A Crawfish Boil at Gaskins

by Anne Maxfield on May 23, 2016

Accidental Locavore Crawfish SpreadThere are always restaurants you want to try and for whatever reasons never seem to get to. Such is the case with Gaskins, a local (if a 40 minute drive counts as local) place that opened about a year ago. It’s owned and run by Sarah and Nick, two refugees from some major Manhattan eateries. They’ve settled in Germantown and opened a casual “gathering place” featuring some great-sounding dishes, mostly sourced from local farms.

Accidental Locavore Crawfish BoilThe Accidental Locavore says “great-sounding dishes” because the evening I was there was for the second annual Spring Social and Crawfish Boil put on by the Hudson River Exchange, a local arts group, which featured only one item on the regular menu (more about that one thing later). Instead, all the tables in the place were laid out end-to-end and covered with kraft paper. After drinks (including a mango-mint daiquiri that will make you rethink daiquiris and find a designated driver) they poured 100 pounds of crawfish along with potatoes, smoked kielbasa, ramps, scallions and fiddleheads along the length of the table.

Accidental Locavore Eating CrawfishSarah gave us a quick demo on how to properly eat the crawfish and suggested that there was pride to be taken in having the biggest pile of empty shells, so we all eagerly set to work. It’s been a long time since I’ve had crawfish and these were delicious! If you’re not familiar with them, they look and taste like little lobsters, but are probably much healthier as melted butter does not have to be involved.

Accidental Locavore Crawfish AfterFiddleheads (the tiny beginnings of ferns) are another spring treat I hadn’t had in ages. They were so good that the next time I come across them, I’m taking advantage of their short season! The kielbasa, which somehow wasn’t at my end of the table, was well worth the stroll to the other end. In other words, everything was great!

Accidental Locavore Gaskins Ice CreamIf you didn’t save room for dessert—your loss! That’s the one thing that we had that is a menu item and totally worth saving some space for (trust me, you won’t want to share). Nick’s chocolate ice cream is one of the great ones! Creamy and richly chocolate it’s almost worth going to Gaskins just for that! The other ice cream, a sweet cream one, was almost as good—buttery and silky smooth, but for me, the chocolate was all I needed.

Now that I’ve seen what a fun place Gaskins is and how terrific the food for a crowd was (never an easy task), I’m excited to go back and try their menu items. And you know what I’m having for dessert…




The Great Peeler Showdown

by Anne Maxfield on October 19, 2015

Accidental Locavore Eggplant and PeelersAs you may or may not remember, when the Accidental Locavore put peelers that julienne to the test, I promised to test some of the many peelers I had when I got my hands on some eggplant, a vegetable that always gives me grief when it comes to losing its skin.

That day is here, promoted by a request from Frank for a batch of eggplant parm and a lot of beautiful eggplants at the farm. I decided to run the test with only the Y-shaped peelers, since there were only two eggplants and close to a dozen peelers. First up was everyone’s recommendation, the Kuhn Rikon Original. While it’s good on potatoes, fuggedaboudit with eggplant. One down.

Even worse was “the cheapie” winner of the julienne contest. Maybe it’s ok on Asian eggplants but it wasn’t anywhere near passable with the Italian variety. Two down and I’m starting to feel a little discouraged (and thinking Frank’s days of eggplant parm may be limited), so I decided to move onto the more expensive models.

Accidental Locavore Uberchef PeelerThe Uberchef did well in the julienne test, and has been great with potatoes and carrots, but eggplant? Amazing!! I kept peeling the first victim because it was so easy! I think it was because the peeling blades have tiny (and very sharp) teeth. The eggplant had met its match!

Thinking it might be all about the serrated blades, I went for the final challenger, what I called the artsy one. This was a set of three that I bought at MOMA because I liked the packaging and the idea that each one was for a different purpose. “Use the black one and you will easily manage to peel even the thinnest of skins.” And they were right! The black one went through the second eggplant as quickly and easily as the Uberchef. Suddenly, I’m not minding peeling eggplant!

Since I had run out of eggplant and was a little curious about some other hard to peel produce, I grabbed something I would never ordinarily just peel – a peach. With peaches and tomatoes, the easiest way to peel them, especially if you need to do a few of them, is to cut a shallow X into the bottom, put them in boiling water for 30 seconds and the skins (usually) just slip off. But in the spirit of experimentation, I gave it a shot with my two winners. While not quite as easy as with the eggplant, they both peeled the peach pretty easily and quickly. It’s something to consider if you only have one or two to do.

Accidental Locavore Reject PeelersMy verdict: If you only have room (and budget) for one, the Uberchef is definitely worth hunting down. For things like eggplant, tomatoes and peaches, having the serrated blades is the way to go. Since none of my classically shaped peelers had serrated blades (and they’re the reason I was testing peelers in the first place), I didn’t put any of them to the test and may just clean them out of the drawer, keeping artsy, cheapie and Uberchef close at hand.

Update: Since I cleaned the drawer of all the crappy peelers, the Uberchef was right there when I needed to peel a cucumber (which it did easily) and then, because I could, I julienned my cuke straight into my salad—genius!




Better Broccoli Soup

by Anne Maxfield on January 8, 2015

Accidental Locavore Better Broccoli SoupAfter the disappointing batch of roasted broccoli soup, the Accidental Locavore was on a quest to find a better recipe. This one from the New York Times definitely fit the bill with broccoli and potatoes. And you think you’re being healthy, no milk or cream, but there is a good bit of butter and oil. Serves 4-6.

  • ½ cup olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 heads broccoli (about 2 pounds), separated into small florets
  • 2 ½ teaspoons salt, more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoons black pepper, more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ pound potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, more to taste
  • Grated Parmesan, to finish

Accidental Locavore Seared BroccoliIn a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat. Add about a third of the broccoli, just enough so that it covers the bottom of the pan in a single layer without overcrowding. Cook broccoli without moving it for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until dark brown on 1 side only (leave the other side bright green). Transfer to a big bowl and repeat with more oil and the remaining broccoli. When all the broccoli has been browned, season with 1 teaspoon salt and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add butter and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to pan. Add onions and garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add potato to the pot with 1 quart water and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, cover pot and cook until potato is just tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add broccoli, cover again and cook until tender, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Add lemon zest and purée soup with an immersion or regular blender, to your desired texture. Stir in lemon juice. Finish with grated Parmesan, serve and enjoy!

My verdict: Oh so much better than the roasted broccoli soup, that I couldn’t stop tasting it! I ended up running it through a blender because I was afraid the stick blender would leave soup all over the kitchen. I wish I’d kept a few small pieces of broccoli aside to give it a little more texture, but that’s a small thing. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you might want to taste it before you (cautiously) add the red pepper flakes. Mine were pretty fresh and gave it a nice kick, but I probably added more that ¼ teaspoon to the pot. I’ve made it a couple of times and it’s definitely a keeper!



Raclette (Yes, Again. Can’t Get Enough)

by Anne Maxfield on January 5, 2015

Accidental Locavore French Cheese PlatterComing on the heels of a recent Wall Street Journal piece about the lack of RSVP’s, the Accidental Locavore was only a little surprised to see so few people at a recent gathering. It was a raclette dinner for journalists at the French Cheese Board. The minute I finished reading the invitation my RSVP was sent!

As it turned out, it was a fun, intimate dinner with a bunch of raclette-crazed people along with a couple of newbies (to raclette) who quickly got into the spirit.

Accidental Locavore AppetizersWe were greeted with glasses of Crémant d’Alsace Prestige Brut, a lovely sparkling wine, and Fromager d’Affinois, a soft, creamy cheese, similar to brie. When we sat down at the table, there was a trio of appetizers. The simplest was a skewer of orange and red grape tomatoes sandwiching a morsel of the garlic and herb Fromager d’Affinois. Next to that was a small serving of butternut squash soup with the truffled version melting into it. The third was a slice of baguette with le Fromage Fouetté, a mild whipped cheese, used as a base for a tuna mousse. All three were delicious and easily duplicated at home (which is what the French Cheese Board is hoping you will do).

Accidental Locavore Making RacletteRaclette is traditionally made by holding half a wheel of cheese over a fire and scraping the melted part onto a plate with potatoes, charcuterie and cornichons. Since that’s not always practical (or legal starting January 1st— no more log fires in a fireplace in Paris!), restaurants will have an electric melter, designed to hold a quarter or half-wheel of cheese. What you usually find here are small trays that fit over a few votive candles, but they lack the drama of the big apparatus. I was happy to see the long table set with raclette machines strategically placed along with the smaller trays.

Accidental Locavore Raclette and CharcuterieAs is traditional, bowls of steamed (Yukon Gold) potatoes and plates of charcuterie were passed around as we waited for the cheese to melt. We let the newbies have the first go and they were quickly hooked! The rest of us didn’t have long to wait as the cheese on the big holders not only melted faster, but was tastier, as it started to bubble and brown. The Riesling (a 2012 Réserve from Willm) we had to go along with it was a great pairing.

Accidental Locavore French CheesecakeDessert (yes, we made it to dessert), was the time for the whipped cheese to shine. It was used in a lovely cheesecake with a surprise layer of apple and “frosted” with yogurt. Delicious and surprisingly light – a nice finish.

To prove that all of the recipes were easily prepared (remember, they want Americans to start cooking with their cheeses), all the food was made in the FCB kitchen by the reps from Interval. Email me for copies of the recipes or you can pick them up at the French Cheese Board. The Fromager d’Affinois is pretty easy to find (Murray’s, Zabar’s, Amazon), the Fromage Fouetté is exclusive to Whole Foods and the Raclette in pre-cut slices is at Trader Joes. Don’t worry that you don’t have the big melter, I’ve done raclette successfully at home with ramekins under the broiler (and plan on doing just that with the slices they sent me home with).