In the spirit of competition, or something, the Accidental Locavore decided to add homemade butter to the better butter comparison. Making butter is pretty easy, you just abuse heavy cream long enough and it starts to separate into butter and buttermilk. You may have experienced this if you’ve ever made whipped cream and let it go a little too long. The toughest part of the butter-making process is that you need to have heavy cream that’s not ultra-pasteurized and that’s become harder to find in your local supermarket. Luckily, and in the spirit of keeping it local, Hudson Valley Fresh has a heavy cream that’s not ultra-pasteurized. Unfortunately, three out of the four cartons I bought turned out to be past their expiration dates – not so “fresh.” However, they tasted fine so I proceeded on.
There are lots of ways to make your own butter, but they all end up being “beat it” or “shake it.” Taking the beating path: put four half pint cartons of heavy cream into a mixer and let it go on medium high for about 8 minutes until it starts to look like whipped cream. Then, turn it up to high and in a few more minutes it will start to separate into butter and buttermilk. You’ll know when this happens because if you don’t cover the top of the mixing bowl, buttermilk will start spattering all over the kitchen (there’s a lesson here…).
Once you’ve got separation, line a colander with a layer of cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Pour the contents of your mixing bowl into the colander. You’ll end up with buttermilk in the bowl and butter in the colander. Pick up the butter in the cheesecloth and squeeze as much of the buttermilk as you can out of it. Store the buttermilk in a container in the fridge and use it for biscuits, salad dressing, or crème frâiche.
If you would like to salt your butter, put it in a bowl, sprinkle a little (1/4 teaspoon) salt on it and knead it until the salt is well mixed in. Now just form it into logs, wrap in plastic or waxed paper and foil, serve and enjoy. My 4 cups of heavy cream made about 12 ounces of butter and 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk.
My verdict: It’s certainly easy enough and it was tasty. Possibly better milk (i.e. cream) would have made a better product. However at $2.99 per half pint, my 12 ounces of butter cost $11.96 – almost a dollar an ounce, about what the expensive butters cost. So, in terms of time and cost, I think I’ll stick to Cabot for daily use and one of the “better butters” for the good stuff.
Although the Accidental Locavore never has white bread in the house, for this recipe from Rachel Khoo’s great book The Little Paris Kitchen, I snuck out and bought a loaf. As with anything this simple, the better your ingredients, the better tasting the results. This is her version of a croque madame, which is traditionally a croque monsieur with a fried egg on top. The sauce will serve 6, it’s up to you to make as many “muffins” as you’d like. It should take you less than an hour from start to finish.
For the mornay sauce:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ¾ cup milk, warmed (you want it lukewarm)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
- ¼ cup grated Gruyère cheese (plus a little more for sprinkling on top)
- Salt and pepper (purists would use white pepper here)
For the muffins:
- 6 large slices white bread, crusts removed (I’ve been using Pepperidge Farms Farmhouse White, which works well)
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 ½ ounces ham, thinly sliced or cut into strips
- 6 eggs
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk hard until you have a smooth paste. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 2 minutes. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly. Put the pan back on the heat, add the mustard and nutmeg and simmer gently for 10 minutes, whisking frequently. The sauce should thicken and be the consistency of thick tomato sauce. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese and add the salt and pepper. Taste for seasonings and set aside.
To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350°. Flatten the bread with a rolling pin (or a wine bottle) to about ¼”. Brush both sides with the melted butter and place in a muffin pan. Press into place. Then, add an equal amount of ham to each and top with an egg. Add 2 tablespoons of sauce to each and sprinkle with the rest of the Gruyère. Bake for 15-20 minutes depending on how runny you like your eggs. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: I’ve made these twice for brunch, they’re pretty easy and taste great. Since I currently don’t own a muffin pan, I’ve been cooking them in ceramic ramekins on a cookie sheet. The advantage is that you can have more stuff in each one and use bigger eggs, the disadvantage is the cooking time ends up being close to 30 minutes. We tried using brioche tins, but they were a mess and impossible to clean. The last time I made them, I had great Serrano ham, fresh eggs from my friend Bill and aged Gruyère from Murray’s…pretty spectacular! If you wanted to do them for a bigger meal, a simple salad would go nicely.
Update: Bought a muffin pan and it made a huge difference! Only one thing to think about, you’ll need smallish eggs when you use the muffin tin. Also, having the bechamel sauce made ahead of time makes this done in a half an hour. Added bonus, run the crusts of the bread through the food processor to make fresh bread crumbs!
Now, you know the Accidental Locavore has written a lot about croque Monsieurs and has certainly eaten her fair share of them (it’s my personal quest, you know), however, I’ve never actually made one until recently. There are a couple of reasons for that: one is that we almost never have white sandwich bread on hand and its always seemed like more work than necessary to make a mornay sauce for a sandwich or two. So what changed my mind? I was fooling around with another recipe from Rachel Khoo’s book for a croque Madame “muffin” (more about all that in a later post) and had the ingredients on hand. And there was leftover mornay sauce! This is how I made my croque:
- 2 slices good white bread
- 2-3 thin slices of ham
- 1/3 cup grated gruyere (mixed use)
- 1 tablespoon butter (softened)
- 1/4 cup mornay sauce
- Cornichons and a sharp Dijon Mustard for serving
Preheat the broiler. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat, add half the butter to the pan. While the pan is heating and the butter is melting, construct your sandwich with the ham and most of the cheese (2/3). Spread the remaining butter on the top of the sandwich. Cook the sandwich in the pan, turning when the bread is golden (about 5 minutes) and continue cooking until the cheese has melted (about another 3-4 minutes). Remove the sandwich from the pan, place on a sheet of aluminum foil or an oven-proof tray. Spread the mornay sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Broil until the sauce is bubbly, the cheese has melted and is starting to brown. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: It was delicious and you might see more good white bread in my kitchen than is probably good for me! I did it like a regular grilled cheese and then topped it and broiled it-not sure if that’s the authentic way of doing it. Sometimes the mornay sauce is under the bread, but then it doesn’t brown. I also like mine with the smallest amount of a really sharp Dijon mustard added to every bite. I say this because some recipes have you add it to the sandwich, but I prefer to be the master of my mustard. Because this is a simple sandwich, all the ingredients should be the best you can find. I used a Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse White loaf and it was pretty good for commercial bread. Now, off to Murray’s for some really good ham and gruyere!
In the spirit of repurposing, the Accidental Locavore is going to repurpose this recipe, one of my favorite breakfast/brunch foods and a great way to use up leftovers! Still on my Mexican jag, chilaquiles are a mix of fried tortillas cooked with salsa and various add-ins. They’re super easy to make, essentially scrambled eggs with tortilla chips. Like their cousin, nachos, you can toss anything into them and they’ll taste great. Here’s the version I made for 1 person, but feel free to multiply and improvise. Start to finish this took about 10 minutes (not including the salsa).
- 1 extra large egg
- 1/2 cup salsa verde (or your favorite salsa)
- 1 big handful tortilla chips, slightly crushed
- 1/2 chicken breast shredded (from a rotisserie chicken, dark meat works fine too)
- 1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese, grated
- dollop of sour cream (or Mexican crema)
- chopped cilantro for garnish
In a bowl, beat the egg, add the salsa, chips, chicken and toss to combine. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, and add the chip mixture. Cook, stirring until the egg is cooked and the chicken is warmed. To serve: top with the cheese, sour cream and cilantro. Serve and enjoy!
Escaping the cold, the Accidental Locavore is hiding out in Palm Springs, California. Besides the great weather, there is the added advantage of a backyard full of lemons, grapefruit and rosemary. I bought some lamb chops to stick on the grill and then, spying the rosemary hedge, thought a simple marinade was in order. This is pretty improvisational, so feel free to add and subtract what you want. I like to add balsamic vinegar as it seems to have a tenderizing effect on the meat.
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (for this I mixed coarse and regular)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. With all marinades you want a slightly stronger taste as it will be subdued in the marinating process. Place your meat in a Ziploc bag, add the marinade and make sure the meat is coated all over with the marinade. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. One hour before you’re going to cook your meat, remove the bag from the fridge and let the meat come to room temperature. Cook, serve and enjoy!
For an upcoming piece for the Daily Meal, the Accidental Locavore was thinking about prepared foods you could make on your own, when it occurred to me that I’d seen a recipe somewhere for making potato chips in the microwave. Since there were a few Yukon Gold potatoes lurking in the fridge, why not give it a try? It gave me an excuse to get out my favorite piece of kitchen gear – my mandoline. While it’s not something I use very often it holds a special place in my heart, as it was the very first gift I got from my husband – pretty cool, right? Other than the mandoline (or some really great knife skills) these don’t require any gear and are really easy.
- 1 or more potatoes (I used 4 but they were tiny)
- Salt (use a fine grain salt)
- Olive oil (optional)
- Seasonings (optional)
Slice the potatoes very thin using the mandoline. As you slice them, put them in a bowl with cold water. When you have finished slicing, drain the potatoes and rinse them thoroughly. Dry them in a salad spinner or between two clean dish towels.
Arrange the slices on a paper towel on a large plate, or on the turntable of the microwave. If you’re using olive oil, paint them with the oil and salt them. Don’t let the slices touch each other or they’ll stick together.
Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Turn the chips over and microwave for about 2 more minutes (depending on your oven), until they are golden brown and crispy. Keep your eye on them (see below). Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: Really good and easy to do! Frank and our houseguest were big fans too! Due to attempted multitasking the first batch was overcooked (almost burnt) and over-salted. The second batch was much better, however there was little difference between the ones brushed with olive oil and the naked ones, so for once, health (and laziness) win. While I love Maldon salt for lots of things, it’s too coarse for potato chips, so reverting to regular table salt is probably the answer. I did try some with a rosemary sea salt, but the rosemary really wasn’t noticeable. What did work was brushing the chips with a little vinegar while they were still warm – these were my favorites, but I’m a sucker for salt & vinegar chips! The only downside about making your own is they’re not something that is practical for doing a large amount, so don’t plan on it for your Superbowl gatherings. My next batch? Really good potatoes from the farmers market and maybe some dehydrated Sriracha for a little kick. And if I become really obsessive, what do you think letting them dry in the fridge overnight would do?
- Rub all over tri-tip before roasting
- Sprinkle over halibut fillets before pan-searing
- Make a marinade for roast chicken by whisking 1/4 cup rub with 1/2 cup olive oil and 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar.
- Toss chunks of potatoes in olive oil, sprinkle with the rub and roast at 450°
- Add to your favorite vinaigrette and give your salad a kick!
- Toss with vegetables before steaming or roasting
- Sprinkle a teaspoon in rice when cooking it.
- Go classic, and rub into a steak before grilling
The Accidental Locavore used it on a rack of lamb. I let it marinate for a couple of hours, seared it off in my cast iron skillet and finished it in a 375° oven until it was medium-rare (about 15 minutes). I sprinkled the finished rack with lemon and some Maldon salt-it was delicious!
We’d love to hear what you did with it. Let us know in the comments below. Happy Holidays to All!
Not normally an avid canner, the Accidental Locavore on occasion will make pickles. On a typical grey fall day recently, I decided to try a couple of different techniques with some of the “extra” veggies I had from Stokes Farm. First up: a beautiful head of cauliflower that had so many greens, I couldn’t possibly toss them. At a class at De Gustibus with Shea Gallante, he suggested pickling them, like a sauerkraut or kimchee–great idea! I found a recipe online for pickled mustard greens which I tweaked. This will fill a 1 quart jar.
Easy Pickled Cauliflower Greens
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- the greens from 1 head of cauliflower
- 3 serrano or jalapano chiles, split lengthwise
|In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups water, sugar, salt, vinegar and cumin. Bring to a boil over high heat then remove from heat. Cool slightly.|
|Cut the cauliflower greens into 1" strips.|
|Pack greens and chiles into a clean glass 1-quart jar. Pour hot liquid onto greens, making sure that the stems are completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 days before serving.|
My verdict: These need at least a week in the fridge for the flavor to develop. They’re an interesting combination of pickles and sauerkraut. Next time, I’ll cut the greens into much thinner strips, about 1/2” would be better. It was a really good use for the cauliflower greens of which I had enough to make 3 jars of pickles! I’ll use them on hotdogs, maybe burgers or as a side dish with pork chops. I’m sure you could use any sort of sturdy greens for this and they’d be good. Cider vinegar would also work in place of the white vinegar and would give it a sweeter taste.
The Accidental Locavore has been meaning to make ricotta for a long time now and the ricotta ice cream was just the excuse to give it a shot. It’s always fascinating what “spoiling” milk does, from yogurt to ricotta and other cheeses. This is super-easy to do and tastes great.
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (if using for ricotta ice cream, zest a lemon and set aside)
|Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth and put in the sink. In a 6 quart pot (you need space for the boiling milk to expand) slowly bring the milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally to keep it from scorching. Reduce the heat to low and add the lemon juice. Stirring constantly, simmer until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes. |
Carefully pour the mixture into the colander and let it drain for an hour (I put my colander over the pot). Discard the liquid. Put the ricotta in a container and chill until ready to use.
Is pesto a summer staple for you? Like the flavored vinegars from last week, the Accidental Locavore thinks pesto can be made from a variety of (green) things. Since I had a mess of garlic scapes, thanks to my friend Bill, I thought they’d make a great pesto. This is more about technique (easy) and taste, than precise measurements. Pesto freezes well, but leave the cheese out and mix it in before serving if you’re going to freeze a batch. People often freeze pesto in ice cube trays, then pop the frozen pesto cubes out and put them in a freezer container for individual portions. This makes about 2 cups:
Garlic Scape Pesto
- bunch garlic scapes (about 20-mine loosely fit my food processor work bowl )
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (toasted)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- juice of 1/2 lemon
|In the work bowl of a food processor add the garlic scapes, pine nuts and Parmesan and process until finely chopped. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil. Keep adding until the pesto is the desired consistency—I like it to be a fairly thick paste. Add the salt, pepper and lemon juice, process until mixed. Taste and check for seasoning.|
Notes: if the garlic taste is too strong for you, add some coarsely chopped parsley to tone it down. You can also substitute almonds or walnuts for the pine nuts. Toasting the nuts always brings out their flavor. Besides the traditional basil pesto, a mix of arugula and basil with a bit more lemon juice is delicious.
I’m going to make some fettuccine, sauté some chopped bacon and mix that with the pesto. Shrimp would also work well here. A dollop in a vegetable soup will give it a good kick. My friend Bill who gave me the scapes “used it as a dip for sugar snap peas. Big hit!!! Then used it on pasta. Très magnifique!!!”