Back to Butter – Got Culture?

by Anne Maxfield on April 3, 2014

Accidental Locavore Cultured ButterSince even regular homemade butter just isn’t trendy enough these days, the Accidental Locavore decided to try making cultured butter. The difference? Instead of beating cream until it turns into butter, there’s an aging/culturing process. It sounds difficult or complicated, but it really just means dumping some crème fraîche in with the cream and letting it sit overnight. Here’s how it comes together:

  • 1 quart heavy cream (try to find some that’s not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1/3 cup crème fraîche or buttermilk
  • 1/4-1/2 cup ice water

Whisk the ingredients together in a large bowl (I used the one from my mixer). Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 12-48 hours. Accidental Locavore Culturing Cream

Refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Put the cream in a bowl for a stand mixer (if it’s not already), attach to mixer and cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or a pouring shield if you have one). Mix on high for about 4 minutes until the butter starts to form a ball. You’ll know when it’s turning into butter because the plastic wrap will suddenly become totally spattered on.

Accidental Locavore Kneading ButterStrain the liquid and solids in a fine sieve over a bowl. Place the solids back in the mixing bowl and knead to get rid of any excess buttermilk. Pour off the excess buttermilk.  Pour ¼ cup of the ice water over the butter and knead again, pouring off the excess buttermilk. Repeat until the water is almost clear. Knead the butter until all the water is gone.

Form the butter into a cylinder or block, wrap it in cheese cloth and gently squeeze to get rid of any remaining moisture. Remove the cheese cloth and wrap the butter in plastic wrap. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: Although you need to let this cultivate (I left it about 24 hours), it comes together so much faster than just whipping cream in a mixer! Mine had a nice, sweet taste and a smooth texture. I cut it up and froze most of it for a later use. I was lucky enough to find some decent cream that hadn’t been ultra-pasteurized and didn’t break the bank, so my (close to a) pound of butter cost about $6 in materials – definitely worth it!

 

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My Reverse Theory of Antibiotics

by Anne Maxfield on March 31, 2014

Accidental Locavore Thai ChickenThe Accidental Locavore was having lunch recently with someone extremely involved in the local food movement. As good locavores do, we could agree on the merits of grass-fed beef, heritage pork, farm fresh eggs and raw milk, when the next animal in the food chain came up:  chicken. While I’m firmly aware of the benefits of humanely-raised local food and try to eat it whenever possible, I tend to have a problem with chickens. There are good, but not great, local birds and a supermarket rotisserie chicken is tasty, inexpensive and already cooked! If you can’t taste the difference between a $12 chicken and a $20 bird, is upping the budget to (gasp) $35 going to be the sweet spot? It’s a chicken. What do you think?

But my lunch companion is a firm believer in the benefits of a $35 bird, along with raw milk, organic produce etc., etc., until…she gets sick. Then, she’s off to Costco for a $5 rotisserie chicken. And so is born the reverse theory of antibiotics.

When she gets a bug, she heads right off for a processed bird, figuring that all the antibiotics she might need will be in that first bite of juicy breast and because her diet is so pure, maybe she’s right (and the money she saves from a doctor’s visit for antibiotics is offset by those $35 chickens).

Although my diet is nowhere near as pure as hers, maybe my usual cold remedy may also work on the reverse theory of antibiotics, since it involves a bottle of ginger ale and a bag of Cheetos. Work that down the food chain and you get all kinds of chemicals, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup etc, etc. In other words, the polar opposites of a local, unprocessed diet.

Accidental Locavore Chicken BrothAnd, continuing the theory, maybe that’s why chicken soup is called “Jewish penicillin.”  Could it be that commercial chickens have always been raised with chemicals and cooking them for a long time to make stock (or soup) reduces the antibiotics, making them more potent (of course in writing this, I’m thinking that I’m never making stock again with anything but the remains of those pricy birds!).

So, that’s my reverse theory of antibiotics. What do you think?

 

 

 

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Chicken With Mustard and Bacon

by Anne Maxfield on March 27, 2014

Accidental Locavore Mustard Chicken With AsparagusThe Accidental Locavore was lucky enough to get an advance copy of David Lebovitz’s new book My Paris Kitchen, which I’ll tell you all about on April 7th.  The recipes look great and the first one I put to the test was this one for poulet à la moutarde. It was one of those “what’s not to like?” recipes, with bacon and so much mustard I actually ran out of Dijon – something I wouldn’t have thought possible! This serves 4.

  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
  • Black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (Kosher or sea salt)
  • 4 chicken legs and 4 thighs
  • 1 cup bacon, thick cut and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
  • Olive oil (optional)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds or grainy mustard
  • 2-3 tablespoons crème fraîche or heavy cream
  • Chopped parsley or chives for garnish

In a bowl big enough to hold the chicken, mix ½ cup of the Dijon with the paprika, salt and pepper. Toss the chicken in the mustard, coating the pieces well, and rubbing some of it under the skin.

Heat a big skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is just starting to brown. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Leave about 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the pan and discard the rest.

Add the onion and cook about 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the thyme, cook for another few minutes and scrape everything into a medium-sized bowl.

Accidental Locavore Mustard ChickenIncrease the heat to medium-high, add a little olive oil if needed and the chicken pieces in one layer. Don’t crowd them and cook in two batches if necessary. Brown them well on one side and then flip them over and brown the other side. Give it time as you want the chicken to be really browned as this is where the flavor comes from.

Remove the chicken from the pan and put it in the bowl with the onions. Add the wine to the pan and scrape off the bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the chicken, onions and bacon back to the pan. Cover and cook over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes (165° on an instant-read thermometer). While the chicken is cooking, stir it a couple of times, to coat with the sauce.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mustard seeds or grainy mustard and the crème fraîche into the sauce. Sprinkle the parsley over the top, serve and enjoy!

My verdict: Wonderful! An important lesson I learned from Gabriel Rucker and again, making this recipe, is that you really have to have some patience (something I have in terribly short supply) and let the meat really brown – it makes a world of difference! This is a pretty classic recipe and I’ve done a variation of it with rabbit – also delicious! Since Frank isn’t fond of chicken legs, I just used thighs and that worked fine. As you read in the intro, I ran out of smooth Dijon, so added in about 3-4 tablespoons of grainy Dijon, which was fine. If you used a good, strong Dijon, it will give you more of a pronounced mustard taste (which is a good thing – right?). He suggests serving it with some fresh pasta, but rice or mashed potatoes would soak up the sauce nicely too. Definitely give it a try, it’s probably under an hour, start to finish.

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The Dark Side…of Urban Chicken Keeping

by Anne Maxfield on March 24, 2014

Accidental Locavore Hen HouseIn certain hip, locavore, foodie parts of the country (Brooklyn, Berkeley, Cambridge, etc.) the trend recently has been to raise your own chickens. While the Accidental Locavore has thought (briefly) about it, and admired the beautiful exotic chickens at Brykill Farms, you have to eat an awful lot of eggs to make it worthwhile. And from what I know from people that have them, it’s more work than just letting the birds run around the yard looking good and eating bugs.

Accidental Locavore Beautiful EggsBut that hasn’t stopped a lot of people from becoming urban chicken farmers, creating new niche-marketing opportunities, along with some unforeseen causalities.  You can buy decorator chicken coops (fixed or movable), or if you have commitment issues you can rent chickens complete with coops and give them back when the weather turns nasty. If you’ve overdone it, or are extremely competitive, you can get your coop on the annual coop tour in places like Austin, Texas.

Accidental Locavore Chicken VestsOnce you’ve got the birds and the coop, how about outfitting them? You can dress your bird with frocks, diapers or what seems to be an urban no-brainer – a reflective vest in your choice of colors. There are magazines, even a “Dummies” guide devoted to raising urban birds and when you tire of that, you can read “Chick -lit” to your brood. But what happens when our metropolitan farmers have too much on their plates?

Accidental Locavore Brykill ChickensReady for this? According to CBS San Francisco, in the Bay Area Animal Care and Control has a new and growing problem on their hands – homeless chickens. Turns out that rather than serve them up for dinner, when people have had enough of their chickens, they just kick them to the curb and let them fend for themselves (you’re picturing them begging on street corners, right?). Not to worry, there are rooster rescue groups along with opportunities to build housing for homeless chickens. Habitat for Hens anyone?

 

The photo of the safety vests is from their website, with thanks.

 

 

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