venison; watercress; roasted fingerlings; brussels sprouts

I wasn’t looking for game when I went to the Greenmarket last Saturday. I already had plans for our entrée that evening, but I stopped to say hello to the people at Quattro’s Poultry & Game Farm.

I went home with an excellent piece of venison, well sealed in plastic, and we had it on Tuesday night.

While at the stand I had noticed a single venison steak at the bottom of one of their display containers. I made a mental note reminding myself that venison is occasionally available in our local farmer’s market (I’ve enjoyed Quattro’s once before, some time back). I started to walk away but decided that I shouldn’t pass up this opportunity: If I took it home I would be free to use it soon or else freeze it for a later meal.

Venison steaks are actually extremely simple to prepare, and I already had a a sauce, an interesting prepared butter waiting in the freezer. Moreover, the only green vegetable I had on hand last night, a couple handfuls of some really beautiful Brussels sprouts, would be even more simple to cook than the game they might accompany.

It all looked too easy to me however, and since I had more than enough time, I expanded the entrée with a little cress and the last 4 potatoes from a small store of fingerling potatoes I had been husbanding.

The meal was a small triumph, and I still have a little of that terrific butter left in the freezer for another night.

  • one 14-ounce leg steak of free-range venison from Quattro’s Poultry & Game Farm, brought to room temperature, brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper on both sides, set aside for almost an hour, grilled inside a ribbed, enameled cast iron pan over medium-high heat for a little over 2 minutes on each side, or until medium-rare, then cut into 2 pieces, a tablespoon or so of a room-temperature blue-cheese-and-fennel-seed composed butter placed on top of each while they were still warm [the butter being a frozen leftover made for an earlier meal of venison, using some softened ‘Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter‘ flavored with a small amount of toasted and crushed dried fennel seed; a few drops of Worcestershire sauce; salt; pepper; a couple ounces of Gorgonzola Casarrigoni from Whole Foods; and a sprinkling of crushed dried, very dark, heatless habanada peppers, rolled between sheets of wax paper, into a ‘log’ one inch in diameter]
  • baby red watercress from Two Guys from Woodbridge, dressed with a little good olive oil, Maldon salt, and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper

Lotte à la moutarde Pierre Franey; la tombée d’épinards

These days it’s not often I get to feel a little French while sitting at a dinner table, but last night there was something of the feel of a Paris bistro inside our own apartment, thanks in part to a French chef who had come to the U.S. in 1939.

An alien (yes!) kitchen assistant working legally in the French pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair, Pierre Franey chose to join the U.S. army as an infantry machine gunner when his adopted country entered the war. He had declined the offer to become General MacArthur’s cook, and later won a Purple Heart. After the war he rose to the position of top chef at Le Pavillon and La Cote Basque, but he dedicated much of his later career to bringing a broader appreciation to the pleasures of preparing good food, including an emphasis on regional cuisine, local sources, simple preparation.

Born into a socialist family in northern Burgundy in 1921, Franey died with his chef’s toque on, suffering a fatal stroke in 1996 just after conducting a cooking demonstration on the Queen Elizabeth II.

A few years ago his 3 children created a website which includes over a hundred of his recipes.

This one, for what we call monkfish, isn’t in it, but it’s pretty terrific, and obviously not very haute.

  • four small monkfish fillets (about 18 ounces total) from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, washed, drained, dried, then prepared ‘Dijon Style’, with a red onion variation of this vintage Pierre Franey recipe [note: 15 minutes may be too long for fish this size]; the ingredients I used included Cremini mushrooms from John D. Madura Farm, garlic from Healthway Farms & CSA; one small red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm; Tufjano Bianco, Colli della Murgia – 2013 wine, from Astor Wines; the juice from one small local lemon (Fantastic Gardens of N.J.); Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter; and parsley from Eataly

I don’t have a picture of the mushrooms here, because I grabbed the last in the farmer’s little bin, but here’e the Spinach, wonderful, both before and after its preparation.

  • spinach from John D. Madura Farm (around 6 oz.), washed in several changes of water, drained, gently wilted (that is, not reduced too far) inside a large enameled cast iron pot in a little olive oil in which 2 cloves of garlic from Healthway Farms & CSA had first been allowed to sweat, seasoned with salt, freshly-ground black pepper, a little crushed dried Itria-Sirissi chili (peperoncino di Sardegna intero) from Buon Italia, then drizzled with olive oil and a little juice from one small local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of N.J.
  • The wine was a California (grapes from the Sacramento River Delta with a small amount of Viognier from Lodi) white, Miriam Alexandra Chenin Blanc California 2016, by Alexandra Farber, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Mahler’s ‘Symphony No 9’, Iván Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestrá

Wienerschnitzel; Saltzkartoffeln; Rotkohlsalat

I’ve got the cooking process down, if not quite pat.

Wienerschnitzel‘ is not yet something that pops up inside my mind’s rotating index of reiterated home meals, but it’s on the way. The idea of this classic dish occasionally pops up inside my head, even when I’m not in Germany or Austria, but unless I see a supplier or butcher offering it, in whom I have real confidence, I’m not likely to bring home a veal cutlet.

Last week it came together: One of my favorite cheese makers (goat and cow), whom I visit regularly in the Union Square Greenmarket, had a package of frozen cutlets (baby boy goats and baby boy cows don’t produce milk, which explains that side of the noble craft of cheese making), and it was just the right size for two.

I think I can say in all honesty that this is as far as I go with deep frying. While frying a breaded cutlet is in fact nothing like deep frying, the effect is somewhat comparable.

I was very lucky to have some veal lard on hand – an exceptional ingredient, excellent for service in this meal – and in many others – which I had rendered from some veal fat obtained from Consider Bardwell months ago and had then stored in the freezer.

I did some research before starting to prepare last night’s meal, and I learned that my ancient rolling pin (one piece; no handle or ball bearings) couldn’t really substitute for a proper mallet in reducing the cutlets to the desired 1/16″ to 1/8″ thickness: The meat should be pounded in order to tenderize it as it properly, and rolling it – regardless of pressure applied -just wouldn’t do it. Fortunately I have an equally ancient wooden mallet that’s worked fine in the past (and also a sturdy kitchen counter), although all other personnel in the area (i.e., Barry) fled the kitchen before I started.

For the recipe, I read straight from my copy of Mimi Sheraton’s classic “German Cookbook”, which I bought over 50 years ago. This modern link uses essentially the same text.

I should warn that the instructions, in both iterations, says the fat should be “very hot and bubbling”, but that the breaded veal should still be fried “slowly”, so adjust your technique accordingly. I missed that contradiction, but managed to adjust the pan just in time.

The Schnitzel were very juicy, but the coatings appear to be a little dark in the image above.  The color almost certainly comes from the sturdy whole wheat flour I used, and also the breadcrumbs, which I make from a large variety of breads, almost all of them whole wheat.

One more observation, this one even more a question of aesthetics: I should have avoided garnishing garnishing the potatoes with those breadcrumbs: Their superfluity was obvious the moment I had spooned them onto the plates.

Ah, the vegetables; here seen posing while still in their Union Square Greenmarket stalls:

  • This modern link uses essentially the same text of the recipe in the hard copy of the Mimi Sheraton book I used; the ingredients I used were 5 Vermont veal cutlets (a total of .68 lbs) from Consider Bardwell Farm; one half of a local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of L.I.; 3/4 of a cup of local whole wheat flour from the Blew family of Oak Grove Mills in the Union Square Greenmarket; 2 free range eggs from Millport Dairy in northeastern Pennsylvania; 2 tablespoons of Greek (yeah, Greece Greek) olive oil; almost a cup of homemade breadcrumbs from any number of breads, most of them whole wheat; 4 or 5 tablespoons/ounces of Vermont veal lard rendered from veal fat provided by Consider Bardwell Farm
  • four Red Gold potatoes from Keith’s Farm, scrubbed, boiled unpeeled in heavily-salted water until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried in the still-warm vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, a tablespoon or more of rich Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter [with 12 grams of fat per 14 grams, or each tablespoon of butter; American butter almost always has only 11 grams, which makes a surprising difference in taste and texture], the Saltzkartoffeln arranged on the plates and sprinkled with homemade breadcrumbs which had first been browned in a little butter, and chopped parsley from Eataly
  • one half-pound red cabbage from Northshire Farm, washed, cored, quartered, sliced thinly, added, along with a few tablespoons of roasted pecans, chopped roughly, to a bowl in which 3 tablespoons of red current jelly from Berkshire Berries, 2 tablespoons of walnut oil, one tablespoon of Columela Rioja 30 Year Reserva sherry vinegar had been mixed, everything now stirred thoroughly and seasoned with salt and pepper, before one Honey Crisp apple from Locust Grove Fruit Farm (peeled, quartered, cored, sliced thinly) was added to the cabbage, the salad stirred again and served on the side
  • the wine was an excellent German (Rheingau) white, Stock & Stein Riesling Trocken, Jakob-Kühn – 2014, from Astor Wines
  • the music was Mozart’s 1787 opera, ‘Don Giovanni’, Arnold Östman conducting the Drottningholm Court Theatre Orchestra, with Arleen Augér, Della Jones, Barbara Bonney, Nico van der Meel, Håkan Hagegård, et al.

breakfast with a lot of pretty fixings

We already know the story. So why am I bothering to post another fairly routine Sunday breakfast? Because it was there; because we love breakfast; because the photo of this one is a little prettier than some; also, those 3 golden yokes are particularly perky.

  • the free range eggs were from Millport Dairy Farm, as was the thick smoked bacon; the bright red Maine tomatoes were Backyard Farm ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods; the allium was part of one spring onion from Norwich Meadows Farm; the small bunch of greens was micro red watercress from Two Guys from Woodbridge, as was the chopped lovage sprinkled on top of the eggs; the eggs enjoyed a healthy pinch of crushed golden home-dried Habanada pepper as well, also from Norwich Meadows Farm (acquired fresh last season); there was also Maldon salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper; there was a little dried dill on the tomatoes; and the toast was from a loaf of Bien Cuit ‘Campagne’ from Foragers

quail eggs on toast; spelt spaghettone, habanada, cheese

I had these little eggs, which I knew would make a good appetizer, especially if they were slipped onto some extraordinary toast. For the main course, I thought of having something pretty simple while still a little wintry. I headed for Luca Donofrio‘s fresh pasta shop inside Eataly in the afternoon, and there I found some thick fresh spelt pasta which I knew would be delicious with only some butter, a special seasoning, and some Parmesan cheese.

  • seven quail eggs (I served 4 of the 7, seen in the picture above, to Barry) from Violet Hill Farm, remaining from a similar meal the week before fried in a little butter and carefully transferred onto toasts of an Eric Kayser thinly-sliced torsade de aux olives (organic flour, liquid levin, olive oil, black and green olives, herbs of Provence), the eggs sprinkled with maldon salt, freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, a pinch of dried dill, and scissored fresh chives scattered over all, the toasts served with upland cress from Two Guys from Woodbridge dressed lightly with a good olive oil

The second course was actually even simpler than the antipasto.

  • fresh spelt spaghettone (made with Wild Hive Farm local whole grain spelt, durum flour, eggs, water) from Luca Donofrio‘s fresh pasta shop inside Eataly served in a sauce of melted Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter, a little crushed golden home-dried habanada pepper (acquired fresh last season from Norwich meadows Farm), some freshly-ground black pepper, the pasta tossed with Parmigiano-Reggiano Vache Rosse from Eataly