chitty chitty bang bang: potatoes

IMG_6682If you haven’t started chitting your seed potatoes, it’s not too late to start.  Just place the potatoes with their little eyes upward (generally there are more on one side than another) in an egg carton.  Mark the variety on the lid of the carton.

It’s not completely necessary to chit potatoes, but why not give them a head start?  For planting, you don’t want the long, zombie-pale fragile shoots one gets when a potato is stored too long in the refrigerator.  You want healthy green buds bursting out all over like spring.

Read more about cautionary tales about chitting potatoes here.

I grow German butterballs, since I like the flavor the best, but will usually throw in a few banana-style potatoes and reds for variety.  If I had some, I’d grow the PNW-native fingerlings called ‘Ozette,’ since they’re so cool.  Next year in Potatoville!

 

duck egg leche flan for pi day

IMG_5784Of the fowl I coddled recently on a two-week farm stay, I became a duck supporter.  Go Ducks!  I had heard that ducks have a presence that chickens lack, and it’s true. Their soft, smooth heads and facial expressions just charmed the pants off me. And they don’t have roosters who insist on pecking me and they’re not geese, period.  Seriously, a plus.

I was helping out some family farmers who needed livestock coverage in nearby Cottage Grove, a bucolic little rural town of covered bridges, plant nurseries, bookshops, and great breakfasts.  Part of my daily job was to process dozens of eggs from 24 chickens, a single egg a day from the horrible four-goose thug team, and whatever eggs the six ducks saw fit to lay.  I also had to milk two goats, an endeavor I enjoyed quite a bit, and one I’ll write about later.

IMG_5966So I suddenly found myself in the middle of the road of my life, surrounded by eggs.  I’ve been experimenting quite a bit.  I was reminded how delicious a classic béarnaise sauce is with a ribeye steak.  I learned that, despite a promising concept and the heart willing, leftover béarnaise sauce does not a good scrambled egg make.  I’ve made a glorious caramel duck egg bread pudding, a single goose egg chilaquiles (above), frittata, aioli, and Alice B. Toklas’ tricolor omelette with spinach and saffron layers, draped with tomato sauce.

And, my friends, I made this.

IMG_6024Duck egg leche flan with blood orange.  Doesn’t look like much, does it?  But o o o o that simple appearance belies a rich, deep, exquisite flavor of almost savory sweet egg custard, and the whole thing is bathed in caramel.  It’s a Filipino specialty, and traditionally relies on creamy water buffalo milk and a sour lime called a dayap (similar to a calamansi), but now uses pantry ingredients.  I opted for the “traditional” version with evaporated milk and condensed milk, managing to source some organic varieties of both.  For some thoughts on the rich variety of recipes using different kinds of dairy and eggs or whole eggs, click here.  I may still try it with cream and honey, but I present you with my first go, which was absolutely delicious.

The recipe uses 12 duck egg yolks.  If you ever find yourself in duck egg heaven, you won’t regret making it, since duck eggs are noticeably richer than their chicken cousins, but farm-fresh chicken egg yolks would work too.  It just wouldn’t be as rich.  And I hate to be a snob, but I wouldn’t bother making this with grocery store eggs and their pale yellow, tasteless yolks.

The traditional mold, a llanera, can be replaced by a cake or pie dish or ramekin.  A ramekin will give you less caramel on top, so screw that.  I found it much more reliable to bake the flan in a water bath versus steaming it (also more traditional).

What to do with the duck egg whites?  Well, they’re thicker and richer than chicken eggs, so they don’t work the same way in cakes and pastries.  I suggest beating them to soft peaks and making chiles rellenos out of them, which is what we had for dinner the night of the flan.  Yes, it’s decadent, but hey, I’ve got farm work to do.

Duck Egg Leche Flan with Blood Orange

Serves 12, very rich.

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 12 duck eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1 can condensed milk (best quality), 14 oz.
  • 1 can evaporated milk (best quality), 12 oz.

Prepare a waterbath for a 10-inch cake pan or deep pie dish using a roasting pan or similar that will allow you to fit the dish in the pan and add hot water.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place your cake pan next to the stove.  In a light-colored skillet, melt and caramelize the sugar on low heat.  As it melts, gently push the unmelted sugar into the melted sugar to help keep the heating constant.

Watch the skillet constantly, especially near the end, as burning is quick and fatal.  You want a medium-dark brown color, but dark brown will impart a bitter flavor, so take it off the heat immediately when done, and pour it into your reserved cake pan, tilting the pan for a thin layer and ensuring that the caramel goes on the sides as well as the bottom.

Place the pan in the roasting pan, and add very hot water to about midway up the side of the cake pan.

Zest the orange and squeeze about a tablespoon of juice.  Add to egg yolks in a medium bowl, and whisk.  Reserve whites for another use.  Whisk in condensed and evaporated milk, then pour batter into caramelized cake pan.  Place pan into water bath prepared earlier, and cook until just set, about 1 hour.  A knife inserted in the middle should come out almost completely clean (the caramel will make the tip wet).  Don’t overcook.

Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours.  Carefully slide a thin spatula around the sides of the pan, then invert onto a dish quickly.  Be sure the dish is large enough for the liquid caramel on the bottom.

Serve with whipped unsweetened cream, berries, or supremed blood oranges, grapefruit, and limes tossed with a little Grand Marnier.

niblets: wine o’clock edition

1622373_10102361703598911_1610052131_oNow that our dull roots are stirred with spring rain, we yearn for a glass of Oregon wine on a warm evening.  And lo, there are already events that can make it happen.

  • Oregon Wine LAB (488 Lincoln St), the brainchild of former Sweet Cheeks front man Mark Nicholl, offers wines from his new label, William Rose, and other local wineries that don’t have their own tasting rooms.  It’s a great concept and a great space with a long, live-edge bar and vinyl spun on the turntable, made even better by Mark’s rather gifted ability to promote and network among cultural venues.  He’s continually bringing in something new: a range of food carts, live music, vendor fairs, wine classes, wine tastings for professionals, etc., etc.  So here’s the latest:

Working Women’s Wednesdays(HAPPENING NOW!), 4-7 pm.  Light appetizers and prize drawings every 15 minutes. No-host bar.

Chef/Winemaker Dinner, Sat. March 15. The “unshackled cuisine” (love this) of Crystal Platt from Marché paired with William Rose Wines.  Menu here. There are just a few seats left so reserve now: (458) 201-7413 or info@oregonwinelab.com. $75. 6:30 p.m. The first of I hope very many.

  • Oregon Pioneer Wine Dinner Series at Route 5 Wine Bar, with food by Marché.  Absolutely love this idea.  I’m going to the Broadley one tonight, which is sold out, but mark your calendars for Ponzi on April 9, Dom. Drouhin on May 7, and Sokol Blosser on June 4.  Call Route 5 Wine Bar for more details — I suspect some details will change, and their somewhat baffling website doesn’t have these events listed yet.
  • And a whole heck of a lot of really good chef/winemaker dinners at the Steamboat Inn on the outskirts of the Umpqua National Forest.  Yes, it’s a 2-hr. drive, but just look at these pairings from great places all over the state, including our very own Chefs Tobi Sovak and Michael Landsberg from Noisette with Ray Walsh of Capitello Wines on March 22, and Chefs Stephanie Pearl Kimmel and Crystal Platt from Marché with Jason Lett of Eyrie on April 4. Wow!!
  • Or grow your own wine by visiting the Spring Propagation Fair on March 22 and 23 at LCC, and getting FREE SCIONS of grapes and apples and pears.  This year marks the first time I’ve been involved, and I’m so utterly thrilled to have helped cut grape scions at Nick Botner’s amazing farm in Yoncalla, one of the largest experimental and diverse repository for orchard fruits in the world, and reportedly the biggest private one.  That’s his rustic and fruity Marechal Foch wine above, and his farm, below.  Organizer Nick Routledge, whom I managed to capture in the photo below carrying scions, works with Botner and the pear repository up in Corvallis to gather some amazing and rare and resistant varieties.  He offers scions and seeds as part of his activism work on restoring the earth and getting people to grow food locally.  The annual fair also offers plants, a number of free workshops, and root stock grafting resources for a nominal fee.  More information is here.

1965457_10102361703449211_711089800_o 1780293_10102361701797521_388548982_o

spring course: food, lit, society

VictoryGardens2It’s Spring, and you know it, another term!  I’m teaching a larger version of my Food Studies introduction at University of Oregon, and could use your help spreading the news.  If you know any current UO student who’s enchanted by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, wants to know How to Cook a Wolf, and can negotiate The Jungle with no fear, we’ll be reading all that and more, studying the fiction beside articles on contemporary issues in the best food and culture reader on the market.   It’s a Gen Ed/IC offering, so consider your requirement needs pwnd.  Standard tuition fees apply, must be enrolled at UO.  Course is about half full, so sign up soon!

Course introduction video is here, produced by Jennifer Simon for the COLT Department.

COLT 231
Literature and Society: “Literature, Food, Society”
Jennifer Burns Bright

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are,” wrote French essayist Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who penned the first modern treatise on gastronomy. In this introduction to Food Studies course, we’ll explore savages and mothers, farmers and fat activists, socialists and colonialists, all seeking to express their communal identity through food. Examining the food practices in a range of texts that capture issues facing urban and rural societies in flux, we will seek to understand how and why diet, nutrition, and agriculture are all political battlegrounds that deeply impact history. Course goals include understanding multiple ways in which scholars analyze food and international foodways, drawing methodologies from a range of disciplines, including sociology, philosophy, art history, and literary and environmental studies.  (Lecture CRN 38595 plus discussion section; Satisfies Gen Ed, IC.)

happy paczki day 2014

IMG_1288Happy Paczki Day 2014!  Honestly, I don’t think I can say it any better than I did last year, in my prayer for Fat Tuesday, so I won’t.

But do press this, my annual tradition of gleeful glee.  (Is the polka music no longer working?  Egads!)

I owe you a serious update.  There’s a lot going on.  But with my main laptop in the shop for at least a week with almost all my data, a half-working backup laptop that turns off when it decides it is tired of working, and a loaner from school — all in Week 9 — I’m a little scattered.

But in case you’re curious in the interim: I’ve been off milking goats at a farm stay; I’m co-curating a Special Collections exhibit on the past 500 years or so of science in the kitchen using rare books at the Knight Library; I just gave a keynote talk on 100 years of science in food to 450 captive souls at Pleasant Hill High School; I’m teaching two great food studies classes next term open to all UO students (see the teaser video for COLT 231 here); and I now have more egg recipes than a chicken.

Yes.  More soon.