Monthly Archives: October 2011

Maryland Meat Run

This past weekend, we made a road trip to Maryland to pick up meat. This wasn’t just ordinary meat. In keeping with our efforts to connect with farmers and know where our meat comes from, this meat was sourced in the family. My sister’s father-in-law has been raising a small herd of Angus for the past few years. This year, two steer were up for “harvesting”, so we decided to buy a hindquarter.

How much closer to the farmer could we get? We’ve met the cows in their infancy, checking them out on every visit. We know they had a great life, spending their days grazing in the hilly pasture. Donald cared for them well. The cow was slaughtered about a month ago and aged until they cut it up on Friday, the day before it got picked up.

The steer was about 1300 pounds at the end of its life. Our hindquarter weighted 187 pounds before it was cut up. We learned a lot of about the anatomy of a cow when filling out the cut sheet that specifies how we wanted the meat cut up. The front quarter (which is what we didn’t get) is where the ribs, chuck and brisket come from. The hindquarter is where most of the steaks are, which is why we picked it.

Our quarter yielded about 100 pounds of meat, about 60% steaks and roasts and 40% ground beef. It looks gorgeous. We also got a big bag of soup bones, the oxtail (after last year’s successful stew, we wanted to try again), and liver. Actually we got extra liver. We knew most people wouldn’t want it, so I asked for it. The butcher gave us 10 pounds. All I wanted was to make some dog biscuits with it for Bella. Now, we have a liver bonanza!

This much beef will last us at least a year. It’s all frozen, so that shouldn’t be a problem. There are lots of cuts I’ve never really cooked before, so it will be another series of kitchen adventure. What fun! If you have any favorite beef recipes to share, do let me know.

Driving back and forth to Maryland, a 450 trek each way, was an arduous way to spend the weekend. We spent over 18 hours in the car. The reward was a wonderful visit with family. We stopped in New Jersey to see Howard’s sister and her family on the way south (a much too brief overnight stop). Then, in Maryland, we not only saw my sister Jane’s family who lives there, but also my father and stepmother, plus my sister from Pennsylvania came with her family to visit too. Highlights were: watching my nephew Brett’s last baseball game of the season, delicious home-cooked meals at Jane’s, and an adventure in a very muddy corn maze.

The best part of the corn maze was something called the “Pumpkin Cannon”. It was a hydraulic contraption that you point and shoot pumpkins out of. They had giant “transformer”-like creatures to shoot at like targets. My nephews and nieces and Howard all had fun taking their turn.

All in all, it was a fun-filled weekend, making me wish I lived closer to family than I do.

My Family: A Motley Crew

French Fridays with Dorie: Buckwheat Blini with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche

This week flew by. I can’t believe it’s already Friday again. It seems like I haven’t been writing any posts except when it’s time for French Fridays with Dorie. I’ll have to work on that…

This week’s recipe for the cooking group was Buckwheat Blini with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche. This one could go in one of two directions: appetizer or brunch entrée.

I planned ahead and convinced my husband Howard to make gravlax. He’s been doing it for years and it always comes out perfectly. We bought half of a wild Alaskan salmon, ate some for dinner, and he cured the rest. A few days later the salmon was ready. I had the best of intentions of making my own crème fraîche, but my forethought didn’t extend to myself. Typical.

The blini are made from a yeasted buckwheat batter. It needs to sit for at least 60 to 90 minutes to get the rising action going. Since I chose to try this for brunch, I made the batter the night before, letting it sit out for 90 minutes at room temperature, then stashed it in the refrigerator for the night. I was a little worried because my foil packet of yeast didn’t quite measure the 2 teaspoons called for in the recipe, but I had major bubble action, so it was fine.

In the morning, we made lots of little pancakes. Each pancake was dolloped with crème fraîche, topped with a slice of gravlax, and sprinkled with some dill. (I forgot to look for salmon roe, which would have been a nice addition.) They made a lovely presentation.

We thought the blini would make a better appetizer than brunch. First of all, it felt more natural to eat with your fingers than a fork, which seems more like an appetizer. Then, to fill up, you would need to eat a lot of blini, so again, it seemed like a better appetizer. Finally, I think the earthy, tangy taste of the blinis themselves were such a contrast to buttermilk breakfast pancakes that they suffered by the comparison. They would have shined as an appetizer. Conclusion: I liked this dish, but served it for the wrong meal.

I’m also excited to be able to experiment with the rest of the bag of buckwheat flour. I found a nice selection of recipes to try on Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks blog. The figgy buckwheat scones look especially appealing. This link will give my search results.

For the cooking group, we don’t publish the recipes. For that, you’ll need to check out Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. You won’t be sorry. What did the other FFwD bloggers think of the blini? You can see their links here and find out for yourself.

Next week, something I’ve wanted to try for a long time: Pissaladière!