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Archive for the ‘Guineafowl’ Category

Musing about how The Child eats jump-started my writing, especially after we began eating goat at home.  It was the first time we ate goat we prepared ourselves, and the first time we purchased meat directly from a farm.  A positive experience, we were encouraged to search for a regular meat-CSA to join.

Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a food distribution model wherein the consumer and the farmer share the risk and rewards of farming.  Typically a subscription, the consumer pledges a monthly rate for a share of what the farm produces each month.  While it is more common to find fruit and vegetable CSAs, the demand for meat and dairy is on the rise.  Consumers typically seek out CSA food in an attempt to eat local, support small-scale agriculture, or obtain organic products.  They may also supply a greater variety of products, as well as heirloom produce or heritage breeds.

Singing the praises of Godfrey Family Farms is long overdue.  We experimented and signed up for a monthly share at the start of the year.  Having no idea what to expect, we planned to re-evaluate after 6-months.  Honestly, I thought by June our freezer would be bursting, and it would prove to The Spouse that our family was not large enough to justify the 15 pounds of meat each month.  We do not have sufficient square footage for a deep freeze of our own.

But I was wrong.  I love it.

One Saturday morning each month, The Spouse drives to a Home Depot parking lot to fetch our share of the monthly meat.  It runs $100 for approximately 15 pounds of various cuts from various beasts, including fresh eggs.  Rose and Brian Godfrey are remarkable.  They write a blog to keep folks posted about happenings on the farm, and have a Facebook Fan Page as well.  They both have a way with words and wit.  Back in January, I read their post about geese including photos of Thanksgiving…

…looking through the fence at Christmas…

…and I knew these were my kind of people.

Our traditional Easter dinner is rabbit after all, and we call him Thumper.

As it turns out, we consume most of the share each month.  We even purchase extra;  several dozen more eggs, and additional chickens anytime they have them.  We are thrilled when some challenge of farm living means there are extra rabbits, ducks, or veal bones to be had.

The meat CSA has made a profound difference in our diet and our lives. From the very first shipment of duck eggs with a magical double yolk… to guilt-free pastured veal… and a variety of beasts… Yes, it is safe to say I am biased.

To counteract said bias, I will skip the compulsory review of pros (eating local, pastured, and small-scale), and head straight to the cons of any CSA.  But are they really cons?   Seem more like advantages to me.

You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. My daughter learned this in pre-K, and it is a rule many adults could stand to learn.  When you join most CSAs you do not typically get to place orders.  And if you do it ought be considered a lucky perk worthy of your undying gratitude, not setting an expectation.

We learned how to meal-plan based on what default produce arrived in a box on our doorstep, and this is really no different. So we have tried new things such as guinea fowl, water buffalo, and duck eggs.  Instead of shopping based on a plan, we plan based on the shopping.  One Saturday each month we gather around the cooler to see what Santa brought us while attempting play a game of freezer Tetris with the frozen blocks.

Please remember it is a farm people!  The animals and crops really do not care what your schedule is, much less your menu.  Sometimes the guinea fowl are too much trouble to raise again.  Sometimes the butcher goes on vacation and instead of pork you get glorious water buffalo from the neighbor’s farm.  Sometimes the momma animals turn out to be less than skilled mommas.   And sometimes the hams, sausages, and bacon come cured by someone else.  We have fallen in love with Rose’s recipes, the Italian sausage and brats in particular, and this is not a con for us.  But it may be for some folks.  If you are particular about what cuts, or which beasts, or what sizes you *need* to have, perhaps this isn’t the right purchasing model for you.

Eating nose to tail. A big part of eating sustainably is eating nose to tail. Philosophically, if you are going to show respect for the animal you are consuming, let nothing go to waste. Economically, if you learn to cook the stuff other people do not want, you will have a wide selection of cheap proteins from which to choose.

It was not our intention to pose the chicken as if it were dancing off stage left. *giggle*

I am confident someone is enjoying the extra bits. (Lucky #$%^&*@!)  And even though Godfrey chickens arrive intact from beak to toes, most of the regular shares do not include offal.  When a family of three buys 15 pounds of meat per month, it reduces our trips to the grocery store.  That puts a dent in how many times we pick up braunschweiger or headcheese for lunch, have calf’s liver for dinner, or discover we like new things like veal kidney chops.

I miss my butcher. Well, not a particular butcher per se.  We predominantly shop at Lunardi’s Market, since the Andronico’s near us went out of business (pout).  It is an average-sized traditional grocery store with a meat counter, and a veritable army of butchers.  They appreciate questions and are quick to ask someone if they don’t know the answer.   I have never been ignored or hustled along.  The Child always loves to visit them.  Since infancy, she has been accompanying one of us, helping to pick things out, watching all the action as the butchers break things down, and fascinated by the various meats hanging from the ceiling.

Approaching this calmly as a reality helped her develop comfort and understanding of what lands on her plate.  But we spend less time visiting the local butchers now that our freezer is packed to bursting once each month.

Maybe it is time to figure out where to put the deep-freeze after all?  The Spouse can park his car in the driveway, right?

Okay, maybe not.

Skillet Sausages

Cast iron skillet (optional)
Bratwurst, bockwurst or favorite sausages
Onions, sliced in half, then in half-rings
A favorite beer or hard cider

Brown the sausages and add the onions tucked in around the edges, i.e. don’t just layer them in on top.   Open up a favorite beer to enjoy and share with the skillet.  Every once in a while check to see that things aren’t sticking.  When they do, add some beer and use your tongs to scrape up the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

Skip the bun, serve with mustard and a side of sauerkraut or coleslaw… or both!

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Thanksgiving is a big deal for our family.  Celebrating is typically a three day affair, and the day after is officially French Onion Soup Day.  The carcass goes directly into a stockpot and bubbles away overnight while late night game-playing stretches into the wee hours of the morning.  Last November,  we roasted an extra dozen drumsticks in the oven in addition to the bird out on the grill.  Additional bones would just get added to the bubbling cauldron as guests steadily raided the fridge and consumed leftovers.  A visiting friend remarked, “Some people compost…  you make stock.”  Nothing goes to waste in this house.

Recently The Spouse went back to working some longer hours.  For a month or two, we shall revert to the old days of increased travel for him, and increased single parenting for me.  Back injury be damned, I am going to have to scrape together a meal or two and get in the habit of cooking again, so I practiced a little last week.

The Spouse had roasted a guineafowl earlier in the week, and as is our custom, filled up the stockpot with the carcass, fading veggies to help clear out the fridge, some peppercorns, and a bay leaf or two.  Whether you start with leftover bones, or some cheap cuts from the butcher, the basic technique is the same:  start with cold water, bring it up to a simmer slowly, and skim the scum off the top as it reaches a gentle boil.  Let it bubble away for a few hours, cool, strain, and transfer to the freezer or fridge.  A spare plastic container in the fridge can collect bits from the kitchen throughout the week to save for stock, and a weekend day serves as an excellent time to make a big batch.  In the fridge, all the fat will collect in a solidified layer on top which may be easily removed or used as you prefer.  You’ll know you got it right when it comes out of the fridge set up like gelatin.  If it’s still a liquid, don’t fret, you have likely made a very flavorful broth.  But for stock to be stock, it needs the connective tissue that only bones can provide.

The first night dinner was my responsibility, I actually planned ahead.  With seemingly nothing in the fridge for lunch I boiled half a package of farro, established we had at least one carrot which would not be rubbery by dinner time, checked the volume of meat The Spouse had picked from the carcass was sufficient for three bowls of soup, and confirmed we had a bag of frozen peas.  While I had a scoop of farro with microwaved marinara for lunch, I knew soup for dinner was all set to assemble.

I remember big giant pots of soup as a kid.  Often my dad would freeze a bunch to thaw for quick supper on a cold day, but sometimes we would be having soup all week.  It was great the first two nights, but by the end of the week we were all poking around the fridge seeking alternative leftovers.  I think that’s why to this day I prefer drop dumplings to noodles in my chicken soup (the noodles are all mushy by the end of the week), and why I have never been compelled to make split pea soup at home, even though my Grandma’s recipe is fabulous.  Instead of freezing soup or eating leftover soup all week, we are more likely to freeze the stock if need be and only prepare small batches of soup at a time.

My first night re-entering the Mom’s-responsible-for-dinner world, I failed and overdid it during the day.  But at least I could greet The Spouse with a game plan when he walked in the door to no dinner and a wife laying on the couch.  So a chopped carrot was sauteed with some onion in a medium saucepan.  Stock was poured in on top of the veg.  When brought to a simmer, some frozen peas were added, the burner switched off, and The Child called to dinner within a few minutes of starting.  Leftover ginueafowl and cooked farro were portioned into individual bowls and the hot broth and vegetables were poured over top.  Served with some fresh sliced garlic bread to dip and Parmesan grated over top, it was a perfect spring meal.  Obviously this works for the more typical roasted chicken as well, but the key is to not boil the already roasted bits of bird all over again.  No one likes stringy bits of tough or flavorless meat floating around in their soup – no matter how flavorful the broth.

The next night I was flying without a net, as he was out of town and not just working late.  To be honest, I considered having the same sort of soup again, but winced knowing The Child would whine at repetition just like I used to.  I considered using up the last of my sweet potatoes for soup too, but it seemed too warm and springy outside for such a hearty main course.  So instead I went pseudo-Asian.  The bag of frozen wontons from Trader Joe’s said, “Boil your favorite vegetable or chicken broth, add FROZEN wontons to soup for the last 1 -2 minutes.”  Really?  I can do that!

“Hey kid!  Do you want frozen peas or frozen edamame in your soup tonight?”  Giving a kid a say in what is for dinner does not have to mean sacrificing variety for the sake of a box of mac ‘n’ cheese.  Back with she was little, this question might have gotten a negative response to both options.  “It’s very simple.  You pick, or I will pick for you.”  The Child would never abdicate the ability to have a say, and it was then more likely she would try it with less protest.

We often use canning jars in lieu of plastic containers in the refrigerator, running the lids and rings through the dishwasher until the lids look like they need replacing. A simple funnel helps pour the goods into the jars.

Easy Wonton Soup

In the time it took me to heat a jar of our homemade stock on the stove, the ginger was grated and the scallions chopped.  A smidge of miso and a splash each of soy sauce and mirin were added to each individual bowl.

When the stock came to a boil, I added wontons, set the timer for 2 minutes, and scarfed a titch of boiling stock to dissolve the miso paste in each bowl.  Dividing the ginger, scallions, and a handful of frozen Trader Joe’s Soycutash directly from the bag, each bowl was then topped off with boiling stock and wontons.

Dinner was great!  And I’m happy to report that it was exactly 15 minutes from opening the freezer and finding the wontons to sitting down to dinner – – including the time it took me to take a few photos.

While The Child scarfed dinner and posed for a photo I asked her for the first time why she thinks she eats so well.  She paused, wonton poised in her chopsticks over her bowl, and said, “Cuz you guys make me try stuff and cuz Daddy cooks so well.”

“Hey, isn’t this soup good?  I made this!”

She shrugged, “Yeah, it’s awesome.  But it’s because Daddy roasted such a tasty bird.”

She’s got me there.

Invest in making your own stock.  It will pull together even store-bought ingredients into something quick and tasty.  Make small batches or individual bowls of soup to avoid repetition with your kids.  And then ask them targeted questions about what choose to have in it.  With any luck they may even even try it.

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We received a subscription to Cooking Light as a wedding present.  That was, um…  nearly nine years ago.  (Yes, that’s right.  There are women who forget these things too.)  It was regular monthly reading for quite a while, but somewhere along the way they lost my interest.  I think as I learned more about cooking, nutrition, and food science I saw their premise of substituting ingredients with more diet-like ones either misinformed or misleading.  Foundational ingredients often were vilified and replaced with imposters.  Cooking at our house became more about variety, controlling portion size, and total calorie count.  As we reverted back to basic ingredients, our Cooking Light subscription became increasingly less relevant.  Most months I would flip through it, find a smattering of nifty ideas, and question why I had renewed yet again.

Hopefully the April issue has heralded a change.  I picked it up over the weekend and read it cover to cover.  It was full of content mirroring our approach to food:  Eat everything and anything in moderation, with an array of ingredients and portion being the measure of how healthy a meal is.  It was remarkable to find the magazine now has a refreshingly new outlook:  healthy frying encouraged, meat and eggs and dairy no longer condemned, and using fats and proteins to make vegetables more satisfying.

The cover story debunking Nutrition Myths (p.134) was refreshingly full of real information rather than pandering to what editors think dieting readers expect to see.  A little real sugar can go a long way in the kitchen.  Consuming eggs will not increase your blood cholesterol.  Some saturated fats are actually good for us.  Moderate intake of any type of alcohol (1-2 drinks per day) reduces the risk of heart disease, as those benefits are no longer limited to red wine.  Stop wasting money on fiber-fortified foods, and leave the skin on your chicken while you are at it because it is actually good for you.  Enjoy frying food at home, since with the right method it isn’t all that fattening.  The list goes on…

The piece on Rethinking Protein (p.52) refutes the misconception that protein should ideally be from particular sources.  It rejects that by defining some proteins as good the others by default are designated as bad.  There is an unique nutrition profile attached to each protein source, be it plant or animal.  The article suggests selecting appropriate portions from a larger pool of protein choices, including those which have become healthy-diet taboo.  In our house we have the conventional beef, pork and chicken.  But we also eat lamb, pasture-raised veal, fish, turkey, rabbit, duck, goose, goat, and lots of eggs.  Since joining a meat CSA (community supported agriculture) in January, we’ve tried water buffalo, guineafowl, and duck eggs.  We sprinkle nuts on yogurt and cereal, mix beans or edamame into pasta salad, add tofu to Adulterated Ramen, and drink lots and lots of milk.  It’s certainly not boring.  According to Cooking Light we humans need 0.45 grams of protein per pound of body weight, and it doesn’t take much to hit that target.  Which means most of us can stop worrying and supplementing because we are getting enough.

Roast guineafowl and pork sausage stuffing

Reading this gave me hope that the protein bar craze will soon go the way of the bottled-water-is-better-for-you dodo.  And with any luck all the snake-oil protein powder and shakes out there too.  Desperate parents are spending a lot of money offering this stuff to kids out of fear and concern rather than knowledge.  “As long as you’re eating a variety of protein-filled foods throughout the day, your body will get all the amino-acids it needs to run at full capacity.”  The article provides information on sources, amounts, and suggestions which should reassure picky eaters, vegetarians, and meat lovers alike.  If you are still concerned, check with your pediatrician and trust their guidance.

Obviously some people are going to have specific dietary restrictions from their doctors, but for the vast majority of us, portion size and variety ought be the focus of our cooking and eating decisions.  Rethinking all the limitations we have been taught to place around ‘healthy eating’ opens up a wide range of ingredients to keep fit while eating for taste and satisfaction too.  The article served as a reminder for our family to work more fish and seafood into our repertoire.  We used to go out for sushi quite regularly, but lifestyle changes have limited that, and we were not compensating by buying more fish to eat at home.  So my personal takeaway has been added emphasis reintroducing a diversity of fish and seafood back into our diets.

Much of the content in Cooking Light is available for a limited time on their website – but I hesitate to direct anyone there as it is poorly designed and a pain to slog through their format.  So go pick up a copy of the April 2010 issue before it is gone from newsstands.  This magazine doesn’t take itself too seriously (there is a regular Beauty segment for Pete’s sake!), but every recipe includes detailed nutritional information, and often includes suggestions on gluten-free adaptations.  Even for a serious foodie who knows much of this content already, I venture to say everyone will be inspired by some aspect of this issue.  The subscription was an excellent wedding gift, and much like The Spouse as it turns out, worth sticking with for a while yet.

What follows is a basic recipe for guineafowl out of a classic book on English cooking.  I’ve transcribed it here because it’s just so nifty to read.  Our preparation left out the port, watercress, parsley, and garlic.  And instead of the few breadcrumbs used a whole lot of torn up leftover Garlic Bread from the Grace Baking Co.  We have a standing order on fresh bread from spud! and were behind on our bread consumption.  We adapted for a single bird without giblets and used fresh pork sausage from our CSA.  The overflow stuffing was baked in a casserole dish alongside the bird but was finished cooking well before the bird was done, so keep an eye on it.

Roast Guineafowl
From Jane Grigson’s English Food

2 fine guineafowl, 750g-1kilo (1½ -2 lb) each
6 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon, or 6 strips of pork back fat
Seasoned flour
1 glass port
300 ml (½ pt) stock made from the giblets, or from chicken giblets
1 bunch watercress

Stuffing
125 g (4 oz) good sausages
1 heaped tablespoon breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon port
1 heaped tablespoon chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt, pepper to taste

First make the stuffing.  Remove the skins from the sausages and discard them (it is important to use a high-quality, meaty sausage, for instance genuine Cumberland sausages).  Mix with the remaining stuffing ingredients and divide between the two birds – if the birds are sold complete with their livers, chop them up and add them to the mixture, but be sure to remove any bitter greenish parts first.

Put the bacon or pork fat across the breasts of the birds – or, better still, lard them with fat strips of pork and protect them with butter papers.  Place them on the rack of a roasting pan and put them into a hot oven, at mark 7, 220°C (425°F).  After 15 minutes, lower the heat to mark 6, 200°C (400°F), and leave them for 30 minutes.  Take the guineafowl from the oven, remove the bacon or paper and sprinkle them with seasoned flour.  Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until cooked and browned.  Place the birds on a serving dish and keep them warm.  Pour the port into the roasting pan juices, boil them up for a couple of minutes, scraping in all the nice brown bits that have stuck to the pan.  Add the stock and boil down until you have a small amount of strongly flavoured gravy.  Pour round the birds, and garnish the dish with watercress.

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