IACP Conference in Denver, Colorado

ColoradoMark & I have just returned from the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ annual conference and I am profoundly moved, inspired and changed by the people and plates that I met along the way. From the Denver’s mayor to fellow bloggers, cookbook authors, teachers and travelers that I had lunch with everyday, from as far away as Sweden and as near as Hoboken, each person I met was kind, committed and fascinated by the food we all eat.

This year’s theme was “Sustainability” and many of the speakers that I was audience to took their approach to a definition. The one I found most compelling was “Finding a way to live off the Earth’s interest, and not its capital,” as defined by Fred Kirschenmann, Ph. D., President of Stone Barns, organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow of the Leopold Center at Iowa State university and IACP scholar-in-residence. 

I had the priveldge of hearing Dan Barber, chef/owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, speak lovingly of Eduardo Souza, a natural foie gras producer in southwestern Spain. Souza produces foie gras by allow the ducks to follow the natural gorging instinct initiated by the migration cycle, but his geese never evacuate. In fact, they attract wild geese to come and stay. Eduardo electrifies only the outside of the fences, to keep predators out. The geese are free to go, but they don’t. To hear Mr. Barber tell the story of passion, love and sacrifice brought tears to my eyes, like a perfect musical chord or the happy ending of a romantic story.

Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, also from Spain, said “The new exotic is what’s local.” Through his translator, he talked about the global commitment we all must make – and that shopping at the farmer’s market isn’t enough, albeit a good start.

Whole Foods co-president and COO Walter Robb cited the Great Law of the Iroquois: “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”

There was some rumbling of perceived hypocrisy in the audience, but if we are realistic, isn’t mainstream America’s choice to buy from Whole Foods better than any non-sustainable, non-organic counterpart? According to this report from the Hartman Group, 67% of consumers buy products based on concerns about the environment or social well being, at least some of the time, although I heard that the latest figure is as high as 80%.

So change is afoot and we can be very academic about it. (Seriously, did I just quote a statistic??) Or, we can enjoy the fruits of labor of like-minded farmers, chefs and vintners. 

For instance, “green” wine is readily available in every price point from every wine-producing country, and I had the pleasure of tasting several, at 8:30 in the morning with Marguerite Thomas, travel editor at The Wine News and who writes a monthly column called The Intrepid Gastronome for the LA Times International Syndicate. A few nights before, we had dinner together and Marguerite lamented the archaic blue laws that prevent wine delivery to a hotel. Dinner was at the fabulous Lola Mexican Bistro in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver. 

Interesting how a group of like-minded individuals gathered for dinner could be so vastly different in temperament and manners. The very proper Marguerite, world-traveling gastonome and member of Les Dames d’Escoffier among other highly refined accolades, seated next to a effervescent turkey marketer from Saskatoon who knew how to have a good time and choose the perfect breast.

Also, I have to thank Chef Jen Jasinski and her general manager Beth Gruitch-Verucchi at Rioja Restaurant. Our dining experience was so flawless, I am planning an entire post dedicated to an interview with these two icons of sustainability and passionate palate.

Look forward also to Mark’s account of our tour of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey Distillery. (Ben: Watch your mailbox! We didn’t forget!!)

Thank you to Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks.com and to Kathleen Flinn. You are both an inspiration to the world of food writing.

If you are new to the site, sign up to receive email updates by clicking the link on the top right so you’ll never miss another post, and comment often so I know what you’re thinking!

Finally, there are going to be some technical upgrades to the site and if you want me to geek out, drop me an email and I’ll let you know what I have planned post-graduation from culinary school which is on May 5th.

Keep cooking and keep reading and remember that our planet and our palate’s futures are in the making, so choose your ingredients accordingly.

Sweet Peas

Mark & Peas Traditionally, peas get planted on St. Patrick’s Day in our neck of the woods. They take about 80 days to harvest, which means they’ll be done in time to plant tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and other heat loving vegetables. Peas and beans also magically “fix” the nitrogen in the soil. There are little nodes that form on the fine root of the plant and they extract some nitrogen out of the air and then deposit it in earth, which is good, because every other type of vegetable eats up the nitrogen as they grow. 

Peas come in three basic forms. Snow peas are eaten whole when the pea itself inside the pod is tiny. Think stir fry. Snap peas are eaten whole and the pea inside is big and full in the pod. Pod peas, my personal favorite, are big and plump and you pop them out of the pod before eating. These freeze really well, but I don’t think any of ours will make it into freezer bags.

In the picture above, you can see the apparatus we built for the peas to climb. If you are going to plant some yourselves, provide them some type of trellis – even though the seed packet won’t tell you to, which is an interesting omission.

We had way more peas than trellis space, so in the middle, underneath the teepees we planted the extras, with the intention of eating them as pea shoots. In retrospect, we probably should have staggered the planting of those to be eaten as shoots, so that we could extend how long we’d have them. Instead, we will throw some pea shoot-themed dinner party and devour them in one sitting.

I think peas are a perfect food, just on their own. I can eat them in any number of rustic preparations, but some chefs take their pea-love even farther than just butter, salt and pepper.

I had the pleasure of meeting Amy Eubanks, Chef de Cuisine at BLT Fish in New York City. She spoke at my school on her favorite raw fish preparations. Over cured arctic char, she sprinkled shelled peas, which she had skinned. Skinned! Not just removed from the pod, but slipped each pea out of its coat, something I appreciate in technique and OCD, but caused me to miss the dual mouthfeel that I associate with shelled peas, in its absence.

Plant your peas! If you have a fire escape, throw some in a pot or a bucket – they’ll use the iron rungs for support. If you’ve got a backyard or lawn, there’s no reason not to participate in the bounty of spring.

Also, here are a few gratuitous pics from our garden:

Pea Trellis' Crocuses

Moi crocus

Lemon Chicken

March isn’t exactly going out like a lamb in these parts but nonetheless Mark & I have been firing up the grill, all bundled up, hoping to conjure the warm breeze of spring and the promise of summer behind it. What’s a few more nights below freezing?

This is one of my favorites of my mother’s recipes. My mom tells me its actually my grandmother’s recipe. And it can be traced even farther back to relatives to me only by marriage who live somewhere in Connecticut. Well, I added wine, so perhaps I can join the legacy too.

Whatever the recipe’s provenance, it really can only be successul on an outdoor grill. The oregano coating smokes alot as it sears, and if you make it indoors, you’ll fill your house with the aroma of lemon chicken for weeks. Maybe that’s your thing. For me, its one of the million reasons I am thankful to finally have a backyard and a bbq. The recipe is inexpensive, super simple and absolutely delicious as leftovers the next day straight out of the fridge.

Lemon Chicken
1 stick unsalted butter
1 lemon
1/3 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup dried oregano
1 chicken, cut up into 8 or 10 bone-in serving pieces (generally 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs and 2 or 4 breast pieces, depending on the size you may want to cut each breast half in half again)
1 cup dry white wine

Lemon Chicken

1. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Add the juice of the lemon and turn off the heat.

2. In a large bowl, or gallon-sized zip top bag, combine the salt and oregano. Completely coat each piece of chicken in the mixture so that you barely see any chicken through the coating.

3. Grill chicken over medium-high heat. As you turn it, baste with the butter-lemon mixture. Cook until you have good color all the way around. This takes about 15 minutes. It smells amazing and you’ll understand why you’re outside when you see the herb-scented smoke plumes floating over to your neighbor’s place.

4. Transfer the chicken to a pot large enough to comfortably hold it all, add the cup of white wine and any remaining butter-lemon mix and tightly cover.

You can proceed from here either on a gas grill or inside on the stove top.

5. Cook the chicken over medium-low for about 90 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and falling off the bones.

We served ours with Macaroni & Cheese and grilled asparagus spears.

Happy Anniversary!!

March 17 marks the one year anniversary of In the Making. I want to thank you for reading and cooking and commenting and sending us love these past 365 days! We look forward to sending it right back at you in the form of food, wine and culinary tidbits!

Try the recipes that exist and the ones that are to come. Email me if things go great or fall apart completely and remember that all the fun is in the making.

Chicken Liver Paté

I’ve come to believe that the appeal of chicken livers lies deep in the psychic memory of one’s childhood. Either you dreaded being forced to eat them and they conjure memories of sitting in the dark at the table until the last bite was choked back, or, if you’re like me, your mouth waters with the scent-memory of onions sizzling in butter.

If your situation is the former, I encourage you to take another dip in the liver pool. (Sorry! I couldn’t resist!) I made this recipe for a lunch party and as promised, ladies, here is the recipe. Its easy and good for days spread on thinly sliced and toasted italian or french bread.

Chicken Liver Paté
4 T unsalted butter
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
6 chicken livers (the ones I bought came in a pint container. I used them all, drained, rinsed and patted dry with paper towel.) 
6 oz dry white wine 
4 oz good chicken stock
1 T tomato paste
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
2 T capers, finely chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
salt & pepper

Italian bread, thinly sliced and toasted

1. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat until just transparent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the chicken livers and sear until lightly browned. Try to keep the livers in a single layer on the bottom of the pan.

3. Add the wine and cook until it reduces to being almost dry in the pan.

4. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, anchovy, capers and thyme. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

5. Use a slotted spoon to move the chicken livers into the bowl of your food processor. Add about a half cup of the juice from the pan and pulse until smooth, adding liquid in small increments as necessary to get to the desired consistency…like peanut butter. (*optional, add a tablespoon or two of cognac or brandy at this point.)

6. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.

7. Refrigerate until cold. Serve with toast.

8. Use fancy Italian name to impress guests: Crostini di Fegatini.

A Turning Point for The Gourmand & the Peasant

Lots of wonderful things have happened as of late and I apologize for the delay in sharing them with you – but soon you’ll be excited too and you’ll forget all about how you’re cross with me for dropping off the planet for a week (or two.)

#1 The Village Voice printed my letter to Sarah DeGregorio, author of Is Foie Gras Torture? in the letters section of today’s edition. You can see my name all shiny under the Voice’s masthead here.

#2 The first incarnation of The Gourmand & the Peasant Gastropub’s menu debuted to exciting reviews from my instructor/conduit to investors as well as my culinary management classmates. It was pretty awesome to print and hold the menu, an object of proof. A harbinger of a key to a space somewhere out there.

#3 I learned yesterday that I am the 2009 – 2010 recipient of the Culinary Trust’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference Grant for Emerging Professionals, which means that I’ll be blogging from Denver April 1-4! More info on the conference can be found here, and the program schedule is here. Its foodie porn. 

#4 My first real life cooking with a chef experience was in James Beard’s kitchen. Well, his former kitchen, as he is dining at the banquet in the sky these days, but his townhouse in Greenwich Village has been made into a gastronomic alter of sorts and hosts world class chefs nightly to create dinners for anyone to come and enjoy. I had the honor and privilege of working with Chef Kerry Heffernan of South Gate and his staff. As soon as they post pictures, I’ll send the link, but for now, you can read about the James Beard Foundation and see upcoming events here.

Finally, I owe you a recipe! Fresh from the pages of the Gourmand & the Peasant’s menu:

Tangy Sorghum Baked Beans

1 pound dry beans

(go wild in the Goya isle, I’ve had success with all the varieties I’ve tried. I personally prefer larger beans like cannelini but little ones work too, just adjust your cooking times accordingly.)

6 slices bacon
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup sorghum
1/4 cup Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar 
1 cup brown sugar
2 T Worchesershire sauce
2 T whole grain mustard
1 T Sriracha hot sauce
1 1/2 T salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dry garlic
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp hot smoked pimentone
1/2 cup onion, diced

On the day before you want to eat the beans (or several days before, but the day before you want to cook the beans) place them in a colander and rinse them under cold water, sifting through carefully to make sure that all that’s in there are beans, not rocks or diamonds. Place the beans in a large pot, bowl, or other container and cover by four inches with fresh water. Allow to sit at room temperature, uncovered, overnight.

The next day, you’ll see your beans have expanded, but they are still raw. Pour off the soaking water, give the beans another quick rinse and set aside. Fill a large pot with plenty of water and and bring to a rolling boil. When the water is rapidly boiling, add the beans, wait until the water returns to a boil, and reduce the heat so that the water is just simmering. Don’t cover the beans. If you do, all those gases that some people find unpleasant will be trapped in the pot and absorbed into the beans, and then you. Leaving the cover off allows the gases to escape pre-digestion.

Boiling time depends greatly on you bean choice, and how low a simmer you use. My rule is to simmer for 30 minutes, and eat a bean. If they aren’t done, and they never are at this point, I set the timer and eat a bean at 15 minute intervals until they are tender to the tooth. If they get mushy or explode, you’ve gone too far. Finish the recipe, but next time, don’t cook so long. This simmer is the only softening process the beans will undergo, so make sure you get them to the texture you like before taking them off the heat.

While the beans are cooking, start your bacon rendering in a sautée pan over VERY low heat. The key to rendering fat is “low and slow” thus the fat has a chance to melt away leaving behind crisp bacon slices, as opposed to making the fat itself crispy. Yuck. Flip the slices over every few minutes to cook evenly.

While that all is going on, combine all the remaining ingredients except the onion in a large mixing bowl.

When the bacon is rendered and crisp, remove it from the pan and drain it on paper towels. Add the diced onion to the bacon fat and turn up the heat. Cook the onion just a minute or two, then dump the contents of the sautée pan into the mixing bowl, yes, bacon fat and all, and chop the drained bacon into small pieces and add that to the bowl as well.

When the beans are cooked to your liking, drain them and add them to the mixing bowl. Give a good stir to fully coat all the beans in sauce, but be gentle and break as few beans as possible. Pour the contents into a 13×9 glass baking dish and bake uncovered at 350° for 1 hour, stirring once halfway through. 

The beans will keep up to a week.

A Great Article on Foie Gras

In case you haven’t seen the cover in your neck of the woods (thank you Clustrmap.com!) The Village Voice gave prime real estate to foie gras production in the Hudson Valley.

I think its spot on. Please read it here and discuss. 

Here’s what I wrote to the article’s author:

Dear Sarah,

I am a student at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. I’m also a career changer, so foie gras wasn’t new to me in the last few weeks when it appeared in recipes. I am an avid supporter of sustainable, local food production, I fish, my parents raise and slaughter chickens. My brother is an avid bow hunter. But even I was squeamish about foie gras, for exactly the reasons you outline.
The marketing of false brutality is shameful. 
Thank you for giving me a tour of the Hudson Valley foie gras farm. I will happily support their enterprise and no longer wonder if I am supporting the torture of ducks. 
Thank you also for printing Chef Brassel’s quote regarding the hypocrisy of protesting meat while wearing Uggs and leather coats. Its easy to jump on a band wagon – and lucky for us, even easier to be pushed off.
Keep up the good writing!

PS, I’m wearing Uggs right now. Well, Bear Claws. Uggs’ cheap bastard cousin.