StrawBerry ShortCake!

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This is what the start of summer eating looks like to me.  I love asparagus but send me down the path to strawberry shortcake, the biscuit kind, thank you very much, and I am good.  It was always Mom’s birthday cake, and if my b’day was in May or June, I’d hop on board that train in a heartbeat.  At work, we’ve been making this iconic dessert professionally for *about* 31 years.  It is very popular.  How often do you see real strawberry shortcake on a restaurant dessert menu?  With local strawberries and freshly whipped cream?  It is one of those desserts that you can’t say no to, you will only have this one chance and you’ve got to grab it.  Go for it!

One of my favorite stories regarding SBSC restaurant style was one Memorial Day weekend probably about 30 years ago when we had a new cook start at the Ironstone.  That weekend – his first in our kitchen, on the cold station, which included setting up the dessert orders – found Eugene Bethel in charge of the shortcakes.  And, being what they are, this was a very very popular item…  Eugene pumped them out, all night long, Friday and Saturday – you know, they are put together to order: biscuits are split, heated up in the oven, spread with soft butter, layered with sweetened strawberries, topped with whipped cream.  It wasn’t just slice and plate.  At the end of that weekend I will never forget Eugene’s face, when it was all over, and we laughed and laughed – ha ha – about how hard he had to work on his first weekend with us.  I guess it wasn’t too bad, since he stayed with us our whole tenure, but in hindsight, it must have been a real eyeopener as to what he was getting into.

I don’t make too many of the desserts here at KBM – fruit pies and the occasional cookie are about the extent of my contributions any more.  But I am in charge of the shortcakes, for some unknown reason.  Not that I mind – it means I get to eat one.  My recipe for the biscuit is pretty much directly taken from the Joy of Cooking, with a few adjustments made over time.  It’s basically a sweet baking powder biscuit – hence the addition of sugar – but it is adapted from a savory recipe, so you can revert back to that by leaving out the sugar and switching the butter up for lard or shortening.  Buttermilk can always be substituted for regular milk, in either case.  The recipe makes about 24 individual biscuits, which are fine to freeze, or two nine inch cakes.

Short cakes – biscuits style

Put 6 cups AP flour, sifted after measuring, into a large bowl.  Resift the flour with: 7.5 tsp. baking powder, 1 T. salt and 3 T. sugar.

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Next, cut in 6 ounces of cold butter.  I generally start this process with a pastry cutter and finish with my fingertips.  Like pie dough, you want to keep the butter from getting too warm to increase the flaky-factor.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it is sort of the texture of rough cornmeal.

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After you have the butter thoroughly worked in, add 2.25 cups of cold whole milk (or you can use buttermilk) all at once.  Make a little well in the flour and just pour the milk on in.

Take a large fork and gently begin to bring the outside dry toward the wet middle, sort of folding things together with your fork.  Stir it this way until you think you will be able to shape the dough into a ball, with all the dry incorporated, from this:

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…to this:

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Manipulate the dough until it comes together in a ball and then dump it onto a lightly floured board.  It should not require very much flour on your board, because it is not supposed to be a sticky dough.  On the board, the dough should be kneaded for about 30 seconds, until it becomes a nice, smooth ball.

Admire your work and let the ball rest for a minute or two while you fetch your rolling pin and put some parchment paper on a baking sheet.  The oven should be pre-heating to 375 degrees.

Now the fun part!  You have several choices here.  You can pat the dough into the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan or two and bake it as a whole cake – pretty dramatic and great for a Mom’s birthday party.  Or you can take a biscuit cutter and cut the rolled dough into rounds, re-working the scraps as needed to cut more.  But what I do, lazy cook that I am, is roll the dough into a rough squarish round, about 3/4 inch thick, and cut it, with a knife, into approximately equal sized squares.  Or rounded triangles, as the case sometimes is.  I have found that not only is this a lot easier and faster, it saves on waste – sometimes those reworked biscuits are not the ones you want to serve to your mother-in-law, who could detect a bit of toughness in a biscuit made from previously rolled dough.  So, squares are my way to go.

Put your biscuits into the 375 degree oven for about 15 to 18 minutes, depending on your oven temper-mentality.  If you bake a whole cake, it will take a bit longer.

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Done!  Now all you need is some nice soft butter, a pile of sugared strawberries and some softly whipped cream in order to make the ultimate sacrifice to your diet:

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A parade of strawberry shortcakes (circa June 2016)

It’s not summer without three things – soft-shelled crabs, rosé wine and strawberry shortcake!  Bon appetit!

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Sausage Making

Kevin has been making sausage for several years now.  He’s always had an interest in charcuterie, but it was at Brooks that his questions finally found answers.  Nowadays there is usually something curing in the walk-in and almost always sausage on the menu.  He has met with a fair amount of success, perhaps with the Italian style most of all.

He starts with shoulder of pork, often Langenfelder pork purchased through Sudlersville Meat Locker.  He cubes the meat into large chunks and seasons it over night with salt.  Next he prepares his seasonings – typically for Italian it is fennel, garlic, anise, pepper and salt, with the addition of hot pepper flakes for a little bite.

He grinds the cubes of meat once, through the blade that he likes best for whatever type of sausage he’s making.  The ground meat is then carefully blended with the seasonings, mixing it thoroughly until the meat becomes “sticky”.  The salt will be drawing the moisture off the meat, creating juices that will become the binder that holds the sausage together, preventing “crumbly” results.

The pork casings he uses come from Butcher and Packer, an online sausage making supply house out of Michigan, or from the Meat Locker. Pork casings are his preferred size; lamb casing are smaller and more for use in “hotdogs”.  Synthetic casings are often used for cured sausages.  The casings are soaked to soften them up prior to stuffing.

He uses his handy-dandy sausage-stuffer to fill the casings, which he forms into links and hangs to dry in the walk-in overnight.

Here is a slide show of the whole procedure:

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Eating with the Farmers Markets

Many of us have been following the local, seasonal approach to meal planning long before doing so was the media darling it is today, especially if you grew up in a rural area like the Eastern Shore.  You ate strawberries when the patch out in the garden was bearing fruit, radishes were always the first spring vegetable on the table, and the green beans and beets and concord grapes were served fresh from the plant unless they were canned or frozen or made into jam for storage in the pantry.  Tomatoes are probably the epitome of seasonality we recall fondly from back in the “good old days”, before the idea of cross-country shipping created the tasteless orb that passes for one during this age of year round availability.  Peaches came into being in August, apples were picked in due course, and the sweet corn was usually Country Gentleman shoepeg, planted by the acre for the local processor.   If you didn’t grow it yourself, there was bound to be a roadside produce stand nearby to fill in the gaps. For protein, the fish man had shad in the early spring, rock fish a little later and oysters when the weather turned cold.  Your beef was local – barnyard local – and the chickens that chased you down the lane laid the fried eggs you ate for breakfast.  It was not headline news, it was life in the 50’s and 60’s.

Now it is so very trendy, the sustainable-local-seasonal mantra.  We even saw an ad recently for a dog food that was “inspired” by the Farm to Table movement.  Dog Food!  Ha!  as if our dog would care, the way she wolfs down her kibble each day!  But, even as I ridicule the idea that all this is supposed to be novel somehow, I do realize that the recent growth of the seasonal food movement has done us a great service during the last 10 or 20 years. With the spread of this behavior influencing grocery stores and restaurants across the country, it has become the right business model to put “local” on shelves and menus.  No waiter needs to tell you they source their food locally because you just assume they do.  Doesn’t everyone?  We appreciate better than ever that the more we keep our shopping habits within our own community, the more we will be supporting the livelihoods of the  small farmers and producers who are our neighbors.

Farmers Markets make it easy.  Whether you plant a vegetable garden in your own back yard or come across a roadside table loaded with tasty tomatoes and fresh picked sweet corn, it remains undeniably pleasurable to have a variety of stalls of fresh produce at your fingertips on a regular basis in a town near you.  And right now the prospect of fresh equals local is really heating up.

The start of asparagus season in Kent County was one of the first things you noticed at the recent Farmers Market in Chestertown.  (This helps to explain why three out of our nine menu items for the week feature everyone’s favorite first local veg!)  While there is nothing better than having an asparagus bed of your own, the convenience factor of picking up a pound or three without the hassle of digging trenches and waiting three years cannot be overemphasized.  Prices hovered around $4 a pound.

I was frankly more excited to see the rhubarb last week.  I love rhubarb and it is very hard to find locally.  While it takes an awful lot of sugar to make it palatable, it is so worth it.  Stewed until tender, there is nothing better over vanilla ice cream or panna cotta.  To prep it you must cut off the leafy end and trim the root end, then peel away any stringy outer skin – which is a very satisfying job in itself – before you cut it into inch long segments and cook it down with sugar.  Start with about a half cup of sugar per pound of rhubarb and add more if you think it is too tart – I like it pretty tart.  Plus rhubarb freezes great – just do your prep and pack it in freezer bags.  You can put it frozen right into your saucepan and stew it just like that.   The classic pairing for rhubarb is strawberries, perhaps because the timing is right, but strawberry-rhubarb crisp is easier than pie and just as tasty.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Combine 2 cups of flour, 4 cups of rolled (old-fashioned) oatmeal, 2 cups of brown sugar, 1 T. of cinnamon, 1 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of vanilla.  Work in 10 to 11 ounces of cold butter until the mixture is crumbly. Using a combination of rhubarb and strawberries to suit your tastes, add 1/2 cup of sugar for every four cups of rhubarb you include.  (The strawberries need no added sugar.)  To keep things a little less juicy, toss all the fruit with about 1/3 cup of tapioca flour before placing all in the bottom of a 9X13 baking pan.  Spread your oatmeal mixture evenly on top and bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until bubbling hot.

Colchester has some nicely stored root vegetables, including potatoes and turnips, but their fresh carrots and greens are what stood out for Kevin last week.  He braised the carrots with a little water and butter for about 10 or 15 minutes and served them just like that, with the little stem signaling their superior freshness.

Lockbrier’s stall was clearly the winner when it came to asparagus, rivaling Godfrey’s production I would contend.  While they had the usual supply of wintered vegetables to chose from, they also offered things like cucumbers and spaghetti squash, which, if we presume all the produce at the market is grown by the purveyor, you sort of have to wonder how they managed to get cucumbers of that size ready for the early spring market?

One way to get the most from asparagus, especially if you’ve been snapping it in preparation of roasting or steaming, is to make soup.

Roasted Asparagus Soup

Everyone knows how to roast asparagus, right?  Toss the prepared spears in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and bake on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until just done.  Eat some, set some aside.  Take the ends that you saved when you snapped the spears and put them in a pot with enough water to cover by about an inch or two, and simmer gently for 30 or so minutes.  Strain it and set it aside, discarding the now spent ends.  Meanwhile, cut the tips off of your asparagus spears and reserve them for garnish for your soup.  Chop the remaining stems into half inch pieces, and set aside.  Sweat some onion in butter for about 5 minutes, then add your strained stock.  Peel and slice some potato (more or less depending on how much asparagus you started with), adding that to the simmering onion/stock mixture and gently cook until the potatoes are done.  Add the asparagus stems and puree the whole thing in a blender or food processor until it is as smooth as you like.  At this point you can add cream if you so desire and season with as much salt and pepper as you like.  Garnish with your reserved asparagus tips.  This soup is good hot or cold, which makes it a perfect party food.

Eat. Drink. Relax. Cook!

Dieting in the Land of Food

This post marks a new direction for the K-B Market Blog.  The main theme will still be Food, with a capital F, but moving out of the K-B Market and heading into other edible directions.  I’d like to explore ideas ranging from food politics to diet and nutrition.  We’re going to start with the latter, since that is what is currently on my mind…

Obviously, food is central to all of our lives; we have to eat to live.  But some of us also live to eat.  Within the Silcox/McKinney family – immediate and extended – food is just as often something to celebrate, to share, to talk and read about, as well as to simply enjoy on the plate.  It is not unusual for Kevin and I to get up on Monday morning and start a conversation about what we are going to eat on our next weekend.  If we are going camping, it will be about what we want to cook at the campsite.  If we are going away it will be about what restaurants we want to try.  If we are staying home it will be about what we want to cook over the fire-pit in the back yard.  Being married to a Chef has several serious consequences, one being that food is usually on the front burner.

The problem with this sort of behavior is, of course, you still have to watch what you eat, calorie and nutrition wise, especially when you are in the restaurant business and food is all around you, all the time.  One question we have had to answer regularly over the years is “How do you keep your weight down, with all this food around you?”

Well, the immediate answer to that question is, of course, we don’t get to eat “all this food” because we are making it to sell, not to eat ourselves.  If we ate everything we made we’d not only be really fat, we’d have a problem with our bank account.  We don’t eat crabcakes unless they have reached their sell-by date; the cake we eat is the last slice of the one that was made last week; the leftovers we eat are not because they are our first choice but because we have leftovers that must be eaten before we cook anything else.  It is not really glamorous and never has been.

And the second answer to that question is we do watch what we eat.  I tell people I have been dieting since I was in high-school, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much.  If I tried to satisfy every craving, I’d certainly gain weight, just like everyone else.  I love potato chips but do I sit down and eat a bag of Utz every week?  No.  Just half a bag…  I have learned that there are some foods better avoided if there is going to be another choice on the menu that I won’t want to resist, especially if it is a seasonal favorite.  In other words, if I think there is the possibility of  strawberry shortcake, I better not have a baked potato in the same meal.  Mostly it’s common sense.

Since we left our full-time, 80 hour a week restaurant jobs in 2014, Kevin and I have both noticed a bit more of a “creep” in our weight than ever before.  Eating too many of those leftovers was taking its toll and we realized it was time we did something about it before it got to be too much to lose.

Enter the 5:2 diet.

I have never been good at “dieting”.  I just do not have the strength of will to completely give up any particular food group in order to lose weight.  I have to have my potato chips occasionally, I want to be able to enjoy some triple cream cheese when it appears before me, or a serious slice of blueberry pie.  And of course I want my wine.  So, while I have been a “dieter” all my life, I have never found a weight-loss diet that I could stick with for any length of time with any successful progress in the down direction.  When I heard about the 5:2 I was intrigued – you didn’t have to “diet” all the time, just two days a week!  What a concept!  The rest of the time was your own choice.  If you want to really lose weight, of course you have to be careful the remainder of the week but you still can have what you normally eat, nothing is off limits.  This seemed to be the kind of diet I could follow.

Getting Kevin on board was easier than I thought.  And since we’ve been following the regimen – from early February with breaks for vacation and such – Kevin has lost almost ten pounds and I have lost three.  We are not discouraged with the slow going – even I am not since those three pounds are gone gone gone, for sure – because we have gained more than we have lost.

For one thing, it has taught us to be more “mindful eaters”.  Number one – when you only have 500 calories in the pantry for meals over the course of a whole (long) day, you are careful what you eat and how you spread those calories out.  And number two – the rest of the week, since you are much more conscious of the number of calories in your food, you might start to think twice about putting that extra pat of (36 calorie) butter on your bread or reach for that second piece of (246 calorie) fried chicken leg.  Being mindful about what you consume is good in all facets of life, but food is one area where it is wise to do it daily.

So, what do we eat on our ‘diet’ days?  Eggs.  Oranges.  Spinach. Asparagus. Grapefruit. Celery. Raw nuts. The usual suspects.  It’s not too bad.  As long as you don’t mind being hungry, which usually a big glass of water or cup of coffee takes care of…

And after a day on, a day off, another day on, you feel so freaking virtuous!

This would be our main meal on a typical diet day – poached egg with some kind of steamed or roasted vegetable, which right now is asparagus.  One time Kevin put in a little olive oil, but that ended when we realized it also added at least 50 calories to our daily allowance!  I’d rather have a clementine!

Eventually we hope to just do a “maintenance” course of 6:1, but until we get to our personal goal weights, we are all in.

Next time, eating with the seasons.

Two Months Later…

Yes, it has been two months since my last entry here in BlogLand.  My apologies. It’s been so long that WordPress has changed their layout since my last post! And of course  I have a boat load of pictures of food to share, since I haven’t stopped taking them even though I seemed to have stopped writing about them…

The Problem – as in why I haven’t posted in awhile – is that I am somewhat bored with my topic.  Not bored with food – Never! – but just feeling as though it is time to talk about something else in the realm of food aside from what we are cooking and eating here in Kennedyville and beyond.  So, here is my plan: one more post with the usual photos of K-B Market food and events and then, on to something new. There will still be photos – can’t stop that documentation – but sharing them more on FaceBook and Twitter than we do now; you will have to get yourselves over to those all important social media sites to see what we are eating.  This platform will hopefully evolve into something less personal and more regional.  We’ll see.   Meanwhile, here we go, way back to February at the K-B Market:

Katie and Luke came back again for a couple of Saturdays in February for some quality Mom/(17YO)Son time.  In this picture they are working on making pasta with clams, and an apple galette for dessert.  Kevin really enjoys these one-on-one sessions with other people who want to learn how to improve their cooking skills, obviously, and even better when they love to eat!

Some of the dishes to be devoured during the late winter included:

And some of the preparations to lead to other plates:

Our neighborhood egg producer got a new sign, announcing their intentions.  They have dramatically increased their egg production over the early spring and seem to be keeping up with our customers demand so far, while not in the least decreasing their quality.  We are so lucky to have access to these beautiful and tasty eggs.

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A box of Myer lemons became many things lemony, including cheesecake.

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February ended with the start of vacation, which did not produce too many pictures of food, but our return in March was greeted with a couple of private dinners.  Of course, oysters still figure prominently in our menus, and Kevin made many trays of baked molluscs.

What to do with all those shells though?  Well, as we traveled around the Outer Banks on our vacation we saw what they did with them in Wanchese:

Other K-B Market meals looked like this:

Two pies, one sweet one savory, for sale in the Market:

Kevin can cook!  And even in the winter, he can find seasonal ingredients.  We did a cooking class with a group from WashColl, with the “sustainable, local, seasonal” theme, and with help from some local gardens, including Unity’s winter beds, Kevin managed to come up with pretty much all local vegetables for them to cook and eat, and local Langenfelder pork.

And of course, no blog post would be complete without some pictures of cooking on the campfire:

Of course this is just a small sample, right?  Cooking on the open fire is – as you know – one of Kevin’s favorite ways to prepare dinner.  If we are not at work, or going out to eat at one of our favorite dining spots, we are cooking outside.  One of our latest new favorite dishes was that stuffed cabbage you see in the fire-pit above.  You take a head of cabbage, core out the center about two, three inches in diameter and then layer the newly opened space with chopped onion and bacon, with a little sprinkle of olive oil.  Wrap the whole thing in several layers of heavy duty aluminum foil and let it roast in the coals for a couple of hours (while your duck is spinning).  This is so good, it could be dinner all by itself.

Pictures are hopefully worth a thousand words, since there is not much to read here…

When next we meet I hope to introduce our new theme.  Until then, keep eating and cooking and buying local.  It is really not hard to do, in this area.  We’ll do the same.

 

 

January is not all Bad

I have been known to complain aloud, quite often, concerning the reality that months such as July and September just fly by while January progresses at a crawl. Considering the difference in the months, this just isn’t fair. It should, it seems to me, be just the opposite – wouldn’t it be better to have June go on and on, and let January go by in a flash?  But perhaps I need to rethink this. I mean, really, what is so bad about January?  For one thing, who can complain about our January weather in this age of climate change?  We “suffered” through four days of temperatures under 35 degrees last month; the rest of the time the range was a low of 37 to a high of 71 during daytime hours.  While this might make it hard to plan your wardrobe day to day, it certainly is not cause to diss the entire month.  And definitely the quality of food available during this month has not suffered, not when you can get some of the sweetest spinach you ever had from Anchor Nursery at the Farmers Market, as well as greens from John and sweet potatoes and celeriac from Theresa and bread from Carl and some of the best eggs you’ve ever eaten from Kennedyville.

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This photo is of some of that Anchor spinach beneath a couple of poached Snyder/Malone Kennedyville BackYard eggs.  July should be so lucky.

When else but January are you going to make hand-pies, filled with chicken and winter squash, as Kevin did this month for the Market?

And you won’t find a 13 year old in the Kitchen on a fine Saturday in May, but you might find him there on a raw Saturday in January, right?  Our friend Adam came to cook with Chef Kevin again this year, helping to prepare his Mom’s birthday dinner at the K-B Market.  He’s only about a foot taller than he was last year and his passion for cooking has not diminished either.

Pecan praline bars, roast lamb chops, fried oysters, these are not readily available in June, which adds to January’s cache as well.

It’s beginning to look like January is not so bad after all, at least as far as weather and food are concerned.

But there is still the time thing.  Does January really move at a snail’s pace, compared to the more “attractive” months of our year?  This issue may not be quite resolved, in part because of the shortage of daylight hours that accompany the month.  There is just too much darkness.  Plus it seems we do spend an awful lot of time in January wishing it were April, or, in our case, anticipating vacation, which does not help speed the passage of dark time.  So, since January is going to last forever anyway, it makes sense to continue to focus on the seasonality of your meals, which, while this activity might be a little more difficult than it is in August or October, is something to do while you are waiting for spring to get here.  Right?

One of our quests this month has been for chicken.  We have been researching chicken for quite some time, and over the course of our experience have tried several brands, from Bell and Evans which you can find at Whole Foods, to organic chicken from d’Artagnan.  When one of our customers told us they got the best chicken ever at a local store, we called to find out the brand.  And indeed, Murray’s chickens are up there with some of the better commercially raised birds; we’ve used them for years at Brooks and beyond, but we wanted to take it one step further.  We wanted air-chilled chickens.  We wanted to get away from the water/ice/chlorine bath that conventional chickens are bathed in after processing, some of which they can absorb through their skin.  Bell and Evans chickens are air-chilled: check!  But the distributor for this bird does not deliver above Kent Island, which obviously was not going to work for our us.  Eventually a google search brought us to Smart Chicken.  Since we are 40 miles from the closest Harris Teeter – which has an exclusive arrangement with the Smart people – we could offer it, and it is distributed through one of our regular purveyors. So far, so good. We met with a rep from the company, proceeded to swallow the propaganda hook, line and sinker… and then we finally tasted it.  And that was all it took. When was the last time you roasted a whole chicken and not only was the breast still juicy and savory but the skin so crispy it actually crackled?  I will not proclaim that the meat is as full-flavored as that chicken you harvest from your own backyard, not at all, but is it absolutely better than the average chicken you can get at the grocery store?  Yes it is. This is not a “local” poultry product, which for a lot of these better quality poultry products means Pennsylvania local. Smart Birds are raised in Nebraska, but of course that can be justified by the fact that the feed they eat does not have to be transported to them and the water they use does not run off into a bay or its tributaries.  Apparently shipping processed birds to market is a lot more cost effective than shipping grain to the birds.  (As I said, I swallowed the propaganda…)  But eventually proof is in the pudding, and we are sold:

We are going to carry these beautifully packaged, flavorful and well-raised chickens until something better comes along.  They are doing (almost) everything right.

Of course, nothing would be more local, more natural and more free range than:

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…wild turkeys.  But they are a bit harder to procure and slightly difficult to cook.

Here’s hoping your meals in January were as seasonal as you could make them, and once we get through slow month number two – February – it will be March, which means that soon asparagus will begin poking up to announce that our diets are about to get much more diversified!  Use the time wisely.

Cheers!

Fast Away the Old Year Passes

Hail the New!    This first post of 2017 is going to carry the usual theme of food as its central topic, but it won’t be all about Kevin’s food.  With the Holidays comes travel, and the opportunity for dining at other tables, which in turn often offers the inspiration to expand ones own waist repertoire as a cook.  Today I’m going to share not only a couple of plates from the  K-B Market kitchen, but also  photos of many of our dining adventures in New York, Philadelphia and Comegys Road from the past few weeks.  Luckily this is something you can do (or not) on your own time, rather than sit through a slide show in our living room…

From the K-B Market the last weeks of December brought many wonderful things, including Kevin’s should-be-world-famous pate:

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…and some choice lamb chops for a dinner party on December 30th:

But frankly, lately the focus has been on eating as much as cooking. As I mentioned in the last post – pre-Christmas – we enjoy an annual trek or two to Philadelphia, this time of year generally to spend several hours at their famous Reading Terminal Market.  The pretzel dogs at Martin’s are often our first stop, and this year I was caught thus:

Mission accomplished!

Christmas Weekend found us tightly ensconced on Comegys Road, with our usual Eggs Benedict breakfast starting the Day of Feasting off on the right track:

The sight of Kevin cooking in his bathrobe is a rare one indeed.  For the evening menu, we remained true to the French themed plan of steak au poivre and crepes Suzette:

Possibly one of our most successful Christmas Dinners ever.  And let me tell you, that is a relatively rare accomplishment!

Kevin spent one morning during Christmas Week in the Luisa kitchen working with the cousins as they broke down a SBF veal.  As usual, he had a terrific time.

After the Holidaze were over, we felt we needed a break from reality and so took the Amtrak to Manhattan for a BirthWeekend extravaganza.  Talk about eating!  We ate as much as we walked, to keep the balance, and we did a LOT of both.  Best dish? IMHO, it was the L’ile Flottante at Le Coq Rico in the Flatiron neighborhood.  We went for dinner on Sunday night with our friends Marie and Frederick, and at the end of that very good meal, when we all wanted to order what is supposed to be the best version of Floating Island in New York, (arguably even better than the dreamy one at La Grenouille), we were told “sold out”.  What!!!???  That is what we (I anyway) came to this restaurant specifically to order!  Disappointed ruled and we accepted no substitutions.  However, we did have a plan B.  We went the next day just for dessert!

I will tell you, maybe it was because we had it after a relatively light sushi lunch at SugarFish (conveniently located across the street), but this was an incredibly delicious dessert, and more than likely better appreciated than it may have been the night before, when its appearance would have occurred after a much larger meal.  The richest creme anglaise ever.  Each spoonful was an “OMG”.  Perfect.

But that wasn’t the only spectacular dish we consumed over our weekend of gluttony.  We had our best overall meal at Atoboy, a restaurant manned by a former chef of one of our favorite NYC restaurants Jungsik, with a small plate format that suited us perfectly.  The Peking Duck at Decoy was probably second in line; it lived up to the hype and will probably be one the few places that could make it on the annual must-go lists. We managed to get in a dim sum lunch at Jing Fong, already on that annual list, as our go-to in Chinatown for that special dining experience (chicken feet!!).  There were pastries to be had at Maison Kayser all over town, bagel competitions,  Chinese noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods and Pichot Ong’s latest venture Chaan Teng , Swedish candy on Christopher Street, Mexican at Rosie’s and of course a couple of food halls to fill in the gaps.  At the Winter Flea Smorgasburg we had one of the best pork sandwiches ever, from the Tramezzini stall, and at the New York outpost of the Japanese noodle chain TsuruTonTan we marveled over the Tuna Tartar cones.  Then we gobbled them up.  So many places to eat, so little time.  We’ll deal with the credit card later.  And thankfully the walking helped with the caloric intake…

Here are a few pictures:

What a great city!  We already can’t wait to return.

Whew, what a whirlwind.  We came back to the Eastern Shore on Monday, marveling at the quietness of it all.

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The beauty of it is that New York will be there, but there is no place like home.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Well, as usual, December has gone way fast and now it is the Winter Solstice and Christmas is literally right around the corner.  People are asking “are you ready for Christmas?” and my response remains the same: “Always!”  Who wouldn’t  be ready for a day off from work, complete with a fancy meal, champagne and packages of surprises?  With Christmas on a Sunday this year some of us are getting a bit ripped off in the “day off” department, since we are always off on a Sunday, but it will still be Christmas, which is slightly different from a normal Sunday, right?  Yes, we are ready.

One of the most fun things we did this month – aside from getting our wreathes at Simmons’ that is – is hosting a birthday cooking class for a 17 year old novice cook.  It was what Luke asked for – cooking classes – and we picked him up at the Farmers Market on a Saturday morning to start his birthday in the kitchen with Kevin on a buying note.  (We introduced him to vendors as “our new son Luke” – ha!)  His goals were simple – he wanted to be able to make dinner for his family.  By the time his mom and sister came to pick him up at noon, he had succeeded in doing just that – spaghetti with red sauce, a green salad with a basic vinaigrette and garlic bread was ready for lunch.

Of course everyone who came into the market that day assumed that Luke was hoping that learning some new cooking skills would also enhance his skills with the ladies…

Another event in December included more hands-on participation by the diners, with the guests shucking the oysters and pressing the duck:

The menu featured Kevin’s smoked duck breast, as well as pate and confit, eventually bringing the whole bird to the table.

But, as is often the way, I neglected to get any pictures of the plated meal…suffice to say, the host came back the next day to order more smoked breast!!

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Oyster fritters were served at two dinners this month, as this small version attests.  I felt compelled to put it in full size, it looks so good.

The stuffed pork tenderloin below was part of a supposed small plate menu, but by the time it came for this pork dish, most appetites had already been satisfied and many to-go plates were requested.  The crab cake plates in the second shot are missing the turf part of the menu – roasted leg of lamb.

Kevin has really put in the time this month – last week he worked 70 hours!  One of these days I am afraid he is going to ask to be compensated for it!  He managed to make bread from wild yeast, which was a major goal of his, and the walnut bread produced resulted in walnut bread croutons, which is one of the best conduits for pate found on this earth. The new favorite dessert has to be the Salted Nut Caramel Tart, which he made several time for various groups.  Why there aren’t more pictures of Kevin’s food this month, I don’t know…cheesecake, stuffed rockfish, seafood chowder, pumpkin pie – where are they??  I suppose we know what my New Year’s Resolution will be now…

Anyway, I admit, I’m just ready for the Holiday Weekend to begin. We have our menu all planned – steak au poivre this year – and managed to get the cards and packages in the mail with not a moment to spare, according to our Local Post Mistress.  Traditionally we enter our Winter Holiday season with a laying of the greens at the family plot in the Still Pond Cemetery the second Sunday in December, during which we unabashedly drink champagne, eat biscuits and Christmas cookies and amble around the graveyard visiting family and friends in their final guise.  It is a wonderful way to start the holidays. This is followed by a visit to Simmons’ Tree Farm, to select a couple of wreaths with which to grace our doors.  Simmons is a Kent County Treasure, that is for sure, and the train set gets larger every year. Picking out our annual poinsettias at Anthony’s is another December event – nothing gets you into the Holiday frame of mind faster than entering their greenhouse filled with poinsettias as far as you can see. After that it is the usual hustle and bustle, with time made for a quick trip to Philadelphia to do some shopping at the Reading Terminal Market, although this time it was more about grazing than shopping.  (I cannot resist Miller’s pretzel dogs, and this year was no exception.)  We also must visit Di Bruno’s, on Chestnut Street, just to see and smell, wandering past aromatic cheeses, all the charcuterie you could imagine, trays of Christmas cookies and platters of roasted vegetables and meats.  It is quite a sensational place, and while we often leave empty handed – “just looking, thanks!” – we never leave uninspired.

And of course now that the LaMotte wreath is up and lit, well, let the Holly Daze begin!!  We are looking forward to our Eggs Benedict on Christmas morning, as well as the cheese fondue spread we will feast upon with our neighbors the night before. Our Christmas Dinner will be long and festive, with a big fire outside to keep us warm. And don’t tell Kevin, but the food angle of this holiday will be continued into the stocking phase as  well!

We have had a great year with you, and we are looking forward to the next one, with many more food experiences to share.  Thank you so much for your support!  We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a most Happy New Year!

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Ho HO Ho!

The Holidays Approach

It is no secret that I am a sucker for the Holiday Season.  I am already chomping at the bit to get the Christmas Mugs down from the attic, and while I am not ready for the onslaught of Christmas music – I’m so glad I don’t work in retail this time of year – I look forward to its eventual arrival at home and office, and to the annual viewing of every version of The Christmas Carol known to man.  It is only one month out of twelve, and I figure we might as well take full advantage of this Holiday of Lights while we can. When if is over it will be January, February, March.  So, let the Holly Daze begin, particularly the menu planning!

We’ve had a lot of fun at the K-B Market this month – and why did November fly by so quickly? – including an Evening with Mimmo, a couple of OysterFests, several private dinner events plus regular life in Kennedyville.  All loosely documented for sharing here and elsewhere.

We’ll start with Mimmo.  As most of you know, Mimmo and his cousin Vinny own Luisa’s in Chestertown.  We respect them as solid restaurant owner-operators, and we have been fortunate to develop a mutually beneficial relationship over the past several years.  We spoke to Mimmo several weeks ago about the possibility of having him come in here to do a class on Risotto, and he was more than game.  It was a sell-out, of course, and Mimmo was a star:

(Once again, don’t forget you can click on the pix to see them in a larger format.)

The following week, Mimmo wanted to come back to learn how Kevin makes his bread.  He arrived on the Wednesday before ThanksGiving, and spent most of the day making the bread – which is an all-day process – and watching out for his side-kick, his four year old daughter.  It was a blast having them here.

Party food has been pretty spectacular this month.  We had several where the hosts say “You go for it Kevin”, and off he goes!

We held two OysterFests in November, and could probably have held ten more!  (we’ll do it again in February or March!)  It was a lot of fun and a lot of oysters.

One of the items we offered on our ThanksGiving Market Menu last week was Maryland Beaten Biscuits.  I posted about this last year, including my tutorial with local Beaten Biscuit Queen, Laurette Sisk.  These biscuits are a staple at many Eastern Shore Holiday Tables, and with the adjournment of the Orrell Family in recent years- whose bags of orbs had always been in plentiful supply at the local Acme – we needed to step up to the plate and provide a source for this vital Holiday food.  They aren’t hard to make, they just take time, and time is what we made for them last week.  We baked about 12 dozen and sold out.  Full disclosure – we learned a new trick this year!

As mentioned last post, fruit cake was also on the November agenda, and four were made.  We began selling it for the TG Menu last week, and guess what?  Gone.  Well, almost gone.  It is amazing to me, since so many people profess to not like fruitcake.  Thank goodness there are more than a few that do!  We have enough left for sampling during Christmas week, and next year I will have to make eight I guess!

One of Kevin’s favorite seafood purveyors, from decades of restaurant business, came by to see us this month, and on Friday after TG, he again pulled into our driveway, but this time he did not stay.  He dropped off a goose for us, a freshly killed Canada goose, ready for plucking.  Well, seeing as Kevin has never plucked anything before, we got a little help from our friends and then he proceeded to clean it up.  Apparently the fact that it was still warm made it much easier, and, if you are still with me here, that fresh liver was one of the most delicious things we ever ate.  Thank you Frank, you made our Saturday night.  We roasted half of the breast for dinner, slow braised the legs for a future  meal and froze the rest of the breast to smoke in December for our Christmas Dinner.  That goose did not die in vain.

ThanksGiving is over for another year.  We have turned our pumpkins into soup, our leftovers are spread far and wide and we are ready to begin entertaining the idea of eggnog and eggs Benedict.  December is food-centric around our house, with trips to WholeFoods and Reading Terminal Market sealing the deal.  Chocolates arrive in the mail, champagne gets ordered by the case and we just hope that too many pounds don’t stick to our ribs.  It seems there are so many more food traditions at Christmas and New Year’s than any other time for us,  some written in stone, some a bit transient but still happily anticipated.  Some from our childhood and others created by our own history together.  It all adds up to comfort.  In a few weeks we will be in the thick of it, ready to see our favorites again and ready to make some of yours.  In the meantime, ThanksGiving 2016 will go down as one of the best ever, with much to be Thankful for, especially for the people who make our lives as full as our bellies were last Thursday.  Cheers to all as we look forward to another Holiday Season in Kent County.

It’s National Food Month

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Ha!  Just kidding!  Every month is Food Month at the K-B Market.  Every day.  It’s what we do.  We start thinking about next week’s food last week.

And so we once again start with dessert.

Fall is apples and pumpkin, sweet potatoes and turnips.  And trust Kevin to make it all taste good.  He made some roasted vegetables for an event last week, and took those sturdy root vegetables and concocted a savory tart out of them – what’s not to like?  Especially when there’s  a little cheese in there.

And then there’s pork belly – who doesn’t like pork belly??  With a soy sauce glaze and a hint of Five Spice?

We’ve had several special events recently, including a couple of Farmers Market demo-dinners, a surprise birthday for three and a Father/Daughter pasta making class.  We even “catered” some of the food for an off-premise gathering in Chestertown!  (No, we will not be making a habit of doing that – when I commented to another participant about how much I disliked catering, he responded by comparing it to moving, which is exactly the right parallel, including the fact that both are hard on relationships.  There is a reason why caterers charge so much for their services…)  And despite being busy, October moved along at a nice comfortable pace, giving us time to enjoy some life outside of work too – although we completely missed the whole of DownRigging this year.  The closest we came was a drive through town on Sunday in search of FoodTrucks…

Through it all, Kevin’s main oven remains inoperable:

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Several visits from technicians attempting to breathe life into the large oven – which began to show signs of failure right after the “fix” for the problem of heat dispersion was implemented – have failed.  It is amazing #1 that no one can seem to solve the problem with this expensive piece of equipment and #2 that Kevin has managed to work around the issue!  Eight working burners and a small oven – which barely holds a half-sheet pan – and he hasn’t missed a beat.  Kind of makes you wonder why we got this big Blue Star to begin with, eh?  (just kidding Kevin!)  Currently we are waiting for the company to send an entire new “guts” for replacement installation.  What that is going to cost us is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, Kevin continues to produce some inspirational food for our guests.

The aforementioned birthday dinner was a surprise for the Husband who had been a big fan of Brooks.  We tried to include some of his past favorites, including the French Onion Soup.

Kevin got a smoker to use out back, and he has not given it much rest since it showed up to work.  You’ve seen the pictures of the first pork roast to emerge from its clutches, and it’s been in use for a few other smoky items as well:

The smoked bluefish was particularly successful, and we hope to see more of that as fall continues to affect our menu choices.

And of course Kevin continues to have fun with pork:

One of the best times in our kitchen lately was the Dad/Daughter pasta class.  For her tenth birthday, this little girl wanted to learn how to make pasta, and what better teacher than Kevin!  Here’s a bit of a slide show as to how that went:

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On the home front, or, rather, the camping front, Chicken Cacciatore made its debut at our most recent campsite, to much success.  This is a dish from my youth, when my cousin used to prepare her version for me on any number of my regular visits to her kitchen from my college dorm.  I loved it then and it has gotten even better with “age”.  It was quite sensational with the added bonus of being cooked over the open fire.  And with David King’s mushrooms of course!

I leave you with our favorite little visitor – Perfect Peter – who is new to Chestertown, but probably has yet to meet a heart he hasn’t won.

Time to go – there are Beaten Biscuits to work on and Fruitcake to make!  I’ll update you about the progress of those iconic holiday foods when next we meet!

Cheers!