Tag Archives: butter

Tell me I’m not alone.

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Aside from Sylvester’s famous expletive, I thought succotash was one of those weird, dated American farm dishes where lots of unappealing vegetables were cooked down, in large batches, into an equally unappealing mush that inspired fond, parochial memories, while no one actually wanted to eat it. I was wrong.

Liz Creelman Patterson and her husband Rob are responsible for my recent education. The succotash served alongside my trout at their fabulous wedding earlier this month, was delicious with firm, fresh vegetables and bright herbs.

Based on a Narragansett Indian dish of corn and shell beans, succotash has spread throughout the US. It seems best known today in the South, where okra and lima beans are cooked in lard. I used the bright green beans that were plentiful at DC’s Eastern Market (and no shelling involved), added red pepper for sweetness and color, thyme for savory depth and a pinch of piment d’espelette, a French pepper that is dried and ground with great complexity and mild heat. Bacon brought pig to the dish instead of lard.

This succotash was the clear winner in our test kitchen that week. Ready in under 20 minutes, there was no sufferin’ in the preparation or the eating.

Corn And Bacon Succotash

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices thick bacon, diced
  • Small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lb green beans, ends removed and cut into 3/4” pieces
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 3 ears of corn, kernals sliced off
  • 1 tbs thyme
  • Piment d’espelette or cayenne pepper
  • Butter
  • Sherry vinegar

Directions:

  • Sauté bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon.
  • Add onion to skillet with bacon fat and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add green beans and pepper to pan and sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Add corn, cover pan, reduce heat to medium low and cook 10-15 minutes until vegetables are crisp tender.
  • Remove lid, add thyme and bacon, and cook an additional 3 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, cayenne, butter for richness and vinegar for brightness.
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Crécy is not French for “carrot.”

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Anything this orange, made with root vegetables, should be served on a crisp fall day – rich and hearty with a crusty bread and some good farm-fresh butter (which I evangelize about here). But this carrot-beet soup is light and fresh, tastes as good cold as it does served hot and is perfect for summer.

Arriving home from a trip to the Market with baby carrots and golden beets, I began searching cookbooks for salads and sautés. Stumbling across a recipe for Potage Crécy first made me think of soup. Crécy, it turns out, is not French for orange root vegetables, but refers to a town known, once-upon-a-time, for growing exceptional carrots. However, there is debate about which of two French towns, one in the south and one in the north, each with Crécy in its name, first served up this light summer soup.

Reading through several recipes, I discovered a basic formula of carrots cooked with onions and stock, puréed and flavored with orange. We added the golden beets, sweet but far less earthy than red ones. I grabbed a bottle of Sapore’s Orange Oil off the shelf and we served up three bowls, each seasoned differently. It was a quick bite after adding turmeric but before adding cumin that was our favorite – although curry was a close second. Served warm, it is light and sweet. Once chilled it is herbal and far more carrot-y. Both are delicious.

Potage Crécy

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 candy sweet onion, or white onion, diced
  • 4 cups thinly sliced carrots
  • 3 cups diced golden beets
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 6-8 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tbs Orange Oil*
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • Sherry vinegar

*If you don’t have Orange Oil, substitute 3 tbs olive oil, and one tablespoon grated orange zest

Directions:

  • Melt butter over medium heat in a 4 quart soup pot. Sauté onions until
  • soft and translucent.
  • Add carrots and beets. Sauté 7-10 minutes until golden on edges. Add ginger after 5 minutes.
  • Add stock and simmer approximately 30 minutes until vegetables can be mashed with a fork.
  • Pass soup through the finest blade of a food mill or purée with a blender. Return to pot.
  • Stir in Orange Oil and simmer an additional 5 minutes to bring flavors together.
  • Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and stir through cream.
  • Add turmeric a little at a time so as to not overpower the carrot flavor.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and sherry vinegar.
  • Serve hot or cold.

Really good, farm-fresh butter.

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If you’ve watched me cook at Eastern Market, or ventured into my home for a meal, you’ve probably heard “the butter story.” It goes like this:

Four years ago I started using farm-fresh butter in an effort to cook with the best ingredients I could find. My husband, upon discovering that  fabulous, farm-fresh butter can cost twice as much as grocery store butter, started giving me a good ribbing. “Local, farm-fresh butter can’t possibly taste twice as good as grocery store, stick butter.”

At the time I was reading Jennifer McLagan’s cookbook, Fat. Extolling the virtues of good butter, she recommended doing a tasting. So off we marched, Jason and I, into the kitchen, with a block of local, farm-fresh butter in one hand and a stick of grocery store butter in the other. One at a time, we cut a small sliver of each and let them melt on our tongues.

The first thing you notice about farm-fresh butter is the rich taste of cream. Then you notice the season and diet of the cows. In spring the butter is herbal and floral, light and perfect against grassy spring vegetables – asparagus, spring onions, fiddleheads and radishes. In summer the butter turns grassy, pairing perfectly with zucchini and tomatoes. In fall and winter when the cows switch to a feed diet, the flavor is rich and mellow, perfect for pumpkin, beets and holiday baking.

The grocery store butter was nearly flavorless. Softening on your tongue it gave the feel of greasy fat with the taste of cardboard.

When cooking from scratch you’ve got six, maybe ten, ingredients in a dish (that’s if you count salt and pepper). You can’t afford to have one of those tasting like cardboard, and not pulling its weight.

That’s the butter story. Every word of it is real and true. Every week I bring home a block of butter from Dan at Agora Farms from his stand at Eastern Market. I finish soups with a tablespoon or two for added richness. I’ll whisk a tablespoon into the deglazed pan juices of a sautéed chicken breast or bone-in pork chop to make a quick sauce.

This coming weekend, as part of my weekly cooking demo, I’m making Hollandaise. It has four ingredients – water, egg yolks, clarified butter and lemon juice (plus salt and white pepper). Strawberries and rhubarb are in season and I’ll make a pie next weekend as well. The dough contains flour, water, a pinch each of salt and sugar, and butter. In each case the butter is on stage, exposed, and it had better be good.

Good butter – good ingredients – matter. And they matter greatly. They also cost more.

A friend of mine passed around a blog entry listing five lessons learned from an evening with farmer, Joel Salatin. In one of those lessons, he challenges, “Do you have a cell phone? Do you have cable? Drink beer on the weekends? I bet you do. If you can afford those things, you can afford to eat good food, real food. And if you tell me you still can’t afford it, I will tell you the issue isn’t with money. It’s with priorities.”

Prioritize good food. Cut out something small this week and treat yourself to a pound of incredible, farm-fresh, Amish butter this weekend. Or local asparagus, really exceptional olive oil, or strawberries that will travel less than 50 miles from the field to your shortcakes. Good food is worth it. And so are you, your friends and your family.

Comfort food.

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On the last Saturday morning in March, cool and with a constant, unrealized threat of rain in the air, the marble potatoes tossed with sautéed Oyster mushrooms were the perfect comfort food. Hearty, earthy and coated in a bit of farm-fresh fat. This is where great ingredients truly matter: firm, small potatoes – each a perfect bite, low in starch so they are light, not gummy. Fresh Oyster mushrooms are delicate and mild but still earthy, chopped fine and sautéed they have no tough chew. Anchovy paste makes the flavors come alive in your mouth without ever making itself known, leading from behind. And, of course, farm-fresh Amish butter, lightly salted, tasting of rich cream and new spring grass. Truly a pocketful of marbles, a simple prize, deeply treasured.

Wild Mushroom Tossed Potatoes

Eat the leftovers for breakfast the next morning, at room temperature. Or make a fresh batch.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups marble or fingerling potatoes
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped oyster mushrooms
  • 1/4 tbs anchovy paste
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbs chopped thyme
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 2 tbs butter

Directions:

  • Bring a pot of water to boil, salt and add potatoes cook until they can be easily pierced through with a fork, but are still firm. If using fingerling potatoes, cut them into 1″ pieces as soon as they are cool enough to handle.
  • Heat oil in large pan over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms until soft, 3-5 minutes.
  • Add anchovy paste and shallots to center of pan and cook 2 minutes, until shallot begins to soften.
  • Add wine and cook until nearly evaporated.
  • Add herbs and butter. Cook one minute longer.
  • Toss potatoes with mushrooms. If potatoes have cool, cook a minute or two until they have warmed through.

NOTE: The mushroom sauce is also wonderful over pasta. Or just about anything else. Try it with roast chicken or a sautéed pork chop.