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.
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:
…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.