Rarely do I post about lunch, mostly because we don’t usually make much of a deal about midday meals at home, but when I assemble something out of leftovers and other things I might have on hand – especially if there may be some lesson in it, for me at least – I’m tempted to share it. For it to happen, of course, the picture also has to be presentable.
I started out only wanting to put together a quick meal for the two of us, but the soup which resulted was even more delicious than it deserved to be under the circumstances.
I know that I’m supposed to cook everything from scratch, and as much as possible with local ingredients, but this was just lunch. Never underestimate the usefulness, or goodness, of Knorr leek mix. I’ve had a soft spot for the company, founded in 1838 to make a coffee substitute, since I was living in Hanover in 1961. I think part of my fascination with the rudimentary German supermarkets at the time might have been the discovery that there was such a thing as Ersatzkaffee, but I’m not certain it was Carl Heinrich Theodor‘s product I knew then. Today the Knorr brand is owned by Unilever. I go for long stretches not thinking about it, but then I’ll spot the tidy icon in a store, and I melt just a bit. I don’t know what I had in mind when I bought the firm’s leek mix packets perhaps a couple years ago, but the last one came in very handy today. The fact that the dry mix tasted as good as it always does/did probably helps explain it’s usefulness – and popularity.
- a package of Knorr ‘Leek recipe mix’ I had found in the larder, simmered for five minutes and with two and a half cups of chicken broth made with Better Than Bullion chicken base (another kitchen savior, as are the company’s beef and vegetable versions), after which I added some wilted Golden Beet greens which I had left over from a dinner I made three days before
- slices of a crusty loaf of Trucio from Sullivan Street Bakery
- the beverage was a cold pitcher of still New York tap water
Both Barry and I have a soft spot for good traditional German cooking. My own obsession goes back to 1961, and my first trip to Germany, although much later I realized that I had actually grown up with it by way of my mother’s cookery, which was a combination of Franconian tradtions and an enlightened modern American kitchen.
This particular meal employed the simplest preparation of a smoked pork ‘steak’, purchased in our local greenmarket from an Amish* farm in Pennsylvania, and an extraordinarily delicious red cabbage grown in Vermont, also picked up in the greenmarket. I had never used this particular recipe, from Bon Appétit I found on line some years back, and it’s not entirely German (I mean, fennel and balsamic vinegar?), but the dish was very quick to assemble, incredibly delicious, and, in the end, pretty German after all.
The wine was absolutely wonderful, and a perfect accompaniment to the meal; it was what I dream of finding in German wine pairing. My excitement was probably not unrelated to the fact that the fruity and slaty riesling originated in a vineyard not that far from my father’s family’s family’s Heimat southwest of Trier, on the Saar. We don’t know where we had purchased the bottle, but we know we had had it for several years. I’m hoping that we can find its equivalent again, and that it wasn’t just the extra bottle aging in the wine rack inside our apartment that made it taste so good.
- a smoked ham slice from Millport Dairy, dried, then seared in butter and olive oil before being buried for fifteen minutes in a large pot of onions, sweet-and-sour red cabbage and fennel after it had already been cooking for about 45 minutes, placed on plates with the vegetables, and sprinkled with a generous amount of chopped fennel fronds; the onions came from Hawthorne Valley Farm, the cabbage was a cone-shaped ‘Red Beefheart from Tamarack Hollow Farm, and the fennel bulb was from Eataly
- the wine was a German white, Urban Riesling 2011 from das Weingut St. Urbans-Hof
* Only in the last decade or so have I come to realize that the Amish culinary traditions are actually not unrelated to my own family’s, in spite of our Catholic fanciness.
Continuing the special holiday wild theme (which has featured oysters, smoked bluefish, Scottish hare, and squid ink pasta for starters), on Saturday night we enjoyed smoked eel, seen here in a prominent role within a pasta dish which also included salted anchovies. The recipe is an adaptation of the one found on this site, although I was unable to find spaghettini this time, and none of my usual sources had any fresh long red peppers. Also, the last time I cooked this dish, because I had no chives, I had substituted chopped scissored scallion tops and chopped parsley; I think I prefer the scallion/parsley version, unless it just that the chives were a bit too distant from their origins.
- garlic from S.&S.O. Farm, sliced and heated in a pan along with crushed dried pepperoncini, where they were followed by pieces of boned smoked eel from P.E.&D.D. Seafood and some savory pangrattato (here, homemade breadcrumbs toasted with olive oil in which S.&S.O. Farm garlic and anchovies from Buon Italia had been heated for a short while), the mix then tossed, some pasta water added, and served in bowls, where it was finished with scissored chives from Eataly
- the wine was an Italian white, le Salse Verdicchio di Matelica 2013
- smoked bluefish fillet from Pura Vida in Cold Spring (north of New York City), skinned, chopped, and mixed with a little chopped shallot from Keith’s Farm, plus a tablespoon of lemon juice, four ounces of cream cheese from Murray’s Bagels (on 8th Avenue), and a generous amount of scissored fresh chives from Eataly, served with thin toasted slices of fourth-day Antica Classica from Eataly
- the wine was a Canadian white, Henry of Pelham Riesling 2013
Still wilder. The treatment of the hare was a more rustic version of the recipe, “Pappardelle alla Lepre”, in the Rogers Gray Italian Country Cook Book.
- one small Scottish wild hare (the FDA does not allow us to buy any form of game bagged inside the US, but apparently trusts the Scots) purchased through Fossil Farms, briefly marinated with cognac, then braised with onion, carrot, celery, garlic, canned San Marzano tomatoes (drained), half a bottle of a good red wine, several cloves, and half of a cinnamon stick
- the egg noodles were Pappardelle Antica Madia, from Eataly
- golden-beet tops from Eataly, wilted with olive oil
- the wine was a great Italian red, Conti ‘il Rosso della Donne ‘Boca’ 2008
We’ve been enjoying this recipe for so many years that I’m no longer certain of its origins, although I suspect it started with, Mario Batalli, even if the details may have been altered. The original specified fresh pasta, but I’ve never hesitated to use dried, especially if it is of the highest quality.
It may seem to be an unlikely combination of ingredients, but it’s definitely an inspired one.
- a thick piece of pancetta from Buon Italia, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes, sautéed in a large pan until browned, the fat rendered, the pancetta removed and replaced by a small amount of butter and some parsnips from Norwich Meadows Farm, peeled, halved and cut into half-moons, also sautéed, then seasoned, followed by parsley from Stokes Farm, chopped, the pancetta which had been removed earlier now returned to the mix, along with boiled and drained dried pasta of Cuttle Fish Spaccatelli from Spoglini (purchased at the New Amsterdam Market), everything finally tossed together with the addition of some of the pasta cooking water, placed in bowls, and finished with grated Parmesan cheese from Buon Italia
- the wine was an Austrian white (in a nod to sone of the more Germanic elements of the entreé), Huber Grüner Veltliner ‘Terrassen’ 2013 from Traisental