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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Our Thanksgiving Menu

After dithering this way and that, I've finally finished the menu for Thanksgiving and our Dead Poultry Society party.

Here it is - with links, where appropriate. Thanks go out tothe world of food bloggers and especially the community at Food52, where I found inspiration, laughs, support, and camaraderie for the last few days.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, filled with everything delicious.

Creamy Carrot Soup
Celeriac Remoulade
Chopped Liver
Gravlax, Dill Mustard, Brown Bread
Celery Stalks, Carrot Sticks, Watermelon Radish, Olives
Baguette Toasts
Sweet Pickle Chunks
Pickled Red Onion
Dry Brined, Roast Turkey
What We Call Stuffing - Vegetarian Challah, Mushroom, Onion, Celery
What We Call Dressing - Cornbread with Sage Sausage, Apple, Onion
Mushroom Gravy
Giblet Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Tofu Casserole
Butternut & Creamed Spinach Gratin
Green Beans & Almonds w/Frizzled Onion
Butter Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Roasted Pearl Onions with Bacon
Cranberry Sauce
Gingered Fig Cranberry Chutney
Tuscan Onion Confit
Herb & Cheddar Poppers
Multigrain Dinner Rolls
Sour Cherry Pie
Cardomom Scented Peach Crisp
Quince and Apple Pie
Spiced Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Pistachios
Bourbon Pecan Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

PS Added after the fact - here's a link to the photos from Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Esther's China with Bourbon Pecan Tart

Yesterday two of my favorite cousins came to visit. It's been a few years since I'd seen either of them, but it's an easy time when we are together. Unfortunately, so many of our meetings have been at funerals in the last few years. Yesterday was a happier occasion. It was time to pass along a family treasure.

About twenty years ago, my mother gave me a set of china. She'd been serving holiday dinners on that china for most of my childhood, and it was time for me to do the same. Before it was Mom's, it was her mother, Bea's, and she, too, used it for the big holidays - Passover, Yom Kippur, and Thanksgiving.

But first, around the turn of the LAST century, it was my Great-Grandmother Esther's china. She received this amazing set for her wedding - Royal Worchester 'Cordova' in a pale yellow with flowers. I would guess it was service for sixteen, originally. Now, it is full service for twelve, with some pieces having fourteen. Predictably, some tea cups and double handled soup bowls suffered the indignity of cross-country moves.

This is serious china. Dinner plate. Salad. Dessert. Luncheon. Cream soup. Clear soup. Custard. Tea cups. Demitasse cups. Lots of saucers. And gorgeous serving pieces. I love to think of all the family members who have had matzo ball soup from those pretty bowls.

Lizzy & Laura arrived around 7 and we had some Costieres de Nimes, a favorite wine, and vegetarian cassoulet, an easy, satisfying recipe, then got down to packing boxes. One hour later, we had carefully wrapped each and every piece, all the while reminiscing about family. It was a satisfying happy moment for me. I felt the presence of all these strong women from our past - Esther, Bea, Jan - and how each of us carries a piece of them.

To reward ourselves, we sat down to hot tea and a bourbon pecan tart. This recipe is from the current issue of Bon Appetit. I thought about adding it to the Thanksgiving dessert table, but I already have six desserts planned. The occasion of the cousin-reunion was certainly enough to warrant this lovely not-too-sweet, not-too-gooey, slightly boozy, pecan tart.

I waved goodbye this morning, to Laura, to Lizzy, and to the china. I was a little wistful, admittedly, but ever aware of the women who have defined our family for generations, and how this treasure has been with each woman along the way.

Bourbon-Pecan Tart
adapted from Bon Appetit

Pie Crust
1-1/3 c flour
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/4 c ice water

Pie Filling
3 eggs
1/2 c brown sugar
3 T melted butter
1/4 c maple syrup
1/2 c molasses
2 T bourbon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 c pecan halves

I exchanged the dark corn syrup with molasses and maple syrup. Corn syrup freaks me out.

Using a food processor or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until it's pea-sized. Add the ice water and process briefly until just combined. Empty the contents of the processor bowl onto the counter and work the dough gently, patting the crust into a disk. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill well for at least two hours. I like to let them chill overnight.

Roll out pie crust and fit into a 10" tart pan with removable bottom. Chill the crust in the pan for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375.
Line crust with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the beans and foil and dock (pierce with a fork) the bottom of the crust. Pop it back in the oven for 10 more minutes to dry out the crust.
In the mixer, beat the eggs and sugars until well blended. Add the rest of the ingredients except the pecans and stir until well blended. Stir in the pecans.

Pour the filling into the crust while it is still quite warm. Bake until the filling is set, about 25 minutes.

Cool for an hour before removing the outside of the pan. Can be served slightly warm, or at room temperature.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Charcuterie: Terrine, Pate, Boudin, Merguez & Breakfast Sausage

My friend Paul H. has come over twice in the last couple of weeks so we could get down to business and put together some serious charcuterie. Today was the second day, and now the freezer is full of so many goodies for the holidays, I'm feeling a little smug. In the next two months, there will be parties, dinners, houseguests. It's good to have such riches at hand!

We made duck liver terrine flavored with apple and armagnac. An amazing treat to pull out for a little impromptu holiday get-together.

We made pate campagne. How gorgeous!
We tested my new KitchenAid meat grinder and ground pork and fatback, lamb and chicken, rabbit and veal. We toasted spices and ground them in the mortar and pestle. We spiced and mixed and stirred and chilled. We mixed in salt, pepper, herbs, spices, and even some briny green peppercorns. We cooked off tastes and adjusted seasonings.
We attached the sausage stuffer, rinsed salt off casings, and performed some truly obscene gestures with casings, stuffer, and PAM to get it all done. We stuffed casings, twisting this way and that way. We filled casings and coiled rings, ready for the grill. And at the end there were pounds of boudin blanc, spicy merguez and sage breakfast sausage all ready to go.
It took me awhile to source everything. The best flavors come from grass fed AND finished, pastured animals, and that's what I wanted. Springfield Farm came through with nearly everything needed. And once I'd made that connection, I made a trip to their farm, to see just where all this food was grown.
Farmer David Smith was a wonderful host. We stood for awhile looking out over the duck pasture and talked about the history of the place. The farm has been continually in operation since the mid-19th century. The c1850 brick house on the property took six years to build, with all the bricks made right there at the farm. There are 67 acres currently farmed, with 55 open acres. Even the wooded areas are used - the pigs live up there. It's a very diversified, pasture-based farm - just the sort of place we all should be sourcing our meats and poultry.
Springfield Farm keeps ducks and hens for laying, but at this time of year, of course, it's all turkeys all the time. We jumped in a golf cart to zip around and visit the nearly ready for Thanksgiving birds. Walking among them, they fanned their tails and gobbled, gathering around, curious. David raises both heritage and commercial breeds - all pastured and free range. The heritage breed is the Narragansett, growing to 15-18 lbs. His broad breasted white and broad breasted bronze birds can get up to 30 lbs, and he sells a lot of birds at that size!
We zipped around in the golf cart visiting all the pastures. First, we found the pigs snarfling around a pile of cauliflower they had rejected. There were plenty of other foods out there, though and they were busy! It was fun to scritch their ears and let them nuzzle my hand looking for treats! These were Tamworth heritage pigs, a breed that has fewer than 1000 breeding pigs in existence. Springfield Farm's efforts are keeping this breed around. It's a very tasty pig.
After visiting more chickens, Rhode Island reds and whites (hardier for the winter) 750 birds kept on a half-acre pasture, we crossed the road and headed up a little rise, to Annabelle's pasture. Annabelle is a sweet cow, and her daughter Sahara is even more adorable.

At the far end of the pastures, lambs were climbing in and out of a trailer. These heritage hair sheep, the Khatadin breed that originated at the Piel Farm in north central Maine, don't require shearing, and produce wonderful fresh tasting meat, making them ideal for farm production. The Smiths are raising mostly males, as the Pennsylvania breeder keeps the females. They were shy little fellows.

I realize I was facing my (future) food, but I don't have any squeemishness about it. It feels good to know the people involved, to walk in the pastures, to see the commitment and hard work. Why wouldn't I want to feed my family and friends with products from such a place?

It was a wonderful day. Thanks go out to all the family at Springfield Farm. They all play a role in keeping the farm running. If you're in Sparks, Maryland, visit the farm Friday, Saturday & Sunday, and say hello to Lilly & David Smith; Valerie, Doug, Danielle & David Lafferty; and Catherine, Rachel & Jennifer Webb.

David says "Get to know your farmer." I couldn't agree more.

Duck Liver Terrine
Makes one large terrine or, my preference, several small ramekins

1 lb. excellent quality unsalted butter, softened
2 lbs. duck or chicken livers, or a mix, cleaned, patted dry, and sinews removed
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 c. armagnac
1 Tbls salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard (I prefer Maille)
1/2 tsp allspice
6 sheets gelatin, or 6 tsp powdered gelatin, softened in cold water

Heat about a tablespoon of butter in a large saute pan. When frothy, add livers and cook until browned, but not crispy. Add the apples and cook until softened. There should be no pink in the liver whatsoever.

Strain the liquid from the liver mixture. Drain the gelatin and cut into pieces, adding to the hot liquid.

Puree the liver mixture in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add the gelatin mixture. to the hot livers and combine. Add the armagnac, mustard, salt, pepper and allspice.

Let the mixture cool just a bit, then add in the butter in bits, processing until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a terrine or ramekins and chill at least overnight, so it will set, and the flavors will blend.

Can be made well in advance. It will keep in the fridge for a week, and in the freezer for a couple of months.

Day one - merguez, boudin blanc, two duck liver terrines

I just have to post this picture, even though it doesn't really have any context. Just before we took off in the golf cart, David introduced me to his wife, Lilly. She was washing and sorting hen eggs. Check out these two - the variation in size! I realize I'm a little geeky about this stuff, but admit it - PRETTY COOL, huh?

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Wonderful Day

It's been a very exciting 24 hours. First, I looked outside yesterday and the camellias were in bloom. Imagine that. Perfect timing to make a showing in a holiday flower arrangement. That would have made it a very nice day.

But then, I checked the food52 site and realized my stuffing recipe had been selected as a finalist in this week's Best Thanksgiving Stuffing contest. This is the third time I've had a recipe selected, and let me tell you, every single time, I'm totally shocked.

And goofy proud. And exceptionally grateful.

But anyway.

The next bit of news - Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, founders of food52, would be cooking the stuffings on the Today Show. That just sent me over the top. I was crazy nervous, happy, thrilled.

Dennis wanted to tell everyone. He was especially delighted as he completely pushed me to enter the recipe. And of course, it's because of my wonderful husband this recipe was created in the first place.

My mother made a similar stuffing, although she used Pepperidge Farm stuffing croutons and crumbled Bob Evans breakfast sausage in hers. When I met Dennis, the vegetarian, I thought he deserved a stuffing all his own, and nudged the recipe a bit.

Truth be told, while Dennis called friends and family to tell them about the Today Show, I just wanted to tell my Mom. It's been five years since she died, and even longer since we had Thanksgiving together, and, today, more than ever, I really missed her. She would have been so pleased.

What We Call Stuffing
serves 12

1 large loaf of challah or brioche
2 c/500g celery, diced
2 c/500g onion, diced
2 c/500g cremini mushrooms, diced
8-10 sprigs thyme, chopped
3 sprigs rosemary, chopped
1/4 c/75g chopped flat leaf parsley
3 c/24oz vegetable stock, preferably homemade
3 oz unsalted butter
4 oz unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

Cut the challah into 1" cubes. Leave the cubes out on a parchment lined sheet pan on the counter to get stale, at least overnight, and preferably, 2 days.

Melt 3 oz butter in a large heavy saute pan. Saute the onions until wilted, add the herbs, celery and mushrooms and cook until just slightly cooked through.

In a large bowl, combine bread cubes, vegetables, melted butter and vegetable stock, and salt and pepper. Test for seasoning and adjust.

Press stuffing in to a large buttered baking dish. Cover with buttered parchment and then foil. At this point, the stuffing can be held for several hours, but should be at room temperature before baking.

Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes, the last 10-15 minutes without the foil and parchment, to crisp the surface.

The day-after sandwich spread, as served at the 2008 Dead Poultry Society party.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Making a Cocktail

Earlier this summer, I went on a liqueur making binge. Fruit was abundant. Vodka was cheap. I had some jars. I sort of admitted it was a binge when I wrote about it here.

Now, three-four-five months later, I have nearly full quart jars of sour cherry, apricot, peach and blackberry liqueurs and two quarts of limoncello. That's a lot of liqueur, and I've started to wonder what the heck I'm going to do with all this fruity sweet liqueur. (I've still got pear/star anise and apple/cinnamon brewing.)

And then, along came my hero, David Lebovitz, writing about sidecars.

Equal parts Citrus Juice, Cognac (i.e. booze), Triple Sec (sweet fruity liqueur) - shake and serve in a sugar coated glass.

Now, I'm ready to make some cool cocktails. How about Tequila and Apricot? Vokda and Sour Cherry? Rum and Peach?

Tonight, it was Lemon Juice, Peach Liqueur and Cognac. Delicious.

Limited only by your imagination.

In a pretty bottle, these fruit liqueurs make a great gift, especially when paired with a cocktail recipe. This year, I'll be suggesting the Sidecar.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans

The menu for Thanksgiving is finished.
The menus for the first set of houseguests (next week) is finished.
The menus for the second set of houseguests is finished.
The menu for the Tree Trimming party is finished.
I've made all the shopping lists.
I have no more words in me.
Blog entry is beyond my little brain.

For dinner I made Rancho Gordo's black beans, called Midnight beans. They were really delicious. Here's my sure fire method for cooking beans, requiring absolutely no soaking. If you have a slow cooker, it's even easier.

Rinse dried beans in a lot of cold water.
In a large stockpot, add rinsed beans, one medium onion, chopped, one tablespoon butter.
Pour boiling water over the beans to cover by about 2". Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until done. White beans take about 1.5 hours. Black beans take about 3 hours. But the amount of time is directly related to the freshness of the bean. Salt the beans, to taste, about 30 minutes before they are done.

Beans can be frozen in ziplock bags.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Home Again Cookies

Time to own up.

I've decided to write a blog post every day in November. It's part of something called, alternately, NaBloPoMo or NaMoWriMo – a country cousin to the National Novel Writing Month. I don't know if I need to sign up somewhere, or if there is a website organizing the movement. All I know is, I'm going to try to blog every day. Just for the sheer exercise of writing on a daily basis.

I started this blog as a way to journal my way through a confusing year. The year of stepping into the kitchen in some sort of meaningful way. And I get lazy at times, or think I have nothing of interest. This daily-blogging for November will keep me moving. So, let me apologize now for some less-than-stellar posts that are likely to come from this activity. I missed one day, and already am wracked with guilt, but hope to have a two post day soon.

These cookies are delicious, and that seems reason enough to post.

We were away this weekend. I was so happy to see my kitchen tonight. Really, more than usual. From the moment I woke up in the hotel room early this morning, I thought about what I would make for tonight's dinner. Roasted sweet potato and chickpeas and grilled brussel sprouts - two fantastic, easy, tasty recipes I found on the internet this week.

The recipes were so easy, and I really wanted to spend more time in my kitchen, so dessert was in order. I was limited to what was in the pantry, as we had travelled much too much already, and I was not going to the grocery store.

I love oatmeal cookies - they feel almost healthy - whole grains, right? Tonight, I wanted a salty, sweet, soft cookie and I wanted chocolate, and this is what I put together.

Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook
makes 3 doz 2" cookies

4 oz butter, room temperature
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ceylon cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 c whole milk
1/3 c crystallized ginger, chopped
2/3 c golden raisins
2/3 c semi sweet chocolate chips
2/3 c salted peanuts

Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Preheat oven to 350•
Cream butter and sugar in the mixer.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Add vanilla.
Whisk the dry ingredients together.
Add the dry ingredients in two additions, add the milk between the additions.
Stir in the fruit, nuts and chocolate.
Drop about 1 Tbls of the cookie dough out on the parchment, placing about 1" apart.
Bake 15 minutes, until just turning golden.
Cool on a rack.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

List Making

I'm feeling the pressure of the holidays already. It's less than three weeks until Thanksgiving and I haven't started making my lists. I've got the menu pretty well figured out (considered an Ode to the last Gourmet magazine - cooking their entire Thanksgiving dinner, but can't give up my favorites.) Now, it's time to get organized.

There will be a list for grocery shopping, a list of serving dishes and utensils. Lists of table setting needs, flowers, vases. Lists outlining breakfast and dinner Tuesday and Wednesday, as we have houseguests. And a timeline of what must be done in the kitchen every day of that week.

Thanksgiving is relatively easy. Only seven at the table, all good friends and family.

Friday is a whole different animal. It's our annual party - The Dead Poultry Society. It's always a great get-together, with somewhere between 50 and 75 friends, friends' families, out of town guests, and, pretty much anyone who shows up at the door!

The DPS was begun years ago by my parents and their Berkshire-weekend-home neighbors, who would have Thanksgiving at their own homes, and then gather on Friday sharing leftovers .

We've expanded the idea. While we encourage attendees to bring any leftovers they want to add to the table, mostly they bring wine. And, I plan the cooking with both days, and all those people, in mind.

Frankly, I'm so exhausted by the time dinner is on the table Thursday, I can barely taste anything. I enjoy the food so much more on Friday. Certainly, there are foods that are prepared just for Friday's get-together. Most specifically - the SANDWICH BAR. Who doesn't love a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich? I bake breads and rolls, put out the pickles, sauerkraut and chutneys put up over the summer, and we all belly up.

There's one other reason to host the Dead Poultry Society. Eight desserts. I can never decide between cherry pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pecan pie, cranberry tart, lemon meringue pie, and heaven knows what else.

Today, we're attending a family wedding in Michigan. We'll head home tomorrow and I intend to start those lists on the plane. While I have already ordered two turkeys, I'll place orders with my favorite farmers for fruit, vegetables, fish, and dairy, butter and cheeses this week. Sadly, this will be the last time I see most of the farmers until next Spring.

I love this time of year. And I love Thanksgiving most. It's such a nice holiday - no religious significance, no gift-exchanging awkwardness, nothing but the celebration of food. My kind of day.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Packing for a Trip

We're heading to Michigan tomorrow for a wedding. It's a very quick trip - we're both busy with work and life - so we'll be back on Sunday.

We've done these trips before, for other family functions, and it's always important to carry some snacks. Everybody's happier when there is something to munch on. Tonight, I did a little prep work and made some roasted almonds and some granola for the trip. And I bought some dark chocolate almonds at Trader Joes. This is our road food.

Sweet and Salty Almonds

1 lb. raw whole almonds, skin on
2 Tbls honey
2 tsp canola oil
3 Tbls tamari
2 Tbls turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 325
Roast almonds for 10-15 min, until they smell nutty and are toasted.
In a large heavy skillet, heat the honey, oil and tamari until bubbling, then toss in roasted almonds and cook until dry.
Toss into a bowl, sprinkle the sugar over and stir around until well and very lightly coated.
Spread on a parchment lined sheet pan to cool.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

That's Fresh

I spent a great day today at Springfield Farm in Sparks, Maryland. I have a lot to say about the visit, but have to organize all my notes.

In the meantime, here's an amazingly cool thing that occurred. I was walking among the turkeys with Farmer David Smith, and there were two eggs, just lying on the ground. David picked them up and handed them to me. I slipped them in my pocket and brought them home.

I decided on that bistro favorite, salad with eggs. One of my favorite combinations. I had a bag of the most lovely arugula (from Red Bud Farm), tossed it with fig vinegar, olive oil, shallot, pepper and fleur de sel, then fried the two turkey eggs in olive oil until the edges were crispy and browned. Add a few baguette slices with aged goat cheese, toasted - chevre chaud. It was heavenly.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Eating Like A Peasant - Onion Soup

I've not really been in the mood to cook the last two days. When I feel this way, I turn to the old stand-bys and onion soup is certainly one of the easiest, cheapest, tastiest dinners around. Here's an quick, incredibly easy, dinner using one of those 6c bags of stock in your freezer.

I started making this recipe back in college, when I was living on a very tight food budget. Tonight, I supplemented with an arugula salad with crispy bacon, minced shallot, olive oil and lemon juice. And a lovely fresh baguette baked up earlier today. Oh, and a Cote de Rhone. That was critical.

It's renewed my zip and I'm going to be ready to cook dinner again tomorrow.

French Onion Soup a la Julia
Serves 4

2 lbs. onion
4 Tbls butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbls flour
1/2 c white wine
6 c rich chicken stock
2-3 Tbls Cognac
8 Baguette slices
1/4 lb. Parmesian Cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (shredded will work here, but grated will not)

Equipment: four oven-proof bowls

Cut the onions in half vertically. Lay the onion halves down on the cutting board and slice across the onion, into half-moons, as thinly as possible.

Heat the butter in a large, heavy stock pan. Add the onions and get them sweating and breaking down. Sprinkle salt, pepper and sugar over the onions, toss and allow them to caramelize.

Add the flour and cook until everything turns nice and brown - about five minutes.

Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up the good bits.

Add the chicken stock and allow the soup to simmer for 45 minutes.

Add the cognac and bring back to a simmer.

Preheat the broiler.

Slice a baguette and put two pieces of bread in the bottom of each bowl. Place the bowls on a sheet pan lined in parchment paper.

Fill the bowls with the soup and place the shaved cheese across the surface of the soup/bread.

Slip under the broiler for two or three minutes, watching carefully, until the cheese bubbles.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Talking Turkey at Smith Meadows Farm

Just a few days ago, I spent a wonderful morning with the Pritchard family at Smith Meadows Farm in Berryville, Virginia. The farm has been in the family, and producing, since the early 19th century. A few years back, Betsy and Forrest made the decision to focus full time on running the farm. It’s a family affair, for sure, with their mother running the B&B (and joining in the farm work between guest stays); and, Forrest’s wife, Nancy, making delectable pasta and sauces.

Driving through an ancient orchard along the driveway, sheep raise their heads to see who is coming. The pigs are having a fantastic time under the trees, finding windfall apples - snarfling and snuffling. I had to stop, open the windows and listen. So tame, they came to the fence, clearly looking for goodies.

At the end of the drive is a Dutch/Federal style Manor House with narrow buildings on either side – dependencies -all fashioned from bricks made on the premises. It's a picture-perfect Virginia farm. Across the 400 acres, there are rolling pastures where cattle, sheep and pigs graze. I head up to a large fenced area that holds all the poultry in a grassy field. When I visited in July, there were ducks, turkeys and chickens. Today, it's just turkeys and chickens. (See my Duck tales.)

I’ve been a customer for several years, but this year, I wanted to know more about the bird on my Thanksgiving table, and that's why I am at the farm.

Betsy and I walked up the hill to the field where the turkeys were grazing on grass behind a small, makeshift fence. The fence is a new addition, moving with the turkeys as they are relocated for fresh grass (they really do a number on the grass in a very short time!) The fence had to be erected recently when coyote and fox started taking young birds. Sadly, one coyote killed nine turkeys, eating only one, leaving behind eight bloody corpses. Serious frustration for the turkey farmer!

Smith Meadows raises two commercial breeds – the broad breasted white and the broad breasted bronze. When asked why no heritage breeds, the answer came down to dollars and sense. Heritage chicks cost more than twice as much as commercial chicks, and they have a higher mortality rate. All I know is Betsy’s got some tasty birds. They’ve graced my holiday table for the last five years.

Betsy says she learned some good lessons this year with her brood of 300. Chicks arrive in the mail in June and July, staggered across a few weeks. In fact, those started in July did better than those started earlier. Better weather, more consistent warmth. The birds are raised to a particular weight, not for particular number of days, aiming for 10-14 lbs. Evidently, with smaller families, the days of the 25# turkey are over. I say, good riddance to dried out turkey - roast two smaller birds instead! Betsy calls and talks to the turkeys as we walk among them. They're definitely interested in us, chattering and preening.

Betsy and Forrest started selling directly to the customer in 1996 through farmers markets around the Washington, DC metro area. They currently raise about 4000 chickens each year, as well as the turkeys. At any time, they might have 200 cows, 125 hogs and 800 laying hens. And lamb. Heaven. Their lamb is some of the best I've ever tasted - I assumed it was due to the rich green pastures, but Betsy explained the efforts she's made to balance the minerals they take in - minerals that are critical to a lamb's health.

We walked down to the processing house where turkeys were meeting their maker. It was quick and humane. That's all I need to say. No screaming. No anxiety.

Once dispatched, the bird is quickly scalded and then put in a gentle tumbling plucking machine. When the feathers are off, the bird is passed back to the stainless steel processing tables. Here, the two farm interns (hard to believe that's the same smiling face I see every Saturday at my market) are cleaning up a nice looking turkey.

I watched as the birds were processed. Great care is taken to clean and prepare the turkey for the customer, all done by hand to limit any bruising or tearing.

Here's Betsy doing the final inspection - getting all the pin feathers and feather pins out.

After watching for awhile (I wondered later if I should have jumped in to help, but...) I walked down the path to visit with Nancy in the kitchen. Smith Meadows has a brisk pasta and sauce market business. I have my favorites (Sweet Potato Ravioli, Apple Cheddar Ravioli, Oat & Winter Wheat Fettucine.)

In this sweet little storefront, Nancy and her two worker-bees were cranking out noodles and pesto, supervised by her Nancy's son, Linus.

There were great heaps of green garlic scapes, nuts, cheese and oil ready for the food processor. And rectangular slabs of freshly made pasta dough ready for the pasta machine. I will admit to pasta-machine-envy.

When we were parting company, I asked Betsy a question that's been on my mind since disassembling the ducks. Do her customers want cut-up chicken? Yes, of course they do. But she encourages them to watch the videos to see how it's done. Here's one I like linked here.

I always buy whole chickens and will admit that I most often roast them whole, but recently, after the duck education, I decided to break down two chickens for various dishes - eight leg quarters for my new favorite go-to dish from food52, Rosy Chicken, breasts for some charcuterie (post to come) and carcasses, necks, wing tips and scraps for stock.

Above all, I think I most appreciate the nose-to-beak benefits of homemade stock.

I keep chicken, duck and other stock in 6 cup measures, in ziplock bags (freeze flat on a sheet pan for best storing!) in the freezer. Six cups is the perfect quantity for one batch of soup.

Chicken (or duck or turkey) Stock, makes about 8 cups

Two chicken carcasses, necks, wing tips and scraps (about two pounds)

3 quarts cold water

2 onions, quartered (onion skin can go in the pot, too, as it helps color the stock)

4 carrots, cut in thirds

2 celery stalks, or the celery leaves from the stalk

1 T peppercorns

6-8 fresh thyme stalks

2 rosemary stalks

1 bay leaf

Cook for at least four hours, covered. Sometimes I cook mine for six hours.

Strain and cook another hour.

Cool quickly in a bowl held over an ice bath to retain the best flavor.

Refrigerate overnight. Skim the fat. Freeze.

Make a batch today. You'll love how the house smells and you will thank me at Thanksgiving.

PS I don't salt my stock so I can control the salt in soups and sauces made from the stock.