November Musings

Chinese Lanterns (Physalis Alkekengi)

Red and orange foliage is scattered to and fro, leaving a few trees now bare. The exposed trunks and branches seem vulnerable without their majestic autumn cloaks. As the temperature dips at night into the 30s and low 40s how they must quiver and miss the summer. Even the remaining birds must seek more durable hiding places like the forever green and omnipresent pine trees which populate much of the lower Cape. Continue reading

Silent Saturday: A Day of Reds, Blues, and Browns

Reds, Blues and Browns.

Day of Reds Blues and Browns #2

Day of Reds Blues and Browns #3

Fort Hill, Eastham

Cape Cod Cottage Pie (aka, Sweet Potato Invades A British Classic)

When we arrived home this afternoon we were greeted with an unusual flurry of sight and sound. There had to be over 100 blackbirds crammed on the birdfeeders, the fountain, and the lawn. We’ve never seen so many at once. Apparently, ours has become a favorite hot spot on the migration trail.

The wisp of coolness in the air combined with the startling display of autumn migration inspired us to make a riff on a cottage pie. You see, every spring when we visit Kevin’s parents my mother-in-law cooks us the British classic — either a shepherd’s pie (lamb) or a cottage pie (beef). I always look forward to the bubbling hot goodness on the plate, served along with crunchy pickled red cabbage and the ubiquitous side of peas which always reminds us we’re in England.
Sweet Potato Invades a British Classic

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Thomas Keller in the Kitchen and Rancho Gordo Mania

If there is one smoking hot chef in America it has to be Thomas Keller. His restaurants include the esteemed French Laundry (Napa Valley) and Per Se (New York City). Keller is the only American chef to have been awarded simultaneous three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants.

So how is it we have a Thomas Keller recipe for something as commonplace as pork and beans?

Rancho Gordo borlotti beans

Rancho Gordo Borlotti Beans

Surely this is not on the menu at one of his restaurants! This recipe is haute cuisine disguised as serious comfort food. And while it does have a lot of steps, none of them are complicated. Keller deploys an edible crescendo, layering flavors on top of flavors, building up intensity gradually until all of a sudden the dish emerges as a delicious gastronomic symphony.

These beans are remarkably versatile. You can serve them with braised pork shoulder, or make an intensely delicious huevos rancheros in the morning (crisped flour tortilla, borlotti beans, fried egg, salsa, and guacamole). The possibilities are almost endless.

Thomas Keller Inspired Braised Pork Shoulder with Heirloom Borlotti Beans

Pork and Beans

Pork and Beans

First things first. There is only one producer of beans we will ever use again, and that is Rancho Gordo. They are Thomas Keller’s bean of choice, and now ours. A little investigation reveals how fresh the Rancho Gordon beans are compared to those found in supermarkets or even health food stores. Most of those have been sitting around for years after harvest. Rancho Gordo guarantees their beans are fresh so they cook perfectly, have remarkable texture, and are easily digestible.

Slow, even cooking is the secret to beautiful beans. Thomas Keller prefers to use a slow cooker, but after reading the Rancho Gordo cookbook, we opted for the Parsons Method which uses a stovetop followed by the oven.

Heirloom Borlotti Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Rancho Gordo borlotti beans
  • 2 tb olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 leek, diced
  • 1/2 carrot, diced
  • 6 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs, stem removed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 strips applewood smoked bacon
  • Sea salt and freshly crushed black pepper
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley to garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Carefully wash the beans to remove any sediment or debris. Place them in a bowl and cover with about 1 inch of cold water. Soak for 2-6 hours.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pot. Once hot, add the onions and sauté until translucent (3 minutes or so). Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add the leek and carrot and sauté for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the drained beans, chicken stock, thyme, bay leaf and bacon. Bring to a boil and then cover tightly and place in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven to bake until the beans are tender (roughly 60-90 minutes). After 45 minutes or so season with sea salt and pepper. When it’s finished cooking remove and discard the bacon.
  5. Cool and store the beans in their liquid.
  6. When ready to serve drain the beans into a skillet, adding enough liquid to moisten them and heat until simmering. Add 6 tbsp butter and 2 tsp apple cider vinegar to bind the sauce. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning to your taste. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the liquid is nice and thick. Garnish with parsley.

Note: if you want to halve the portion of beans to use them for different dishes, then use only 3 tbsp of butter and 1 tsp of vinegar to bind the sauce for half the beans.

Braised Pork Shoulder

Ingredients

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 lb boneless pork shoulder
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 carrots, diced large
  • 1 onion, diced large
  • 1 leek, white part only, diced large
  • 6 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs, stems removed
  • 6 thyme sprigs, stems removed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the pork shoulder.
  3. Place a large cast-iron pot onto the stove over high heat. Add the olive oil and when it’s hot lower the pork shoulder into the pot. Sear on all sides including the ends. Remove the meat when fully seared and set aside on a plate.
  4. Add the carrots, onion, and leek and sauté for one minute. Lay the pork on the vegetables fatty side up along with the juices accumulated on the plate. Add the chicken stock until it comes up halfway the side of pork. Add the rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, and garlic. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar (or use a parchment paper lid), and place into a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven. Allow the pork to cook for 3.5 to 4 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to pull apart with two forks. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  6. Meanwhile, strain the braising liquid with a fine-meshed strainer and then return the pork to the braising liquid in the pot. Refrigerate overnight. This step is important because the pork will absorb some of the liquid as it rests overnight.
  7. Once ready to use, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and re-heat in some of the braising liquid.

* Recipe adapted from an article appearing in Men’s Journal.

The Magic Of Hidden Pond Resort

The moment we pulled onto Hidden Pond Lane in Kennebunkport, Maine we knew things were different. As we were winding down the birch and maple strewn lane we passed a Provisions store next to a lovely vegetable garden, then an open area with old-fashioned bicycles available to borrow on a whim, and finally the main lodge which had a storybook quality to it.

Of all the bungalows on the property we passed, we guessed the location of the main lodge as a result of of the vehicle parked in front. It was an old car, perfectly restored, with a surfboard on top and a sign painted on the back saying “Follow me to… Hidden Pond!” It felt as if you were to actually follow this car you would be transported to a different time and place, much as in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris.

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A Tasting of La Rioja Alta Wines at Clio in Boston

We haven’t done much cooking lately. We went to Boston on Tuesday for a big wine tasting at the Seaport World Trade Center. All our favorite importers were there, but two of our favorite reps were sadly absent. Ninety minutes is enough for any professional wine tasting, so off we went to the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge with our wine notes. Not our choice, but it was nice enough.

The next day we slogged through drizzling rain to attend a private luncheon at Ken Oringer’s Clio restaurant along with a library vintage tasting of La Rioja Alta wines. As soon as we walked in the door we noticed a film crew taking shots in the kitchen and in the dining room. We were then led through a maze to a private function room downstairs.

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October Musings

As we walked through the woods on a path at the Visitor Center in Eastham yesterday acorns dropping from the trees made themselves known.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

The forest floor was covered with a bed of green and brown acorns. We were quite happy to leave them for the squirrels this year and avoid the hard work of peeling them for acorn jelly as we did once in the past.

Acorn on a Post

Acorn at the Eastham Visitor’s Center Trail

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