Thursday, July 3, 2008

CSA Week 3: Pt. 2

CSA Week 3 Haul. All photos June, 2008. All photos Jenonymous/Group News Blog.
Click on any photo for LARGE.

This one's a Biggie, Folks…

Okay, so I'm a day late…I realize this and gave Jesse the heads-up. Basically, shit is hitting the fan at work so on top of everything else, I had to do double duty while keeping my own act together on the homefront.

Now I'm in a better place and I can write. My office shut down at 2ish and turned off the AC for the weekend. I worked until almost 7. It's Wednesday night, and I'm going into a 4-day weekend. A glorious four-day weekend, with an added bonus—I finally gave in to the Great Satan and opted in to Amazon Prime, which meant that I was able to get a Zboard Gaming Keyboard and the matching Age of Conan overlay delivered overnight on a whim. I keep hoping that they'll make a Hellgate London overlay, but I digress. I schlepped that home today, along with a 6-pack of mixed wine that I had ordered over a month ago, home from the office via a taxi in rush hour today. Of course, I got a cab that hadn't done the credit-card conversion kit yet, but I was so zonked I didn't care and didn't even get my receipt so I could report his law-non-abiding ass. Got home so tired that my two options were to change into comfy clothing and get food OUTSIDE of the apartment or sleep immediately. I opted for the former, so now I'm sucking the remains of chuletas con chipotle out of my teeth and recovering from two mojitos and a fancy cocktail. I feel much better now. Having said that, I will probably spend the next four days playing Age of Conan, leveling up my character in Hellgate London, and dozing in a Xanax-and-Merlot-induced sleep. I need it.

Oh, yeah, this is a post about my CSA exploits. Well, as I said in the subject line, this past week was a BIGGIE. Last Tuesday I took possession of my usual share, which consisted of:

  • 4 local Honeycrisp apples (and they really are crisp and smell like honey)
  • Snow Peas
  • 2 helpings of Strawberries (a quart for the fruit share and a pint for the veg share)
  • Two big bunches of lavender, each one slightly thinner than my wrist (one for the veg share and one for the herb share)
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Sorrell (part of herb share)
  • Purple Swiss Chard
AND this was the week that my first "optional ala carte" orders of other Stuff from the Farmers came in. I also got:
  • A dozen super humane organic free-range no-cage eggs from chickens that were fed from hand-made feed, who also went to Harvard and got massages.
  • Honey, from bees that live in a condo and can program Cobol apparently.
  • Liver from an Angus grassfed cow. (It came frozen along with the mutton.)
  • 3 lbs. (!!!) of very very lean organic happy mutton. (The order page said it came in packs between .75 and 1.5 lbs and I ordered two packs with the stipulation that they be bigger rather than smaller so that's what I got.)
  • A raw sheepmilk cheese not unlike Baby Swiss or Ementhaller.
  • A raw cow's milk cheese like a soft cheese/almost like cheddar or Monterey Jack.
See the picture for the deets… as you can see I had quite a haul on top of my usual share.

First thing I did was tie up the lavender and hang it over my sink (see pic also.) Then I did the wash/dry/store routine for the greens.

CSA Week 3 Lavender hanging over sink. June, 2008. photo Jenonymous.I also then cooked down the Swiss Chard very quickly, using only a little oil and finishing it with a splash of herb vinegar from Week 1, with just a touch of salt and pepper. EXCELLENT, especially with a fresh fried egg on top of a helping and some whole-wheat flatbread on the side to sop up the juice.

Then I took some of the lavender and made a jar of lavender vinegar (which is now truly a deep purple color) and a very small experimental jar of lavender vodka, which turned out to be most spectacular a week later when consumed with fresh grapefruit juice. For a killer Salty Dog (grapefruit juice, vodka, salt the rim) use this.

Then there was the issue as to what to do with the sorrel, aka soursop. Every person with relatives from West of Beijing, North of Cairo, and South of the North Pole knows about schav, a deep green sour soup made with sorrel. I didn't want to use it for that, but even the CSA staff and all 3 of my Greenmarket cookbooks (!!!) only had soup variations for this ingredient.

CSA Week 3 Chard. June, 2008. photo Jenonymous.The Intertubes told me that it was a sour herb and (more importantly) safe to eat raw, so I did. I used it as part of a tossed salad that night—sorrell, romaine, snow peas, the last of the sugar snaps from last week, topped with two very fresh-boiled organic super-happy-chicken-eggs. I dressed it with a fast dressing of red wine vinegar, a bit of honey, a bit of olive oil, a dab of mayo, salt, and pepper. I'll note that the olive oil that I used was the very heavy green "eating and dipping" type, not the thinner "cooking type" which I also have. The sweetness of the honey put just enough of a dent in the sourness of the sorrel to make the whole thing work.

Otherwise I munched down my backlog of greens during the week. In addition to eggs for protein, it turns out that my local supermarkets—both of them—have started carrying very affordable, VERY good canned smoked sprats from Latvia which are just magic on top of mixed greens.

The real star of this week's show, though, was the wonderful, authentic Navajo Bowl of Green Mutton Chili, recipe courtesy of our own Minstrel Boy. I had to make some modifications, so I hereby present his original with my notes. I made this last Friday—the mutton came frozen, so I defrosted it Thursday and cooked it after staying at work too late again on Friday.

Da Original:

Minstrel Boy's Navajo Green Chili and Frybread

1 1/2 pounds lean mutton, venison or elk, diced into 1/2 cubes

* 2 cups chicken broth
* 1 cup green chile sauce (las palmas is the best)
* 2 cups tomatillos, husks removed and coarsely chopped
* 2 roasted green chiles, seeded and diced (Anaheim or Poblano work well)
* 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and diced
* 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar (very optional i leave it out most of the time)
* 3 tablespoons oil
* 2 cups drinking water (i love it when a grandmother's recipe specifies something most folks aren't used to thinking about. on the rez there were several different grades of water)
* can of good beer (or red wine, or sherry)

in the bottom of a heavy pan brown the meat in a bit of oil, over high flame.

remove the meat and use the beer or other liquor to deglaze the bottom of the pan. add everything else in and simmer, covered, for at least 3 hours. for the absolute best, after three hours, remove from heat and refrigerate over night. then simmer two more hours before serving.

for a killer fry bread, use the recipe on a bisquick box for dumplings, but flatten it out into discs with your hands and deepfry until golden brown.

aal aal a'ahliiza!

(come and get it!)

Here's how I adapted it:

First off, I doubled most items as I had 3 lbs. of mutton.

Secondly, I wasn't sure what he meant by "green chili sauce" as I couldn't find an exact match at my local small Food Fair (I didn't want to hike down to Steinway to the huge C-Town which no doubt would have had the exact brand). So, I got a 16-oz jar of Mexican-made green "chili salsa" as they called it ("medium hot") and for good measure bought an 8-oz bottle of hot-as-Hell Mexican green hot sauce (of which I only used half the bottle. So, for a double recipe, 16 oz of green salsa-ey stuff and 4 oz of liquid green fire. Still with me?)

I used one 16-oz can of Heinekin for the deglazing, and also used more oil to brown the mutton initially as it truly had no fat on it. Lastly, I didn't need to add the water, and only used one can of chicken soup, not two, as there was way too much liquid already. Also, I eyeballed the tomatillas and probably used more than just double. They were REALLY fresh and of all different sizes and figured they would all just cook down. Also, I did use the sugar.

Prep note: I fire-roasted the poblanos myself over my gas stove and didn't bother to skin them; I love the charred flavor. Also, I used the food processor for the chilies, onions, and garlic—but left the tomatillas in chunks.

After browning JUST the meat, as per instructions, I just dumped in everything else. And let it cook. And cook. And cook. Covered. I stirred it religiously every 10-15 minutes. For four hours. For the last two hours, I took the cover off and let it boil down—again with stirring—for another two hours. Then I put the lid on and let it cool for an hour so that I could put my heavy red pot in the fridge without totally fucking the compressor on my ancient, cheaply-made fridge.

That night, before going to bed, I put up to soak half of a 1-lb. bag of real-deal Goya white hominy corn. I've had hominy from a can—my Texan stepfather introduced it to our Viking Ashkenazi household—but we never made it from scratch.

After a good night's sleep, I had to try the chili. Even cold, it was AMAZING. So I decided to do it justice by eating it with hominy. This is where I really cheated.

Dirty secret, folks: If you soak hominy overnight and then drain it and rinse it HARD twice, you can dump the whole mess in your rice cooker, add one to two thumb-joints of water, set it to the brown rice setting, and FORGET ABOUT IT. It took my Zojirushi Rice Spaceship about two and half hours to figure it all out, but at the end of the process, I got perfect, almost milky-creamy and yet still chewy hominy, shining like opals and pearls steaming in the cooker bowl.

I had hot hominy with the chili dumped on it for a spectacular brunch. I had strawberries for dessert. That night, I had ANOTHER bowl of chili with hominy, this time with some of the milder cow's-milk cheese grated over it. WOW.

It made a HUGE batch. I have two meals' worth still in the fridge; the rest has been frozen in portions. At least one of these is for a co-worker of mine—one of my few office-buddies—who is from Cheyenne originally. When I told him I was making REAL Navajo Green, he immediately asked for some. When I told him that I wouldn't be making frybread (how could I bring HOT frybread to the office?) he pouted like a little boy who got the wrong color Power Ranger for Xmas. I may have to bring him a stack of the locally-made fresh tortillas to mollify him.

Minstrel Boy
THANK YOU again for sharing this great piece of your heritage with me and all of us.

More next week! Hope you like the pictures.