Savory Chicken and Heart Stopping Potatoes

Dave suggested the name for this post - I couldn't resist. Indeed, the chicken was savory and the potatoes were heart stopping! Since I didn't buy any non-local veggies this winter, I'm finding myself enjoying spring even more than usual......

When I got home from work on Tuesday night, Dave already had this JenEhr pastured chicken stuffed and on the grill. He stuffed it with local apple, onion from the farm, and a very non-local ataulfo mango from Mexico. Ataulfos are the best mangos ever, and I've been indulging recently..... I suggest you do the same!

He slow cooked the chicken on the grill for a few hours.

Which gave me plenty of time to shower and figure out how I was going to incorporate ramps in the meal. These are baby wild leeks from Harmony Valley Farm that I got at the farmer's market on Saturday. I missed them when I was in California - no one there seemed to know anything about them.

I had a bunch of potatoes from the farm (they're from last year, but still holding up well!). I decided to make a cheesy layered scalloped potato dish. First, I sliced the potatoes nice and thin....

and arranged them in a buttered pie plate.

Next came a nice layer of ramps. These are even beautiful when they're chopped up!

Next came some shredded cheese (mild cheddar is what we had, so that's what I used). and then another layer of potatoes.

Next came a little butter, more ramps, more cheese, more potatoes, more butter, and a little salt and paprika.....

I poured a little milk over the top, and finished it with a nice thick layer of cheese. It went in the oven at 450 for about 20 minutes and then I turned it down to 350 for another 20 minutes of so.

Here's the result! It couldn't have been more perfect! I really like layered dished like this, they're so easy, and they usually turn out really well - heart stopping if you will....

While the potatoes were finishing, I made a quick salad with some greens from the farm and these gorgeous radishes. They're exceptionally sweet and crunchy. I'm not usually a radish lover (they usually seem pretty unexciting and bland), but I'm really enjoying these.....

They made for a beautiful salad topped with chives from our garden.

The chicken also turned out perfectly - it practically melted in your mouth - not dry in the least.....Dave is getting really good at this grilling thing! We saved the stuffing to make stock with....and an excellent stock it was too!

Not bad for a Tuesday night meal!

Cheesy Ramps and Potatoes

4 medium red or gold potatoes, sliced thin
1 bunch of ramps
2 cups or so Shredded Cheese, whatever kind you like
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter the bottom of a pie plate. Arrange a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Sprinkle half the ramps on top of the potatoes. Layer a little less than 1/3 of the cheese on top of that. Add another layer of potatoes, add a few dabs of butter (about 1-2 tablespoons), followed by the rest of the ramps, a little less than 1/3 of the cheese, and more potatoes. Pour the milk over top, sprinkle on some paprika and a little salt, a few more dabs of butter, and then the rest of the cheese. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

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End of April

I don't have much time, but I wanted to share some pictures I took this weekend.......

Holy cow, things move fast in April! We've gotten a lot of rain and some nice mild temperatures, so things are just popping up out of the ground. I think these chives grew in one day - they weren't there one day, and the next day they looked like this, no kidding.

We're pretty much keeping the lid off the cold frame all the time now. I've only closed it once or twice in the past week when the night temperatures threatened to be in the 20s. The arugula is especially growing like gang busters. Unfortunately, so are the weeds. I'll have to get in there sometime this week and take care of them.

Our front yard is getting bushier by the day. The tulips are just about to pop, and the hyacinths are still going strong.....if you compare this to the picture I took for the last post, you'll see what I mean. They were taken just exactly a week apart!

Like the chives, the hostas lining out front walk are growing by leaps and bounds. Spring is such a wondrous time!

It was a rainy farmer's market this week, but I went anyway. It's only the second week of the summer outdoor market. I bought these ramps from Harmony Valley Farm. These are wild leeks....not sure how I'll cook them, but they were just so pretty I couldn't resist.

Many people will laugh to know that I actually paid for this burdock root. Yes, it's a weed, but I really like it, and it was cheap.....plus it's good for me! I'll write more about burdock when I get around to cooking it.

Perhaps the best purchase at the market was this fresh catnip I bought for Gulliver. He loves it!
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Mid-April Garden Pictures

I'm going to post these pictures without a whole lot of comment.....they pretty much speak for themselves. Above are the parsley starts under lights in the basement.

I originally tried to start my veggie seeds by a south facing window in the living room, but they just weren't getting enough light, so we bought some fluorescent and a cheap shop light and put them in the basement. They're doing well now!

Squash starts. I've got Marina di Chioggia, Black Futsu, and Winter Luxury Pumpkins all started. These need full sun and will take up a lot of space, and I'm not sure exactly where that will be.....Dave and I have a few ideas. We still have a month or so until planting time.

Lettuce. This is a mix of varieties.

Outside, spring has sprung. It's my first year in this house, so it's been exciting to see all the spring bulbs poke their heads above ground! How much is that kitty in the window? Sorry, he's not for sale!

We've got an especially nice array of hyacinths. I've been cutting bouquets for the kitchen table - they smell so good!

I've had the pea starts outside for almost a week now. These are the same ones I pinched back a few weeks ago because I thought they were growing too fast and spindly. They're beautiful now!

I went ahead and planted them in the ground today. We'll have sugar snaps in a month or so I hope!

The other stuff in the cold frame has slowly germinated and started to grow. The arugula has done especially well (it's the three defined rows in the third hoop). There's also a bit of chard, kale and spinach that's finally come up. Hopefully now that the weather has started to warm they'll grow a little faster.

Spinach babies in the cold frame.

We dug up out garden plot at Quann Community Gardens this weekend! It's just a short bike ride from our house. It's only half a plot - 10'x20' - pretty small, but better than nothing, especially since out back yard gets too shady to grow much of anything in the summer. Dave planted some potatoes along the far side.....we're still pondering exactly what we'll do with the rest of it.

Lucky for us, there's an established asparagus bed in our plot! I was weeding it on Saturday and discovered these spears beginning to poke up - they're purple! I can't wait till they're ready! I've been hungering after the Mexican and Californian asparagus that's started to crop up at Willy Street Co-op. So far I've managed to stick to my no California or Mexican veggies pledge, but it's getting harder!
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Celeriac Sprout Soup and Dave's Ribs

I made this delicious soup last week from some unwanted celeriac (aka celery root) babies. We had better than expected celeriac germination at the farm where I'm working, so we've been going through the multitudes of flats of seedlings, thinning them down to the correct numbers. We were throwing the unwanted seedlings into a 5 gallon bucket. After tasting one, I decided that it would be a shame to let them go to waste, so I took them home.

And what better to go with a green soup than Dave's delicious country style pork ribs? He's been perfecting his dry rub recipe (I included it below), and I have to say, it's about as delicious as anything I've ever had. The picture above is the raw ribs, after marinating all day and right before they went on the grill. As he was getting the grill going, I started on my soup.

Every good soup starts with onions. These are from the farm - last year's crop of course, but still really firm and good. I chopped them up and started sauteing them in olive oil.

Next came some of this beautiful green garlic. This is one of those spring veggies that I really thing deserves more attention. Most people don't even know you can eat baby garlic - it's a lot like green onions, but more garlicky. It's delicious, and such a great alternative to last years old storage garlic, which by April is usually getting pretty questionable. Green garlic has the same flavor, but it's fresher and more vibrant than garlic that has developed heads. It's the perfect addition to any spring meal!

I chopped most of the green garlic (including the greens) and added it to the onions, letting them cook together for a while.

Next came the celeriac sprouts. I kept the roots on ( really only because it would have been too much of a pain to go through and take them off.) It worked really well, except that I had a hard time rinsing all the residual soil off. They had been planted in a commercial compost mixture with lots of vermiculite and perlite, and those were especially hard to rinse off. I got them pretty clean though.....

I let it all cook together for a while, until the celeriac was pretty well wilted.

Next I added some homemade chicken stock, turned the heat down, and cooked it for 45 minutes or so.

When it was well cooked, I pureed the vegetables with my hand blender and added some cream, salt, and a tiny bit of curry powder. Delicious! These sprouts were doomed to go to the compost heap - I love saving things like this.....it's so rewarding!

And don't forget the ribs! These were seriously delicious.

Celeriac Sprout Soup

You could probably substitute very leafy celery for the celeriac sprouts in this recipe. It wouldn't be quite the same, but it would still be very good.

Olive oil
3-4 Medium yellow onions
6 Stalks of green garlic (you can get this in the spring at a good farmer's market or natural foods store)
1 lb Celeriac sprouts, or celery leaves
1 Quart chicken stock
1 Cup heavy cream
Curry Powder

Chop onions and saute in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium/low heat until they begin to soften. Chop green garlic (you can use all of it except the very bottom of the stalk and the very top of the greens) and add it to the onions. Continue cooking for about 4-5 minutes. Add celeriac or celery and cook until it's wilted. Add chicken stock and simmer over low heat for 30-45 minutes. Puree the soup. (a hand blender is great, or you can take it out of the pot and puree in a blender or food processor.) Add cream and season with salt and a dash of curry powder.

Dave's Pork Ribs

4 Large country style pork ribs
4 Heaping tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt
2 teabags orange spice tea (or other tea)

Coat ribs with spice mixture and rub it into the meat. Let ribs marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Grill over medium low heat for 30-45 minutes.
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Spring Chicken

Dave took this super sexy sorrel photo. It's about the only thing we've been harvesting at the farm so far this season and I've been trying to eat as much of it as I can.

I really like sorrel - it's got a delightful surprisingly tart taste due to the high levels of oxalic acid in its leaves. Oxalic acid is a funny compound. Lots of vegetables have a high concentration of it: spinach, chard, beets, rhubarb......too much of it can be a bad thing, fatal even if you eat WAY too much. I've gotten a weird scratchy raw throat reaction from raw beet greens that I think can be attributed to oxalic acid. It's really quite good in small doses though.

Sorrel is one of those things that I'm never quite sure how to use. It's got the intense flavor of an herb, but the leaves of a salad or cooking green. We had the family over to our house for Easter dinner, so I decided to experiment.....

This is a chicken from the farm I'm working at this season. They do pasture raised chickens that are oh so delicious and chickeny, and best of all, the staff get one free bird per week of work! This one was frozen from last fall - they haven't even started getting chicks yet this spring, but I don't think it will be long. The first step was to cut it up into pieces (drumsticks, thighs, breasts, and wings).

I covered the rest of the carcass with water and started boiling it for stock.

Once the stock pot was on, I started readying the potatoes. These little spuds are from Igl Farms in Antigo. I had the opportunity to meet Brian Igl back when I was a produce buyer for Willy Street Co-op - it's always fun to eat food grown by people you know! These are little C sized roasters from last fall's harvest. They're surprisingly nice and firm despite the long storage.

They're really beautiful in fact! As I was washing them, I couldn't help but think how fitting they are for Easter - like little bright Easter eggs! I simply coated them with olive oil and put them in a hot 425 degree oven while I concentrated on the chicken.

The first step was to brown the chicken in butter. In retrospect, I think I could have browned it a little more, but I didn't want to burn it so I was maybe a little too conservative with the cooking time.

I browned all the chicken on both sides. I like this shot because you can see the chicken in it's two forms: frying in the big pot, and boiling for stock in the little one. I really like to use the whole bird!

Next, I took the chicken out and let it rest while I cooked up some onions (also from the farm.) in the drippings from the chicken. When they were nice and brown, I added the stock and let it come to a boil. Since the stock had only been cooking for a half hour or so, I figured there was still some good stuff on the carcass and I added more water to the saucepan and let it simmer on low overnight. I got a quart of nice stock out of it that we can use in a later recipe.

Unfortunately, this is the last picture I got of the chicken. Once family members arrived, we sort of forgot about taking pictures....that happens all too often, especially with really good food. It just tastes so good, it's hard to stop eating to take pictures! I added the chicken pieces back in with the stock and the onions and mixed in some chopped sorrel. I really wanted to sorrel flavor to dominate, so I didn't add any more herbs and spices (except salt and pepper of course!) I let it cook on low for about an hour, until the chicken was really well done and almost melting off the bone.

Meanwhile, I prepared this beautiful local salad. We're getting into the salad time of year, finally! This has last year's local carrots (still going strong!), spinach from Snug Haven Farm, sorrel, and some super expensive but delicious local microgreens from Willy Street. Microgreens are basically overgrown sprouts that are grown in soil instead of just rinsed with water. They're really good, but the cost prohibits me from getting them for anything other than a special occasion.

Here are the finished potatoes. They were really really sweet and cooked to perfection! They got lots of compliments, and couldn't have been easier to prepare. It's all about starting with a high quality potato......they were delicious with some of the sauce from the chicken. The chicken turned out awesome too, by the way. Super tender. The sorrel mellowed out a bit with cooking, but still gave it a really nice subtle tang. A successfully dinner no doubt!

I just had to add this picture of Dave shaking the whipped cream for desert. My hand blender wasn't charged, and we don't have a beater, so we put whipped cream in a canning jar and just shook it. It was done in a surprisingly short time, perhaps because we use unhomoginized, low temp pasteurized cream from Blue Marble Family Farm. It's really good cream, and seems to congeal faster than average.

It went with this beautiful pear tart that my sister in law, Erica made. She did such a nice job! It was the perfect ending to a wonderful family meal. It made me really appreciate being back in Wisconsin and close to all my family!

Spring Sorrel Chicken

1 Whole chicken (preferably pasture raised)
2-3 Tablespoons butter
2-3 Medium yellow onions
2-3 Cups chopped sorrel leaves
Salt and pepper

Cut chicken into pieces. Put leftover carcass into a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer over medium heat for at least and hour. Melt butter in a large pot. Add chicken pieces, skin side down and brown the skin for about 4 or 5 minutes. Flip over and brown the other side. Repeat with the rest of the chicken pieces. Remove chicken from pot. Chop onions and add to pot. Cook onions in chicken drippings over medium heat until brown. Add stock from chicken carcass. Bring to a boil, and then add chicken pieces and chopped sorrel. Stir to combine everything, put a lid on it, and let cook over low heat for at least an hour. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with new potatoes and a green salad.

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