Tag Archives | local food

Dark Days: Beer Braised Brisket and Onions

dark days brisket

Despite my Jewish roots, beef brisket is not a cut of meat I grew up with. We had the occasional pot roast, but mostly my mom gravitated towards quicker cooking bits of beef and lots of chicken. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered the miracle that is brisket, thanks to my meat buying club (recently renamed Sweet Stem Farm).


In preparation for the braising urge that I knew would soon strike, I added a brisket to my January order and this Sunday was the day (it also happened to take up an excessively large amount of room in the freezer). My preferred way to braise brisket is to season it well with salt and pepper, brown it in my big oval Staub pot and then remove it to plate. Then three or four chopped onions get cooked in all the deliciousness that remains in the pot. Once they’ve gone soft and brown, the brisket goes back in the pot and half the onions go on top. Two bottles of beer go in (I used Philadelphia Brewing Company’s Kenzinger this time and it was perfect) and then the whole pot goes into the oven at 300 degrees for four to five hours.

The meat was incredibly tender, flavorful and fragrant. It smelled so good while it was cooking that I could barely take it. We ate it with some roasted carrots (local) and steamed broccoli (not local – the pickings are really slim around here for local green things at the moment). So, so good.

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Dark Days: Good Old Chicken Soup

dark days soup

This soup was several days in the making. While working from home last Friday, I poured two pounds of chicken feet from Sweet Stem Farms into a pot with a chopped onion, a couple of bay leaves (from a tree I had for a time) and nearly five quarts of filtered water. This simmered most of the day, cooking down into a three concentrated quarts of broth. The thing I love about making broth from chicken feet is that they express a great deal of gelatin into the finished product, making it really rich without adding a lot of fat.

I let the broth chill out in fridge until this afternoon. I cooked up onions (Winter Harvest), carrots (Rineer Family Farms), cabbage (Winter Harvest), garlic (Fair Food Farmstand) and kale (Winter Harvest from a couple of weeks ago – it was a bit sad and wilted). Once it was browned and softened, I added the broth back in. Once it came to a boil, I dropped in some raw chopped chicken that had been in the freezer for a while, originally purchased from Sweet Stem Farms.

I didn’t actually eat the soup tonight, as I was hosting a group of friends from my church for a fondue dinner (a couple committee members and I offered it as an item in our annual auction last spring). Scott had two bowls tonight and pronounced it delicious (the few spoonfuls I snagged were pretty darn tasty). Best of all, there’s a half gallon in the fridge, just waiting to be eaten for dinner tomorrow night.

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Dark Days: Veggie-stuffed Meatloaf and Roasted Sprouts

dinner january 15, 2011

I know, I know. It’s not the nicest looking plate in the world. Thanks to the lack of any true binding agents, my all-local meatloaf fell to pieces and greatly resembled nothing so much as a mound of Purina. Happily, it was one of those looks terrible, tastes great scenarios. Scott is half way through his month of hard-core Paleo dieting and so I’m cooking creatively in order to make things he can eat while not going crazy with boredom.

In addition to two pounds of grass-fed, local beef from Rineer Family Farm, this meatloaf contains a pureed mixture of carrots, onion, parsnip, garlic and parsley. Again, really good flavors but not much in the cohesion department. On the side, a stalk of brussels sprouts, roasted in a bit of rescued bacon fat. Local eating at its best.

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Dark Days: Local Omelet and Toast

dark days week 3

This gorgeous plate you see is all thanks to Scott. While I’m typically the one who handles the cooking in our home (essentially, I’m just more interested than he is), he has a few specialties, including boiled corned beef with cabbage and potatoes, turkey burgers and eggplant parmesan. He is also deeply knowledgeable in the ways of the omelet.

This particular three-egg omelet contained onions and red peppers from the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market (that red pepper has been in the crisper for at last three or four weeks and was on its very last legs) and eggs from the Farm to City Winter Harvest program (if you live in the Philadelphia area, Winter Harvest is a fantastic way to keep the local food flowing even in these dark days). The cheese was a hunk of Tillamook white cheddar that we hand carried back from Oregon in October.

The toast started out life as a multi-grain boule from Metropolitan Bakery. Spread with the last of the butter from our Greensgrown CSA and a dab of my apricot jam, it was a lovely breakfast indeed.

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Dark Days: Breakfast

dark days breakfast

Typically, Sunday nights are my fall-back position for these Dark Days meals. Waiting until then means that I have Saturday to hit the Rittenhouse Square farmers’ market and the Fairfood Farmstand and restock my week-ravaged pantry as well as most of the day to cook (if I decide to do something time-intensive).

However, I knew heading into this weekend that I wouldn’t be around on Sunday night to cook dinner (I’ll be in New York, having dinner with these two lovely ladies instead). And having sprinted through the week cooking several dinners that all included some local ingredients but weren’t all local, that left Saturday morning.

So I did what I’ve seen a lot of lately (at least on the Dark Days circuit). I made a local breakfast. And lo, it was good. I peeled and cubed some elderly potatoes (Winter Harvest) and tossed them with bacon grease (Meadow Run Farms), salt and pepper in a cast iron skillet. While they roasted, I gently scrambled six eggs (Winter Harvest) and made toast (baked with my own two hands, from a combination of local and non-local flours).

Scott immediately squirted ketchup on his eggs (Heinz Organic, which is at least headquartered, if not made, in the state) and I ate my toast with a few dabs of plum jam I made last summer (six months in the jar, it tastes so bright and summery). Then we went off to do a cooking demo at Foster’s Homewares, well-fed.

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Dark Days: Mini-Turkey Burgers, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Sprouts

mini turkey burgers

I’m afraid that this week’s Dark Days meal contains some repeats. Delicious though they may be, you’ve seen me do roasted sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts before. Happily, I do have one new component to bring to the table. Mini turkey burgers.

roasted sweet potato wedges

Why mini? Well, I started cooking this meal thinking I was making meatballs. I stirred the ground turkey (from Meadow Run Farms) together with an egg (farmers market), some chopped onion (Winter Harvest), bread crumbs (a very stale heel from a loaf of no-knead I made like three weeks ago, pulsed in a food processor) and salt/pepper. However, I was heading to a meeting, and suddenly realized that I was super-short on time. So instead of carefully rolling 20+ meatballs, I divided the meat into nine rough handfuls and made these little patties.

roasted brussels sprouts

They cooked up fast, were less fussy than meatballs when I was short on time and tasty. I also found that I really liked the mini-burgers. Portion-wise, they lent greater flexibility than my typical turkey burger (for Scott, one isn’t quite enough, but two is too much). We actually had some leftover protein which doesn’t always happen when I cook it in larger sizes.

In other locavore news, there was a terrific article in the Philadelphia Inquirer this Thursday about eating locally during the winter months. I must be the only Philadelphian doing the Dark Days challenge, because when it came to getting a quote about it, they turned to me. There are a number of good recipes included in the article that are geared towards those items which are currently available. I’m particularly interested in the one for Beet Halwa. I have all the ingredients needed to make in my fridge right now, so you may just see in it my Dark Days post next week.

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