me because I am, and always will be against gavage!  The bird of choice for large production foie facilities such as Hudson Valley Foie, is the moulard, (no spell check, not mallard).  This bird is a genetically manipulated, sterile bird that they have created specifically for human consumption.  The bird is essentially grown as a vegetable for our eating pleasure as opposed to the cute little ducklings that grow up on Judy’s “Not So Ordinary” farm, that have little duck lives.  Even though the birds are super tasty, we as Chefs have to take into account that the production used for the foie bird is unnatural to begin with, even before the invasive feeding begins.  There is the argument that “the ducks enjoy” having a tube shoved down their esophagus because they don’t have an epiglottis to cause a gag reflex.  This argument is null and void if the conception of the bird is genetically modified and unnatural anway from the beginning.  (Not to get into a debate, most chefs/diners by now have chosen their sides on this issue already).   Anyway, on to the prosciutto. 
 
 I learned to cure meats during my time at Aureole  in New York  from Amar Santana.  A super talented Chef. He was doing duck ham and prosciutto, lamb prosciutto and some other cool non pork cured meats. Of course he used nitrates (which I am not a fan of ) and a crap load of pork fat, (the super trendy standard of yumminess nowadays).  I omitted the insta-cure number series which has all of the un needed nitrates, In my opinion, since these are found naturally in fennel seed and other organic ingredients there is no need to add a factory made product. I also ommitted the forbidden swine from my repertoire and have been working on a line of Muslim-Jewish friendly charcuterie, that is (I hope) just as good as its pork counter part.  From rabbit bacon to veal mortadella, it is all possible. I started to realize that what makes ham taste like itself has less to do with the meat, and more to do with it’s cure.  Now a lot of you pork loyalist and fanatics are probably rolling your eyes and perhaps want tell me about myself right about now…but give these a shot, and while you are at it, give me my ignorance, it is bliss! I would like to imagine that when I cure and smoke my turkey leg,  it’s pretty hammy. And when I give nice fatty duck breast a really easy  salt cure followed by a  “set it and forget it” type refrigerator stay it is pretty prosciutto-y but with a character of its own.
Duck Prosciutto Recipe
Ingredients
  • One 6 or 8 ounce duck breast
  • 4 cups kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
Directions
Don’t buy duck breasts. Buy the whole bird. You will feel more connected with your food when doing this. Breakdown the whole duck, make some soup out of the carcass and wings, confit out of the legs and freeze the liver for pate to be made once enough is accumulated. Rinse and pat dry your breast with good non-dollar store paper towels (trust me on this one). Snag a dish just large enough to hold the duck breast. Make a 1-inch bed of salt on said dish. Place the breast on the salt and cover it with about another inch of salt. Cover the entire situation with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours. You can add orange rinds if you like. 
 

Breasts in the cure with fresh ground spices.

In a small bowl, combine the  coriander, fennel, and pepper. This would be the perfect time to make use of  some of those pre ground spices sitting on the counter in one of those spice

Rinsed, spiced and hanging in the walk in.

carousel’s you got as a gift. I would of course not recommend purchasing this antiquated  product, but I for sure don’t condone just throwing it away either unless it is totally rancid. If you ar going to buy spices, you should always purchase whole seed spices, whole pepper corns and fresh herbs. Unwrap the duck breast and, holding it over the sink, rinse it with the vinegar to remove the salt and then rinse it under cold running water. Pat the duck breast completely dry and then rub it all over with the spice mixture.
 

Sliced and ready to serve.

Wrap the breast in cheesecloth and knot the cloth at both ends. Tie a piece of butcher twine on the top of the cheese cloth and tie the
other end to the wire rack in the fridge. If your fridge has glass shelving, duct tape it. I could have done a cheesy little pun  there but I think hinting at it works just as well. Place a small plate or dish beneath it. Let the duck cure until it feels firm but not dry, about 2 weeks. Thinner or smaller breasts will take less time.                                    
 
Start checking after a week or so. Slice it as thin as possible Put this with some melon or on a salad and you are good to go.

Pheseant with duck bacon-sweet potato hash and sherry soubise.

 
 
If you are feeling ambitious, you can of course smoke your cured breast making duck bacon. That is just what i did  with my pheasant from Chip and Carleen Hellis’ Fowl Mountain Farm in Dummerston. 
 
http://www.ismailthechef.com/
 
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Me. My Town. And Irene. A summer for the ages.


http://www.wilmingtonvtfloodrelief.com/

http://drvhumanweb.org/  TO DONATE OR FOR EMERGENCY FUNDING CLICK HERE!

I decided to not put pictures of the flood damage on the blog. I’m sure you have scene enough.

The summer draws to a close. and it took a disaster to get me back at the computer screen squinting through my duct taped, faded Ralph Lauren frames to peck away at a measly 15 wpm (tops) in an attempt to regain my self-proclaimed title as a blogger. The disaster of the tropical storm Irene will be forever etched into my memory. There was very little wind, just hours and hours of steady rain. The devastation is immense and will take its actualized toll in the forth coming months. for more information on the floods of Irene or to help the residents and businesses,  Please Click here! I have friends who were affected and I pray things in the town of Wilmington and all over Vermont, get back to a sense of normalcy.

Wait. Dd I just say Wilmington? Last most of you heard I was at the helm of the Putney Inn. Working and gleaning from the bounty of the farms of Wyndham County. I apologize For my lack of updates on my to-ing and fro-ing. I guess I have some filling in to do.

This was to be the year that I made a solid reputation in New England as a respectable Chef providing high quality, world-class grub to locals and travelers alike. I established a wonderful network of farmers to drive my cuisine and the rep was starting. My departure had ABSOLUELY nothing to do with the owners or the property. I was given free rein to develop and create menus according to my whims and  palate. But the property was a large one. Banquets out the wazoo! And busses of tourists flocking to peep out the colorful canvas of de-naturing leaves is totally not my speed. The restaurant is still a great place to grab a bite of yummy food in southern VT and is the perfect spot to hop off of rt 91 at exit 4. www.putneyinn.com. that being said I prefer an ecosystem that caters to the expectations of dinners who are looking for THE SPOT.  So, after three offers, trails, (trying out in the kitchen) mystery baskets and negotiations, I accepted the job at what I see as being THE SPOT for me. Is it a Relais Chateau, on lake Champlain, brand spanking new with shiny never before used appliances and small wares? Absolutely not.  Is it 100 percent committed to the sustainable, farm to table, nose to tail ideology? Yessssss! (Very Important) The Wilmington Inn is in so many ways is a dream come true. The lack of the brand spanking new stuff gives it a few dings in my book but all in all, pretty close to perfect. Since we have been closed off from the rest of the world due to poor roads and mass construction vehicles, I have had a lot of time to reflect on my decision. This reflection has a reoccurring theme; community and farmonomics. Click here for more info on farmonomics. This view of the owners (along with many others) and  their commitment  mirrors my outlook super eerily. The fact that John kicked the shiny silver truck off the property with the purchase of the Inn and wants to ink the menu with “SYSCO free since 2010” is pretty slick.

These times of crisis it is important to realize our role in our communities and how we spend our money seriously affects our neighbors. In Vermont the slinging around of terminology like “buy local” is for the most part not a marketing ploy, it’s the real deal. (I can name some posers in a private convo off the record if you like) When we put a face to the producer of our product and put a face to the consumer it is more than just a business transaction, we now have a connection. When we know that Westminster Organics is Paul Harlow and family and they stand to lose a nice amount of coin in crops (250,000 in crop damage) we should  do all that we can to help.  That amount does not include property damage, loss of jobs to employees, and the fact that they have to wait four months before planting again. Buying local is the least we can doand it directly effects helps the Harlow family and all of their employees. What about Jonathan Wright of Taylor farms? in Londonderry? It is a baig chain grocer  or sysco telling you that they are discontinuing an item and you keep shopping blindly. It is painful to know that after baling hay for his grass-fed cows the flood washes a huge chunk of food for his livestock. This is the reality. when we buy Taylor Farms Gouda from the store, we are helping Jonathan Wright.

I am stoked to hear about all of the people helping get the Brattleboro farmers market up and running within a week! After first the first reports said a new location may be necessary? AMAZING! I wish I were there this saturday to see the swarm of like-minded community based folks (some a little weird) helping support the ever so needed local economy. I was helping along with a host of other residents (and non) rebuild the tourist economy based center of Wilmington which was decimated by the flood. It is a site to see. People working together is a beautiful site. There are many things going on in the valley to assist the businesses affected. I even here murmurs of a star-studded benefit concert for those without flood insurance being in the works. The Wilmington Inn is putting up five bucks from every entre to the flood relief, Chris and Steve of Apres Vous are looking to open next week and open for breakfast and lunch to give some of the folks of DOTs Dinner (a darn near monument) employment. It is nice to see a community at work.

The craziness of starting a new job has kept me away from my blog. The craziness of this storm has just revealed to me how relaxing and a release it is to share my thoughts. My unplanned time of reflection has totally fortified my ideology and commitment to the support of the small farms and producers and has given me more incentive to work at my craft and offer some of the best cuisine in Vermont. I must admit, I was not too fond of the touristy feel of the town of when I first arrived. However, the spirit of  community is in the air and I welcome all of you to Wilmington!

Next up is my garden, my foraging and some new farm visits!

Their name is on our menus… Do we know them?


I am sure you have seen menus laden with citations, bibliographies, indexes, appendixes if you will, all in an attempt to give credit to the farms that inspire our ever changing menus. I have went from listing my farms after each dish, a tallied list at the end of my menu under the name of producers to most recently coining them contributors.  I am here to tell my fellow chefs out there that a name without a face leaves one wondering who “who are these people”. Have you met them? Do you haggle the crap out of them to get your profit margins just right while leaving the farmer with change to pay for the rising costs of feed, waste management, oil for machinery and fees for organic certifications and FDA stickers? The tag line for the Windham farm and food network is, Make the connection. Buy local. Know your farmer. I DIG IT! And, this by far sums up our responsibility as food producers, educators, chefs and consumers to truly become sustainable.

So when you hear advertisements of an aluminum foil wrapped 2 pound burrito slinging  establishment waving the we are committed to local blah blah blah card, don’t believe the hype!  Trust me on this, they are duping you! Does this sicken anyone else? Are companies really taking advantage of consumers who want to eat responsibly? Of course they are and I would expect this type of exploitation from these no scruple having corps.  But when chefs irresponsibly floss the “local” card with absolutely no intention of contributing to the ever so important food awareness and sustainability movement, it saddens me. It actually ticks me off a bit. This exploitation is of course is the hottest marketing trend and restaraunteurs and Chefs are sucking it right up. What are the main issues with the food system? There is no way I can fully answer this rhetorical question in my measly little quick read posts, so watch a documentary or read the omnivores dilemma. Or for first hand experience with our food system issues you could; support your child’s soy, salt, sugar and corn addiction and send them to the school cafeteria, take a drive through a food dessert, grab a five pound “Bryson” all natural chicken breast at your local grocery, purchase a pseudo organic product from “Mole Foods”, plant a garden using new and improved GMO”Franken-Seeds” or try to get sold on buying pre-fabricated microwaveable foods while learning to cook fabulously food via the “Fooey Network”.

When you "make the Connection" you might get some seeds to grow your own micro greens. Sure beets 20 bucks a pop!

Remember, the “stand up guy” card is an easy one to throw down. What’s not easy is backing it up.  It takes commitment, true passion and in my case a lot of trial and error. I for one was extremely apprehensive about butchering. So I would request from my farmers certain cuts of meat. Now of course I see butchering as one of the most important pieces to running a TRUE

An aged veal mid-section ready for butchering.

Farm to table restaurant that truly sustains the farming community. My initial willy nilly hatchet man cuts of meat were almost as embarrassing as me taking forty plus minutes splitting an underwhelming amount of wood, or wearing kitchen clogs to a farm in mud season. (I won’t even get into my countless homesteading blunders).

The small meat producers (not talking meat factories here) biggest problem is of course the food system. It is set up to leave an enormous amount of not so popular cuts of meat. This is what it breaks down to: two of each of the following; rib loins, strip loins, tenderloin and sirloin. Not to mention, of course, the ever popular beef hanger steak.  This cut of meat could feed maybe twelve people. Thats right, twelve people from 1000 pounds! We chase after trendy cuts to keep a consistent menu and remain relevant in todays  ever-changing landscape of foodie satisfaction. Totally un-sustainable.   If you have some rump in your kitchen, some people may get try tips, (again maybe 10 servings out of the whole steer), and of course some short ribs, and a few other cuts of interest. But the fact remains that out of a steer that weighs in at 1000 plus pounds, the majority is left as un favorable cuts of beef to the consumer after all the highly preferred ones are swooped up by Chefs that don’t want to do the work of making as many menu items as possible out of the whole animal. And this is happening across the country at self-proclaimed sustainable/Farm to table restaurants. Again, pretty un-sustainable.  This lack of commitment from chefs and in some cases lack of support from money hungry owners leaves the farmer making sub-par sausage (in most cases) to sell at farmers markets and many a compromise from chefs (use your imagination here). Don’t believe me? Ask a farmer. I am finding them to be some of the coolest people around!

The Garden Shots Have nothing to do with this post. I am just super psyched!

It is super beneficial to both parties involved in the whole animal purchase. Number one. When a farmer has a bunch of leftover meat for grind and unfavorable cuts sitting in their deep freezer (if they have one), this makes the price of a 100% grass-fed prime cut on average 4 dollars more per pound and of course this gets passed on to the consumer which then keeps only the well to do partaking in the joys of true all natural eats. And adds to the notion that some have (I’m on the fence) about the totally clueless foodie elitists out there zipping around in their Priuses. Which still have 7 gallons of oil in each tire, the body of the car is made of oil and they are shipped here on tankers using a bunch of oil and are shipped on semis using crazy amounts of oil and…and… and….  Where are our post oil solutions? This charade and bamboozlement adds nothing to sustainability movement either.

My Award!

The local movement does not end at just having local food. It doesn’t even start at it. Making the connection is the key component. At least that is what the Windham Farm and Food network believes and I for one am all about it. Don’t know how to say this without saying it so…. I WAS GIVEN AN AWARD!  And no it’s not the James Beared or a Rising Star Award or anything like that. Trust me. Not taking anything away from the insanely talented chefs who totally deserve the recognition especially all the great chefs in C-town who get slighted every year. But any way… Mine is the highly touted Farm and Food Chef All-stars award! When Hanz Estrin (he runs the organization) called me up and informed me I was a recipient, I couldn’t wait to put it on my fridge! I even took a picture of it to share with you guys.

One last thought. And I want you guys to help me on this one. As I said earlier, I give credit to my farmers on my menu. Is this necessary as a Chef? Shouldn’t a diner spending hard-earned loot EXPECT the best? And we all know there is NOTHING better than an in season heirloom tomato or an over wintered parsnip! I’m leaning towards the belief that if I run my kitchen with integrity, I will get the respect of the farmer. That farmer/producer will then tell a customer of theirs they can get the goods at my establishment. Once this cycle repeats itself amongst the community enough times, my kitchen would be recognized as a stalwart operation with integrity and commitment to as many farms it takes to sustain my establishment. What do you guys think? I would love to hear from you!

Just want to show you guys what we are up to. Kale, artichokes, peppers, tomatoes, onions and of course herbs.

For more information on the Windham Farm and Food Network supported by the UVM extension Click here! I can attest to its successes (and ease of use) and it continues to make my life easier as a chef striving to support my farming neighbors.

Aging Meat… and its OK to eat veal!


 

 

There is no way I can argue with those vegan type people about the production of veal. It is undoubtedly one of the most disrespectful, irresponsible forms of animal treatment second to only foire production.  I will definitely touch on that debauchery in a later post. When we go spend our hard earned money, we want ingredients and food preparations that are worth the coin, that’s inventive and just plain old fulfilling. This does not entail us eating with our eyes closed. I can recall a former chef whom I respect a great deal but will remain nameless “educate” me on the way a good cut of veal should be white with a tint of pink. He failed to mention that the paleness comes from a forced anemia. There are tons of bloggers and videos on the net exposing the truth about veal production so I won’t go there in this post. Unless you guys want me to of course.

I LOVE VEAL! Until recently, for the afore mentioned reasons, it never had a place on my menu.

This calves name was Hogan

I actually  have a veal midsection hanging in my meat locker right now that I landed from fancy meats of Vermont. I let it hang at just around 36 degrees for about 21 days. This aging helps develop a deep flavor that is noticed instantly. The outside layer will dry and crust over, thus protecting the inner flesh from rotting. I put a BUNCH of salt. Like one bag of rock salt at the bottom of the cooler to reduce the microbe production. If it gets furry, don’t worry. Just wipe it with a towel doused in salt water if it makes you feel better. I don’t. All of the outside will be trimmed revealing a perfectly aged primal cut of veal.

I skipped the part where I tell you how its ok to eat veal now! On purpose of course.  Lydia Ratcliff at seventy plus years runs a cooperative of, responsible veal producers through her company fancy meats of Vermont. You can find these veal calves on some of New England’s conscious chefs menus labeled humanely raised veal or rose veal. I was so stoked when I found this out. I hadn’t eaten veal in years. (now foire, that’s another story! Its so good) I found out that these responsible dedicated farmers raise their calves from birth on a diet of pasture flora and good ol fashioned mother’s milk. I have it on my menu as humanely raised veal. You may see it as rose veal as well. Yeah the cuts are a little bigger but I seriously like it better. Its less of a conduit and I think it stands out as a more distinct flavor.

If you have ordered veal in restaurants before, you probably noticed notice its opaqueness. This lack of color (anemia) is due to the lack of nutrients. After the calves are born they are immediately taken away from their moms and give a milk substitute formula lacking necessary nutrients for long term survival. When a calf is fed real milk not formula and allowed to pasture it develops necessary nutrients to live a comfortable and healthy albeit short life.  Because of these nutrients, the flesh develops a pinkish rosy color.

It is super important to vote with your dollars and only buy humanely raised veal. IT TASTE BETTER ANYWAY! Don’t eat with your eyes closed and know where ALL your meat comes from. Or get started vegetable only diet. But seriously, who wants to do that.

Thanks again for checking my site and read on for a instructions on how to PROPERLY age meat without getting food poisoning.

Oh yeah Here is a cool little video about Lydia and her cooperative on thoughtcast!

http://vimeo.com/6371172

There are two kinds of aging when it comes to meat wet aging and dry aging. Wet aging is when the beef is put into a vacuum sealed plastic bag and allowed to age in its own juices. Wet aging takes less time than dry aging, generally around seven days. Wet aging is the type of aging that most butchers do now. Dry aging is different though, and is actually when you want the beef to dry out. It takes anywhere from seven to twenty-one days to dry age beef. This process allows the moisture in the muscle to evaporate, and this gives the meat a deeper beefy or vealy flavor. Also, the beef is naturally tenderized because of the fact that the enzymes in the beef are breaking down. One thing to keep in mind is that you cannot dry age single steaks because they are too thin.

For the purposes of this article you will need a primal piece of veal or beef such as a whole ribeye or a whole loin strip. If you have access to larger sections this will be fine as well but obviously you are going to need a large enough cooler.

You will need a rectangle pan, a wire rack, meat thermometer and some dish towels.  As I mentioned previously I hang my larger cuts so air gets it from all directions and the outer  dries faster.

1  Rinse your piece of beef with cold water.

2 Dry the beef well with one or two large white dish towels. Set it aside for a minute and allow it to drain.

3   Put your pan and wire rack on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator (because this is where it is coldest).

4

Wrap your beef in another of your large white dish towels and put it on the rack. Using your thermometer measure the temperature, you don’t want a temperature any warmer than 36 degrees F.

5

Change the towel(s) wrapping your beef daily. Empty and rinse the pan daily as well. This is to ensure that your beef stays as dry as possible and that hopefully no mold or any other kind of bacteria has a chance to start growing. Remember. This is DRY aging

6

Age your beef for ten days to two weeks. Cut off anything on the outer layer that is dry, crusty, or that seems like it could be bad for you to eat such as if you notice some green mold growing for example.

7

Store dry aged beef in your refrigerator for up to twenty-one days. If you haven’t eaten all the meat in twenty-one days, cut the rest of it into steaks. Put it in freezer-proof, heavy duty plastic wrap, or plastic bags and put it in your freezer.

 

The Fooey Network


How can you promote scratch cooking while being sponsored by pre-made sauces, salty boxed rice and 20 plus ingredient frozen cheesecakes?  I have heard of such a network in a far away land that switched a once credible Chef lineup and respectable programing for slots filled with conventionally attractive, cool, funny entertainers (Chefs in their previous lives).  They are called the Fooey network. We have seen this happen in the music industry as well. Are these current  musicians contributing anything to their craft? Song writers, musicians and producers of the past would agree with me when I say don’t let these clowns pimp your passion, hard work, craft and artistry!  Why do we feel the need to suppress talent and promote image? Am I the only Chef out here that sees th parallels between the new American “Pop Star”  and The Fooey Networks  self promoted “Aluminum Chefs”. These Chefs will try to sell you non stick cook ware  and an acronym labeled olive oil for twice the price. What am I paying for, the acronym?! I keep thinking about Garth from Wayne’s world decked out in sponsored gear while saying people only do things to get payed. (This was a super funny scene).  If the video killed the radio star then what is the Fooey Network doing to our culinary artists? If cooking ever becomes less hip, I can assure you that programmers will seek out  the most attractive and marketable tailors and quilt makers.  When teaching my classes, I want to teach people who seek to grow their skill set and increase their culinary IQ. Based on solid techniques and principles. I’ve been told that im a fun guy, so I reckon the classes reflect my personality, but definitely not forced. I want to show how to make PASTA before you make the diavolo sauce. And what about storing your pasta be it frozen or dried? I don’t want you to pay more money for the peeled, deveined shrimp when on average they are two dollars less when purchased skin and tail on. Trust me, it is not hard to clean them… and guess what; you know that yummy risotto you want to learn how to make? You can use the shells to make tasty-no salt added-stock that seriously will rival that of your favorite Italian eatery.  Not to mention it is a much healthier option.  Same goes with whole fish and poultry; cheaper when purchased whole, and you don’t need to buy pre made stocks, broth and bouillon. Your skills will be increased and you will save money.  In my virtually non-existent free time, I am working on putting together a series of lessons that will build upon your current skill set, helping you reach your goal, and produce the foods that you are paying an arm and a leg for in the grocery store.  We will build a quality pantry, producing food that is sustainable, healthy, and of course yummy.  And trust me, you wont be using a low-grade olive oil with a smiling face and an acronym on the label.

Till next time…

Farm Visit: Vermont Shepherd


So after another one of my farm visits to VT Shepherd, I was sold on the wonders of sheep’s milk Cheese. During the production of the cheese you get the necessary separation of curds and whey.  David Major, (producer of my personal favorite sheep cheese), makes two different cheeses out of the curd.  The first cheese is his signature VT Shepherd, which is the cheese I am using on my roasted garlic Caesar salad instead of the classic shaved parmesan.  I had to find an application for this yummy cheese after I tasted it.  I learned through trial and error that this cheese is better utilized uncooked as opposed to cooked because it tends to denature (separate) when heat is applied.   The second cheese which is made out of the curd as well is called Queso De Invierno.  This  cheese is able to withstand heat because it is a mixture of cow and sheep’s milk cheese.  The cow’s milk is from a neighboring farm and this cheese was named because it was created in the winter time, (if you weren’t already clued in by the name).  Alice and I came up with two uses for this super tasty cheese: the first we use in the Yukon potato and parsnip tart (dauphinoise) served with the grass-fed ribeye, onion/pepper demi, and fennel apple slaw. The second use was a an obvious one. I really love biscuits, so I called my brother (who will remain nameless to preserve his ego) and used his recipe as my inspiration. We serve these biscuits with our harrissa spiced lamb and root vegetable stew. The lamb of course is sourced from David’s farm as well and is quite tasty. The Queso De Invierno was my parents favorite when they came to visit during foliage 2010. David also makes a ricotta salata out of the whey. I don’t have an application for this one yet but we are playing around with some things and of course, it’s yummy. As I mentioned last time, you can get these cheeses online @ vtshepherd.com. Try these cheeses with some crusty bread and honey or click the links below download these recipes.

ismailthechef.com

Welcome to Vermont!


Vermont my Foodie Friends may as well be the localvore capital of the United States.  Even the grocery stores here label where your food comes from.  For example they have two types of tomatoes to choose from one will say Mexico and the other will say from so and so farm in Vermont.  And trust me, the Mexican tomatoes might be cheaper but they are rotting on the shelf because most people choose the local ones.  That is if they even shop at the grocery store because the Co-ops and farm stands and farmers markets here are amazing!  It’s like a chefs’ dream come true for fresh produce.  Not to mention the meat selection…and the cheese…oh my god the cheese…I have gained 10 lbs since I moved here and I swear to you it is all the CHEESES fault!   Since my wife stayed in Cleveland for the 6 months of my trial run here in VT I think my diet consisted of cheese, cereal, more cheese, and maybe some yogurt.  I know I am a chef but at the end of the day when you get home late the last thing you want to do is cook.  Plus I am telling you this Vermont cheese is like the next best thing to chocolate, and for me to say that about chocolate…that’s huge. It is hard to say which cheese is my favorite but i am very partial to sheep’s milk cheese and David Major makes an unbeliveable washed rind cheese called Vermont Shepherd. VT Shepherd is also the name of the company. He and his wife (who is super cool) have an unbelievable farm that produces three cheeses The afore-mentioned has won many awards and can be found in fine restaurants and specialty stores across the country. You can also find it online at vtshepheard.com. Funny thing about VT is that David still has dial-up where he lives in the mountains so he doesnt update his site as much as he would like to. I guess he has a reason, I’m just not as committed (…lazy) to blogging the way that I want to be. Be patient. I’ll get there. I might even have some friends join me in my writings. My next posts wont be prefaced with a promise because I have shown you that I am not ready to keep to them. I can say, I am going to talk more about the wonderful cheeses and the great time I had Up on Patch Road at VT Shepherd. thanks David!

Till next time, Peas out.