Blue Heron Local Cuisine

Cooking, Eating, and Drinking on the North Shore (and beyond)

Snowy Eggplant Parmesan December 19, 2008

Filed under: Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 4:01 pm
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I once lasted through a freak snowstorm in North Carolina, where it snowed an unheard-of two feet and everyone lost power, with a huge pan of eggplant parmesan. My truck was stuck in a snowdrift, and the two plows that the town of Chapel Hill found somewhere took their time to get to our little street, so I ate a lot of eggplant parmesan. I still love it though.
2 lbs. eggplant
breadcrumbs
cornmeal
parsley
rosemary
parmesan cheese
one onion
a ton of garlic
oregano
red wine
tomatoes
red pepper
ricotta
mozzarella

 

First slice a pile of eggplants into very, very thin rounds. Make breadcrumb mixture. This can be made from homemade breadcrumbs (toast stale bread until quite dead—but check for mold first), bought breadcrumbs, crushed-up cornflakes, wheat germ, anything. I usually use a combination of bought breadcrumbs and cornmeal. Add parmesan cheese, parsley, and rosemary to your breadcrumb mixture. Set up your breading station. You will need: a saucer or shallow bowl of milk, a bowl of your breadcrumb mixture in all of its improvised glory, the pile of sliced eggplant, and a cookie sheet that has been rubbed lovingly with olive oil. Dip both sides of the eggplant firmly in the milk and then in the breadcrumbs. Place on cookie sheet, overlapping slightly. Put the eggplant under the broiler for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the eggplant becomes crispy. Turn once, during the broiling process.

 

Preheat the oven to 350.

 

Next, make the sauce. Fry up an onion and a ton of garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat. When the onion starts to get limp, add fresh rosemary, parsley, oregano, and pepper. Saute for a few minutes and then deglaze the pan with last night’s red wine. Add a quart of your home-canned tomatoes. Add a red pepper. Simmer until you can’t stand it any longer.

 

Slice up your fresh mozzarella. You definitely need to try a few pieces to make sure it’s OK to serve to your loved ones. Stir some parsley in your ricotta cheese.

 

Set up your layering station. Slosh some sauce at the bottom of a casserole pan. Add eggplant, sauce, ricotta, and mozzarella until you reach the top of the pan or run out of ingredients. Save a little parmesan for the top. Bake for 20 minutes at 350F, or until cheese gets all sizzly.

 

The preheated stove will warm your kitchen. Drink some of that wine. Eat your eggplant parmesan. Wait out the snowstorm in style.

 

-goldlentil

 

Heroic Turkey November 18, 2008

Filed under: Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 5:13 pm
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So you’re hosting Thanksgiving. Breathe. It will be okay. No Egrets and I have done this twice, and our relationship, my family, and ourselves survived each time. A few pieces of advice: Clean your house this weekend, and don’t let anyone through the door for the remaining three days before Thanksgiving. Stock up on cookies and drinks. If anyone starts getting cranky ply them with cookies, drinks, or both until they are happy again. Feel free to use this technique on yourself. Cook No Egrets’ beautiful Heroic Turkey. Take to your bed after the guests are gone, and stay there all day. Also read this.

 

Heroic Turkey
5 gallon food grade bucket
Fresh rosemary, thyme, sage
Black peppercorns, sea salt
2 magnums cheap white wine
Butter
Olive oil
Taters, turnips, onion, parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes
Bread
Chicken stock
Celery
Ground chestnuts
Balsamic vinegar
Garlic
Ginger

 

Get a 5 gallon bucket (that your turkey fits into) from the hardware store
— just a white plastic food-grade bucket.

Stuff your bird into it.

Pour a large bottle of cheap pinot noir or white table wine over it.  Add
1/8 cup sea salt.

In a saucepan, heat 1 stick butter or 1/4 cup olive oil and saute an onion
until soft.  Add rosemary, bay, garlic, ginger, and 1/4 cup black
peppercorns to the oil.  Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, let
cool, and put in blender until it looks like salad dressing.  Pour into
bucket.  Cover with ice.

Put the bucket someplace cold for 24 hours.  If you don’t have a cold place
— a beer fridge or something — you can freeze the marinade and keep the
bucket on ice in a cooler (or outside if it is cold enough).

Grease the bottom of your roasting pan with olive oil.  Add cubes of potato,
parsnip, carrot, sweet potato, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper — make a
bed of starchy veggies.  Lay the bird on the bed.  Drain and discard all
liquid — it will look bloody and nasty.

Rub the skin of the bird with butter.  Take sprigs of rosemary and poke them
through the skin of the breast.  You can do this any way that looks nice —
just pull the skin away from the meat of the breast, and pack herbs under
there, or pierce the twigs of rosemary through.  To really make it
beautiful, I lace some thin-sliced bacon across the top, latticed with
rosemary twigs and bits of fresh thyme.  Fresh sage is a good one for
turkey, too — you need it in the stuffing.  Get some garlic and ginger
under the skin, too, or at least under the bacon.

 

Now, you need stuffing.

Heat 2 cups of Chicken stock in a stock pot, and let it reduce.  In a pan,
brown 1/2 lb. sausage in 1/4 stick of butter. Sautee chopped onion, celery,
black pepper, sage, garlic, rosemary and thyme.  Pour all of this over 6-8
cups of toasted bread cubes.  Add broth until everything is coated, but
don’t overmix — you don’t want it all to disintegrate, though it’s ok if it
turns to meaty pudding, too.

I like ground nuts (chestnuts are great) in mine as well.  Walnuts and
pecans are great…pistachios….about 1/2 – 3/4 cup.

Pack the cavity of the bird right before it goes in the oven.  Never pack
the cavity the night before.

Corn bread stuffing works the same way — bake your cornbread ahead of time,
let it sit for a couple of days to dry out, and then toast it on a cookie
sheet before mixing the stuffing.

 

Follow Julia Child’s slow-roasting guidelines.

 

Don’t time your roast — use a meat thermometer.  They cost $10 at Bed Bath
& Beyond.

Good luck!

-goldlentil and no egrets

 

A Tale of Sausage and Fairy Tale Eggplants September 18, 2008

Filed under: In Season,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 2:02 pm
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So, you have fabulous artisan sausages from the farmer’s market – pork, portobello and asiago, or – our favorite at the Marblehead Farmer’s Market — lamb, red wine and feta sausage.

This is a special meat product – better sounding than scrapple (the Queen Mother of breakfast meats), a bit drier than pork sausages, juicy without being too greasy, and with the suggestion of feta cheese and wine.  And the little fuzzy sausage donors are raised in Vermont, where natural food was invented.

When I lived in Philly a decade ago, I used to go to fantastic markets and get really nice sausage; here’s a great way I learned to enhance the flavor and preserve the juices.  Sausage itself is a flavoring agent – the juices and even the glaze on a pan from browning them add vital meat essence to otherwise poisonously boring vegetarian sauces.

No Egret’s Beautiful Wine Sauce

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 lb. sausage
1 cup decent Merlot or dry red wine (Spanish wines are really nice in this)
¼ cup (mixed) of fresh oregano, fresh basil, fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
½  cup chopped heirloom tomatoes
½ cup chopped red peppers
8 oz. feta cheese or goat cheese
Your favorite Pasta

Lightly brown the sausage in the oil, and then add herbs and garlic (add more oil if necessary).  When it’s sizzling, deglaze with the wine and simmer for 10 minutes or so.  Then, add the feta (we used Israeli sheep’s milk feta from Trader Joe’s, because we forgot to buy local goat cheese from the goat cheese folks at the farmer’s market) and cut the heat.  Serve with raw tomatoes and peppers sprinkled overtop.  Serve with Pasta and fried fairytale eggplant.

 

Fried Fairytale Eggplant

 [Ed. note: Fairytale eggplant won the All-American Vegetable Selection in 2005. The last time an eggplant won that award was in 1939. You think I make these things up?]

Halve about 10 fairytale eggplant – the little light-purple ones – and coat in egg.  Roll in corn flour and fry until crisp and brown on each side.

 

-no egrets

(photos by Mike Martin)