Food Friday: Simply Chicken Potpie

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I have been out of town this week, so here is a merry little stroll back in time, in our own Spy Tardis:

On a recent dark and stormy night I was about to go through the motions of whipping up an uninspired stir fry of chicken, peas, onions, carrots and some celery for crunch, but it didn’t seem like a warm, inviting meal for a raw winter day. It’s not that I harbor any illusions that coming home to our house every night is a journey to Martha-in-Wonderland, but sometimes I like to pretend that Mrs. Cleaver lives here. Even though I do not wear the high heels and the starched shirtwaist dress, I am wearing pearls along with the scarf, the sweater and the turtleneck. I bet even Mrs. Cleaver would be wearing woolies this week! And clad in her double-thick black leggings, Mrs. Cleaver would use these same ingredients to bake an amazing chicken potpie.

Here is something to keep in your freezer at all times of the year – a package of puff pastry. This is essential, Home Ec 101 information. Write it down. In cursive! Or tell Siri to remind you the next time you go to the Food Lion: “Buy puff pastry.”

I have used store-bought pie shells in the past because I am hopeless at home made. Everyone would politely shovel the chicken concoctions into their hungry little mouths. But the puff pastry made this pie an occasion! It was spectacular! It was as if Jiffy Pop Pop Corn had waved a magic wand over my chicken pie ordinaire, and puffed it upward and outward with importance and historical significance. Well, it looked very pretty when it came out of the oven, and was warmer and more comforting than that pedestrian chicken stir fry would have been.

I used the same ingredients that would have gone into the stir fry, with the addition of the puff pastry, and some chicken broth. And a little flour. I’ll trot out some other recipes for you later – but you need to keep it simple, for your own sanity. I read one recipe that wanted me to weave strips of pastry into a latticework on top of the pie. That was sheer foolishness. The pastry rises and looms like ocean cliffs – do not diminish that drama by getting all crafty. Use that time you would have been weaving pastry strips (like those long ago potholders) wisely. Dig out the latest Garden & Gun Magazine and plan your Mardi Gras strategy instead.

I boiled a boneless chicken breast, although if you have a leftover roasted chicken, you can pull off enough meat for a pie for two people. After boiling the breast, I chopped it up and shredded it – the howling cat was very grateful that my knife skills need some polishing, as some shreds flew off the cutting board into her KP area. I chopped up a couple of carrots, some celery, and half an onion, and tossed them into a frying pan with some butter for a few minutes. The onion should be translucent and fragrant. Then I added a handful of flour and 2 cups of chicken broth and the chicken. (Sometimes I skip the flour and the broth and just add Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup and a little milk.) After everything heated up and bubbled along nicely, I poured the mixture into my cute little Le Creuset baking dish. But a pie pan works just as well. (Remember, I am waiting for Mr. Cleaver, and want to make a favorable impression. Sometimes Ward has had a rough day down at the insurance office, or wherever it is that he works…)

Roll the thawed dough out on a floured surface, just to take out the creases. Then lay it on top of your pan, and with kitchen sheers, or even your office Fiskars, trim the excess dough, leaving about half an inch hanging over the edge of the pan, for drama.

Whisk an egg with a little water, and then brush it across the pastry. It will add color and a shiny surface to the pastry. Then remember to cut a few slits in the dough to let steam escape during the baking process.

Put the pastry-topped pan on top of a cookie sheet, and pop in a 375°F oven for about 30 to 35 minutes. See – you didn’t need to waste your time basket weaving at all. And now there is a little extra time to read a The Goldfinch, or chill the wine, or to watch last night’s Daily Show. Ward wouldn’t have enjoyed the spectacle of woven pastry as much as he is going to enjoy this huge, flying buttress of a chicken potpie.

I like The Pioneer Woman website. She has a droll sense of humor. I could imagine spending a little quality time with her out on the prairie. Although I do not have turmeric – so I will never know exactly what her pie tastes like: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/08/pot-pie/

Here’s Martha’s take, although she spends quality time worrying about the crust. “Pshaw!” I say! Worry about your time with young Theo Decker instead! http://www.marthastewart.com/891257/classic-chicken-potpie

“Promises and pie-crust are made to be broken.”
-Jonathan Swift

Winter In and Out by Bobbie Brittingham

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It is amazing how much time and energy plus money that it takes to pull off the Christmas Holidays. Heaving all the decorations out of the attic, garage, basement or from under the bed is only the mere start of this annual hectic time. The amount of strategy and planning is not something that is in my daily routine. Trying to keep some of the hallowed family traditions alive is demoralizing. Some have grudgingly made their way to my memory’s historical archives of Christmases past. I have to utilize every brain cell I have to get only the most important and reverent of treasured traditions accomplished. Then within an a few days it all has to be untangled, re-wrapped, re-boxed, repaired, and restored or rather re-stuffed back in its obscure hiding place.

Now that Christmas is packed away, and the house is in some state of normal caucus it may seem a little uninteresting or lacking some visual interest. It will be a long time until spring brings some color to the garden for you to bring into the house. The outside landscape which now is a depressing gray and tan and brown. Lovely for the spirit. The solution is to bring something living into the house. Of the animal, vegetable, and mineral choices, the vegetable seems a less complicated choice. Many of the garden centers, if open, will have a selection of green or blooming houseplants for that touch of life in the winter home. Unless you received one as a gift or bought the traditional poinsettia. To me, poinsettias are a plant for a two weeks and then can go to the heavily endowed plant heaven. Trying to keep and bring them to an adequate blooming phase next year is not worth the extreme effort required to do so. MUCH easier and better results to purchase a new one next year. If you want to try something more fun and rewarding, just go to the vegetable bin. There you can find many items that can be seduced into growing inside the house during the winter. A sweet potato suspended in or just touching some water will send roots into the water and then a vine will begin to grow, and it will not stop for a long time. The pretty purpled leaves love the sun and will continue to ramble where you lead them. A regular white potato will give some good results, but I prefer the color of the sweet potato. If you use a glass container then, you can keep an eye on the water level, and children will delight in watching the roots growing.

Another vegetable is an avocado pit. Arrange three or four toothpicks around the side of the pit and suspend over water. It will sprout, and a green tree trunk will start to grow. It can be potted in soil after it has developed several leaves. I know some people who have kept these going for years. I am not sure if they have had a harvest yet, but just the fun of growing it is enough reward. I have heard onions, carrots, and even a pineapple can all be handled in similar manners. These are fun activities to help bring a little life into the home. Somehow just adding some living green or color to your inside spaces will lift and brighten the internal spirit.

Now, on the other hand, if you have started to force some daffodil, tulip or amaryllis bulbs you have those to look forward to bloom inside. Or, just buy a handsome new green or blooming (favorite – orchid) houseplant that are readily available at many stores. Many don’t cost too much and can give months of pleasure. In the summer, you can move the houseplants to your outside living spaces. In any event to brighten your public and private living spaces that can become forlorn after the bright and sparkly decorations of Christmas are removed add a fresh lovely houseplant or a blooming plant They will instantly make you realize that spring will come even if the weather outside is frightful.

I often walk in the garden during the somewhat warmer days of winter looking for a little life of some form that will show me the garden has not gone to bed forever. This is a good time to look at your garden and ask questions. Questions that help achieve the look you want. If you don’t know what look you want then, it might be the time to decide. Even the most beautiful natural garden has had a little bit of help to get it there. Sometimes mother nature gets a little carried away and needs to be reined in. With any good garden, there need to be some architectural structure. These are called the backbones or BONES of the garden. They give the garden a solid feeling. They are supporting the rest of the plants in a visual pleasing, balanced way. These features can be manmade such as a fence, columns, arbor, gate, a large urn or pot, a bird bath, anything that will give the eye something solid to look at. The bones can be of plant material such as evergreens, ornamental grasses that have been left with their blossoms on and even the trunks of trees and shrubs can add that visual interest with their structure and bark texture. These can all add visual interest when the winter season clamps down and not much else is in the landscape.

So now is a good time to take stock of your garden’s bones. If you don’t see these bones/visual interest it will present an opportunity to explore some solutions. The many nursery and garden catalogues that have started to arrive with their enticing pictures and descriptions should enable you to find some answers. They are always filled with ideas for containers, border designs, problem area solutions and plant companions. I caution not to be combined into think that your garden will look like the pictures. Seldom does anyone’s garden look like the picture. Not even the garden the picture was taken in looks like the picture. They are all Photoshopped. But the catalogues can offer many different and exciting ideas that you can adapt to your own situation. Dreaming about how you would love your garden to look is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon in a sunny spot looking out the window at your picture perfect garden.

 

Garden Club of the Eastern Shore Accepting Scholarship Applications

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Graduating seniors attending high school in Talbot County and expecting to major in horticulture, landscape architecture or design, botany, environmental science, agriculture or a related field may be eligible for a scholarship of up to $3,500.00 from the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore (GCES). Scholarship applications are available from guidance counselors in all Talbot County high schools. They may also be obtained by calling 410-770-9035. Applications are due back to the guidance counselors’ offices by the close of school on April 3, 2015.

The GCES Scholarship is merit based. Outstanding academic achievement along with volunteer or work experience, which shows a strong work ethic and a commitment to excellence, will be considered when evaluating applications.

GCES President Margo McConnel says: “We are so pleased to be able to offer this award for the 15th year. Previous recipients have become teachers, researchers, landscape architects and designers, and environmental educators. They are all making important contributions both here on the Shore and in other parts of the country.”

The GCES is committed to promoting environmentally sound landscape practices and to providing educational programs for the community that explore conservation practices and environmental issues. It maintains several gardens in the community including those at Thompson Park, the Academy Art Museum, and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the GCES, in partnership with the Town of Easton, has undertaken an extensive restoration of Thompson Park. Community members and businesses interested in contributing to this $80,000.00 effort can find additional information at www.facebook.com/thompsonparkrestoration.

For information about GCES programs or to make a contribution to the scholarship fund, please call 410-770-9035.

Food Friday: National Pizza Week

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Please accept my deepest apologies for never having recognized (or celebrated) National Pizza Week before this year. What could I have been thinking? The second week of January is a time to revel in hot cheese, good sauce, toppings (or not) and fabulous crust (thin, thick or deep dish). Pizza, like cake, is the perfect food. Long live the pizzaterians!

I grew up in a household where going out for pizza was the supreme treat. We were even permitted to have a glass of orange soda! Of course, we only ate plain cheese pizza pie. My parents grew up in New Haven, home of Sally’s Apizza; in their hearts the home of the purest, best American pizza. They were stodgy, no nonsense New Englanders, by gum. Plain and simple pizza only, thank you; unadorned by unnecessary. What more could you possibly want or need? The slices at Pellicci’s (our hometown favorite Italian restaurant) were the size of formal dinner napkins, so my brother and I learned early on how to fold the molten lava slices into airplane shapes which fit nicely in our hungry, gaping maws. But it wasn’t until junior high and experiencing hot lunch in the cafeteria that I found out about pepperoni pizza. Holy smokes! What a revelation, and such beauteous gilding on the pizza lily!

Pizza is so very customizable. There are myriad variations on the pizza topping theme. First there are your basic Mozzarella cheese, meats, and veggies, excellent tomato sauce, a soupçon of garlic and a pinch or oregano. Other toppings may include regional favorites: barbeque, chicken, oysters, crayfish, shrimp, bacon, artichoke hearts and tuna. In Japan the favorite toppings are squid and a mayonnaise mixture of mayo, potato and bacon. A very fancy pizza was once concocted with caviar, lobster and crème fraiche. Hmm. Not up to Sally’s standards I’m afraid.

What do your pizza toppings say about you? Are you quirky, well-traveled, catholic, risk-taking and fearless? Bland, smug, uncurious, timid and hide-bound? Further trolling of the internets reveals that some people add these peculiar toppings (remember now, I am a snobby, unadventuous purist):
• Squash pizza (zucchini, summer squash and zucchini flowers)
• Macaroni and cheese (complete with breadcrumbs)
• Pesto
• BBQ sauce
• Alfredo sauce
• Bacon and egg
• Eggs Florentine
• Spinach and artichoke
• Tex-Mex pizza (pepper Jack cheese, salsa, beans and avocado
• Fig, prosciutto and chili jam
• Sweet potato and Kielbasa
• Lemon and smoke Mozzarella
• Arugula
• Ground lamb with an egg
• Prosciutto, basil and mozzarella
• Ricotta, prosciutto and mint
• Chicken and cranberry relish
• Brussels sprouts, roasted and shaved

A good idea comes from Serious Eats – try par-cooking vegetables to get eliminate some of the moisture and to intensify their flavor. Carmelized onions and peppers go a long way to making pizza a rich tapestry of woven, complimentary flavors, instead of just a slippery bunch of layers.

According to Pizza.com, “eating pizza once a week can reduce the risk of esophageal cancer.” But Elitedaily.com warns that “34% of the average American adult’s body fat comes from pizza.”

We still make pizza most Friday nights. When our kids were little, pizza wasn’t cause for celebration as it was in my distant youth. Their elementary school held pizza parties at the drop of every possible hat. They had it so often that it was de rigueur and not the least bit ritualistically special. They were growing accustomed to cold, cardboard-tasting (literally) Papa John’s and Domino’s pizzas. Heresy! We wanted them to know what real pizza tasted like.

It pushed our little Kenmore oven to the brink, firing it up to 500°F every Friday night for almost 20 years. We couldn’t achieve the blistering hot 600° and 800° temperatures that special wood burning or coal-fired pizza ovens reach, but we did our suburban best. And it was a great time to be spent together. They learned how to measure, how to wait for dough to rise, how to roll out circles (or amoebas) how to grate cheese, how to feed the dog indigestible pepperoni slices, how to draw pictures in flour (highly marketable art) and how to put up with their parents for a couple of hours every week. We also learned to appreciate getting blisters on the roofs of our mouths from gobbling down fresh, hot out-of-the-oven homemade pizza. No cardboard here! We never got good enough to toss the dough in the air, we still roll it out on the floured counter and we have only achieved the thin, crispy perfection of a crust a dozen or so times. Each week we hope. So many lessons learned from one dish.

This Friday we have some leftover Italian sausage, leftover meatballs and a fresh stick of pepperoni for a mélange of a meat topping. There is some basil growing on the windowsill, and we will toss a handful on top of the pizza when it emerges from the furnace of an oven. Our dough is rising in a bowl in the kitchen right this minute, waiting for pizza magic tonight. How about you?

“But magic is like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s pretty good.”
― Neil Patrick Harris

And your pizza is nothing without good dough. Our friends at Food52 have many suggestions, but we like this recipe: https://food52.com/recipes/28124-homemade-pizza-dough

And if you want to adapt a pizza theme for every meal possible, visit this site:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/mackenziekruvant/pizza-power#.tsbvxZdMJ7

http://www.sallysapizza.com/

http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2011/09/a-pizza-snobs-approach-to-toppings.html

http://www.delish.com/recipes/cooking-recipes/unconventional-pizza-toppings#slide-1

http://www.taste.com.au/gallery/12+perfect+pizza+toppings,454?ref=,

Eating the Right Way at Easton’s Amish Country Farmer’s Market

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Keep your New Year’s resolutions at the Amish Country Farmer’s Market this January. Vendors there have healthy options to help you get and keep fit over the winter.

Salads are a natural fit for weight watching diets. Soup and Salad features a salad bar filled with fresh vegetables and fruits. Raw vegetables are the perfect sources for fiber and vitamins. The Sundried Tomato and Basil dressing is fat-free.

When the weather is cold, nothing warms you up like a bowl of soup. Many of the soups available at Soup and Salad are low fat and gluten-free. Every day there is a vegetarian soup option.Wholesome snacks, including nuts and fruits are among the offerings at Little Bulk Foods in the Market. The shop specializes in home-canned goods and sauces. Fresh ground peanut butter is made right there, so you know exactly what is in it.

Nature’s Nutrients offers a variety whole food vitamins, liquids, herbs, homeopathics, natural beauty products, and a healthy juice/smoothie bar. Consultations are offered to determine your health needs.

Make the Amish Country Farmer’s Market your destination for healthy eating in 2015. The Market is located at 101 Marlboro Rd., Easton. Hours are Thursdays 9-6, Fridays 9-7, and Saturdays 9-3. For more information go to www.amishcountryfarmersmarket.com

Food Friday: Oh My Darling Clementine!

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The Doctor Who Christmas special, Last Christmas, caused a lively debate here: what is the difference between Clementines and tangerines? Maybe we had a little too much vacation down time and togetherness, plus we were avoiding the inevitability and disappointment of dismantling the Christmas decorations. Still – inquiring minds want to know.

In Doctor Who, Santa’s trademark gift is a tangerine in every stocking; a sweet, juicy orange jewel, the symbol of innocence. The Doctor scoffs at that gesture, declaring, “Nobody likes tangerines!” I remember growing up that we did have oranges in our stockings a few times, but never consistently. And Santa never left oranges or tangerines for my children. (Especially this year when we forgot to leave him Christmas cookies and milk! Payback!) Instead he tucked small books, and dolls, and toys, and tiny boxes of Legos, and candy canes (gasp!), and other quiet diversions into their capacious stockings, which would temporarily distract and charm the early rising children, so that the poor beleaguered parents could sleep a wee bit longer.

It seems to me that I had oranges in my lunch quite a lot as a child. I know tangerines were substituted a few times, but tangerines had more seeds than most oranges, and so I registered a few complaints. Did you ever believe that swallowing watermelon seeds would eventually result in catastrophe? I think we swallowed them only when dared, and suffered no consequences, and otherwise tried to enjoy a legit opportunity for spitting. And that was only in the summertime, sitting on the back porch, with an available sibling sitting nearby. No seed spitting was tolerated in our school cafeteria. Alas.

We did not have Clementines when I was a child. I don’t know if they are more fashionable, or more readily available, but they seem ubiquitous now. Maybe they were exotic and hideously expensive in New England back in the day. The packaging is very appealing, so much more so than a plastic sack o’oranges. I’ll haul home a small crate of Clementines with the idea that I can recycle it, fill it with potting soil and use it to start spring and get a jump on my summer garden. That has never happened, but I can assure you that I enjoy the fantasy every time.

Both the tangerines and the Clementines are varietals of the mandarin orange, which is slightly smaller than a standard orange. Nutritionally tangerines and Clementines are very similar – a 100-gram tangerine has 53 calories and a 100-gram Clementine has 47. There is more Vitamin C and Potassium in a Clementine, but more Magnesium and Calcium in a tangerine. I think the Clementine tastes sweeter – more like an orange than the watery tangerine. But both are easy to peel. The Clementine is seedless, however, which gives it the advantage. I can remember trying to peel oranges, and how hard it seemed sometimes, even if my mother scored the peel with a knife before tossing it in my lunchbox.

So listen up Santa, could you make the Clementine your signature gift now? The Doctor will approve: sweeter, no seeds and very easy to peel. Perfect for Tardis travel.

(McDonald’s has jumped on the Clementine bandwagon, and will be offering Clementines in Happy Meals now, on a seasonal basis. http://nrn.com/food-trends/mcdonald-s-introduces-clementines-happy-meal-option!)

Here is a nifty sounding recipe for an orange cake. I need to rethink my whole approach to baking, and get some metric scales and so I can start to bake the Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood way. They are the professional cooks and judges on a delightful BBC import on PBS on Sunday nights, just before Downton Abbey: The Great British Baking Show. It is deeelightful! This is my new guilty pleasure. Butter, cream, chocolate, English accents, bad teeth and crazy baking. Everyone is sweet, and determined, and thoughtful of others as they compete to become the Best Amateur Baker in Britain. I have never watched TV reality shows, but this is just wonderful. I got this first recipe from Mary Berry:

http://www.maryberry.co.uk/recipes/baking/whole-orange-spice-cake

Who would have thought of boiling a whole orange for an hour? We would have gone to the fridge and poured out some orange juice. But Mary is thrifty. She once commented that you should be economical, and save the leftover lemon wedge for a gin and tonic! Our kind of baker!

You can catch up on the first couple of episodes here: http://video.pbs.org/program/great-british-baking-show/

Clementine Cake from Nigella:

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/clementine-cake-2559

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=28573

“we went into a market—they call it a grocery—and you can’t imagine. fruit brilliant as magazine photos. all kinds of different oranges, grapefruits, mandarins, some tiny clementines with a blue sticker—Morocco—they’ve come so far…”
– REINA MARÍA RODRÍGUEZ
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/242094

Food Hub to Meet with Growers in Chestertown and Easton

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The Eastern Shore Food Hub will hold a series of information sessions in February throughout the Eastern Shore (details below) to present the concept of the Food Hub and seek input from local growers.

The Food Hub is a project of the Easton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) with the goal of increasing the profitability of the agriculture industry on the Delmarva Peninsula. Initial plans of the Hub are to provide marketing, branding, aggregation and distribution services for vegetable and fruit crops grown on the Shore and throughout the Delmarva.

“Our goal with the Food Hub is to further strengthen our agricultural economy on the Shore,” says Tracy Ward of the EEDC, “with the largest block of contiguous farmland in the Eastern US and a strong farming community, we are uniquely positioned to tap into fresh food markets from Washington to New York – this is a considerable economic opportunity we don’t want to miss out on.”

Increasing demand for local food in recent years has helped spur the growth of food hubs. According to the USDA there are over 300 food hubs in the United States with 62% of those starting operations less than five years ago. There are currently no food hubs in Delmarva.

Growers interested in the Eastern Shore Food Hub are encouraged to take an online survey here

Food Hub Information Sessions:

Cambridge – February 10, 6:30-8:30, Eastern Shore Hospital Center, Cambridge MD

Elkton – February 12, 6:30-8:30, Cecil County Government  Building, Elkton, MD

Denton – February 17, 6:30-8:30, Caroline County 4H Park, Williams Building, 8230 Detour Rd, Denton, MD

Chestertown – February 19, 6:30-8:30, Kent County Public Library, Chestertown, MD

Easton – February 23, 6:30-8:30, Talbot County Community Center, Easton MD

Salisbury – February 25, 6:30-8:30, Wicomico County Cooperative Extension Building, Salisbury, MD

Food Friday: Hash Browns or Home Fries?

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Regional differences in food can sometimes be subtle and confusing. I know I have ordered hash browns in restaurants and expected to get a crispy pile of tasty grated potato, when what I get is a side of cubed potatoes, mixed with browned onions and peppers. And vice versa. I guess I have used the term interchangeably – and that is wrong. Who knew? Even when I went exploring Martha’s brain trust I found hash brown recipes cheek and jowl with home fries recipes. Perhaps Connecticut, where I grew up, has a little problem differentiating between such deliciousness?

Dan Pashman, who has recently written a delightful book about food and eating, “Eat More Better”, http://www.sporkful.com/ posits that this is a crucial point – because how will you cure your New Year’s hangover without a good side dish of potatoes? I like both hash browns and home fries, because really, how could you not? But if I am struggling with a New Year’s Eve cheap-white-wine-induced hangover, please (silently) hand me a plateful of crispy butter-fried hash browns. Home fries just won’t cut it.

This is probably why McDonald’s is so popular in college towns. Their hash browns come as little oval patties, which don’t even require a fork, and have been deepfried and are hot enough to scald you into mindful awareness of your misadventures. I would suggest as a resolution that you cut back on the alcohol and boost your potato consumption this bright and shiny new year.

I prefer my hash browns pure and naked, with some salt and pepper, or if you are lucky enough, a dash of Lowry’s Seasoning Salt, which brings bliss and joy to everything it touches. (When we make potato pancakes with leftover mashed potatoes, a casual toss of Lowry’s adds a crisp, salty crust and life is again wonderful.) We fry our hash browns in butter, or sometimes with a little bacon fat if we are daring, though I have heard that some folks use duck fat! What a concept! If I can ever make myself part with the cash for an expensive jar of duck fat you can believe that hash browns will be the first dish I try out. The mind boggles!

We spent a few years early in our marriage preparing Betty Crocker boxed dehydrated (and subsequently rehydrated) hash browns on Sunday mornings, which were fine for the entry level of our cooking. (The college cafeteria was still a threatening recurrent memory…) But honestly, how hard is it to grate a potato? Today you can cheat and buy bags of pre-shredded hash browns in the refrigerated foods section of the grocery store, near the eggs and the inert plastic-bagged bagels, you lazy git. My new school of thought is to peel and boil the potatoes, allowing them to cool so I retain my fingerprints and my future life of crime, then grate the potatoes before frying them to crunchy, crispy nirvana in a non-stick pan with lots of butter. This eliminates the need for soaking the raw, grated potatoes in water to get the starches out. And it also eliminates that vision of grey, stringy potato shreds, which is much too sad and mournful to contemplate.

But this is in my dream world, where someone has iced up my Diet Coke, ironed the New York Times Style section, cooked and served the hash browns and bacon, and with attentive mercy has doled out a post-breakfast dark chocolate Milano cookie. The real world is less perfect, but no less fascinating. We had breakfast at the luncheonette in Green’s Pharmacy in Palm Beach the other morning. The cooks were silent and completely syncopated in their morning balletic grand jetés and glissades in their tiny communal cooking space. We watched as omelets were poured and twirled and folded in mid-air, scrambled eggs tossed lightly skyward, poached eggs landed lightly in small white bowls while the hash was browned and the bread toasted. A good quarter of the gridiron-sized griddle that was covered with browning, fragrant home fries, which smelled terrific as they sizzled and were spooned onto waiting dishes. The dinner plate-sized pancakes appeared, flipped, and disappeared with a repeating beat all their own. One could not be so rude as to intrude and beg for off-the-menu hash browns. The towering stack of crispy, salty bacon I gobbled up took care of that yen. And it was an powerful performance by grand masters.

P.S. We did not see any Kennedys having breakfast at the legendary Green’s as many gossips avow, but there were enough knuckle duster sparklers, Belgian shoes (sans socks), Lilly shifts and popped Lacoste collars mixed in with our rank and file ordinariness to make the visit to Green’s a worthwhile cultural (and culinary) event. Thank you Green’s Pharmacy! Your cooks’ skills are a virtuosic tour de force!

“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
― A.A. Milne

http://southflorida.menupages.com/restaurants/greens-pharmacy/)

http://www.sporkful.com/tag/hash-browns/

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/skillet-hash-browns

http://www.imafoodblog.com/index.php/2009/03/31/oven-baked-hash-browns

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/11/ultra-crispy-roast-potatoes-recipe.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/06/hash-browns-vs-home-fries_n_4538508.html

Food Friday: Holiday Breakfasts

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If you are entertaining over the holidays, or have wayward college students wandering into the kitchen at all hours demanding more food, or even if you are going to be visiting family or friends over the holidays, it is a good idea to have some easy peasy breakfast recipes on hand that you can whip up with the minimum of fuss, or trips to the grocery store.

We always have day old French bread (in fact we have a collection of French bread in the freezer – we will never starve) and it always seems a sin and a shame to pitch it, so this is a delightful and economical way to be frugal consumers. And Best Beloved loves the added kick of the rum on these festive mornings…

Weekend French Toast

Serves 4
1 cup milk
1 pinch salt
3 brown eggs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 generous dollop rum
1 tablespoon brown sugar
8 1/2-inch slices day old French bread

Whisk milk, salt, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, rum and sugar until smooth. Heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Soak bread slices in mixture until saturated. Cook bread on each side for a couple of minutes, until golden brown. Serve with maple syrup and powdered sugar. If you add some raspberries and whipped cream it will remind you of the Belgian Waffles from the World’s Fair in the 60s. Childhood bliss!

Here are Amanda and Merrill from Food52 preparing Weekend French Toast. http://www.food52.com/blog/796_weekend_french_toast

Also in our Christmas Cornucopia of Necessary Foodstuffs are

Sausage Balls!

The Tall One loveslovesloves these. Of course, he is a tall, lanky, long drink of water and can afford the calories. The rest of us will have to get by smelling the blissful clouds of temptation…

1 pound ground sausage (we like the “Hot” variety, just for a little morning kick)
3 cups Bisquick
4 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

(We are never certain how many this recipe serves, but it seems to keep someone very satisfied…)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a cookie sheet with miraculous parchment paper. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. (Living as we do in the South this might be as close to making snow balls as we come this year.) Form into 1-inch balls, shmushing the balls so they hold together. Place the balls on the cookie sheet and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. They should be golden brown. If you are the fussy sort with lots of spare time on your hands you can turn the balls halfway through the baking time. Drain on paper towels and stand back. They are excellent warm for breakfast, but the Tall One can attest to their delicious qualities cold, right out of the fridge. We bake them the day before Christmas and re-heat in the morning.

The folks at Food52 also have some clever breakfast ideas up their sleeves, and I have included their links below. You can always whip up a batch of cornbread for dinner, and repurpose it in the morning – it never lasts long around here. And while I will not share the Roman Punch with the visiting undergrads, I will probably enjoy a cup or two of its cheer when we are gathered around the Christmas tree, playing with our new igadgets and toys.

http://food52.com/recipes/1799_perfect_pancakes

http://food52.com/recipes/8195_doublecorn_corn_bread_with_fresh_thyme

http://food52.com/recipes/7635_nineteenth_century_roman_punch

“When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender, of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.”

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Happy Holidays!

State Now Allows Hunting on Farmers’ Fields to Control Deer

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When Max Dubansky first moved to his farm about 15 years ago, he often saw about 100 deer in his fields.

“We were losing up to $1,000 in lettuce in one night,” Dubansky, 40, said. “Something had to give.”

Dubansky owns and operates Backbone Food Farm in Oakland. His farm is right up against woods, which makes it more vulnerable to hungry deer.

“Deer are responsible for $7 million to $8 million in crop damage each year,” Maryland Department of Natural Resources Deer Project Leader Brian Eyler said.

But the Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers a program to help farmers protect their crops against hungry ruminants.

Deer Management Permits are available at no cost to farmers who suffer economic loss from deer eating or damaging crops.

Those farmers with crop loss or damage can contact their county Department of Natural Resources representative who sends a technologist or a biologist to evaluate the property.

Based on the acreage, crops, damage, and the status of surrounding farms, the department issues a certain number of permits to the farmer. Each permit allows for a certain number of deer to be killed based on the department’s assessment.

If a farmer continues to suffer crop damage after the permitted kills are reached, they can apply to renew the permit.

“Permits are for antlerless deer only,” said Western Maryland Regional Wildlife Manager Jim Mullan.

Does are the primary targets for deer management because removing one doe essentially eliminates three deer for the next year, Mullan said.

“When you harvest a doe, you’re stopping that doe from any future reproduction,” Mullan said. “A healthy adult doe will produce about two fawns.”

However, Mullan said, farmers are allowed exceptions for antlered deer if orchards suffer from “rubbing;” when bucks rub antlers on trees to strip the velvety coating off new antler growth or during mating season, which is called the rut.

Mullan said the department tends to limit those exceptions so hunters in the regular season can shoot antlered deer, as many hunters strive to bag bucks with large antler racks.

Farmers who obtain permits can choose who hunts on their land — or can do the hunting themselves.

Eyler said a lot of these special permits are issued during the regular hunting season because it’s easier to get a deer that time of year.

The state issued 1,636 permits in 2012, and 1,655 in 2013. Though that’s just a 1 percent increase, hunters harvested 10 percent more deer via permits in 2013 — 8,505 vs. 7,650 in 2012.

Licensed hunters bagged 87,541 deer in the 2012-2013 season, and killed 95,865 in the 2013-2014 season — about a 9.5 percent increase.

Eyler said hunters who kill deer on a permit go through the same process as a regular-license kill — submitting a hunter ID number and registering the kill with the department — but must also submit the deer management permit number under which they killed the deer.

Once that process is taken care of, hunters can treat their harvest as if it were a regular-season kill.

Dubansky said an effective deer fence helped keep them out, but some still found their way to his crops.

“Once we got the fence up, there were problem deer (that found their way around the fence),” he said.

Deer that still got into his fields were taken care of with his permits.

While not a hunter, Dubansky says he thinks the program is great and has used about five permits a year to keep pesky deer out as well as allowing people to hunt on his property during the regular season.

“It’s an important tool for farmers,” Eyler said. “It gives them a tool for outside of the regular season.”

It also helps control the overall deer population in the state.

About 10 years ago, the population peaked at about 300,000, but last year’s fall estimate was about 227,000, Eyler said.

By Max Bennett