Black Pudding Stew and Bannocks

 

January is a big month for those of us with Scottish heritage. We start the month off with the celebration of Hogmany or Scottish New Year. This tradition comes from the intermixing between the Norse and the Scottish in Scotland. The 12 Days of Christmas, actually comes from the original 12 days of Yule , and Hogmany is the end of that celebratory time, as the new Gregorian year was rung in.

Then January 25th is Burn’s Night when Scots and those of Scottish ancestry the world over celebrate the life and poetry of Robert Burns by celebrating Burns Night and hosting a Burns Supper. I hosted my first proper Burns Supper in a long time last year and plan to do it again this year.

So in the meantime I would like to share with you this dish inspired by one of my favorite foods that I don’t get a chance to eat very often- black pudding, or blood pudding/sausage. I know a lot of you are probably gagging right now. But blood pudding is truly a sacred food. As the name implies it is made from the blood of a slaughtered animal. Usually sheep, sometimes pigs but it can also be made from cattle, duck and goat. This food really exemplifies nose to tail eating and as a farmer, I believe in using the entire animal, and that includes its blood. I have not had a chance to make it yet, but I do plan to in the future.

I must admit, the first time I had black pudding, I didn’t know what it was. I think that helped my taste buds truly enjoy it without thinking that I was supposed to think it was gross. I am so glad no one told me and just let me enjoy it.

The making of blood sausage is common the world over and can be found in nearly every culture. Generally it is made of the blood, some kind of fat and fillers depending on the culture – in France it is known as Boudin Noir, made with chestnut flour and cream, it was made on the Navajo reservation where I lived, prepared by the women with blue cornmeal, in Norway I ate Blodpølse as part of Christmas Eve traditional fare where it is served with other cured meats and Rømmegrøt. So although it might not be very popular in certain places and have a high “yuck” factor among many, it is part of the traditional diet of probably all of our ancestors and to be respected.

Last year when I ordered my Haggis from Scottish Gourmet USA for our Burns Supper, I also bought some of their black pudding or Marag Dubh. It can be eaten fried up for breakfast and served with eggs, or used in dishes, like this stew I made with beans and mushrooms, creating a wonderfully flavorful dish with a certain je ne sais quoi coming from the addition of the black pudding. It is just like anchovies in Italian Puttanesca sauce, if you don’t tell people it is in there, they will love it, licking their dish, while swearing how much they hate anchovies.

I served the stew with another traditional Scottish favorite, gluten free Oat Bannocks to sop up all the delicious sauce.

Open your mind and be adventurous this new year! Join us for a Burns Night celebration and try some black pudding!

Black Pudding Stew

INGREDIENTS:

2 TBS of butter
2 slices of bacon
¼ large onion diced
1 clove garlic
½ cup re-constituted dried mushrooms (save the water)
½ lb black pudding, crumbled
¼ cup red wine
½ cup mushroom water
1 TBS Flowers of Scotland
¾ lb Christmas Limas, cooked
1 cooked potato diced

METHOD:

Be sure to cook your potato and beans ahead of time. Melt the butter in a hot skillet (preferably cast iron). Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook with the onion, garlic, mushrooms and black pudding. Once the bacon is browned and the onions soft, add the wine, mushroom water and cooked beans. Simmer on low for 25 minutes over low heat, covered. Take off lid and add the flowers of Scotland and cubed potatoes. Reduce liquid until the stew is nice and thick. Serve with bannocks. Serves 4.

Bannocks

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup GF oat flour
½ cup coconut flour
¼ cup tapioca flour/starch
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup of yogurt/kefir/buttermilk
1 egg
2 tsp baking powder

METHOD:

Mix first 5 ingredients together and allow to sit on the countertop for 8 hours, or overnight. Next day place it in a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients, pulsing until the dough is nice and crumbly. Preheat oven to 400F.
On a floured surface press dough into an eight-inch circle about ¾ inch thick. Bake at 400F for 12- 15 minutes. Serves 6-8.

Drying Apples for Winter Storage

Fall is certainly apple season. One of the ways I like to celebrate my favorite season, autumn is by picking apples and pumpkins. I know here in Northern Vermont, apple picking season is pretty much over, but for all of you in slightly warmer climates, you probably have abundance all around you right now.

I must admit, as I have before on this blog, that I have never been a huge fan of apples. I am not sure why. But I think maybe they are just too sugary sweet for my taste buds. Over the past few years, I have learned to really enjoy whole, fresh apples in savory applications like this Apple Chard Cheddar Tart, which we love making at this time of year, when all the ingredients are still in season, or how about a new take on pulled pork with an Apple Barbeque Sauce? I have another fresh apple recipe I will be sharing with you soon.

I also have come to really love dried apples. In fact, this is my favorite way to enjoy apples. I first made Roasted Pork Chops and Cherry Sauce with Wine Kraut and Red Cabbage last year for our Yule celebration, and this combination of roasted pork, cabbage and slices of dried apple have become a favorite meal of ours this fall season.

Generally, I just sear the chops in coconut oil, butter or bacon fat, and then put them in my tagine. Then I dump shredded cabbage, maybe some homemade sauerkraut, sliced onion and minced garlic and some strips of dried apple. I season this all with salt and pepper, some coriander and raw apple cider vinegar. I put it in the oven at 350 F, for about 2 hours. If you don’t have a tagine, you could use a Dutch oven. It is simple, yet super delicious and flavorful.

So as you can see, there are a lot of savory applications for apples. Since we use them now, I thought about drying some for use over the winter. Drying apples at home for winter storage is really easy. You don’t need any special equipment and all it takes is time.

We harvested about 12 lbs. of apples. I saved about a dozen for eating, and used the rest to make dried apples. I cut the apples in thin, round slices. Then I laid them out on cookie trays, being sure to give them space. When you oven dry fruit or veggies it is important they don’t touch. This helps them to dry better and more evenly.

The first batch I did at 200 F for about 2-3 hours. They didn’t really feel dry enough, so I put them in mason jars and stored them in the fridge for later use. For the second batch, I did about 3 hours. I wasn’t sure they were dry enough either, so I put them on a plate on my kitchen counter and covered them with a kitchen towel. I mixed them with my hands every day, and then put the towel back over them until they felt really dry – about a week. Use your own judgment here. If you have eaten dried apples before, you know what they are supposed to feel like, leathery and a bit sticky from the caramelized sugar.

I made about 4 trays of dried apples, which equates to about 6-7 pints.

We are really hoping to revitalize the apple trees we have here on the homestead, and maybe add a few more trees next year. I am really excited at trying my hand at hard cider and making my own raw apple cider vinegar. Dried apples also make a great DIY handmade holiday gift for the foodies in your life. In fact some of my loved ones may receive some in one form or another this year. That is, if I don’t eat them all myself, first!

Sometimes if I have a craving for something sweet, I reach for a slice of dried apple. Its concentrated sweetness kicks the craving, and all I need is one!

 

Equipment for Drying Apples at home:

*An oven set at 200 F
*Cookie sheets covered with parchment paper (makes it easier to remove the apples, the sugar tends to caramelize and stick to a naked tray)
*Plate and kitchen towel for extra air drying time
*Mason jars for storage

Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Parfaits

 

Today I am really excited to share with you this perfect autumn dessert that I was inspired to create for a dinner party recently. It features preserved fruits and is sweetened with maple. This cute dessert is perfect to take with you to any upcoming holiday celebration, whether you are celebrating Autumn, Harvest Season, Halloween, Samhain, Thanksgiving, etc.

Made in small mason jars, not only is this dessert rustic chic, but highly portable! Just screw the lid on and you are good to go! It is also a great dessert for groups since it is allergen friendly, as it is dairy, egg, refined sugar and gluten free. If you experiment by using agar-agar, it is also vegetarian and vegan friendly. You can also play with the flavors by using different sweeteners, like raw honey or stevia and by using different spices and various types of preserved fruit. If you don’t have preserved fruit, a small layer of homemade jam would be perfect, or how about some sweetened pumpkin puree and topped with crumbled candied nuts?

The most important thing about this dessert is that it tastes delicious, it is luscious, creamy and dreamy, not too sweet but easily satisfying those with a sweet tooth and you can play so much with the basic recipe to make it your own. It is so versatile that you can make it for more than one celebration by making it several different ways! So whip some up today and enjoy this beautiful harvest season!

INGREDIENTS:

2 ½ cups canned coconut milk (regular, not lite) – I use Native Harvest because they have BPA-free cans
¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp of cinnamon or crushed cardamom (or a combination!)
¼ cup water
1 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 pint of preserved fruit – I used plums from last year’s larder
2 or 3 gluten free cookies – I used some leftover pfeffernusse shortbread (use nuts to make the dessert grain free)

METHOD:

Pour the coconut milk into a small pan and heat on the lowest setting until small bubbles form on the edges of the pan. In the meantime, in a small bowl pour a quarter cup of water and add the gelatin, whisking briskly until thoroughly combined. Set aside until the coconut milk has started to bubble, add maple syrup, vanilla extract and spices to the coconut milk once it has started to bubble slightly.

Remove the coconut mixture from the heat and add a quarter cup of it to the gelatin whisking briskly to incorporate, making sure there are no lumps. Add this back to the pan with the rest of the coconut milk, whisk to combine and then remove pan from heat.

Using ½ pint mason jars, place some preserved fruit on the bottom of the jar, then cover with some of the coconut milk mixture. You will be doing this layering one more time, so make sure to save enough. I just eyeballed it. Put the rest of the coconut milk mixture back on the stove on the lowest heat possible. You want to make sure that it doesn’t cool all the way and start to congeal, so using a whisk stir once in a while.

Put the mason jars in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes, until softly set. Remove from freezer and let the jars come to room temperature (ish). You want to make sure that you aren’t adding hot liquid to frozen glass, as this will cause the glass to break. Then add another layer of preserved fruit, and then the rest of the coconut milk mixture, add another layer of preserved fruit and then crush some cookies on top and put in the fridge for about 2 hours until top layer sets. Keep in the refrigerator until it is time to serve. Serves 6

GoodBye Irene…Hello Autumn

 

It has been a very humbling few days for us, here,  in the wake of tropical storm Irene. We have been reminded once again that Mother Nature is a powerful force and once she gets rolling, no one, no human, no machines, no technology can stop her. Living in Vermont, we have been getting a lot of heartfelt and concerned messages about how we weathered the storm, and I am happy to say that we were extremely lucky and are all OK.

The animals, homestead, buildings, and even the garden came out of the storm with no damage. We are very grateful to have been spared and at the same time feeling devastated  for our fellow Vermonters who were not as fortunate. It broke my heart watching videos of  Irene’s  devastation in Wilmington, a town we lived very close to 5 years ago – the river rose so fast and most of the town was left underwater. One woman was even swept away by the rising waters while her boyfriend could do nothing but watch.

I got a message from my best friend Liz, who weathered Irene in NYC, she was feeling really sad about Vermont when she heard about all the terrible flooding here. Through her visits to see us, she has come to know Vermont as a friendly yet hard-working place, full of mom and pop stores where people talk to you like you are a human being with smiles on their faces. Yes, that is Vermont, and because this way of being is so akin to the people that live here, it means that those in need aren’t going to have to look very hard for a helping hand.

I have to say though, as Irene was bearing down on us, and state officials were telling us to prepare for the worst, I was so thankful for all the canning and preserving I had done throughout the summer. I was thankful to the garden, and to the chickens, both for eggs and meat. This is the first time we actually really NEEDED to be prepared for something major, and it was nice not having to worry about that, on top of all our other preparations.

I was also thankful for social media – through facebook and twitter (amazingly we did not lose power!) I was able to keep tabs on the storm and what was happening in our local area. We heard about evacuations in nearby towns at midnight yesterday morning – and learned about a website where we can see all the road closures in the state. Vermont Transportation Agency officials stated that every major road across the state has some kind of damage, and many town roads are facing much worse.

So on that note, as Autumn is starting to make itself known here in the North Country, I am going to be taking a bit of a break from blogging during the month of September. There is a lot going on and life is sort of taking over at the moment, which right now is definitely a good thing. Especially in light of terrible events that have happened over the last few months, I am concentrating on slowing down a little and spending time with family. It is all good stuff, so nothing to worry about. I have arranged for some of my favorite bloggers to fill in for me in my absence. I know you are going to enjoy their posts, and I will be back with new blog posts in October!

Summer Solstice 2011

Happy Summer Solstice to all my readers in the Northern Hemisphere!

 

The Summer Solstice marks the beginning of summer and is the longest day of the year! Here in Northern Vermont, it began getting dark around 9:30 PM. Sitting out on our side deck enjoying the mountain views and listening to all the sounds – barnyard animals, birds, frogs, insects made me think about past Solstices, and I recalled my time living in Norway when it was still bright as day at 2 AM! Very different but both great experiences!

 

I like to celebrate my Northern European roots on the Solstices and usually we toast with a local sparkling mead. Unfortunately we were not able to find the mead yesterday, so we settled on Sah’tea by Dogfish Head Ales. I was drawn to the graphics on the label – as it features my favorite animal, the Reindeer. Sah’tea is based on a 9th century Finnish recipe, Sahti. It is brewed with rye and juniper berries. They break with tradition by adding chai tea at the end of the boil. The flavor of the ale was intense with the chai spices tickling the palette. The color was a darker amber than we are used to seeing in an ale. It is a very unique brew, not something I would want every day, but it was definitely a good choice for a celebratory meal!

As for the nibbles, we decided on an antipasti of sorts. For proteins we had prosciutto, fresh marinated anchovies, duck rilettes and 2 types of cheese – a raw cow’s raclette and a sheep’s milk Lancashire. We also had assorted olives, peppadew peppers (which were delicious stuffed with rilletes), artichoke hearts homemade pickles – daikon radish and carrots. For dessert we had fresh, local, organic strawberries with fresh whipped cream!

 

We had a great evening, enjoying our al fresco meal and ending the night by “tucking in” all the animals. It is quiet moments like this that make everything feel right in the world. Hope you enjoyed yours too!

Bringing Home the Sausage, Part 2

Delicious Maple Smoked Bacon and Pork Loin

 

Before I get to the “meat” of my post, I want to give a great big THANK YOU to Rachel and the team from ThriftCultureNow.com for featuring me and this blog, as the Thrifty Blogger of the Week . You can follow them on facebook and get their Thrifty Tip of the day, on their facebook page I have to hand it to Rachel for painting me, the blog and our lifestyle in such a wonderful way. So please check out the article, and their website for more great info!

 

So last week, I shared with you a comprehensive post about breaking down a whole pig into useable parts, the genius of my friend Cole Ward, The Gourmet Butcher (who was also nice enough to give me a shout out on his blog, recently) and the making of fresh sausages.

 

This week in my Value Added Products class at Sterling College, our instructor, Chef Anne Obelnicki showed us about the art of curing, fermenting and smoking meats. We pretty much used up the rest of the pig yesterday. It was a long day – 10 hours of standing, cutting, simmering, mixing, grinding and stuffing in a hot and humid kitchen. I totally lost count of how many times I washed my hands in the first 5 minutes.  When I got home around 7, Roberto had dinner ready. I scarfed it down and went to bed shortly after. Dealing with a whole animal, even when you break it up into two days, is hard work, but it is also FUN. You get such a huge feeling of accomplishment from the whole process! Plus it is really fun working with a few other people feverishly to get it all done!

 

 

Yesterday we hot smoked the maple bacon and brined pork loins we started curing last week. We also smoked the hocks and the bones. Nothing on this pig went to waste. We trimmed the jowls to start curing guanciale and used the second shoulder to make fermented sausages – spicy sopressata and hunter’s loop. We also made another brine for the 2 hams – we injected the brine first and then placed the hams in the leftover brine to continue curing. These products will have to ferment and cure for several weeks, so I am not sure I will be able to taste the outcome. But the preparation was an education in and of itself, and has led to a lot more questions for me, mainly about the use of nitrites.

 

“Pink Salt”, spice blend for spicy sopressata and wood chips soaking

 

I guess it is a good thing that I don’t want to make sausages for a living, as Roberto and I have been avoiding foods with nitrites for several years now. I did a lot of reading this week about charcuterie, and it seems that if you are going to age anything that will not be cooked at some point, nitrites are used.  For example, you don’t need nitrites to cure bacon, since that will be hot smoked once it has cured. But you do use nitrites to make salami, sopressata and various other cured meats that will not be cooked.

 

Apparently nitrites are naturally occurring and can be found in dirt, rocks, etc as well in an abundance of vegetables, most notably beets and celery, which is what some producers of cured meats use in the place of “pink salt” ( “pink salt” is salt mixed with a smaller amount of powdered nitrites that is dyed pink so that you don’t sprinkle it on your eggs by mistake) when curing.  So even “Nitrate Free” foods still contain nitrites, even if it is just in the form of celery juice, because nitrites are naturally occurring.

 

Nitrites do two things when curing – preserves the food and contributes to aesthetics – namely color and taste. It reacts in the meat to form nitric oxide which retards rancidity and suppresses the growth of harmful bacteria, like the ones that cause botulism. However, nitrites react with amino acids in our digestive tract to create nitrosamines, known DNA-damaging chemicals.  Not only that, but you know it is harmful when it is suggested to use gloves when working with “pink salt” and other forms of curing salt. Yes, it is supposed to convert to something less harmful through the aging process, but can something like that ever be truly safe?

 

According to Harold McGee, the author of famed book : On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, “…yet at present there is no clear evidence that the nitrites in cured meats increase the risk of developing cancer…” yet he also exclaims in the same book when comparing the difference in taste between grass and grain-fed beef that “another important contributor to grass-fed flavor is skatole, which on its own smells like manure!” and also, “the saturated fats typical of meats raise blood cholesterol levels and can contribute to heart disease”. So personally, I think I will take his lax attitude towards nitrites with a grain of sea salt.

 

This issue of nitrites is something I definitely need to explore more. Like, is there a difference between naturally occurring nitrites, like celery juice and sodium nitrite which is added to many processed foods.  Luckily we don’t eat much cured meat or any processed foods.  Just bacon once a week…and our favorite prosciutto – Prosciutto di Parma which I also learned in the Harold McGee book,  is cured with sea salt not nitrites.

 

But the fact that an old and revered food art, like charcuterie has a long use of nitrites in its history is a little disheartening and I was pretty bummed to learn about it. I guess you can’t assume just because it is a traditional art, or because it is “natural” it is good for you.  I guess in the case of cured meats, it is the lesser of two evils – botulism or nitrites? I am not sure I like the odds.

 

If you have more information about nitrites, the differences (or NOT) between naturally occurring and things like “pink salt”, I want to hear about it! So please leave a comment.

Bringing Home the Sausage

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that I don’t mince words and I am passionate about local foods, homesteading and knowing where your food comes from. So here it is, in living color. If you are disturbed by these images all I can say is you should be more disturbed about what goes on in your local chain grocery or within the FDA and what they allow to go on in your local chain grocery store or CAFO farms where most of this country’s meat comes from.

For those of you who follow me on facebook, you know that last week I started my studies this week at Sterling College’s Vermont’s Table program. It is a mix of culinary arts, food entrepreneurship and agriculture studies. If you follow my farm blog, Got Goats? you will have read about my thoughts on Whole Farm Thinking and Traditional Farming methods and more on why I want to be a farmer.

Well yesterday was my first all day culinary course, Value-Added Products. It is all day on Thursdays and is a practical skills hands -on course. The day before I read several articles on charcuterie , the glories of sausage making and meat in general – how it is produced, the various muscles and how they develop into meat and primal and retail cuts.

 

Cole Ward

All that reading in no way replaces spending 4 hours with a real expert. Yesterday that expert was Cole Ward aka The Gourmet Butcher and a person that I am honored to know, learn from and be inspired by. Cole knows his stuff. He was recently featured in the book Primal Cuts, published by Welcome Books about the 50 best butchers in America. Cole has been a butcher for almost 50 years. He has seen the changes to the art of butchery over his long years of expertise, and frankly is not at all impressed by the current trends in butchery, especially that of grocery stores. If you haven’t seen his blog, I would suggest keeping an eye on it. He mentioned to us that he is going to be writing many more posts about what goes on behind the scenes in many grocery stores across the country that consumers really need to know about. Let’s just say he wouldn’t feed ground meat from the grocery store to his dog. Everyone who eats and buys meat needs to be informed.

Yesterday Cole was a guest teacher in our class of 5 students. We butchered a 270 lb local, pastured pig. He did the first half through demonstration, and then we, the students butchered the second half. I had the honor of butchering a lamb with Cole this past fall, and it was an unforgettable experience. If you want to learn from this master butcher, you can! He is holding a 2-day workshop at the end of the month . We will be butchering another pig and part of a beef cow. Participants will learn the skills, and the meat will be divided between all attendees. Lunch is included. This is a really great opportunity to learn more about the art of butchery from the best. Cole is immensely entertaining, un-untiringly patient and full of so much knowledge. He is a real integral figure in the local food movement and an ally to homesteaders and small farmers who really need a lot of help learning these skills. Simply put, Cole is AWESOME and deserves all the accolades one can muster.

 

Natural hog casings, ground sausage, pork shoulder with wine soaked cranberries and spices, grinding the sausage

After Cole left, we set up to process a lot of the meat. We were divided into two groups, and each group made one kind of sausage and set up curing another cut for smoking next week. My group cured the pork belly for maple bacon, and made a cranberry-sage link sausage, using natural hog casings. The other group made brine for the 2 loins and made Loukanika sausage, flavored with orange zest, bay and coriander. Next week we will focus on the smoking and make some other products.

 

Cranberry-Sage Sausage and  Loukanika Sausage

Roberto and I had the sausages for breakfast this morning and they were both delicious. We particularly liked the cranberry-sage and feel it complements a breakfast meal, perfectly. The rest of the sausages will be feeding the Sterling College population at their barbecue tonight for dinner. Since I live off campus, and don’t eat my meals there, I get to take home my portion.

We were on our feet for 8 hours, with a 40 minute break for lunch. It was a long day, but very satisfying. I loved the communal labor involved to turn what was essentially a freshly slaughtered animal into a variety of food items, in a short period of time.

One thing we did learn though, is, if you are ever in the market for a whole pig that you plan to butcher yourself, make sure you do not wrap it in plastic, until it has been cut up to your liking and going into the freezer. Our pig was delivered in plastic and because plastic makes the flesh sweat, we were not able to use the skin or the head and many of the exposed bones, because of the moisture, those areas were beginning to take on an unfavorable characteristic. So we had to take extra measures to clean the exposed surfaces of the pig with salt and also soak other parts in a salt water brine for several hours. Not to mention having to throw away nearly 30 lbs of what should have been useable stuff.

Many farms are new to farmshares, and sending out whole animals vs. nicely vacuum sealed pieces to their customers. This is information that years of industrial farming, and consumers buying meat at the grocery store, has allowed our culture to lose. But thankfully demand for whole animals, and on farm buying has gotten bigger in the past few years. This is a GOOD thing. But your farmer may not be used to it, and may appreciate a gentle reminder that whole animals should be wrapped in cheesecloth or paper. They would much more prefer you telling them this, than having dissatisfied customers on the other end.

Cooking with Friends: Sopes & Sangria

Sopes stuffed with local cheese and jalapeno jam

Part of feeling settled in a new community comes with making new friends. Having friends makes you feel more grounded in the place where you live and of course it is always nice to have people to share events, food and good times with! We have been lucky in this regard with our move to Vermont. We will have been living here for a year at the end of April, and we are lucky to have developed several groups of friends here in the local community.  The common vein is that all of these friends were met by way of food. But I guess knowing me, that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise!

We met Corey and Kurt during a lamb butchering class we took with Cole Ward, The Gourmet Butcher , this past fall. It was an 8 hour class where we all learned how to butcher a lamb for our own consumption. Cole is a genius and a true artisan of the craft. I can’t wait to take more classes with him! Roberto and I were the only first-timers there. Of course during those many hours we all talked an awful lot about food and recipes. At the end of class, many of us exchanged email addresses. Several of us planned a lamb potluck for January, and for one reason or another, it ended up only being me, Roberto, Corey and Kurt at the dinner.

Since then we have been getting together regularly to enjoy good food, wine and each other’s company either at each other’s houses or out in the community.  Sometimes we even cook together and are making plans to start a Supper Club and acquire more foodie friends!

Corey and Kurt are big foodies. Having lived all over the world they have experienced a lot of different food cultures. They have big plans to host gourmet getaways to Vermont. They already have a beautiful cabin in rural Vermont that they rent out to guests, and are working on having a kitchen put in where they can offer cooking classes and gourmet dinners to their guests.

 

 

The last time we got together, they hosted and made Mexican food.  They had recently taken a class with Chef Courtney Contos (the chef on the Gourmet Butcher DVDs), and decided to keep practicing their new recipes by trying them out on us. I offered to bring drinks. I made nice winter sangria using a dark red zinfandel as the base. I added to it several shots of lavender scented vodka, a splash of vanilla extract and a variety of fruits we had preserved this fall, including, raspberries in syrup and plums in a vanilla-cardamom-rum syrup. I also added sliced blood oranges. I soaked the fruits in the vodka overnight and added a pinch of dried lavender. I meant to take a picture when we served it, but we were already a bottle of wine in, and it slipped my mind. The photo above is one of my favorite photos from this blog and a summer sangria recipe.

For appetizers, Corey made the coolest stuffed masa boats, called Sopes.  Masa is Spanish for “dough” but it usually refers to dough made from reconstituted corn meal.  My friend Ben from What’s Cooking Mexico has a great tutorial on making sopes and other tortillas .

Making the Sopes

 

The only thing we did different with our sopes is that we folded up the sides of the small tortillas to make “boats” before frying them to shape them. We stuffed our sopes with several different options – guacamole, Boucher blue cheese (Highgate, VT) and plain Chevre (Boston Post Dairy, Enosburg, VT). Both of the cheese options were topped with some of Corey’s homemade Jalapeno jam from peppers grown in Georgia, VT. They were all delicious, but I really loved the unique combination of the Boucher blue and jalapeno jam.

Dinner was Mexican rice, homemade beans, and a stewed chicken dish in a tomatillo sauce (via Corey and Kurt’s garden last year), served with freshly made tortillas. For dessert they had roasted pears and pineapple served with homemade caramel. Again, we forgot to take photos, but I promise it was good! We ended the evening with an impromptu Scotch tasting and tea. Definitely a great night!