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.

winter csa and farm produce options

IMG_5405 Since I grow a garden most of the year and buy in bulk for preservation projects, I don’t opt for a summer CSA (community supported agriculture farm produce share). But since I get extremely busy in the fall and extremely cold and wet in the winter, I happily rely on winter CSAs to get me through.

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IMG_4010For the past few years, I’ve bought a share in Open Oak Farm’s winter CSA because they grow vegetables I like, plenty of escaroles, and offer a bean and grain supplement with locally grown dried beans and whole grains and flours. Alas, they have decided to stop the CSA this year, and you can see why from the photos above of their seed development activities at a recent farm open house. All these vegetables need to be cleaned and turned into seed over the wet months.

Alas, winter CSAs are few and far between.  I’ve also enjoyed Good Food Easy from Sweetwater Farm in the past, which has a flexible CSA paid monthly, and a variety of good vegetables and fruits through the winter.  Farm management has recently shifted from Farmer John and his lovely partner Lynn to their wonderful manager Erica Trappe, so we’re expecting even more good things.  Note to low-income folks: they even accept foodstamps!

To branch out a little, I have chosen Telltale Farm this year, a small woman-run concern out River Road owned and managed by Tatiana Perczek.  They offer some wonderful options, including wildcrafted mushrooms, a Deck Family Farms egg supplement (much appreciated now that my egg trade friend has divested from his chickens), and, best of all, a “small” option just perfect for one cook.

Another welcome winter CSA is the Lonesome Whistle Farm bean and grain share CSA.  They don’t seem to have a link on their website, so here is some information and a link to their Facebook page.  (Again, I implore local businesses to make announcements in a concise paragraph that’s easy to cut and paste for social media — you will get more free advertisements if you make it simple for others to help your PR):

As a “shareholder” in [Lonesome Whistle’s] Grain and Bean CSA, you pay upfront and share in the harvest – getting a one-time distribution of 64 pounds of various heritage grains, polenta, popcorn, and heirloom beans. The crops have been planted, harvested, processed, and cleaned by December. Shareholders get to choose between a Farmer-Ground Share, or a Home-Millers Share. This year’s Farmer-Ground Shares will include:

Red Fife Wheat Flour: 8 pounds
Dark Northern Rye Flour : 8 pounds
Steven’s Soft White Wheat Flour: 8 pounds
Abenaki Corn Polenta: 12 pounds
Corn Flour: 4 pounds
Dakota Black Popcorn: 8 pounds
Emmer berries (AKA Farro): 8 pounds
Heirloom Beans: 8 pounds

Home-Millers Shares will be the same as above, except it will be all in the whole grain form for you to mill at home. […]Shares will be ready for pick-up at our CSA Distribution Farm Party on Saturday, December 14th between noon -5pm at the farm. Grain & Bean Shares cost $292.00 each. More information: jeffandkasey@lonesomewhistlefarm.com or 541-234-4744.

Looking for other fall farm produce this winter?  May I suggest apples, squash, and frozen berries for fall canning from Hentze Farm in Junction City?  It’s a century farm open until Christmas, and like Lonesome Whistle, they’ve had a hard year.  Gordon Hentze is a major supporter of Lane County Extension programming, donating bushels of produce to Master Food Preserver classes, which are essential in keeping costs low to serve our community.  Join them for a hot air balloon ride, wagon rides, and live music at their Fall Festival on October 12 and 13!

On your way up River Road, be sure to check out the new Groundwork Organics farm stand across the street from Thistledown Farm.  It’s a renovated dairy building that I understand will be open for a short while to test out the possibilities, then will reopen next year.  Check out photos of a recent CSA open house in the building and information here.

IMG_4052IMG_4050 IMG_4047And last but not least, help the grain farmers at Oregon-Innovators-award-winning Camas Country Mill, who give so much to our community by donating local beans to food banks and have played a dramatic role in reviving local grain production in Oregon, raise money to restore a one-room school house on their property.  The school house will be used for community programming.  Flexible funding campaign details for the School House Project here.  It’s really moving — check it out!  We dined on farm grains at a fundraiser a few weeks ago (cover photo).  Delicious food courtesy of Party Downtown (above, sprouted lentil and basil cheese spread on wheat crackers and sun-dried tomato flax crackers (served with salami bruschetta); barley risotto carbonara). And that’s Farmer Tom Hunton being sweet to his mother, if you weren’t convinced already.

What else is out there for winter farm produce options?  Please help out and share your favorites in the comments.

culinaria eugenius on the coast: intertidal zone

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Pacific Oyster Co., Bay City.
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Lincoln City clammer.
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Cliffhanging blackberries at Oswald West State Park
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Lincoln City historic district.
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Fisherwoman at Hug Point Beach.

Like nearly every other citizen of our great state of Oregon, I made my way to the coast over the weekend.  I know this is not hyperbole, because I couldn’t find a single vacant camp site from Seaside to Florence on Saturday night.

But for the one lame child who had to stay behind while the Pied Piper pulled the rest of us all out to the cliffs, here’s what went down.

I had my fill of creamy summer local oysters, supping them raw at Shucker’s Oyster Bar in Lincoln City; raw and sandy at Pacific Oyster in Bay City; and fried and not very good in Newport upon learning the film I had been envisioning, Steamed Ginger Oysters at the Noodle Café, would be delayed due to it being the restaurant’s night off.   Oh well.

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Seaside taffy shop and Icarus, prohibited.

IMG_5259I ate gross taffy at the human zoo they call Seaside, including flavors called Molasses Mint, Black Widow (licorice and redhots), and Ocean (which stained my tongue dark blue and freshened my breath with peppermint).  Also had a good bowl of pho, surprisingly, on The Prom.  Fleeing the floaters and the sinkers, I peered in the windows like a creeper at Seaside High School, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost of James Beard, who held cooking classes there back in the day.

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Ripe salmonberries, Oswald West State Park.

On hikes, I snacked on the first blackberries of the season; salmonberries, which are like many tender young things much prettier than they taste; and thimbleberries, who do redheads proud.  Hey, and I felt kind of pleased, too, that I am finally Oregonian enough to recognize many of the edible plants that hug the waterways.

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Peace Crops Farm girly girl potatoes, Manzanita farmers market.

Fate smiled upon me because I saved a beached anchovy’s life, tossing it back into the sea.  It presented me with a couple of days in Nehalem and Manzanita, exploring the coastal communities there.  We take for granted our extensive farmers market system in Eugene, so it’s invigorating to see the vibrant buzz of a new farmers market in a small community.  I chatted with the Master Gardeners and the crepe makers at the market, making off with a pint of boysenberries, and visited the folks who own and run R-evolution Gardens, who founded said farmers market a few years ago.

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Nehalem, which is so f#%$&^ gorgeous I can’t even stand it.

R-evolution Gardens is an organic, off-grid farm in Nehalem producing lovely sound vegetables and, from what it looks like, a future herbal medicine line.  An entire drying table of calendula reminded me of little petals of the sun being preserved for winter, and in a way, it was. On the lower parcel of the farm, nestled along a clear clean river, everyone’s summer fantasy of ratatouille was ready for harvest: already lush heavy peppers, fat sweet onions popping out of the soil, monster summer squash plants, long vined tomatoes, an impossible amount of humid nightblue eggplant.

I really try not to romanticize farming, but Jesus, it is hard with this place.  Co-owner and farmer Ginger Salkowski has appeared in the Greenhorns: 50 Dispatches from the New Farmers’ Movement, and seems cut from the same tough cloth as Greenhorns founder Severine von Tscharner Fleming, as I recall from the panel we did together a few years ago at UO’s Food Justice conference.  Co-owner Brian Schulz builds foraged and sustainable structures powered by solar electricity, including a Japanese bath house where I would have gladly spent the entire weekend and a Japanesque A-frame covered in forest that the farm rents out on airbnb.com.

Also of note was an excellent meal at Dinner at the Nehalem River Inn, a recently revivified restaurant run by a young and talented chef, Lee Vance, who uses produce from R-evolution Gardens and other farms and gardens within 10 miles of the restaurant.  Yes, a farm-to-table restaurant 5 minutes from the coast!  Standouts included a silky sweet beet soup crowned by a nasturtium, simple roasted bone marrow over toast, a lamb ragú with ricotta gnudi, and rather hearty, plump, excellent house-made ravioli filled with pork and morels, served over creamed carrot purée with English peas.  A glass of lambrusco and a chèvre cheesecake in a warmly hued, cozy dining room certainly did not hurt matters, either.  From the few menus I browsed online, it appears they almost always have a local fish and a salted chocolate pot-de-crème that I’m sad I didn’t try.  The restaurant will reopen in a fab new building on the main drag in Manzanita, Laneda Avenue, right next to the farmers market, in fall, so check it out before the crowds figure out it’s the best thing going.  Seriously.

frozen leaves-stuffed meatloaf-breaking pipes-end of quarter blues

Water pipes are freezing and breaking all over Eugene.  We’ve been ok, but I’m sure my winter vegetables and spring hopefuls (e.g., cabbage, snow peas, fava beans, maybe strawberries??, artichokes, onions, garlic, and shallots, and herbs) have frozen solid. I’m not sure if they’re going to make it, not to mention my new landscape plants and several very young trees (my fig and elderberry in particular).

It’s the middle of finals, and I’m grading like crazy and meeting some other deadlines, so I wasn’t particularly happy to hear that the City of Eugene decided to finally deliver my city leaves from street pickup this morning at 8 a.m., which meant I had to figure out where to put five cubic yards of frozen, wet leaves pronto.

Having learned a lesson about how sorta composted leaves freeze solid when I tried to mulch my cane berries with my compost this weekend, I thought I’d get some of those leaves down as soon as I could.  Ugh.  As if I didn’t have enough to do already…

But some of my plants aren’t even protected with mulch (see above, waiting for leaves from City) so I had to get some protection out there.  Boy, I sure loved pulling out the ol’ wheelbarrow and pitchforking out the pile in 20-degree weather before it got dark at what, 4:30?  Builds the character, right?  Right.

As you might imagine, I’m not really in the mood and don’t have time to cook, so I’m absolutely thrilled to hear about this week’s prepared dinner special at River Bend Farm, just south of Eugene on Hwy. 58.  Pulled Biancalana pork!

I was out at the farm last Friday to pick up some of the last chestnuts, pork, and leeks, and happened to peek under the foil-wrapped package a friend of mine had just purchased.  Stuffed meatloaf.  I couldn’t resist and bought some…local beef, homemade marinara sauce, and farm-fresh potatoes and other vegetables.  Served with some baby winter green salad mix from Groundworks Organics…yum.  Tracy even revealed to me at the market that she suffered through her red pepper allergy to roast and chop peppers for the cause when she made them.  What a champ!

Anyway I’ll let Annette tell you her frozen tale of woe and what’s available this week.  Call ahead to reserve, or email.  River Bend Farm also sells fresh cider, one of the only places in our area that does so, and even better, they are open after most of the other farms in town have closed for the season!  The contact information and directions are on the website or below.

It’s a balmy 10 degrees at….
RIVER BEND FARM!

I’m ready for a new day and no problems (after I have my cup of coffee)!  Yesterday was a challenge to say the least.  I dealt with a frozen pipe at home (which equates to NO SHOWER) and then a frozen line at our farm store kitchen.  At 2:00 pm a line broke in the ceiling so we had a bit of a “flood”.  With the help of 2 friends, we got the line repaired,  ceiling floorboards pulled, insulation ripped out and the drying process begun.  I am now happy to say that we’re up and running again, the pork got pulled, it’s a new day and best of all I’ve got water again!

Dave and April Biancalana have been very involved in the making of our Pulled Pork Sandwich dinner menu. They provided the pork shoulder roasts and we are happy to feature their wonderful product!  One day is used for marinating the meat, then the second day is for slow cooking and smoking in his Traeger Smoker.  Yesterday evening we pulled the roasts and of course I “had” to sample…and again…and again….and again…!  I have to say that this is the best pulled pork I’ve ever had.  The flavor is wonderful and the meat is moist and tender.  Needless to say, I went “hog wild” over this dinner last night!  We are offering this with a Bourbon BBQ sauce on the side, sandwich buns, and an Asian flavored slaw which you put on your sandwich.  The meat comes in a 1 lb. boil in bag.  So, you just heat and serve for a very easy dinner!  The price for this 4 person meal is: $24.00.

Our other offering is Meat and Meatless Manicotti.  The serving sizes are for 2 people $10.00, 4 people $20.00, 6-8 people $30.00.  These are are 3 cheese filled pasta, with either a meat sauce or meatless sauce.  You won’t be hungry after this meal!

Check out our soups, a Vegetarian Cream of Broccoli, and Lentil, Barley Bacon.  for $4.00/pint and $8.00/quart.  Pair this up with some of Kathy’s bread and you’ve got a hearty meal!
I’m making 2 new creations of mine regarding Pasties (past-eez). For those of you new to our emails, this is a hand held pastry usually filled with meat and vegetables.  It is very popular in the Midwest.  The first is a Mexican style with black beans, pinto beans, cheddar cheese, cilantro, ground chuck, onions, salsa and spices.  The other is a Vegetarian Broccoli, with cheddar cheese, potato, onion, turnip (which adds a slight peppery taste).  I’ll have these done this afternoon, barring any more frozen pipes! These are $4.50 each.

Cider will be available after 1:00 pm.  We of course have apples, Asian pears and many other goodies for you. I hope you have a great day, you thaw out and stay warm!  Please call or email me asap with your orders and we promise you some great meals at a great value! All dinners are available by 2:00 pm.  If time constraints are a factor, give us a call.

Also, please check out our friends Paul and Suzanne from Creswell Coffee.  Again, you know I love to support local.  They have been long time neighbors here in Pleasant Hill. Well, they sell our hazelnuts at their coffee shop.  They buy many of our goodies such as our Flourless Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Ganache topping, our Morning Glory Muffins and now our Pumpkin Scones.  They have a wonderful lunch menu and they have great music on Saturday nights.  I love to go there to relax on a Saturday evening with a great glass of wine and my husband.  They are located next to BiMart in Creswell.  Come check it out….you will be pleasantly surprised what our community has to offer!!!!

Sincerely,
Annette Pershern
River Bend Farm
541-520-2561
open Thur 9-5:30, Fri 9-6, Sat 9-5:30

oregon caneberries for the win

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Blame it on the gorgeous weather or impending deadlines or exhaustion or missing my spouse:  I haven’t been feeling very wordy.  But it is my solemn responsibility to report that there are Oregon berries to be had.  And now.  And how.  Raspberries peeked their ruddy little heads out into the farmer’s market this week, and next week promises to be spectacular.  Silvan berries and tayberries are ready, the earliest of the blackberry family to appear here in the Willamette Valley.

The picture above is loganberries at my recent visit to the wondrous Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, OR.  The farm is Oregon Tilth-certified and wholly devoted to producing produce on a small scale bred, fertilized, and cultivated for taste.  Heaven.  And driving in the northwest Oregon countryside, drunk with pleasure at being alive in such a season, in such a state — are there really enough words for this?

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Listening to farmer Anthony Boutard talk about his raspberries, who preen in their glory.

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Random shot from road around Laurelwood, OR.  Can you see the dim outline of Mt. Hood at the end of the road?

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Ayers Creek blackcaps (much more photogenic than mine!).

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Kid eating up Ayers Creek profits.

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Native pollinator home in the Chester berries, Anthony’s favorite blackberry cultivar.

Appetite whetted for more?  U-pick is available, ready and rarin’ to go.  My fellow Master Food Preserver and friend Jen researched the following farms, but there might be more (kindly let me know your favorites in the comments):

RIVER BEND FARM 520-2561
Mon-Sat. 9-5:30.  Hwy 58, E. 2 mi. to Dilley
Raspberries, tayberries, pie cherries ready to go. [Edit: no raspberries this year, and tayberries are almost gone!]

RIVERBROOK FARM 688-1534
Mon.-Sat. 8:30-6:00.  1850 E. Beacon Dr., Eugene.
Raspberries.  [Edit:  glorious raspberries (through the first week of August, according to the owner).  Right now, they’re picking Meeker, Tulameen, Cascade Delight, Chilcotin and others.  No spray.]

COBURG FARM 343-6473
Raspberries.
(Directions from Eug: go thru town of Coburg at N.End road bends to left near fire station – first major street is
N.Coburg Rd – turn right – and go for about a mile – look for sign).

Edited to add:  HENTZE FARM 998-8944

30000 Hentze Lane, Junction City (take River Rd. to the bend, but keep going straight – look for sign).  They don’t always do U-pick, but Rocky says they’re doing it this year for raspberries, and I believe cherries.  Call to confirm.  Also good to know: last year’s blueberries, raspberries, sweet and pie cherries, beautifully frozen, are being sold for $8 a 4# bag to clear the stock.  You won’t find this price/quality ratio anywhere else.  Hurry before they sell out.