slowly but surely: photos of the one field meal 2012

We had a lovely time at the Slow Food Eugene One Field Meal yesterday evening.  It was held this year at McKenzie River Organic Farm, a beautiful old farmstead out east of Springfield on Highway 126.  The farm, owned by Carol Ach, Sam Ach, and Jack Richardson, still has producing blueberries from nearly 70-year-old bushes.  I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to withstand the walking tour, but I am excited for the invitation to go back when I’m able.

Instead, I took pictures of the pig roast breakdown. That gorgeous layer of fat! Those brilliant blue gloves!  You’re welcome!

Take a look at the full set on my Culinaria Eugenius Facebook page.  I hope you’ll also get some pleasure looking at the local meal whipped up from PartyCart and Red Wagon Creamery.

We started off the evening with Territorial wines, Ninkasi beer, and pickles, always a good idea: eggplant, cantaloupe, and zucchini.  The pig, raised to a fat beauty on the farm, was finished with sea salt and dressed at table with PartyCart Chef Tiffany Norton’s and Chef Mark Kosmicki’s harvest gold sweet-sour ground cherry barbecue sauce.  My waistline said thank you, PartyCart, for many delicious vegetable sides instead of the ubiquitous potatoes — we ate splendidly of vinegared greens, chow-chow blackened green beans, and corn maque choux, which is like corn on her prom night, bedecked and jeweled.  The evening ended with an unusual peach leaf and brandy ice cream made by the brilliant mind of Emily Phillips at Red Wagon Creamery, and served up with Chef Emily’s gluten-free blueberry teff cobbler.

The meal was a fundraiser for the Farm To School Program, the School Garden Project, and to send delegates to Slow Food’s Terra Madre annual conference.

Yes, a delicious fall evening in the field of apple trees, flanked by strawberry and blueberry fields.  The farmstand was open after the meal, so we were able to take home cherry tomatoes and carrots.  I regret not picking up a few pints of ground cherries for more of that barbecue sauce.  Thanks so much for such a pleasant experience to all the chefs, McKenzie River Organic Farm, and Slow Food Eugene!

quarter of a cow: spring chuck pot roast with salade mirepoix

This is Episode 1 of my new occasional series, Quarter of A Cow.  Given I have not been very good about my earlier series, Meal of the Week, I am opting for an unscheduled series.  I would like to help others eating through a beef share with helpful hints and tips, and I’d like to keep a record of what might work for next year. 

Today’s topic: chuck roast.

Life in the southern Willamette Valley means we’re kissing cousins to our livestock production.  All along the valley, one can buy some of the best local meat in the world in bulk — cow, lamb, pig — for an astonishingly low price/quality ratio.  Until just a few years ago, we couldn’t easily buy poultry, but that has changed with more purveyors of chicken, turkey and duck, not to mention chicken awareness in the form of the urban chicken craze.  I had the fortune to watch a chicken butchering at Sweetwater Farm last spring, and I see that the Ancona duck farmers Boondockers Farm is allowing folks to attend their own butchering process.  It’s a good thing to see and understand.

But…I’m already getting off topic, no?

Beef.

This year marked my first as a chest freezer owner, so I opted to share a quarter of a cow with a friend from a small farm with just a few head of cattle.  Completely grass fed, the cow worried me a bit because I was concerned with flavor and fat content often not sufficient to create juicy, marbled meat.  And yes, it is leaner, but the taste is marvelous.  It’s almost as if it was aged. (Um, could that be because we couldn’t pick it up for a week when it was ready?  I hope so.)  We had the meat cut and wrapped at Farmers’ Helper in Junction City, a charming little place that does custom cutting and sells local meat by the pound.

As we move into grill season, I’ll be offering suggestions for the primer cuts; for now, it’s all about the soup bones, chuck, and other tough cuts suitable for braising. A note on names: butchers’ cuts are often confusing because of the bewildering number of names each cut can be called, and similar names for very different cuts.

On a chilly, rainy spring day, I wouldn’t say no to a simple pot roast.  My spring recipe modifies my winter lemon pot roast recipe — it cooks the roast at a low temperature overnight, so it doesn’t heat up the house during the day, and it’s not browned, which creates soft, tender, mild slices of beef.  Browning the pot roast does unquestionably provide a richer broth and a pretty sear, but I also like the cleaner spring version with lemon.  A beef share usually comes with a bone-in chuck roast, so I’ve written the recipe using that cut, but feel free to use a 3-4 lb. boneless roast more commonly available in the market.

Even springier is to forgo the mirepoix — the saute of chopped celery, carrot, and onion which forms the base of so many winter braises — and use the vegetables instead as a chopped salad with a lemon and parsley vinaigrette to serve on the side.  Substitute chives or green onions for the yellow storage onions, in this case.  I would mince the carrots, celery, and parsley instead of chopping it roughly as I did in the picture.

Instead of potatoes, why not cook up some whole grains, like the purple barley from Open Oak Farm?  Also nice and light for spring.

Spring Chuck Pot Roast

This roast needs to be cooked overnight or for at least 10 hours, then cooled so it slices nicely, so plan ahead.

  • 4-5 lb. chuck roast, bone-in
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion or shallot, or a mix
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • a few fresh thyme springs (lemon time if you have it) or 1/4 dried thyme
  • Juice of two lemons
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 cup beef broth (homemade or low-salt)
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Face the roast situation: how large is your pot?  If bone-in, I recommend deboning.  For me, that means cutting into two or three large pieces, which fit nicely into my 5 L. dutch oven.  Rub the meat with liberal amounts of salt and pepper.

In a dutch oven large enough to hold your roast, saute onion and garlic in butter slowly over medium-low heat until golden brown.

While the onions are browning, zest one lemon and juice both of them.

Add the meat to the pot with the lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme, and beef broth.

Before closing the lid, take a large sheet of aluminum foil and cover the pot tightly.  Then add the lid. This improves the seal.

Place in oven and let cook overnight or for about 8-9 hours.  In the morning, open up the pot.  The meat should be a ghastly grey.  As long as it’s thoroughly cooked and falling apart with tenderness when you slice off a piece, you’re good to go.  If you’re feeling unsure, don’t hesitate to turn the oven up to 300 degrees and let cook another hour or so.

Essential: after cooking, remove the roast and let rest until cool.  You might do it quickly on the counter for about 20 minutes, or even better, in the refrigerator for a few hours.  You’ll find the roast slices beautifully when cold, then you can reheat it in the juices left over from the braise.  Don’t discard your meat juice!  Boil it down with a pat of butter, then strain and pour over the meat after sliced.  Add some chopped chives to be very springy, indeed.

Serve with the salade mirepoix described above (minced celery, carrots, and chives in a lemon-parsley vinaigrette) and steamed barley.  Also wonderful with spring greens.

Other Chuck Roast Recipes from the Files:

fast food lunch

Tacos with arugula from my garden and Open Oak Farm purple barley and ‘Marfax Swedish Brown’ beans sauced in a rich deep mole poblano from Barcelona Sauces out of Bend, OR.  I love these beans.  They’re beautifully plump and round, and they hold their shape well for recipes like frijoles de olla or baked beans.

clean beans with hummingbird wholesale

Attention local food supporters and beaneaters!  The folks at Hummingbird Wholesale (with Slow Food Eugene) are looking for a couple dozen volunteers to sort and clean local dried orca beans next Saturday, April 2. Orca beans are those pretty black and white soup beans, also known as vaqueros or calypso beans.  Here’s a picture and recipe for orca bean and ham soup, what you may soon be eating, if you buy them!

This is a free event and kids are welcome as long as they respect the work party aspect of the event. Please RSVP to Erin Walkenshaw, the Hummingbird representative, at ewalkens@yahoo.com.  More information from an email they sent out, edited for space:

  • Hummingbird Wholesale Spring Bean Cleaning Spree
  • 2-5 pm on Saturday, April 2nd
  • First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive Street, Eugene

Get a chance to take part in building up our local food system! We have a whole hill o’ beans and they need to be sorted! This is a very easy task, but hugely important in making locally grown legumes a reality in our area. So come on out after your trip to the Farmers Market and enjoy the good company that getting something done together creates. We need able hands to commit to at least two hours of bean cleaning, during the rest of the time you are welcome to munch on some food and make some new friends. We are also planning a few distractions to mix up the bean cleaning and keep things rolling.

Hummingbird Wholesale has 1,600 pounds of locally grown Orca beans that were recently harvested, cleaned, and delivered to our warehouse, but they are not sale-able as there too many immature or overly dirty beans mixed in. Usually, a distributor would return beans in this condition to the farmer, thus the farmer would take another loss in an already difficult season. Instead, we are aiming to clean the beans without adding to the cost.  To pay more to have the beans sorted again by machine or by hand starts to make them so pricey that they become difficult to sell. The last thing we want is freshly harvested, locally grown crops languishing in our warehouse!

We also want to give the (first-time) farmers a decent price for their efforts, so growing crops like this is feasible for them.  Our Orca beans were grown on a Polk County, third generation farm just north of Corvallis. The farmers are Tyler Gordon and his girlfriend, Kelly Behne, both of whom are completing studies at Oregon State University. They planted two acres of transitional organic Orca beans on the 300 acre farm, which is owned by Tyler’s grandfather. (Ed note: the rain and slug problem this year created considerable losses to the crop, so a gesture like this is important to show our support.)

laughing stock field trip: cures for what ails ya

Open sesame!  You will soon enter a land where normal, everyday things turn into objects of wonder and delight!  We are moving into a land of both shadow and substance…the Fermentation Zone!

OK, it’s really just a farm.  But what a farm!  Laughing Stock farm, just south of Eugene, to be exact. They’ve supplied pork to some of the best restaurants on the West Coast for dozens of years, including Chez Panisse and Paley’s Place.  I had the most welcome opportunity to visit not only the piggies and chickchicks and remarkable line of almost a hundred myriad espaliered apple trees, but also the fermentation facilities that are being developed by owner Paul Atkinson and charcuterie force majeure Del Del Guercio.

The massive metal door at the top of my post is the cold smoker Del developed.  The picture above is the business end of the cold smoker.  One puts a couple of handfuls of wood chips in this little container, and the smoke that results is enough to fill the chamber.  I sampled some of the honey bacon trial this week, and even though Del feels it’s too smoky yet, I was deeply, immediately smitten.  In fact, I’m thinking about it now and how sad I am that I gobbled the rest of it down with eggs this morning.

This beauty is a work in progress.  It’s an old shipping container that will, when finished, be mostly buried in the hill to the left.  Inside the container, the walls are lined with fragrant cedar wood, and the humidity will keep curing meat at an even 70 degrees.  This, my friends, when you consider the quality of Paul’s whey-fed pork and Del’s curing powers, is a several-ton old metal, asphalt and hay insulated slice of heaven.

We also toured the brewery and cheese cave, namely, this converted semi truck.  Inside, the interior is outfitted with a full sink and refrigeration to accommodate the cheese Paul makes for his own use (which is wonderful, unsurprisingly — we tried a goat feta and a couple of smoked cheeses).  Del, who is an award-winning beer brewer, has his equipment set up — and I nosily noted a Pilsner recipe in a spiral-bound notebook — for his next batch.

We ended the tour with samples of Del’s chorizo and Italian fennel sausage, plus the cheeses, and chatted with the farm assistant who we had met earlier collecting eggs, and a beagle we had met in a barn along the way.  Could life get any better than this?

I was very happy to make the journey with, and acquaintance of, Josh Chamberlain of J-Tea. We met at the tea shop on Friendly Street.  Proof:

Del and Katie, Josh’s girlfriend and food writer, sampled a range of J-teas with me, each as unusual as it was delicious. It was a good reminder that I need to belly up to a tea bar every once in a while for serenity now.

And even though the teas were Chinese and not made on a farm in the South Eugene hills, Josh showed off several tea vessels made of bona fide Willamette Valley clay, the stuff that drives all of us gardeners crazy when we hack away at it to plant our tender seedlings.  The teapot above is 100% local clay.  The stuff cleans up nicely, don’t you think?

What a great morning.  Thanks, Del, Paul, Paul’s assistant whose name I can’t recall, Josh and Katie, for a wonderful trip.

what’s black and white and needing to be buttered up?

Me!  I finished an article and a huge fellowship application at the beginning of the week (see above), and moved directly into grading an eight-inch stack of papers.  I’m pretty sure that if I poked a hole in myself, black ink would run out.

I’ve been thinking about how many blog posts I have half-written and percolating, but to be honest, the only fresh food I’ve really made lately, besides a stew or two, is popcorn.

But black and white heavens, what popcorn it is!  Because I try to match food to my own coloring, was absolutely delighted by Lonesome Whistle’s heirloom (?) Dakota Black popcorn.  It pops up in huge white kernels with jet black centers.  (Lonesome Whistle’s website seems to be down, but try clicking the link from their Willamette Farm and Food Coalition information page.) Who knew we could grow such glorious popcorn in Eugene?!

I bought mine before it was fully dry, on the cob, back in the fall, and it had been hanging around waiting for me to de-hull it.  They may still have some left in much more convenient bagged form — try to grab it for a stocking stuffer by visiting their booth at the holiday farmer’s market at the Lane County Fairgrounds.  It’s the best popcorn I’ve ever had, and I’m a serious popcorn (buying-different-varieties-on-the-web serious) eater.  Thus, a special shout-out to all duck fat popcorn eaters!!  This is not to be missed.

iron chef eugene winner: chef gabriel gil!

I had so much fun last weekend judging the final round of the Iron Chef Eugene competition at the Bite of Eugene festival at Alton Baker park.  Congratulations to the winner, Chef Gabriel Gil of The Rabbit Bistro!  Gabe gets to go on to compete for Eugene at Bite of Oregon in Portland on August 7. [ETA 8/11: HE WON.]

Due to unforeseen technical difficulties, the entire competition got started a couple of hours late. Chef Adam Bernstein of Adam’s Sustainable Table battled and won against his competitor, Chef Scott Whitus of Café Zenon.  Gabe took on Chef Max Schwartz at Café Lucky Noodle…and reigned supreme.  By the end of the finals, it was pretty dark and the chefs could barely see.  Staff rustled up some lights for the stage and some charming Christmas lights for the judges’ table.  Unfortunately, a half-naked kid stood right in front of the table as we judged the dishes.  Rather unappetizing, sorry.  But I did like the mood lighting.

The final round began with the finalists, Gabe to the right and Adam second to the left, trash talking and getting ready to throw down.  (At least, that’s what I envisioned — I couldn’t hear what they were saying!  But they look particularly badass in this shot.)

Just as in the original Iron Chef competitions, the chefs had a secret ingredient: goat cheese.  The task was to integrate the ingredient into several dishes in 60 minutes as Steve, the emcee and festival organizer, chatted with the audience.  Then, the judges gobbled down as much of each dish as they could and tallied the results!

Two of my favorite dishes:  Gabe’s lamb “lollipops” with goat cheese pudding and sweet pepper purée.  The lamb was sauced with a fennel and port reduction, and garnished with shaved aged goat cheese.

The second photo is of Adam’s melted lavender goat cheese ice cream with berries and a black pepper tuile…”it’s become a crème anglaise!” he said.  (The delays meant that both of the chefs’ desserts didn’t take properly, and I didn’t critique “acts of god” in the judging.)  I’m a big fan of sabayon and similar sauces with berries, and really liked the combination of berry-pink, slightly sour goat cheese crottin, beautifully and saucily enhanced blackcap raspberries and currants, and the crème.

I didn’t get a shot of another favorite: Gabe’s dessert, a slightly droopy (again, technical difficulties) goat cheese panna cotta with a cilantro purée, a very light caramel sauce, orange segments, and strawberry Pop Rocks.  Yep, you heard it correctly.  And I was heard saying for the first and last time ever in public that I wanted even more Pop Rocks!

Gabe also pulled off a stunning salmon belly roulade on a salad of vinaigrette-dressed tomatoes and watermelon cubes. I have to say that he didn’t make much of the goat cheese on this dish (I think it was under the beautifully acidic tom-wat salad?) and that’s not a good thing in Iron Chef competitions, but as a food lover, I have to say that it was an inspired combination.  The fat in the succulent salmon roll and the meaty flesh of the fruit and the acid in the dressing, plus a few herbal leaves from the garnish, made me roll my eyes back in my head in joy.  THAT GOOD!  I hope this one ends up on the menu.

Sorry about the dreadful photos in the dark.  Here’s a cute one!  The daughter of my personable fellow judge, King Estate winery’s head winemaker Jeff Kandarian, watches little moths flit around the Christmas lights.

I had so much fun at the competition, and thanks to everyone who stayed until the bitter end.  Adam and Gabe both showed off their best for the competition, and I was so pleased to taste the results.  They’re very different chefs.  Adam aims for simple, more conservative, nearly 100% local fare (some of it from his garden, even).  His aesthetic would be at home at an upscale hotel restaurant or a place where well-heeled businessmen conscious of their food delight in his creations.  Gabe is more of a young Turk, experimental and whimsical.  His molecular gastronomy and odd flavor combinations are unlike anything else we have in Eugene.  Both chefs make me think there are changes afoot in the Eugene dining scene, and that things are getting better all the time.

And I can’t end this post without saying that judging an Iron Chef competition has been a fantasy of mine for my adult life.  My brother and I used to watch the Japanese version of Iron Chef together when he was little, and we’d pretend we were Chairman Kaga:

I have a disturbing number of photos of myself posed unintentionally (?) as an adult as Chairman Kaga, including this one:

See?  Dead ringer.

So now that I’ve been a judge, do I dare to ask to emcee next year?  Could I really fill those brocaded, 18th century Kitchen Stadium shoes?  It would be the pinnacle of my life’s ambition!  I’ll see what I can do.  Stay tuned…and ALLEZ CUISINE!