monkfish on a bed of potatoes and olives with 13 bay leaves

In spite of its somewhat grand appearance in the picture above, it’s one of the most perfect minimal meals I know, and so very popular with Barry and I. This time it was even more spectacular, for a reason probably related to a decision to include some habanada pepper in the mix.

The original recipe appeared in the New York Times almost 20 years ago.

  • * four monkfish tails (a total of one pound and a quarter) from American Seafood Company, rinsed, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, roasted at 400º for 10 minutes with three fourths of a cup of black oil-cured olives from Buon Italia, pits removed, on top of a bed of a full pound of very thinly-sliced scrubbed, unpeeled and seasoned Nicola potatoes from Hawthorne Valley Farm which had already been roasted for about 40 minutes, along with about a dozen dry Italian bay leaves, also from Buon Italia, and a pinch or so of crushed dried orange/gold and dark habanada pepper, in a very generous amount of olive oil (1/4 of a cup), the dish, now with the monkfish, removed when the potatoes had softened and the edges had begun to crisp, and arranged on 2 plates, garnished with micro red amaranth from two Guys from Woodbridge, with a little watercress from Eatlay nestled on the side
  • the wine was a California (Napa) white, Sterling Vintner’s Collection Pinot Grigio 2016, from Philippe Liquors
  • the music was Mozart’s 1775 opera, ‘Il Re Pastore’, Ian Page conducting the Classical Opera, with soloists Sarah Fox, John Mark Ainsley, Ailish Tynan, and Benjamin Hulett

Kassler, Sauerkraut; Saltzkartoffeln, Roggen Brotkrumen

Last night, just after we had finished eating, and before writing this post, I followed up on a tweet and reply I had published earlier in the evening that had indicated, with no embellishments, what one of the major parts of this meal would be (I even included an image of the sauerkraut while it was cooking). That second tweet read,

not saying it just because there’s been a certain buildup to this meal, and some of us know not every meal coming out of this kitchen is even very good, but tonight’s (sauerkraut, smoked pork chops, Saltzkartoffeln with toasted rye bread crumbs, was sublime

The dinner really was very, very good, although I can’t explain why. In fact, just before I had begun to put it together I had thought about aborting it and coming back to it on another day: I had learned I didn’t have a couple of the ingredients for the particular sauerkraut I had hoped to serve with the Rauchbier I planned to serve with the meal. Instead I shifted gears and turned to another recipe, but keeping the Rauchbier.

I would say that nothing was really new in any of the 3 parts of the entrée, either the ingredients or the techniques used, except for caraway bread crumbs as the topping for the potatoes. I did accidentally reverse the order of the covered/uncovered sequence in the early cooking of the sauerkraut, but I had expected starting off uncovered would have had a negative effect on the texture, if not the flavor; it might actually have been a boon.

In any event, this meal made me very happy, also because I brought it in under our new mutually-agreed dinner deadline, making us both very happy.

  • * one 16-ounce glass jar of sauerkraut (simply cabbage, water, sea salt) from Schaller & Weber [also here] drained and very well-rinsed in several changes of cold water, drained again and placed inside a large, heavy, high-sided tin-lined copper pot with 2 medium sweet yellow onions and one red onion (the red one to be a little perverse), both from Norwich Meadows Farm,  one ‘Newtown Pippin’ apple from Samascott Orchards, 8 or 9 whole juniper berries and about the same number of Whole Foods Market proprietary brand peppercorns, a little sea salt, 1 large Sicilian bay leaf from Buon Italia, enough fresh water to almost cover the sauerkraut, with more added later on as needed, all brought to a boil then merely simmered (uncovered at first, this time) over a low flame, stirring occasionally, for less than half an hour, and then covered (again, this time) for 20 or 30 minutes more, after which two 9-ounce smoked pork chops (in Germany usually called Kassler) from Schaller & Weber, that had first been dried and briefly seared on both sides inside a dry cast iron pan, were buried in the sauerkraut and heated for about 15 or 20 minutes, the chops and sauerkraut arranged on 2 plates
  • somewhat over a pound (we could have survived with less, but they were absolutely delicious) of medium-size Nicola potatoes from Tamarack Hollow Farm, scrubbed, boiled whole and 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 couple tablespoons of rich Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter [with 12 grams of fat per 14 grams, for each tablespoon of butter; American butter almost always has only 11 grams, which makes a surprising difference in both taste and texture], seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, after which the potatoes were arranged on the plates next to the chops and the sauerkraut and sprinkled with homemade breadcrumbs made from the heel of a loaf of Orwasher’s ‘Righteous Corn Rye’ which had first been browned in a little butter with a pinch of salt
  • * we shared bottles of 2 different kinds of Bamberg Rauchbiere (more about both my own ancient and Barry’s more recent connection to that very special beer here, and here), Schlenkerla‘s ‘Fastenbier’ and ‘Urbock’, from Schaller & Weber
  • * the music was Vicente Martin y Soler and Lorenzo da Ponte’s delightful 1786 opera, ‘Il Burbero Di Buon Cuore’, Christophe Rousset conducting the Madrid Teatro Real Orchestra

spaghetti with tuna-caper-peperoncino sauce, parsley

Last night’s dinner represented a return to Italy, or at least one interpretation of Italy. While there were no fish stalls in the Greenmarket on Monday, again because of the weekend’s bitter cold, but I did manage to put fish on the table.

Three years ago I wrote this about this terrific dish, and except for the fact that I actually haven’t served it since, for reasons I can’t explain even to myself, I stand by every word:

This simple meal became a standard in our kitchen from the day I first tried it.  It follows a classic and delicious Mark Bittman recipe which can be put together entirely with ingredients normally always on hand, meaning it’s perfect for those times when the cook has not had a chance to get to a market of any kind.  Bittman describes the parsley ‘garnish’ as optional, and so the dish maintains my boast, but I can’t imagine not including what is the most common herb in the kitchen, if at all possible.

  • one medium roughly-chopped sweet yellow onion from Norwich Meadows Farm, stirred in a couple tablespoons of olive oil over a medium-high flame inside a large enameled cast iron pot until softened, followed there by a teaspoon of crushed dried Sicilian pepperoncino from Buon Italia, a generous amount of freshly-ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons of salted Sicilian capers, rinsed, and the contents of one 14-ounce can of Simpson Brands domestic (San Marzano-type) plum tomatoes, the tomatoes themselves first roughly chopped, the mixture cooked, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes began to break up, the heat then lowered and the pot kept on the flame for 5 or 10 minutes more, then just before the pasta itself (8 ounces of Setaro spaghetti from Buon Italia), boiled barely al dente was added, 6 ounces of Portuguese Ás do Mar belly meat tuna in olive oil, already slightly flaked, slid into the sauce and mixed in, some reserved pasta water added and stirred in to ensure the pasta was not really dry, arranged in 2 shallow bowls, garnished with chopped parsley from Westside Market
  • the wine was an Italian (Calabria) red, Scala, Ciro Rosso Superiore, 2013, from Flatiron Wines
  • the music was Mozart’s 1772 ‘one-act dramatic serenade’, ‘Il sogno di scipione’, Ian Page condicting with the Classical Opera Company

herb-basted grilled goat rib; lemon-roasted white beet; kale

I had only cooked goat ribs once before. It was early August, and I wanted to avoid turning on the oven, so I managed to devise a scheme that would allow be to cook them on top of the stove. They were delicious, and it was a very simple process, so I repeated it last night.

The ribs looked great on the plate, the aroma was wonderful, and they were very tasty, but we were both disappointed that they were quite chewy (the meat definitely did not ‘fall off the bone’). I might have had more success had I kept them on the grill pan even longer than I did, but I don’t know for certain. Even allowing for the fact that goat is nowhere near as fatty as pork, or even veal or beef, I think I could do better next time if I approached the cooking differently.

  • one side of goat/cabrito riblets from Tony of Consider Bardwell Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, cut along the bone with a kitchen shears into 4 pieces, dried on paper towels and pan-grilled inside an enameled cast iron ribbed pan for a total of at least 20 minutes, basting all along with 2 long branches of rosemary, tied together and repeatedly dipped into a mixture of oil, red Rioja wine vinegar, crushed dried dark habanada pepper (from fresh ones purchased in the fall of 2016 from Norwich Meadows Farm), sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, replacing a very loose cover of tin foil between each sweep of the herb with its basting mixture, arranged on 2 plates, garnished with micro red amaranth from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • ten or 11 ounces of not-large white beets from Norwich Meadows Farm, trimmed, scrubbed, and cut into approximately 1-inch wedges, tossed in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, more than 1 tablespoon of a mix of chopped herbs (fresh thyme and winter savory from Stokes Farm, sage from Keith’s Farm), more than half of a teaspoon of freshly-grated zest from a Whole Foods Market organic lemon, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, arranged one flat side down on a cured unglazed medium Pampered Chef oven pan, placed in the  lower third of an oven preheated to 450°F, roasted, turning once or twice, until tender and slightly browned, or 20 to 25 minutes, arranged on the plates and garnished with chopped lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • the small amount of winter kale that remained from a large bunch from Hoeffner Farms we had enjoyed the night before, washed, drained, wilted inside a medium tin-lined antique copper pot in less than a tablespoon or so of olive oil in which 2 bruised and one halved clove of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm had first been allowed to sweat and begin to color, the greens seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and arranged on the plates, a little more olive oil drizzled on top
  • the wine was a California (Lodi, I believe) red, F. Stephen Millier Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon California 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Wagner’s magnificent late (1887-1882) Bühnenweihfestspiel, ‘Parsifal’, a beautifully-engineered 1962 recording of a great performance, Hans Knappertsbusch conducting the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and the Bayreuth Festival Chorus, with soloists Jess Thomas, Gustav Neidlinger, Niels Moller, Georg Paskuda, Gerhard Stolze, Dorothea Siebert, Irene Dalis, Martti Talvela, Gerd Nienstedt, Ursula Boese, Anja Silja, Gundula Janowitz, George London, Hans Hotter, and Sona Cervena

‘Americauna’ breakfast: Amish blue eggs and thick bacon

(sunlight reflected from the north on its rare stretch across an ancient table)

 

The Amish generally have a reputation for their traditional ways, and their reluctance to adopt modern conveniences, although this hasn’t always meant always abjuring actual modern technologies, and there are major variations in the practice of  their many communities.  Still, it’s interesting to find the Amish farm most familiar to this New Yorker, and perhaps most New Yorkers, introducing us to relatively innovative food products.

I’m no longer surprised to see John Stoltzfoos selling things like peppery cheeses and spicy sausages (all excellent, by the way), but I was recently surprised to  find him in his family’s Millport Dairy Farm stall at the Union Square Greenmarket, selling blue eggs that had been laid by the trendy Americauna chicken, which was first bred in the US in the 1970s.

I’ve been buying those eggs ever since. The color is only incidental for me: It’s the taste and those plump, deep-yellow yolks that are the attraction for both Barry and I now.

This morning afternoon they dominated a particularly beautiful breakfast table, a rather traditional American board whose ingredients were, except for the salt and pepper, and, probably, the butter, entirely of local origin.

  • the makings of this meal included thick bacon from Millport Dairy Farm, Cultured Pastured Butter from Organic Valley, Japanese scallion greens from Norwich Meadows Farm (remarkable survivors, with some attention, in the crisper!), Ameraucana chicken eggs from Millport Dairy Farm, black pepper, sea salt, Maldon sea salt for finishing, crushed dried golden/orange habanada bought fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm, Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ (from Maine, near Skowhegan, and they are so pretty local, pretty green) via Whole Foods Market, winter savory (now half-dried from branches that were originally fresh) from Stokes Farm, fresh lovage from two Guys from Woodbridge, toasts of a day-old whole wheat baguette from Runner & Stone Bakery, and fresh slices of a Sullivan Street Stirato
  • the music was an extraordinary performance of Beethoven’s 1823 ‘Missa Solemnis’ John Eliot Gardiner conducting l’Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, the Monteverdi Choir, and the solists Alastair Miles, Charlotte Margiono, Catherine Robbin, and William Kendall