Sunday, April 18, 2010

WILD Ramps.....

I bought my first bunch of ramps roughly two years ago, and at the time I literally had no idea what they were. While I am not usually in the habit of following the crowd, when I saw the long line of hungry, feverish eyes, I obediently joined the end of the queue; I was pretty upset that they were keeping a secret from me, and I was intent on getting to the bottom of it. The link above provides an in-depth description, but basically they are wild leeks, with a flavor reminiscent of a garlic/onion cross. Second coming of the lord they are not, but they are certainly worth the often sizable line required to obtain them. Local, seasonal, and delicious, they can be prepared in a number of ways. Since they became available about three weeks ago, I've had them in omelets, pesto, and  grilled in all their naked glory, but this week I decided to slip them into a potato-leek recipe for one of the last chilly days of spring.

The below is quite easy, and relatively quick, I served it along side some grilled cheese sandwiches with some fresh heirloom tomatoes.

Ingredients (serves 4):
4c chopped ramps (2-3 bunches)
4c chopped potatoes (I used 1/2 la ratte and 1/2 la rouge)
4c chicken broth
1/2 a medium onion (diced)
8 oysters
2 garlic cloves (minced)
white vinegar (preferably champagne)
Salt & Pepper

Peel and chop the potatoes, and then throw them in a pot of salted water to rest as you prepare the other ingredients. Clean and chop the ramps, basically you are just removing the roots and dirt, you are going to want to use the entire ramp in this recipe. Heat a few tbsp's of butter, or duck
fat if you have it, in a heavy bottomed pan and add the garlic, onions, and ramps. Sweat the veggies for a few minutes, but stir occasionally to assure that they don't brown. Now drain and add the potatoes, cooking for an additional 8-10 minutes, all the while watching to make sure they don't brown.
Add the chicken broth, and bring the entire thing to a low simmer, cooking until the potatoes
are finished through, approx 30 minutes. Now add the ingredients to a blender, or food processor and liquefy, emptying into a clean pot. Return to a simmer, adding the vinegar, salt and pepper a little bit at a time, to achieve the appropriate flavor....tasting things as you cook should be mandatory.

Now you want to shuck the oysters, a task that may not prove that easy at first, adding two raw oysters, and the liquor (oyster liquid) to the bottom of the bowl. Ladle the hot soup on top, and add just a dash of cream or creme fraiche. Serve.
All ingredients were sourced from within 100 miles, excluding the organic broth, and sustainably farmed oysters.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Buttermilk Fried Chicken...

It’s slightly before seven on Tuesday morning, and as I awake in the scalding hot shower, I run through my prior evening, write a number of emails in my head, and try to recall what clean clothes I still have hanging in my closet. I don’t actually mind my job, in fact some days, I even enjoy it; but I do resent the fact that it monopolizes my time and keeps my OCD personality in check. Since sometime around noon on Monday, I’ve been thinking about, dreaming about, bloody obsessing over buttermilk fried chicken. I can practically taste it, close my eyes and I’m literally in the farmers market, although teasingly my brain can smell the heirloom tomatoes that won’t be ready for months. Three more days chicken, three more days and you're mine….
....and in Keller we trust. It's D-day, and when I dip that overpriced, grain-fed, free range chicken into some hot oil, I'll need some direction. Without a grandmother from Savannah, I turn to my favorite chef, and not because he makes the occasional TV appearance, but because his books are ridiculously reliable, easy to follow, and make me look like a better cook than I actually am. This recipe from ad hoc at home, is actually posted elsewhere in efforts to advertise the book itself, so I have few qualms about posting it here. I've scaled it down to serve two, but that was a bit of a selfish decision. If you love someone, anyone, you should serve them this, and as long as it isn't the camel that breaks this coronary challenged, heavyset nations back, they will thank you...that I promise.

I started with a 4lb chicken, the recipe suggests a 2 1/2 to 3lb bird, but this appeared more difficult to procure than I originally imagined. Cut into 8 pieces, I saved both breasts and used the wings, legs, and thighs for today's delight. First letting them rest in the brine for about 12 hours, the last two at room temperature.

Chicken Brine (~2 lbs. of chicken)

1 lemon
5 bay leaves
few sprigs parsley
few sprigs thyme
5 tsp honey
couple cloves of garlic
2 tsp black peppercorns
2 oz salt
water to cover the chicken pieces.

Bring the brine to a boil, for one minute, and then chill before submersing the chicken pieces. Brine can be made up to 3 days prior.

Hours later....removing the chicken from the brine, I rinse and pat dry before resting on a rack over parchment paper, as at least 2 inches of oil heats in my dutch oven....I recommend a thermometer, a stable oil temp was difficult to achieve during my first fryer attempt.

I prepared three bowls, the coating split between bowls one and three and a cup to a cup and a half of buttermilk in the second.

1 cup all purpose flour
2.5 tsp garlic powder
2.5 tsp onion powder
1/4 tbsp paprika
1/4 tbsp cayenne
1/4 tbsp kosher salt
pinch of ground black pepper

The oil is finally sitting at a nice, stable, 320F and its time for the thighs and legs to go swimming. Running each piece through the first bowl of coating, then the buttermilk,
then the last bowl before gently dropping them into the oil. After about two minutes I turned the pieces and let them fry for about another 10-12 until they were a nice golden brown. Then jacked up the heat to 340F for the wings (good temp for breasts too.) The wings took about 6-8 minutes, breasts a little longer. I kept the pieces on a drying rack over a sheet pan in the oven at about 350F to maintain the temp while I fried the wings, and prepared a salad.

The salad, a perfect contrast to the fried chicken was comprised of a spicy mesclun mix from union green market, sliced apples, some homemade croutons, and a bit of roaring forties blue cheese tossed in a light vinaigrette.

....I ate this yesterday, followed it with a number of martinis, and still recall it in vivid detail, it's that good....