I meant to make longevity noodles to celebrate Chinese New Year’s and, with time running shorter than expected, instead threw together some kitchen staples for a bowlful of pan-fried noodles with curried chicken sausage and marinated tofu — a dish that cooked up so quickly, it almost qualifies as take-out. The noodles are thickish udon, boiled than pan-fried to crisp the edges. Next, a couple of links of Vernon Family Farm‘s curried chicken sausage were removed from their casings, and browned until the meat became crumbly and fragrant. Some baked and marinated Heiwa tofu found residing in the fridge added heft, while a dose of chicken broth simmered with a bit of cornstarch completed the sauce. All it took to finish was a gentle toss with the noodles and a squeeze of Anju’s Son-Mat hot sauce for extra heat. As untraditional as this dish may be, it feels like an auspicious start. Gung hay fat choy, dear friends, may the year of the Monkey bring you many good things.
“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
— Robert Frost
A late fall walk among the woods at Pawtuckaway State Park brought this poem of Robert Frost’s to mind, the words echoing in my head with each step. It’s a place Frost frequented, and I leave newly inspired each time I travel the same paths he may have.
The year’s gotten off to a fast start and, as I continue to revisit this place, making my way down these increasingly familiar trails is like winding through a labyrinth, a kind of moving meditation to slow things down and a reminder to pay attention to the present.
I look forward to your continuing company and have much to share in the time to come. Meanwhile, Happy New Year, dear friends, let’s make the most of it.
The many changes of the past year calls for new traditions, and one of them is having oysters on Christmas Eve at The Franklin Oyster House. There’s always a large selection to choose from and, to make it easy on the undecided, they offer a Shuckers Dozen. Tonight’s selection ranged from clean and light Whalebacks from Maine, sweet Barnstables from Massachusetts, and plump North Havens also from Maine. There’s usually something unexpected included in the mix, and the surprise of the evening were buttery Ruisseaus from Nova Scotia. These hard to come by bivalves are grown where freshwater mingles with the Atlantic to produce a succulent, meaty oyster with a crisp and briny finish — I can’t wait to taste what else this part of the Gulf of Maine has to offer.
In honor of the holiday, The Franklin offered a special menu, and the Duck Egg Hash with house-smoked brisket proved a richly satisfying choice for my non-oyster eating companion. Many thanks to the two Chef Matts and their excellent crew for not only making this holiday special, but for providing an always welcome home away from home. Next year we promise to arrive in time for the caroling. As the saying goes, “As goes Cbristmas Eve, goes the year.” Happy holidays, dear friends, light-filled days are ahead.
Jars of double-rich chicken broth made from Orange Circle Farm‘s flock, will serve as the basis of many a warming meal this coming winter. Along with canned tomatoes, these are a must for stocking my pantry with. Canning tips: Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to the pressure canner to prevent the filmy build-up of minerals from hard water on your jars, also known as scaling; defat the stock before filling jars to ensure a better seal and avoid rancidity; and make sure to remove the rings after processing and that the jars are clean before storing. After that, it’ll be like having my shelves filled with gold.
• Chicken Stock (pressure canned), Ball
• Vegetable Stock (pressure canned), Bernardin
• Meat Stock (beef, chicken or turkey), National Center for Home Food Preservation
• Using Pressure Canners, National Center for Home Food Preservation
Stewing hens are a natural part of the cycle of keeping layers, and the ones that Orange Circle Farm currently have available produce a pure, clean broth that can only come from chickens that have led a well-cared for life. I’ll can up the nutritious broth to stock the pantry with, and freeze the silky meat for salads, soups and stews. If you do choose to can the stock, remember that it needs to be done under pressure, 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts, at 10 psi. Should you add more vegetables to your broth than the recipe calls for, accommodate for their longer processing time: 30 minutes for pints and 35 minutes for quarts.
Along with stewing hens, Orange Circle Farm is currently offering a variety of greens such as spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, and mesclun. There’s also beets, carrots, potatoes, winter squash, radishes, and storage onions, with what’s available changing weekly and as supplies allow. Online orders are accepted up to the night before, with no minimum and several options of pick-up day and location, making eating locally not only accessible but easy to fit in this busy season of shortening days.
My favorite kind of gift — a visit with a friend ended with a generous bag of quince from her garden, the season’s last harvest. With these in hand, I’m imagining cooking them down just to enjoy as they change in shade, from the tenderest pink to a dusky salmon-hued membrillo. Or maybe a more savory use, their tartness harmonizing with some richly braised meat, as with slow cooked pork or a couple of meaty lamb shanks. But I’ve time to decide, and, until then, they’ll reside safely snug in my kitchen to be enjoyed, like a Bonnard, a bowlful of gold perfuming the room sweetly.
Posted in cooking
I think of September as summer for locals — the crush of tourists are gone, yet the days continue to be sunny and, finally, the evenings cool enough for a full night’s sleep. Though there’s a delay in change in foliage this year, it’s also the time when hiking in New England is at its best. There are many good choices less than a two-hour drive from the Seacoast, with Mount Roberts among them. Like most trails in the Granite State, it leads straight up, with a loop around the summit, for a total of 5 miles. With moderate effort through forest alternating with ledge, multiple views of Lake Winnipesaukee are on offer, each more spectacular than the last as one ascends. Get outside, work up an appetite, and enjoy the season, dear friends.