Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Sugaring Off at South Face Farm

20 March 2009

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A Note to Readers:
 
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
  
Tinky
 
March is Massachusetts Maple Month according to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association. This organization of professional and amateur maple farmers is headed by Tom McCrumm of Ashfield. I figured I couldn’t visit a more appropriate farm than his to kick off my maple recipes this month so I headed recently to South Face Farm.

 

The sugarhouse at South Face Farm looks exactly as a sugarshack should. It sits on a quiet road, not far from Route 116 in Ashfield. Its low ceiling provides eaters with a sense of intimacy, and its décor is old fashioned. Old food tins and antique cooking implements line the walls. Large windows (many of them sporting a jug of amber syrup) look out on the farm Tom and his wife Judy Haupt steward.

 

The sugarhouse restaurant is open only about 12 days a year, on weekends during maple season. Nevertheless, Tom told me, those 12 days are vital to his sugaring enterprise. “The only way you can make a living in this business is to have a roadside sugarhouse and sell,” he told me, characterizing what he does as “agriculture as entertainment.”

 

“You’ve got to cut out the middle man. You’ve got to produce a good-quality product and sell it directly to the customer.”

 

Tom invited me into the kitchen to watch Skylar Abbatiello of Ashfield make one of the sugarhouse’s signature foods, corn fritters. Skylar is a lanky, genial high-school student who is in his fourth year at the sugarhouse but his first year of cooking. He sounded proud of having worked his way up through the ranks at South Face Farm. Tom told me that this pattern is common among the restaurant’s staff members, who are both local and loyal.

 

The kitchen definitely had a family atmosphere. Skylar was confidently and carefully supervised by the sugarhouse’s head cook (and kitchen designer), Bonnie, an Ashfield resident who preferred not to supply her last name. Bonnie explained that she and Tom McCrumm had developed the sugarhouse recipes to emphasize scratch cooking and local ingredients. The blueberries, eggs, milk, and ice cream served at the restaurant are all local—not to mention the maple syrup!

 

I asked Tom McCrumm about the ice storm in December, which damaged a lot of New England sugar maples. He informed me that his losses were moderately bad. “I lost ten to 15 percent of my taps,” he noted. “I put in a lot of time and labor for cleanup and replacing pipeline. It was a big expense.”

 

Nevertheless, he added, he perseveres. “I did what farmers have done for centuries. You put your head down and plow ahead and hope that next year is going to be better.”

 

 
 
 

Skylar with his Fritters

Skylar with his Fritters

 
South Face Farm Corn Fritters
  

Ingredients:

 

1 cup flour

3/4 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

3/4 cup corn—fresh, canned, or frozen (if using frozen, thaw and drain; if canned, just drain)

oil as needed for frying

lots of South Face Farm maple syrup

 

Instructions:

 

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. In a separate bowl, beat together the milk and egg. Stir in the corn; then stir in the dry ingredients. The batter will be stiff.

 

Preheat the oil in a deep-fat fryer (or preheat a frying pan with at least a couple of inches of oil) to 350 degrees. Using a small scoop or a spoon, gently place quarter-cup blobs of batter in the oil. Do not overfill your pan; if it is too full the oil will cool off. Do not make larger fritters, or they will not cook through and will be doughy in the center.

 

Cook the fritters in the oil for 6 minutes, gently shaking them from time to time. Carefull remove and drain them. Drizzle maple syrup over the fritters. Makes about 10 fritters.

 

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Michael’s Potato Cheese Soup

11 March 2009
Michael (left) and his partner Tony (Courtesy of Carolyn Halloran, West County Independent)

Michael (left) and his partner Tony (Courtesy of Carolyn Halloran, West County Independent)

 
A Note to Readers:
 
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
  
Tinky
 
Potatoes are central to Irish cuisine and have brought both joy and tragedy to the Irish people. This recipe comes from Michael Collins, the chef at the Green Emporium in Colrain, Massachusetts, now a pizzeria. Michael likes to serve hearty soups along with his pizza. This one reflects his Irish heritage and therefore serves as an appropriate addition to a Saint Patrick’s Day (or week!) menu.

 

He warns that the soup is quite heavy; if you look at it closely, you’ll see that it’s definitely NOT low in fat. Serve it in small quantities as part of a balanced lunch, however, and you’ll enjoy it without feeling too guilty.

 

We tend to think of potatoes as not terribly full of flavor, but this recipe shows that they can star in a dish. It occurs to me that chives might be nice as a garnish instead of the suggested herbs……..

 

Ingredients:

 

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup chopped leeks or green onions

3-1/2 cups diced potatoes

3 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 cup grated cheddar cheese (a little more if you must, but don’t go overboard)

1/2 cup milk or half and half

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or parsley

crumbled bacon for garnish (optional)

 

Instructions:

 

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and leeks or onions. Sauté for 5 minutes.

 

Add the potatoes and stock. Bring the soup to a boil, cover it, and simmer it for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. Mash the potatoes a little if you see large chunks, but don’t get rid of them entirely.

 

Stir in the remaining ingredients (save a little of the herb for garnish), and cook for 1 minute more, stirring. Crumble a little bacon on top if you like for extra flavor (and calories, I fear). The leftover parsley or dill also looks nice on top.

 

Serves 4 to 6.

 

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The Flavor of Fall at the Blue Heron

15 October 2008

 

          A note to readers: This blog has moved! Please visit the new IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS for new posts as well as copies of older ones (yes, even this post!).  See you around the stove……..

          Tinky

         The kitchen at the Blue Heron Restaurant in Sunderland, Massachusetts, is a very busy place and a very happy one. Music plays as several cooks work in different sections of the room, creating tantalizing smells as they toast spices, glaze cakes, or efficiently peel and combine potatoes and parsnips. I spent a couple of hours there recently with Chef Deborah Snow—and I couldn’t help smiling almost continuously.

         Deborah spent our time showing me how to make a dish that reflected her signature focus on local food. She took advantage of the fall harvest to make butternut-squash ravioli, a deceptively simple Tuscan dish that is a favorite with Blue Heron customers. “I’ve gotten a lot of marriage proposals with this,” she said of the ravioli. She served it with a devastatingly rich brown-butter sauce.

          By using premade dumpling wrappers for the ravioli Deborah rendered them simple for home cooks. I helped her assemble the ravioli (when put together they look a bit like fried eggs) and was impressed at how easy they were to create.

The biggest trick in the recipe is the butter sauce, which can be a little temperamental; the butter should look brown and taste toasted but not burned. The other trick for the home cook will be timing. Deborah made the brown-butter sauce and the ravioli more or less simultaneously because she knows instinctively when to check on each pot.

Less experienced cooks should probably shape the ravioli and then begin browning the butter in order to keep a careful eye on the sauce. The ravioli can easily be boiled after the sauce is complete; these little pieces of pasta don’t take very long to cook.

I followed this method at home. My dish was almost as delicious as Deborah’s—if a bit less beautiful.

To learn more about the Blue Heron, visit its web site, http://www.blueherondining.com.  Meanwhile, here is the recipe for the ravioli, kindness of Deborah Snow.

 

Blue Heron Butternut Squash Ravioli

Ingredients:

for the ravioli:

1 medium butternut squash

extra-virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper to taste for roasting

1 cup shredded or grated Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 whole nutmeg, freshly grated

kosher salt to taste (start with 1 teaspoon)

freshly ground pepper to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon)

72 round 3-inch wheat dumpling wrappers (available from Asian markets)

1 egg

additional cheese and several small sage leaves for garnish

for the sauce:

1 pound unsalted butter

10 fresh sage leaves, plus 5 more leaves later, chopped

1-1/4 cups white wine

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

Instructions:

for the ravioli:

          Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and gunk, and rub a little oil, salt, and pepper on the flesh. Roast the squash until it is soft enough to scoop out easily. Begin roasting with the flesh side down in your pan, and turn the squash over after about 20 minutes. Snow explains that the length of time it will take to roast the squash to the desired consistency depends on the strength of your oven. I would start checking the squash to see whether it is tender after about 30 minutes.

          Scoop the squash out of its skin, and use a potato masher to blend in the cheese, olive oil, nutmeg, salt and pepper. (Do NOT use a food processor.)

          Place half of the dumpling wrappers (36) on a work surface. Spoon a generous tablespoon of the squash mixture into the middle of each wrapper. You will probably have leftover squash, which is delicious by itself as a side dish.

          Beat the egg with a splash of water; then use a pastry brush to brush the edges of the dumpling wrappers with the egg mixture. Place another wrapper on top, and use your fingertips to seal the edges of your ravioli, trying to push out any air bubbles that have formed.

          Put a large pot of water (at least 2 quarts) on the stove, and add 2 teaspoons of salt. When the water comes to a boil, place the ravioli gently in the boiling water. Return the water to the boil, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer, stirring gently (particularly in the beginning) to keep the ravioli separated. Remove the ravioli gently from the water with a slotted spoon, place them in 6 individual pasta dishes, and ladle brown-butter sauce over all. Top with additional cheese and sage leaves. Serves 6 with 6 ravioli apiece.

for the sauce:
          Place the entire pound of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and bring it to a boil. Cook it slowly, monitoring its progress to keep it from burning. When it begins to turn brown around the edges, it is almost finished cooking. Skim off (and discard) any fuzz on top. The cooking process for the butter takes about 10 minutes on Deborah Snow’s very hot stove; it will probably take longer on a home range.

          The butter will soon develop a rich caramel color. Turn off the heat, and add the first 10 chopped sage leaves. The butter will bubble up in response. Let it rest for a couple of minutes.

          When the butter has cooled a bit, spoon out the milk solids and discard them; you will only need the liquid.

In a medium skillet, heat the wine until it is reduced by half. Whisk in the cream, and again let the liquid reduce by half. Throw in the additional chopped sage leaves while the sauce is reducing. When the sauce is nice and thick, whisk in the brown butter to taste. You may not need all of it, but you will need most of it.