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UPSTART APPLEJACK | WINTERGREENS | TOM & JERRY COCKTAIL

spenser personalizing food & drink.

magazine

BIRRIA: ' definitive mexico s

goat dish

SOUTHERN CHEFS celebrate the american chestnut MOMOFUKU MILK BAR'S blondie pie! nov.dec 2011 | PREMIER ISSUE s p e n s e r m a g . c o m


features:

96|WE’VE GOT YOUR GOAT : Birria is

so much more than the sum of its humble ingredients. It inspires pride in the people who make it and is intricately tied to Jalisco. It also happens to be absolutely delicious.

40|AN ACCIDENTAL LEFT TURN: In the moun-

tains north of Los Angeles, a couple is taking a crack at raising Berkshire pigs to sell to the big city below. They’ve gained chefs as fans, but also have their fair share of challenges.

by lesley tellez

by mike dundas

56|A SOUTHERN REVIVAL: Fifty years ago,

the American chestnut tree was almost wiped off the planet. Today, a group of scientists and farmers in far western Virginia are working to revive the population. Chefs have started to take notice..

by brendan lynch

70|MAKE MINE BITTER: Add a few

drops of originality to your home bar by infusing cocktail bitters and tinctures. Three of San Francisco’s best bartenders teach you how.

by mike dundas

84| JUST A LITTLE SALT AND TIME:

Seattle food blogger Matt Wright gives us the backstory behind his first ever attempt to salt and cure meat, sharing tips and tricks for making homemade charcuterie along the way.

by matt wright


departments: BUTLER'S CHOICE: the enduring allure of the pantry

20

STOCKING THE PANTRY: link lab sausages

23

STOCKING THE BAR: foolery in ohio & a carolina tradition

26

MEREDITH'S PAGE: cocktails and sea urchins

28

SEASON'S SWEET: momofuku milk bar’s blondie pie appeal

30

SEASON'S HARVEST: wintergreens from Frankies Spuntino

35

SEASON'S LIBATION: get out the punch bowl and batter up

38


Take a Stand Against Childhood Cancer!

It has been over 10 years since cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004) set out to find a cure for all childhood cancers through her front yard lemonade stand. The foundation bearing her name, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, continues her legacy of hope. Help us fight childhood cancer, one cup at a time by hosting your own lemonade stand. Visit our website to learn how to get involved today!

Fighting childhood cancer, one cup at a time.

www.AlexsLemonade.org


food photography manual digital download versions and hardback books available at: www.mattikaarts.com/blog

Learn

food photography and heLp those in need.

100%

of aLL book profits go to charitabLe causes. so far over

$3000

has been raised to heLp those devastated by the

earthquake and tsunami in japan.


recipes: beef Bresaola (Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn) | 95

bitters & tinctures Apple (bitters) | 79 Cinnamon Infused Orange (bitters) | 81 Fennel (tincture) | 81 Licorice Root (tincture) | 78 Sarsaparilla Aromatic (bitters) | 78 Tobacco (tincture) | 82

goat Birria | 109

libations Comancheria (whisky based) | 82 Hard Boiled (gin based) | 81 Seraph's Curse (Aperol based) | 80 The Uptown (bourbon based) | 79 Tom & Jerry (brandy & rum based) | 39 Truth Serum (scotch based) | 78

pork Braised Pork Shank with Chorizo & Lomo Home Fries & Cider Sage Sauce (Neal Fraser) | 53 Crispy Pork Rib Lardon (Nathan McCall) | 50 Pig Ear Salad (Ben Ford) | 50 Slow Roasted Pork With Caramelized Fennel (Nathan McCall) | 51

salads Escarole with Sliced Red Onion & Walnuts (The Two Frankies) | 37 Fennel, Celery Root, Parsley & Red Onion (The Two Frankies) | 36 Shaved Raw Brussels Sprouts with Castelrosso (The Two Frankies) | 36

starter Dungeness Crab in Brown Butter & Butter Whey Chestnuts, Onions, Lime & Shaved Pork Fat (John B. Shields) | 65

soup Chestnut & Porcini (Hugh Acheson) | 64

sweet Blondie Pie (Christina Tosi) | 31


co-founders' letter

welcome to spenser

T

o say that the idea for spenser magazine came to us over a conversation about food bloggers, a little known food blog, a changing technology landscape, Texas barbeque, ideas for the future, cocktails, a recipe tagged for testing that weekend, a Negroni, a gorgeous menu and a great chef that came out to the table wouldn’t be far from the truth. There might be one or two elements added, but it’s no exaggeration to say that the idea for spenser came over the course of many lunches, afternoon cocktail breaks, and dinners working together over concepts in crowded restaurants or while waiting in line at a taco truck, at friends’ and family houses, or enjoying quiet, yet productive meals at home. Along the way, we were guided by a simple thought: that there is more that can be done to progress our modern foodways, to improve the food we eat and to prioritize what should take precedence in our kitchens, our gardens, our bars, our pantries, and at our tables.

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spenser is broadly focused on the home cook and his or her use of a well-stocked pantry. The name of the magazine is, itself, the Middle English word for butler or steward, which derived from the Old French despencier. The “Spenser” was the person in charge of sourcing all the food and provisions within a royal or noble household.

With each issue, we intend to take you beyond the kitchen, to introduce you to the farmers, ranchers and producers who dedicate themselves to their respective crafts. The care they show and the struggles they encounter as they go about their work are part of the human story that is too rarely told.

You may have noticed that we don’t have a turkey on the cover of what is essentially a holiday premiere. In fact, aside from this letter, the word turkey doesn’t appear anywhere in this issue. We don’t have recipes for a creative new brine or creamier mashed potatoes. Nor do we tell you which wines to pair with your holiday meal.

In this first issue, this tradition starts with stories about a husband and wife raising heritage pigs in the desert mountains north of Los Angeles, the slow revival of the American chestnut industry, and a delicious Mexican goat dish called birria, which has quickly become our favorite way to celebrate the season. We also went to two of our favorite bars to find experts to teach how to make your own cocktail bitters and how to infuse your own tinctures. And we are excited to say that this issue starts the first of a series of stories on the art of home charcuterie.

Instead, we are taking a step back from the traditional focus of a food publication to highlight the sourcing and preparation of the ingredients you can use on a daily basis. Besides, if your Thanksgiving is anything like ours, you already have your favorite family traditions. For Mike, a Californian, that means savory focaccia and sausage stuffing, creamed onions and leeks, fresh cranberry and orange relish that was hand-cranked through a squeaky, 1940’s meat grinder and a bourbon Old-Fashioned right before dinner. Leigh, a Texan, equates Thanksgiving with cornbread with slow sautéed Texas sweet onions, cornbread and celery stuffing, cornbread drizzled with honey (so, lots of skillet cornbread then), and enjoying a glass of wine as the bird goes into the oven, a nod to her mother’s Thanksgiving morning ritual. Because of our online format, we wanted to be sure to bring in online voices. Those voices include the very active, very dedicated food blogger community. You’ll notice a few of our favorite bloggers are contributors to this premier issue. That’s a tradition we intend to keep at spenser. Those voices are mixed in with the professional chefs who have contributed thoughts and recipes to this issue, including Neal Fraser, Hugh Acheson, Ben Ford, Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli, Christina Tosi, and John Shields. We can’t thank them enough for trusting and believing in the premise of spenser at its inception.

spenser would not have made it to fruition had it not been for some amazing people giving, freely, of their time and expertise. They are a collection of friends, some new, some old, from all over the country. They spent nights, weekends and holidays contributing to this project and we can’t thank them enough. This entire issue is dedicated to them and the people who support them. As we grow, we will be incorporating more tools and features both to the magazine and our Web site. But for now, our mission is simple: To inspire you to use spenser to personalize the food and drink you share with your friends and family. Enjoy “spensering” as our design director says... and see you soon!

mike dundas & leigh flores co-founders of spenser magazine

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spenser magazine

MIKE DUNDAS

co-founder & editor-in-chief LEIGH FLORES

co-founder & executive editor JEN WHITE

design director COREY ABSHER

interactive producer MAX FOLLMER

lead copy editor HILARY KLINE

lead photo editor contributing writers

BRENDAN LYNCH, LESLEY TELLEZ, MATT WRIGHT

contributing photographers

JENI AFUSO, JUN BELEN, RON DERHACOPIAN, SARAH DORIO, DYLAN HO, MATT WRIGHT

staff dogs

BUCK, JACKSON, KAUFMAN & SCOUT in loving memory: ALFREDO

editorial inquiries:

mike@spensermag.com

advertising, business, media & reprint inquires: leigh@spensermag.com

general questions & comments: spenser@spensermag.com

cover photo:

Birrieria El Chino in Guadalajara, Mexico. photograph by dylan ho & jeni afuso.

spenser’s commitment: spenser magazine commits to donating 1% of profits to charitable causes in support of ending hunger in America and abroad this commitment supports spenser magazine’s desire to help promote the need to end hunger everywhere

spenser disclaimer: Spenser Magazine is published on a bi-monthly basis by Spenser, LLC. All rights are reserved. Neither the publication, nor any portion thereof, may be reproduced in any manner or in any form without the prior written authorization and permission of Spenser, LLC. Spenser Magazine and Spenser, LLC are not responsible for the accuracy of advertiser claims or advertiser content. Notwithstanding, every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the content contained in the publication and on the Web site.


www.manninďŹ nejewelry.com

18k MODERN HEIRLOOMS


{It’s hard to celebrate when you’re hungry.}

During the holidays, families gather to celebrate traditions and create lasting memories. But for the millions of families who face hunger, the holidays can be one of the hardest times of the year. Right here in America, hunger affects one in five children. This year, you can share your season with a hungry child and help make No Kid Hungry® a reality in America. See how at strength.org/help


meet the team: mike dundas co-founder & editor-in-chief hometown: Palo Alto, California favorite childhood food memory: Accompanying my mom as she shopped for groceries in the small village outside Barcelona where we lived and experiencing things you just wouldn't see in the US at the time, like chickens from the butcher that still had feathers, heads and feet. I didn't mind the churros and hot chocolate either.

leigh flores co-founder & executive editor hometown: Dallas, Texas favorite childhood food memory: On Saturdays, my grandfather would take me to a makeshift storefront in the home of a tortilla maker for fresh corn and flour tortillas. Much to my grandmother’s dismay, we’d always have eaten more than our fair share on the ride home.

lead photo editor hometown: Grand Prairie, Texas

jen white design director hometown: Dallas, Texas favorite childhood food memory: My mother's homemade macaroni and cheese - always extra cheesy and crispy on top. Even now, the smell of mac and cheese makes me think it is Sunday.

hilary kline

favorite childhood food memory: My grandfather would carefully select meat from Rudolph's Market, peppers from the Fiesta on Ross Avenue, and tomatoes from J.T. and Carolyn Lemley's stand at the Dallas Farmer's Market. He’d make racks of ribs or a big pot of chili and send each of us home with leftovers. He was the kindest person I knew, that is, until someone suggested beans as an ingredient in chili. Then all bets were off...

corey absher interactive producer hometown: Topeka, Kansas favorite childhood food memory: My grandmother (she still prefers that we call her “Granny”) would dredge cut okra in milk and cornmeal, and fry them in a cast iron skillet. Like her toast, she liked her okra “well done”, and we’d end up with a plateful of crunchy, carbonized bites with mushy centers. To me, this was fantastic.

max follmer lead copy editor hometown: Chicago, Illinois favorite childhood food memory: Fresh Michigan strawberries in the summer at a cottage Up North.

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contributors: BRENDAN LYNCH | WRITER Brendan Lynch is a rural Midwesterner who developed a passion for food upon transplanting to San Francisco. From the famed Frog Hollow peaches at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to dive bar cyclist BBQ haunts, the Bay Area was Brendan's culinary proving ground. Having recently moved back to Southern Illinois, Brendan now buys and preps whole heritage hogs from an Amish farmer and has been known to transport entire feasts via bicycle. He misses the Bay Area, but has the space to grow heirloom tomatoes and house a freezer large enough to hold a pig's head, an otherwise unimaginable flight of fancy in his old studio in San Francisco. Favorite childhood food memory: I have the fondest memories of the flavor of my grandmother's roast beef. I wasn't sure I would ever taste something like that again until I was handed a lavender and sea saltcrusted chop from a rack of lamb that was cooked by one of my best friends. It instantly brought me back to my grandmother's kitchen and sparked my own interest in cooking.

DYLAN HO & JENI AFUSO | PHOTOGRAPHERS Dylan James Ho and Jeni Afuso are a husband and wife photography team based out of Los Angeles. What first began as a hobby soon became a way of life documenting the food they ate and the people they met wherever they traveled. They are driven by their wanderlust and curiosity and love connecting with people they would otherwise never meet. Dylan's favorite childhood food memory: Eating my first bowl of wonton noodles in Hong Kong with my Uncle in 1988. To this day, I can remember how delicious it was and it was there that I knew I had a love for noodles. Jeni's favorite childhood food memory: I remember when my mom used to bribe us to swim and exercise. If we swam laps, she would reward us by throwing fresh homegrown peaches, nectarines and strawberries into the pool. Swimming never tasted so good.

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JUN BELEN | PHOTOGRAPHER Jun Belen is a Philippines born, San Francisco-based food photographer and writer. His photographs have appeared in Gobba Gobba Hey: A Gob Cookbook, Culinary Trends magazine, Florida Saltwater Recreational Fishing Regulations magazine, 7 x 7 magazine, SF Weekly magazine, and the San Francisco Professional Travel Planner’s Guide. He is the author of the Saveur-nominated Filipino food blog, “Jun-blog.” He lives in Oakland, Calif. with his partner, calamansi tree, and corgi. Favorite childhood food memory: The sweet smell of pandan leaves steeping in a pot of simmering rice is one of my earliest and fondest recollections of food. My mom would tie the long, narrow, bladelike leaves into a simple knot and add them to steaming rice to give it a subtle fragrance and flavor.

LESLEY TÉLLEZ | WRITER Lesley Téllez grew up in Southern California and moved to Mexico City in 2009. A former newspaper journalist, Lesley gives food tours of Mexico City’s markets and street stands with her company, Eat Mexico. She also writes and photographs Mexican food and culture on her personal blog, “The Mija Chronicles”. Her freelance work has appeared in Food & Wine, American Way, the Los Angeles Times and other publications. Favorite childhood food memory: Watching my mom make Mexican rice. She'd brown the rice in oil, and then add tomato sauce and water. Whenever she added the liquid, the pot would hiss wildly — every time I hear that sound now, I think of her.

MATT WRIGHT | WRITER & PHOTOGRAPHER A British transplant to the Pacific Northwest 10 years ago, Matt Wright has developed a deep obsession making and photographing charcuterie. He started his “Wrightfood” blog many moons ago and now focuses on clean cooking, with a lot of charcuterie and food photography advice and tutorials. His work has appeared online, in cookbooks and many international magazines. Matt loves a gin & tonic along with good humor; especially the numerous sausage jokes that seem to come his way these days. Favorite childhood food memory: Flipping sweet crepes with my mom in our family kitchen.

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spenser thanks joel & eliza – for introducing us to the best banana chocolate chip muffins in Los Angeles; they got us through early morning photo shoots — and for your initial support and ideas kurt steffen design – for graciously opening your beautifully designed houses for photo shoots Angelini Osteria – for having Castelrosso! MBA classmates of leigh’s – who acted as both sounding boards and models friends best known as core group – for your continuous support and encouragement Google – we couldn't have done this without you cyndi – because richard & mary lynn – also because

photo by: hilary kline


butler’s choice: Renovations First

We love old houses here at spenser. They are pieces of history, filled with grace and the wistful memories of the families who once called them home. They are comfortable and stylish and inspirational. The most traditional of which often feature wonderful representations of our two most favorite rooms, the kitchen and the butler’s pantry. We are particularly enamored of the pantry. For some, pantries are nothing more than a utilitarian place for service preparation and food storage. But with a nod to the nostalgic and an understanding of the needs of a modern homeowner, you can turn what was once the most functional room in the house into a model of design form. In each issue, we will feature a specific pantry to be our “Butler’s Choice”. The focus will be on those designs that harmonize the traditional with the contemporary, whether they are featured in new construction, or in a careful restoration.

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once saw in a Parisian museum house. The sink’s fixtures were deliberately left unlacquered because, as Scott says in the book, she wanted them to stain and tarnish. She polishes “only the highlights, which makes them look beautiful.” This room was built from the ground up and yet, as Abramovitch notes, it “transports its occupants into an earlier time, one when the smallest details mattered and when utilitarian objects were made by hand to last a lifetime. Photo Credit: Excerpted from Restoring a House in the City by Ingrid Abramovitch Photos by Brian Park (Artisan Books). Opposite page photo by Paul Costello. Copyright © 2009.

brooklyn heights kitchen

For today, however, we want you to know that you can draw inspiration for your own pantry from other rooms both inside and outside the home. One great design resource, that we find ourselves turning to for inspiration again and again is Ingrid Abramovitch’s Restoring a House in the City: A Guide to Renovating Town Houses, Brownstones, and Row Houses, published by Artisan Books. In the book, the owners of an Italianate brownstone in Brooklyn describe how they were inspired by a turn-of-the-century library when designing storage space for their food and dinnerware. They installed glass-fronted wooden cabinets that stretch from floor to ceiling, with the top shelves accessible by a wonderful wooden library ladder. Similarly, the grey stone sink below the cabinets was inspired by an antique lead one that the owner, Kathryn Scott

brooklyn heights sink


JOIN US

www.southernfoodways.org


stocking the pantry:

DON’T CALL IT A GARAGE photography matt wright

What started as a hobby for David Pearlstein more than a decade ago has turned into a growing sausage business called Link Lab Artisan Meats in Seattle, Washington. But this isn’t your average, everyday production facility. Pearlstein runs his boutique wholesale shop out of what was once his own garage. Only now, after a mountain of paperwork and a series of government inspections, that garage is an official USDA inspected and approved facility. Pearlstein says it was the inspector who told him — with equal parts sincerity and sarcasm — that his home no longer had a garage. It is a “federally inspected meat processing facility,” he said. After ten years making sausages for friends and family, Pearlstein knew the toughest aspect of the business wasn’t going to be coming up with recipes — he’s got more than one hundred in his head. Instead, the initial challenge would be keeping up with the USDA. Turns out, the attention to detail and ability to research bureaucratic regulations came naturally for Pearlstein, who has a background as a librarian. Before taking the plunge with Link Lab, he spent years in a users services group at Microsoft, where he was tasked with gathering technical information from the company engineers and synthesizing it for clients. These days, Pearlstein produces about 150 pounds of fresh sausages each week. He sources meat from local farmers who focus on the ethical and conscientious treatment of their animals. His grassfed beef comes from Silvies Valley Ranch in Harney County, Ore. The pork comes both from heritage breeds, like Tamworth and Mulefoot, raised by Heritage Lane Farm in Whatcom County, Washington and from hazelnut-fed pigs raised on a family farm in Ephrata, Washington for Tails & Trotters.

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stocking the pantry: He is proud of the partnerships he has formed with these dedicated farmers, but he is equally boastful of the time he takes to source his other ingredients as well. “Care must be given to the sourcing of all ingredients,” Pearlstein says, “because so much time and effort has gone into the raising of the animals and because the Seattle food community is hyper-aware of seasonality and provenance.” Every Sunday evening, he decides which of his 20 or so sausage varieties he is going to make that week and blasts out an announcement to his restaurant and retail customers. In a testament to the quality of his product, he often sells out of his entire weekly inventory. Having only been open for seven months, Pearlstein is concentrating on selling wholesale to local restaurants and retail stores. Eventually, he plans to ship his handcrafted sausages to wholesale buyers nationwide. We hope that time comes sooner rather than later.

a few of our favorites: The Jalapeño Pork Sausage – a customer favorite – which packs a bright fresh jalapeño flavor without much heat; the Rosemary & Sage Chicken Sausage which tastes of rosemary that was just picked from the garden, with a touch of heat on the back end from cayenne and white pepper; the Boerewors Sausage, a well-seasoned beef and pork sausage based on a South African recipe hints of coriander and clove; and the Fremont Beer Brat, Link Lab’s take on the classic Wisconsin brat, seasoned with marjoram, mustard seed, and Fremont Brewing Company’s Universal Pale Ale. Perfect for football season.

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stocking the bar: An American Spirit PHOTOGRAPHY BY HILARY KLINE

Applejack (apple brandy) can rightfully claim the title of America's original spirit. George Washington used it to keep his revolutionary soldiers warm at Valley Forge. Abraham Lincoln served it in his Springfield, Ill. tavern. Even the first federally licensed distillery, Laird and Company, was — and still is — an applejack producer. Although it is a spirit with humble beginnings and a checkered history, applejack has a flourishing future. Tom's Foolery, a new Ohio distillery, is at the forefront of introducing applejack to a new generation of drinkers. The owners, Tom and Lianne Herbruck, have set out to make, in Tom's words, "a world-class applejack,” one “micro-batch” at a time. Tom uses 25 different locally-sourced heritage apple varieties to make the cider he ferments and distills, including honey crisp, gala, jonagold — even wild-picked local crabapples. Some of the


varieties, which have been cultivated for generations by local farmers, don’t even have names. After distillation, Tom’s Foolery is aged for a little more than a year in a mix of old cognac barrels from France, used bourbon barrels from Kentucky, and new charred American oak whiskey barrels. In the glass, there was a wonderful aroma of fresh green apple on the nose. The taste, which was quite dry, is buttery to start and finishes with a pure apple flavor and the slightest bite. The second-ever run of Tom’s Foolery hit store shelves back in September. It currently has a very limited distribution, in and around Cleveland and Columbus, and retails for approximately $32 per bottle. Another young apple brandy comes from the boutique Carolina Distillery located in the small city of Lenoir, NC. The distillery’s Carriage House Apple Brandy, made by Keith Nordan, Ken Greene and third generation distiller Chris Hollifield, is distilled in a small copper pot still designed and built right there in Lenoir. Carriage House is made from a mix of locally grown apples — primarily pink ladies — and once distilled, is aged solely in new charred American oak whiskey barrels for a little more than one year. In making Carriage House, Hollifield has embraced his moonshining heritage. His production process, although modernized, is based upon his grandfather and great-grandfather’s applejack recipe created in the 1930’s. Even the still is modeled on the moonshine stills of old because he believes it lets more flavor of the mash come through.

Compare Tom’s 10 case “micro-batch” to the traditional 400 case “small-batches” produced by the larger distillers.

Carolina Distillery produces its apple brandy in 100case batches. About one-fourth the size of the traditional “small-batch” spirit, bottling just over 1000 cases per year. Each bottle is filled from a single barrel whose name is hand-written on the label. On the nose, Carriage House Apple Brandy has aromas of an apple orchard, green grass and vanilla. The bottle we sampled tasted of caramel apple, vanilla, with a hint of black licorice. It had a full mouth feel and a long sweet finish. It is currently sold in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Massachusetts, and retails for approximately $23 per bottle.

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meredith's page: Front of House Elements While some people love to be in the kitchen, I’ve always been intrigued with the entertaining aspect of food & drink. Thinking about setting a beautiful table is where I get giddy. Don’t get me wrong, I am a dedicated sous chef, taste tester, and I love good food and a great cocktail, but I always find myself drawn to “front of house” elements. Creating a beautiful space to entertain friends

What’s on the Menu?

My grandfather once gave me an old menu from The St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio. I don’t know the year it was printed; the menu only says Sunday, July 18. All I know is that for $1.00, I could have had Fried Premium Ham, Red Eye Gravy and Pickled Watermelon Rind. The menu reminds me of the foods and flavors my grandfather and others in his generation got to enjoy. “Menu Design in America” is a great collection of vintage menus. $59.99, Taschen

and family is a process — a collection of family heirlooms, pieces from travel and celebratory gifts — but some of the great ones are treasures we pick up along our way. Items on this page will not always be the latest “must have”. In fact, I’ll often be in search of items that I think deserve another look, or that never really even had a look in the first place. In personalizing your home, the unexpected items are often the best finds in life.

- Meredith

meredith@spensermag.com

Flask Stanley

One of the best Fourth of July’s I’ve ever had was with my Mom in San Francisco. Cold weather in the summertime meant Mom made a big Thermos of hot chocolate with brandy. This flask pulled me back to that night. The engravable base, portable, classic style and affordable price make it a great gift. I want one. $20, Stanley

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Lighted Sea Urchin

For me, restaurants are the most fun when they have a playful element to them. The same can be said for homes. How great is it when you enter a space that makes you feel at home AND brings a bit of a smile to your face? This pendant light fits that bill. $1,195, 35" w X 18" h, (medium shown) other sizes available; Mecox Gardens

Dotted Cocktail

Handmade in Italy, this collection, Dotti, was the first collaboration of Paola Navone (previously the designer for Armani Casa) with glassmaker Egizia. The silver on the glass is pure silver, hand-screen printed and fired at over 900°F. The glasses are available in Dotto (large dots) and Dottino (small dots). Adorable. Prices vary (pitcher, approximately $250; glasses, approximately $65 for two glasses); contact Arbiter for your nearest retailer

Saucy Singles

In Southern California, we are lucky to have several Japanese grocery stores. You are pretty much guaranteed to see something new each time you visit because there’s so much to take in. Why I hadn’t seen these little gems before is beyond me. What are they? I know, it took me a minute or two to figure it out as well. Disposable soy sauce squirters meant to keep sushi and rice fresh until right before you want to enjoy them. Travel-friendly for lunches, and too cute for me not to figure out how to incorporate into my next buffet party. Prices vary ($2-3), Mitsuwa locations across Southern California, in Chicago and Northern New Jersey


season’s sweet: blondie pie appeal PHOTOGRAPHY BY HILARY KLINE

Christina Tosi, head pastry chef at David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant group and co-creator of Momofuku Milk Bar, has carved out a brand new niche in the world of sweet treats. She is a natural at transforming the everyday items that are most likely sitting in the way back of your cupboards into the wonderful and whimsical by combining them with what she calls, in the recently released Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook, “funny ingredients that will make you shake your head in disbelief.” Her pastries, cookies, cakes and pies are simple, tasty, salty and sweet and her recipes, in her words, “exist to appeal and to relate to all of us.” While Tosi does reach for commercial ingredients like Cap’n Crunch, Ovaltine, potato chips and Saltines when making her fun desserts, she is also seriously committed to utilizing ingredients from local farms and dairies. This past summer, she closed down the kitchen for a day and took her staff to visit Milk Thistle Farm in Upstate New York, Tosi’s source for the milk products used at Milk Bar. That visit served as a reminder to the Milk Bar pastry crew that each jug of milk that comes through the door was made with love by a small family. Each jug, therefore, is made to “count” back in the kitchen. If there is one Thanksgiving dinner tradition that we may break this year (see the letter from our co-founders on pg. 10) it's that we may part with pumpkin pie and make Christina Tosi’s Blondie Pie instead. The folks in our test kitchen say you won’t regret it.

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Blondie Pie Recipe by Christina Tosi Makes 1 (10-inch) pie; serves 8 to 10 If nut brittle is my muse, blondie pie is our love child. It is, to date, my favorite pie we’ve ever created. Dense, sweet, salty, nutty, chock-full of textures large and small, it’s perfect to grab a piece of on the go and crush as if it were a slice of pizza.

3/4 recipe

Graham Crust 1 ½ cups (255 g) (recipe follows)

1 recipe

Blondie Pie Filling (recipe follows)

1 recipe

Cashew Praline (recipe follows)

1. Heat the oven to 325°F. 2. Dump the graham crust into a 10-inch pie tin. With your fingers and the palms of your hands, press the crust firmly into the pie tin, covering the bottom and sides evenly. Set aside while you make the filling. Wrapped in plastic, the crust can be refrigerated or frozen for up to 2 weeks. 3. Put the pie tin on a sheet pan and pour in the blondie pie filling. Bake the pie for 30 minutes. It will set slightly in the center and darken in color. Add 3 to 5 minutes if that’s not the case. Let cool to room temperature. 4. Just before serving, cover the top of the pie with the cashew praline. Any other nut (brittle and praline) will do in this pie, but cashews balance the white chocolate so well without overwhelming the other ingredients. With a stronger nut, this will most likely become a peanut butter blondie pie, or a hazelnut blondie pie, etc. Warm the graham crust slightly in the microwave to make it easy to mold.

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season's sweet:

Blondie Pie Filling Makes about 2 ¼ cups (540 g) 5 ½ oz /160 g white chocolate 4 tbsp. (½ stick)/ 55 g unsalted butter 2 egg yolks 3 tbsp. / 40 g sugar ½ cup / 105 g heavy cream ¹⁄³ cup / 52 g flour ½ recipe Cashew Brittle 1 tsp. /4 g kosher salt 1. Combine the white chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and gently melt them on medium, in 30-second increments, stirring between blasts. Once melted, whisk the mixture until smooth. 2. Put the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk together until smooth. Pour in the white chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the heavy cream and whisk to combine. 3. Stir the flour, cashew brittle, and salt together in a small bowl, then carefully fold them into the filling. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Editors Note: Tosi uses King Arthur Bread Flour as her "all-purpose" flour.

Cashew Praline Makes about ½ cup (180 g) ½ recipe Cashew Brittle (recipe below) 2 tbsp. / 20 g grapeseed oil Grind the brittle with the oil in a food processor until it has completely broken down and almost liquefied. Boom: it’s praline. Look at how easy that was. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Cashew Brittle Makes about 2 1/4 cups (375 g) All of our nut brittles are extraordinarily simple. We use skinned (blanched) nuts, unroasted and unsalted. They take one-part nuts to two parts sugar and about ten minutes of time. Nut brittles are one of the few things we measure by volume, so no gram weights are needed here. There will always be a small amount of caramel and nut left in the bottom of your pan after making the brittle. No worries! We’ve never met a person who can make this brittle without leaving a trace of it behind. Here’s a hint: the best way to clean hardened caramel out of a pan is by putting water in it and boiling it. The hot water will dissolve the caramel and the pan will be a snap to clean. 1 ½ cups sugar ¾ cup cashews 1. Line a quarter sheet pan with a Silpat (parchment will not work here). 2. Make a dry caramel: Heat the sugar in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. As soon as the sugar starts to melt, use a heatproof spatula to move it constantly around the pan — you want it all to melt and caramelize evenly. Cook and stir, cook and stir, until the caramel is a deep, dark amber, 3 to 5 minutes.


season's sweet: 3. Once the caramel has reached the target color, remove the pan from the heat and, with the heatproof spatula, stir in the nuts. Make sure the nuts are coated in caramel, then dump the contents of the pan out onto the prepared sheet pan. Spread out as thin and evenly as possible. The caramel will set into a hard-to-movearound brittle mass in less than a minute, so work quickly. Let the brittle cool completely. 4. In a zip-top bag break the brittle up into pieces as small as possible with a meat pounder or a heavy rolling pin — we grind our brittle down in the food processor to the size of short-grain rice (you don’t want anyone to chip a tooth on it!). Eat or cook with it at will. Store your brittle in an airtight container, and try to use it up within a month.

Graham Crust Makes about 2 cups (340 g) 1 ½ cups /190 g graham cracker crumbs ¼ cup /20 g milk powder 2 tbsp. /25 g sugar ¾ tsp. /3 g kosher salt 4 tbsp. (½ stick)/55 g unsalted butter, melted, or as needed ¼ cup /55 g heavy cream 1. Toss the graham crumbs, milk powder, sugar, and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute your dry ingredients. 2. Whisk the butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute. The butter will act as a glue, adhering to the dry ingredients and turning the mixture into a bunch of small clusters. The mixture should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt an additional 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons (14 to 25 g) butter and mix it in. 3. Eat immediately, or deploy as directed in a recipe. The crust is easiest to mold just after mixing. Stored in an airtight container, graham crust will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or for 1 month in the

fridge or freezer. Reprinted with permission from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi, Copyright © 2011. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.

nov.dec 2011 | spensermag.com | 33


spenser:

in print.

upstart applejack | wintergreens | tom & jerry cocktail

spenser personalizing food & drink.

magazine

birria: ' definitive mexico s

goat dish

southern chefs celebrate the american chestnut momofuku milk bar's blondie pie! nov.dec 2011 | premier issue s p e n s e r m a g . c o m


season’s harvest: wintergreens PHOTOGRAPHY BY HILARY KLINE

This is the time of year when the delicious aromas of hearty stews, deep braises and wonderful roasts fill our homes. These dishes, filled with warmth and comfort, dominate the dinner table. All of that richness needs a little balance and a little freshness. We think that is best delivered in the form of a crisp salad made with hearty wintergreens. After the leaves turn color and the weather turns cold, we find ourselves reaching again and again for the wonderful winter salads in the Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual. Frankies Spuntino restaurant opened its doors just over seven years ago in an old Italian social club in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Owners Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli (“the Franks”) serve simple, delicious Italian-American food by sourcing seasonal ingredients and elevating them with classic technique and a good dose of fresh ground white pepper. These three recipes all feature produce that thrives in the winter months when other traditional salad ingredients fall flat. If you have lusted after bacon studded, crispy, oven-roasted Brussels sprout dishes for one-too-many a meal, the Franks’ raw shaved Brussels sprout salad will seem like a revelation. Even the most ardent hater of these mini mustard bottle-sized relatives to the cabbage will enjoy this simple, fresh, slaw-like preparation. The escarole salad is the Franks’ “go-to salad in the winter.” They note that chicories like escarole do better than other lettuces in wintertime greenhouses, and the best California walnuts are freshest in the fall and winter. To turn the salad into a meal, the cookbook calls for the addition of a poached egg with a runny yolk and some good bread. If you are looking for something with a little more “fresh-vegetable crunch” that is still “bright and light” we love the Fennel, Celery Root and Parsley salad. The Franks say that the two things that make this salad stand out are “the amount of parsley - it should practically be a parsley salad, with the other vegetables lending it texture - and the finishing touch of pumpkinseed oil, which, combined with the white pepper in the dressing, gives a depth of flavor to the salad.”

nov.dec 2011 | spensermag.com | 35


season's harvest:

Shaved Raw Brussels Sprouts with Castelrosso Serves 4 Ingredients: 2 pints Brussels sprouts ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice ½ tsp. fine sea salt ¼ tsp. freshly ground white pepper 1 cup crumbled Castelrosso cheese (about 4 ounces) Black pepper 1. Discard any dark or limp leaves from the Brussels sprouts and trim off their bottoms. Cut the sprouts in half through the core and then slice them crosswise, taking time to slice them as thin as possible. We call them “shaved” raw Brussels sprouts, which says how thin we like them, so make sure you use a sharp knife. 2. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a mixing bowl. (You can shave the Brussels sprouts up to a couple of hours in advance and keep them covered in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them.) 3. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and white pepper in a large, wide mixing bowl. Add the shredded Brussels sprouts to the bowl, tossing all the while. Once you’ve dressed the sprouts, portion them out into salad bowls, top each salad with 1/4 cup of the crumbled cheese, and serve. Offer black pepper from the grinder at the table.

Fennel, Celery Root, Parsley & Red Onion Salad with Lemon & Olive Oil Serves 4 Ingredients: ½ celery root 1 fennel bulb, with stems removed ²⁄³ cup sliced red onion 2 packed cups flatleaf parsley leaves ¼ cup olive oil, or more to taste Juice of ½ lemon ½ tsp. fine sea salt 16 turns white pepper Pumpkinseed oil, for drizzling (optional) Pecorino Romano, to taste 1. Peel the celery root and cut it into fine julienne. Trim the fennel bulb, discarding tough stems and reserving any fresh, pert fronds to garnish the salad, and julienne. (You should have in the neighborhood of 2 cups of each.) 2. Toss the cut vegetables together with the parsley in a large bowl. Add the oil, lemon juice, salt, and white pepper and toss again. Taste and add more oil, salt, and/or lemon juice as needed. 3. Divide the salad among serving plates. Finish each with a drizzle of pumpkinseed oil and a few curls of Pecorino Romano (cut with a vegetable peeler) and serve.


season's harvest:

Escarole with Sliced Red Onion & Walnuts Serves 4 Ingredients: 2 small or 1 large head escarole 1 cup very, very thinly sliced red onion 1 cup walnuts, crumbled by hand ¾ cup Walnut Dressing (recipe follows) 1 tbsp. walnut oil ½ cup loosely packed Fiore Sardo (or Pecorino Romano) cut into curls with a vegetable peeler Black pepper 1. Discard the bitter dark green outer leavers of the escarole. Core the head and float it in a salad spinner full of water for a minute, then drain and spin it dry. Coarsely chop the escarole into manageable pieces. Prepare the Walnut Dressing. (It can be made a day in advance.) 2. Toss the escarole with red onion and walnuts in a large salad bowl. Dress it with the Walnut Dressing and the walnut oil, tossing well to make sure the salad is evenly and lightly dressed. 3. Serve the salad in the bowl, or divide it among serving plates. Finish with curls of Fiore Sardo and offer fresh black pepper at the table.

Walnut Dressing Makes a little less than 1 cup, enough for 6 to 8 salads Ingredients: ¼ cup walnut halves, crushed 1 tsp. honey 1 tbsp. walnut oil ¼ cup grapeseed oil 1 tbsp. tap water 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until emulsified. The color of the dressing should be uniform and the texture silky smooth. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Use immediately or keep, covered, in the fridge for as short a time as possible (and no longer than 24 hours).

All recipes: Excerpted from The Frankies Spuntino by Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo & Peter Meehan (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2010.

nov.dec 2011 | spensermag.com | 37


season’s libation: Batter Up

PHOTOGRAPHY BY HILARY KLINE

There are only a handful of bars in the country where you can still get a scratch-made Tom & Jerry cocktail. (Beware of those that use a commercial mix.) And the odds of one of those bars being close enough to home to brave going out in the cold are pretty low. Which makes the drink all the more perfect to try at home this holiday season. It is tailor-made to keep you feeling warm and festive on even the coldest winter night. There is a bit of a running dispute as to when the drink was invented. Some experts say that it was first whipped up in the early 1850’s by world famous bartender Jerry Thomas at the Planter's House in St. Louis. Others say the drink was created 30 years earlier, by London writer Pierce Egan as a gimmick to promote his latest book that featured two characters named Jerry Hawthorne and Corinthian Tom. Either way, the Tom & Jerry, which is similar to a warm eggnog, had become so popular by the 1920’s that American author Damon Runyon, creator of the Nathan Detroit character in Guys and Dolls, wrote in 1931 that the “old-time drink” was “once so popular that many people think Christmas is invented only to furnish an excuse for hot Tom and Jerry.” Unfortunately, the complexity of the recipe and changing tastes led the drink to fall out of favor in the 1960’s. We think its time to ditch the store-bought eggnog, whip up some frothy Tom and Jerry batter, start a fire, and make this wonderful winter cocktail an annual tradition again.


Tom & Jerry Cocktail: Makes about 20 drinks

½ stick cinnamon, broken into smaller pieces 5 whole cloves 6 allspice berries ½ of a whole nutmeg 12 farm fresh eggs (See Note)

3 tbsp. white sugar 3 tbsp. dark brown sugar 1 ½ cups of brandy 1 ½ cups of dark rum 1 quart whole milk

1. Add the spices to a dry sauté pan and toast over medium heat for 2 minutes. Shake the pan so that the spices don’t burn. Remove the spices from the pan and allow to cool for a few minutes.

2. Separate the egg yolks and whites of the eggs into two separate mixing bowls. Be careful not to allow any yolk to get into the whites or the whites won’t whip properly. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites, starting on low speed and gradually increasing, until the egg whites form soft peaks.

3. Place the toasted spices in a grinder and pulse until they reach a powder-like consistency (We like to microplane the nutmeg first to make it easier). Add 2⁄3 of the spice mixture and the white and brown sugar to the bowl with the egg yolks. Using a wire whisk, beat the yolks steadily until they have thinned into a light yellow, curd-like consistency, about 2-3 minutes.

4. Gently fold the yolk mixture and whipped egg whites together in a large metal bowl, until it forms a soft soufflé-like batter. Set aside at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients. You may need to gently run a whisk through the batter from time to time to reincorporate the mixture. 5. Set two separate saucepans set over medium-low heat. Warm the brandy and rum together in one and the milk in the other. (If you have a candy thermometer, you are looking for a temperature range between 160 and 170 degrees for both the alcohol and the milk.)

6. To serve, grab a friend to help. Line up a row of small heat resistant cups or mugs on your work space. Add 2 heaping tbsp. of the batter to each mug. Working quickly, add 2 tbsp. of the warm rum and brandy mixture and 3 tbsp. of the warm milk to each mug. As you add the warm ingredients, have your friend immediately stir the drink to incorporate using a small whisk. This keeps the hot liquids from curdling the eggs. Sprinkle a pinch of the remaining spice mixture on each drink and serve immediately.

NOTE: RAW EGG WARNING Take caution in consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs due to the slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only immediately fresh, properly refrigerated, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells. If you can find them, go ahead and use pre-pasteurized eggs. The pasteurization process eliminates most salmonella and other food-borne illnesses before the eggs even enter your kitchen.

nov.dec 2011 | spensermag.com | 39


the accidental ranchers :

Meet the Unlikely Couple Who Could End Up Changing the Way Los Angeles Sources Meat BY MIKE DUNDAS PHOTOGRAPHY BY HILARY KLINE

I

t’s 2:30 on a recent Monday morning, and while most of Los Angeles County is sleeping, Lawrence “Lefty” Ayers is climbing into his truck to start the 260-mile trek from his ranch to Modesto, the home of the closest accommodating USDA-certified processor.

This week, he’s hauling a smaller roasting pig that was a cross between a heritage Red Wattle breed and the leaner, common Yorkshire pig for an Oktoberfest dinner at the Tender Greens Restaurant in Hollywood, two full grown pigs and a smaller roaster that were crosses between the heavily muscled Hampshire breed and the Yorkshire for Lindy & Grundy, a high-end butcher shop in Los Angeles, and a full-grown pig that was a cross between a Hampshire and the highly regarded, richly marbled Berkshire breed that was destined for Ford’s Filling Station, a restaurant in Culver City. It will be more than 15 hours until he gets back home after delivering his animals, sorting through the paperwork, picking up feed and taking a quick nap along the side of the road. It’s a trip that Lefty makes every week and its just one small part of raising farm animals for sale to the public in Los Angeles County.


nov.dec 2011 | spensermag.com | 41


F

or Lefty and his wife, Vicki, the decision to start raising heritage pigs was born from adversity. In late 2008, they suffered a foreclosure. Like so many other American families, Lefty and Vicki suddenly found themselves without a place to call home. “I have heard a lot of horrible stories about people who have had to go into foreclosure,” said Lefty, in a recent conversation on the couple's front porch. “But for us, it was an opportunity. Finding this property to rent, as hard as it was letting go of our house, it was better.” While it may be wishful thinking to say that the foreclosure was a blessing in disguise for the Ayers, being forced to move may have set in motion an unlikely series of events that could end up changing the way restaurants and markets in Los Angeles source their meat. When Lefty and Vicki, who are both 55 years old, first visited the property they now lease, they learned from the owner that the vacating tenants were in the midst of moving to Oklahoma. The tenants were raising pigs on the property and had two fullygrown Yorkshires they didn’t want to haul across country. So on the same day that Lefty and Vicki signed the lease for the ranch, they also reached a handshake deal with the departing tenants to purchase the two pigs, one of which, it turned out a few weeks later, was pregnant. “We moved onto the property on July 1 and she gave birth to a full litter on July 29,” Lefty says. “So we started raising the piglets and feeding them, and when it came time to sell them after they were full grown, people told us that they liked what we were doing.”

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Vicki and Lefty talked, and they decided that, if they were going to go forward with raising pigs


LOOKING NORTHEAST FROM LEFTY AND VICKI’S PROPERTY. OPPOSITE PAGE: VICKI AND LEFTY AYERS AT THEIR HOME IN LAKE HUGHES, CA.

to generate a much-needed extra source of income, they would have to do it right. So, Lefty enrolled at Bakersfield College and took a semester of classes focused on swine production. “I went down there and I found out really quickly how much I didn’t know,” he recalls now. In one of Lefty’s first few classes, the professor gave a lecture on the different breeds that are raised in the United States and he noted how most of the purebred Berkshire pork was being exported to Japan for upwards of $30 per pound. Lefty, getting animated as he recounted the story, said, “Oh my gosh! I was getting a buck a pound for that litter of Yorkshires and they are getting thirty. So I sat there thinking that there has got to be a little bit of room in between those two price points for us if we [raise our own Berkshires].” efty and Vicki’s ReRide Ranch is located in a small, unincorporated community in the northern part of Los Angeles County known as Lake Hughes. A mere 70 miles from downtown Los Angeles, ReRide Ranch occupies an oak and pine-covered section of Liebre Mountain near the Old Ridge Route Highway that is formally known as Sandberg Ranch.

L

Before the precursor to Interstate 5 was built, the Ridge Route was the only road connecting Bakersfield and

Los Angeles over The Grapevine. Back then, many travelers would stop and eat at the Sandberg Summit Hotel on the way over the mountains. The Sandberg family used their 120-acre ranch to raise animals and grow vegetables for use at the lodge. After an alternate and more accessible route was built through the Newhall Pass in the 1930’s, the travelers moved on and the lodge fell into disrepair. The family’s ranch changed hands numerous times until the current owners, Ed and Dorothy Levitt, who wanted to raise their children on a farm outside of the City of Los Angeles, eventually purchased it. At the time of the purchase, Ed Levitt was an animator for Disney. He drew artwork for Bambi, Fantasia and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the now 100-year old barn that was built by the Sandbergs. The Ayers work the property themselves, raising pigs, goats, horses and chickens, and growing heirloom apples, cherries, and jujubes. The fruit is primarily grown for personal consumption and is often given out as gifts to friends and customers. The commercial side of the operation is focused primarily on the naturally grown, heritage pork. While Lefty and Vicki take great care to follow humane farming practices, their pigs cannot be labeled as 100% pasture-raised because the weather in Los Ange-

nov.dec 2011 | spensermag.com | 43


les doesn’t provide enough rain for the grass to grow year round. “The folks in Northern California are a little ahead of the curve on us when it comes to pastured farming,” Lefty notes. “Northern California’s rolling green hills, the amount of rain, the grasses, the proximity to Bay Area customers all lend themselves to supporting that kind of heritage ranching. All that being said, for us to be in LA County and to have 120 acres to farm on is pretty rare in itself. We can’t utilize all of it because of the terrain, but we still have a lot of room to grow.” Topographically, aside from the cherry and apple orchards and the oak-filled canyons, most of the Sandberg land is rocky, arid terrain. The fields are filled with sagebrush and California buckwheat, both dry weather plants. And while the winter rains bring plenty of green grass, the pigs will have mowed most of that down by the end of the summer. Come fall, the pigs are shifted to spacious outdoor pens and given an all feed diet that is supplemented with fallen apples from the orchard until the rains come again. The feed does not contain any corn or soybeans and is, instead, a mixture of whole wheat, barley and oats that Lefty grinds to a soft powder in a jerry-rigged wood chipper. To date, Lefty and Vicki have been finishing a very small number of their fatter, purebred Berkshires on acorns that are gathered from around the property and there are plans in the works to start finishing certain pigs on local almonds and pistachios. They also are in the process of fencing in an entire oak-filled canyon on the backside of their property. As soon as that fencing is in place, Lefty and Vicki intend to let the pure Berkshires loose to forage for the fallen acorns in between meals. It’s these nuts and acorns that give the Berkshires’ rich, marbled fat a softer, sweeter, almost nutty flavor that is so prized by chefs and salumi makers.

F

rom the start, it was easy to see that there was pent up demand in Los Angeles for this kind of locally raised animal. The first two Berkshire pigs that Lefty and Vicki ever took to market, which were milk-fed and acorn-finished, ended up at McCall’s Meat and Fish, a high-end butcher shop in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. Shop owners, Nathan McCall and Karen Yoo, didn’t even need to advertise the special pork’s availability to the general public. The first Berkshire sold out in advance, simply by word of mouth. The second Berkshire was sold first-come,


first-serve, causing lines to stretch out the door and down the block. In the case of both animals, McCall said that he was incredibly pleased with the quality of the meat and that his customers couldn’t have been happier to be able to purchase pork that was raised so close to home. A few weeks earlier, Neal Fraser, Chef and Owner of Grace and BLD restaurants in Los Angeles, had used a 120 lb. Hampshire/Yorkshire from ReRide Ranch to teach a private butchering class at a home in the Hollywood Hills. One of Fraser’s students, who just happened to work with the Silverlake Farms CSA, was so taken by the quality of the meat that she received as part of the class, that she convinced Silverlake Farms to buy its own pig from Lefty to offer to customers. As luck would have it, the folks behind the CSA needed a butcher to break down the pig for easy distribution so they called on Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada, owners of the then-brand new Lindy & Grundy butcher shop, also in Los Angeles, to handle the cutting and wrapping. Nakamura and Posada, who focus on breaking down whole, local animals in their shop, in turn called Lefty to source their own pork to sell directly to customers. That same week, word got around to Ben Ford, the Chef and Owner of Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City and Eric Hulme, the Executive Chef at Tender Greens in Hollywood, that there was a new source for local pigs in Los Angeles. They immediately reached out to Lefty and put in their own orders. For all three of those phone calls to come in one week was, in Lefty’s words, “divine intervention.” Ben Ford prefers to say, simply, that it has been a long time coming.

SCENES FROM RERIDE RANCH.

“I looked for years,” Ford said. “I was so ecstatic. To have him come down to LA and actually deliver the pigs every week and provide that connection to the farm at our restaurant is amazing.”


Ford thinks that local farmers like Lefty, who sell whole animals, provide a particular freedom to his kitchen. It forces him to get creative with cooking the less popular cuts and to focus on charcuterie and smoking the meats. “Since the animals that Lefty raises don’t come from a factory, each one is going to be a little different,” Ford stresses. “You have to be ready to take what he gives you and work intuitively through it. If the pig comes through the door with more fat on the back, we’ll make lardo. If the legs are really nice, we will take the time to butcher out and cure the culatello.” It is all about adapting on the fly. Hulme, from Tender Greens, has also become a quick fan of Lefty’s pork. This past summer, he launched a whole animal dinner series in the beer garden at the back of his restaurant that featured Lefty’s pork on two separate nights. Like Ford, Hulme believes that helping Lefty actually ends up helping Tender Greens in the long run. “We saw what was happening and believed in what he was doing. Not only did we build a relationship, we helped build up a small producer, which is part of our mission here at Tender Greens,” Hulme said. It isn’t just pigs that Hulme sources from Lefty. He also buys the occasional goat or free-range goose. On the night we met, Tender Greens offered a salad with heirloom Arkansas Black varietal apples from Lefty’s orchard. and the house bacon at the Hollywood Tender Greens is often smoked with apple or cherry wood from the same property. “One of my favorite things about having Lefty as a supplier is his proximity to the city. Given how busy most chefs are, I think it is a luxury to be able to drive 60 miles up the freeway to visit the animals and see how they are being raised. That connection to the process, starting from birth, is something I wouldn’t want to trade for convenience.”

E

ven with that growth, however, cash flow is still a consistent concern. The fuel costs in driving to and from the processor and to and from his customers add up to $300 per week. The processor charges him another $300 per week to harvest the animals and the feed costs run another $550 per week. That’s almost $60,000 per year in fixed costs that Lefty and Vicki have to cover

46 | spensermag.com | nov.dec 2011 

before they make any profit. For a couple that is still recovering from their home foreclosure, it’s a rather daunting number. Both Lefty and Vicki readily admit that they are currently able to cover their costs because customers like McCall’s and Lindy & Grundy and Tender Greens and Ford’s Filling Station carry a credit with ReRide Ranch almost every week. These customers never hesitate to pay up front, knowing that the early payment helps defray the substantial fixed costs of raising the animals. This past summer, driving up a hill on his way back from making deliveries in Los Angeles, Lefty was about a mile from the house when his truck just died. The engine was fried because he had thrown a belt, and with 365,000 miles on the odometer, the engine didn’t stand a chance. “The truck had already been running on hope for five years,” Vicki says. “So,” Lefty added, “I figured out what it was going to take to buy the used truck that I wanted and I got on the phone and called Nathan, Erika and Amelia, Ben and Eric.” Those calls were made on a Thursday, Lefty was able to pick up the checks from his customers on Friday, and the truck was purchased on Saturday. “Those are the kind of customers we have,” Lefty boasts. “Had it not been for our wholesale customers standing with us, we would not be here today. Frankly, they may believe in us even more than we do.” Ford and Hulme will both tell you they not only believe in Lefty, the have a need for people like Lefty. “We need him as much as he needs us,” Ford stresses. “And so we need to do what we can to keep him around.” Similarly, Hulme says by helping him just that little bit with his truck, “Lefty goes out of his way to help us, to raise animals for us. It is all interconnected.”

C

ash flow isn’t Lefty and Vicki’s only problem. The lack of easy access to a local USDA-certified meat processor looms large every day. Under the law in California, if a live pig, lamb, goat or cow is to be sold whole, by the farmer, directly to an individual customer, and not be portioned out and further sold to the public at large, it can be processed at a California Department


A YOUNG AMERICAN BERKSHIRE PIG.


of Food and Agriculture approved facility even if the facility does not possess USDA certification. Because there are a small handful of these CDFA facilities in Southern California, almost all of the farmers raising animals in that part of the state focus their efforts on selling whole animals directly to individual customers. That left a wide-open wholesale market for an LA-area farmer like Lefty to come along and focus on sales to local restaurants and butcher shops. Unfortunately, the stress of the haul to the USDA processor can negatively impact the quality of the meat. Not all of the pigs have turned out as Lefty and Vicki had hoped and some customers have pulled back on new orders until a certain level of consistency can be guaranteed. Here in California, the options for the small ranchers who focus on sustainably raising heritage breeds for wholesale are very limited. Many USDA-approved processors just don’t service small customers and those that do, as in Lefty’s case, are often hundreds of miles from home. “Believe it or not,” Lefty says tapping his fingers on the table, “there isn’t one place in all of Southern California that does lamb, goats or pigs under USDA certification if you are a small farmer. How are small farmers like us supposed to get our products to market if we can’t get them humanely processed?” That’s when Vicki chimes in, “There are places that are closer than Modesto, but either they aren’t USDA-approved, they won’t deliver the pigs back to the farm or they completely skin the pigs and our customers don’t want that. The scalder and scraper that allows a processor to keep the skin intact can cost upwards of $25,000, which means most of the smaller operators don’t see the value in the investment.” If a chef wants to roast an entire pig, serve cracklings or chicharrón, or make prosciutto, the skin is an absolute necessity, which leaves the Modesto processor as their only option. Lefty is currently talking to local stakeholders to gauge whether there is any interest in coming together to build a USDA-approved mobile processing facility like the one being used by the Central Coast Ag Network whose reach extends from Santa Maria to Paso Robles in Central California. Aside from the time and cost savings, a mobile processing unit is generally considered to be a more humane harvesting practice. By traveling directly to the farm, the mobile unit produces less stress on the animals, vastly improving the quality of the final product. Lefty believes that if he can pull together the support for the mobile processing unit, which is estimated to cost about $150,000, the quality control problems created by the long drive to Modesto could resolve themselves.


If Lefty can get a mobile unit up and running, Ford and other chefs think that other local farmers would start offering their animals for sale to LA area restaurants. Because that would mean a more consistent supply of locally raised animals, it is likely that more restaurants would, in turn, start butchering those whole animals in-house. This would enable those restaurants to provide more creative menu options to their customers. In that sense, Lefty and Vicki could be on the cusp of setting off a sea change in the way chefs source and serve meat in Los Angeles. As wonderful as that sounds, Vicki isn’t letting either she or Lefty rest on their laurels. “It has been a very hard uphill road and we still have a long way to go.”

(FROM TOP) BABY BERKSHIRE/HAMPSHIRE CROSSBRED PIGS BEING NURSED BY THEIR MOTHER. TWO BABY BERKSHIRE/HAMPSHIRE PIGS. OPPOSITE PAGE: (FROM TOP) PRECIOUS, THE MOTHER OF THE NEWEST LITTER OF YOUNG BABIES AT THE FARM; A YOUNG HAMPSHIRE/YORKSHIRE CROSSBRED PIG.

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Crispy Pork Rib Lardon Adapted from a Recipe by Nathan McCall Being the one who butchers these tasty pigs, these are my favorite things to save for myself. It’s the meat in between the rack of ribs that gets removed to french the bone. It's almost equal parts fat and meat, because it comes from close to the belly, and completely perfect. Serve as a passed hors d'oeuvre. 2 tbls. kosher salt 2 tbls. brown sugar 20 pork rib lardons ¼ cup apple cider vinegar 1 tsp. sea salt 1 tsp. ground chili flake 1 tbls. maple syrup 1. Mix the kosher salt and brown sugar together to form a dry brine. Toss the lardons in the dry brine until coated on all sides, shaking off excess brine. Put the meat in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 10 hours. After brining, place lardons on paper towel and pat dry. 2. In a sauté pan, set over medium-low heat, slowly render and soften the lardons evenly until just lightly browned on all sides, about 10 - 15 minutes. Drain off the excess fat from the pot and turn up heat, cooking the lardons until all sides are nicely caramelized. 3. Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze by adding the apple cider vinegar. Shake the pan to coat the lardons in the vinegar. Remove the lardons to a bowl and season with the sea salt, chili flake and maple syrup. Toss until evenly coated. All seasoning should be done to taste, if you prefer more chili flake, salt, syrup or vinegar, go for it. Note: Pork Belly can be used as an alternative cut for this recipe. Just cut the pork belly into ¾ inch cubes.

Pig Ear Salad Adapted from a Recipe by Ben Ford Photos by Ron Derhacopian Editor’s Note: When Lefty and Vicki Ayers sat down for their very first meal at Ford’s Filling Station a few months ago, Chef Ben Ford served the couple this salad featuring crispy fried pig ears from one of their farm raised pigs. Being a “pork chop guy”, it wasn’t something that Lefty expected to like, but he couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

Serves 4 8 fresh pig ears 2 large (or 3 medium) leeks, white parts only 2 tbls. + 2 quarts canola oil Salt Pepper 2 heads of frisée lettuce 12 cherry tomatoes 2 cups all-purpose flour 4 lemons, juiced 4 tbls. extra virgin olive oil Lemon chile emulsion (recipe on next page) 1. Start by placing the pig ears in a sauce pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook the pig ears for 8 hours, adding water to the pot as it reduces to always keep the ears covered. Once the pig ears are cooked, strain from the water set aside until cool enough to handle. 2. While the ears are cooling, cut the white parts of leeks into quarters lengthwise. Then slice the leeks into pieces about 1/2" thick. Add the leek pieces to a colander and thoroughly rinse under cool running water to remove the dirt. Dry the leeks with a towel. Warm the 2 tbls. canola oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks have turned a caramel color, about 8 minutes. Remove the caramelized leaks to a bowl and season with a pinch of salt and 10 grinds of fresh ground pepper. Cool in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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3. Take the frisée and trim off all the rough dark green parts, then remove the stems, wash well and dry in a salad spinner. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and set aside. 4. Add 2 quarts canola oil to a high sided sauce pot and heat the oil to 350°F. Once the pig ears have cooled, slice them, crosswise, in thin julienne strips. Mix 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tbls. fresh ground pepper in a bowl with the flour. Drag the strips of pig ear through the seasoned flour to evenly coat all sides, shaking off any excess flour. Fry the ears in the preheated oil until they turn golden brown and crispy. Remove ears from the oil and drain on a cooling rack set over paper towels. Immediately season with a pinch of kosher salt. (Depending on the size of your pot, you may need to fry in batches. If you do, allow the oil to return to 350°F before frying the second batch.) 5. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl to create a vinaigrette. Put the frisee, sliced cherry tomatoes and caramelized leeks into a large mixing bowl and toss with 6 tablespoons of the lemon vinaigrette. Season the salad with a pinch or two of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss well. Taste, add more vinaigrette, salt or pepper to the salad if necessary and toss again. Divide the dressed salad evenly between four plates. Top each salad with pieces of the crispy pig ears. Using a spoon, drizzle the lemon chile emulsion on the plate around each salad.

Lemon Chile Emulsion Makes about 1 ¼ cups

1 egg yolk (See Note) 3 tbls. fresh squeezed lemon juice 2 tsp. marash pepper (aleppo pepper is a good substitute) ½ tsp. kosher salt ¾ tsp. fresh ground pepper 1 cup extra virgin olive oil 1. Add the egg yolk, lemon juice, marash pepper, salt and fresh ground pepper to a blender. With the blender running on a low speed, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the emulsion comes together. NOTE: RAW EGG WARNING You must take caution in consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs due to the slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only immediately fresh, properly refrigerated, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells. If you can find them, go ahead and use pre-pasteurized eggs. The pasteurization process eliminates most salmonella and other food-borne illnesses before the eggs even enter your kitchen.

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Braised Pork Shank with Chorizo and Lomo Home Fries and Cider Sage Sauce Adapted from a Recipe by Neal Fraser

Editor’s Note: This is a wonderful, fall-inspired dish that Chef Neal Fraser serves at Grace Restaurant in Los Angeles. Grace is in the process of being moved from its original location on Beverly Boulevard to the rectory building of the Vibiana Cathedral in Downtown LA. Thanks to the Chef, you can now make this dish at home while you wait for Grace to reopen.

Serves 4 4 whole pork shanks, from the front of the pig Kosher salt 6 oz. (about 1 heaping cup) wood chips 4 tbls. extra virgin olive oil 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced 2 heirloom apples, cored and sliced 4 oz. sherry vinegar 1 bottle sparkling apple cider 2 quarts veal stock 2 quarts chicken stock (may need more) 4 sage leaves 2 large (or 3 medium) Yukon gold potatoes Kosher salt 2 tbls. extra virgin olive oil 4 oz .sliced Spanish chorizo 4 oz. sliced Spanish lomo 1 /4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped (leaves only) 1 stick unsalted butter 1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Season the shanks generously with kosher salt. To light the wood chips, put in an ovenproof pan on the stove top and turn on high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the chips ignite. Put the smoking pan on the lowest rack in the oven. Place the salted shanks directly on the oven rack right above the smoking pan and roast for 30 minutes. Shanks should be smokey and glazed on the outside.

bone. Or almost falling off. When this occurs, remove the pot from oven and allow to rest in the liquid uncovered at room temperature for 1 hour. Increase the temperature of the the oven to 325°. Brush the outside of the potatoes with olive oil and season each with kosher salt. Bake in the oven till fork tender, about 1 hour. 4. After the shanks have rested for the hour, ladle ½ of the braising liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a small sauce pot. Put the lid back on the pot with the shanks and place the shanks on the stove over the lowest heat setting to keep warm until you are ready to serve. Set the sauce pot with the braising liquid over medium-high heat and reduce until the sauce thickens and glazes the back of the spoon (about 20 minutes). 5. While the sauce is reducing, remove the potatoes from the oven and slice into 1 inch thick slices. Reduce the heat of the oven to 300°F. In a large, ovenproof sauté pan, set over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter starts to bubble, add the potatoes and cook, turning occasionally, until they turn golden brown. Add the chorizo, lomo, parsley and a few pinches of salt and turns fresh ground pepper to the pan. Stir to combine the ingredients and then place the pan in oven for 25 minutes. 6. To plate, remove the shanks to a cutting board. Carefully remove the smaller of the two exposed bones from each of the shanks, keeping the meat intact on the larger bone. Place one shank on each plate and generously glaze with the reduced sauce. Divide the home fries evenly among the four plates and serve with additional sauce drizzled around the plate. Note: We prefer to use apple wood chips from Lefty’s farm, but you can use hickory, mesquite, cherry, pecan, or any other good hardwood that is local to your area.

2. Remove the smoked shanks from the oven and turn the oven temperature down to 275°F. Set a high walled sauce pot or Dutch oven large enough to fit the shanks over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and the onions and cook until the onions turn golden brown about 10 minutes. Add the carrots, apples, and sherry vinegar and cook until the sherry vinegar reduces by ½. Add the cider, veal stock, chicken stock, sage and the smoked shanks. Add enough additional chicken stock, if necessary, such that the shanks are completely covered. Turn the heat up to high, bring the stock to a simmer, cover with the lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2 hours. 3. After two hours, the meat should be falling off the

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Slow Roasted Pork With Caramelized Fennel

Adapted from a Recipe by Nathan McCall Editor’s Note: This is a great party dish, because it serves so many people with minimal effort at the time of service. You simply have to slice and serve when you are ready to go. And the sauce, which is more like a caramelized fennel and onion marmalade, is the perfect accompaniment.

Serves 12 8-10 lb. skin-on, bone-in Boston butt 2 tbls. kosher salt 2 tbls. fresh ground black pepper 2 tsp. Piment d’Espelette pepper 2 tsp. fennel pollen Zest from 3 lemons 1 tbls. + 1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced 3 yellow onions, cut into ¼ inch slices 3 fennel bulbs, cut into ¼ inch slices 2 tbls. + ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 3 tbls. fresh squeezed lemon juice 1. Score the skin of the roast, being careful not to cut all of the way through the fat to the meat. Liberally season entire roast, including the skin, with the kosher salt. Add the black pepper, Espelette pepper, and fennel pollen in a mortar and pestle and stir to combine. Add the lemon zest and 1 tbls. of the chopped thyme to the mortar and grind to combine with the spices. Then add the garlic and grind until thick paste is achieved. Rub this spice paste over entire shoulder and massage into the meat until evenly coated. Place the meat in a large roasting pan, cover the pan with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. 2. Remove the roast from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. Place roast on a piece of aluminum foil set on a cutting board, so the roasting pan can be used in next step. 3. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Heat the roasting pan over medium heat and sauté the sliced fennel and onions in 2 tbls. olive oil just until they start to break down and turn translucent. Spread the vegetables in an even layer across the bottom of the pan, place the roast on top of vegetables and put the roast in the oven. After 25 minutes, lower the heat to 225°F and roast for another 8-10 hours. To test to see if the roast is done, jiggle the blade bone to see if it pulls easily from the meat. 4. When the roast is done, remove from the oven and place the roast on a cutting board. Loosely cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Strain the fennel and onions from the pan drippings, reserving both. Put the onions and fennel

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in a food processor and pulse to roughly chop. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and 1 tsp. of the fresh chopped thyme. Taste. Add a pinch of salt or a touch more lemon juice if needed. Separate and discard the rendered fat from the pan drippings, reserving the juices. 5. To serve, carefully pull the blade bone from the shoulder. Carve the roast into ¼ inch slices and spread out on a serving platter. Spoon the reserved pan juices over the meat. Pass a bowl of the fennel onion sauce on the side. Note: For a quicker, smaller roast, you may substitute a trimmed, 4lb. boneless shoulder for the Boston butt. The roast should still take around 6 hours to cook through at the low temperature.


Discover a whole new world of food. Jun-blog, stories and photographs from my Filipino kitchen

www.junblog.com


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a tough nut to crack: The Revival of the American Chestnut BY BRENDAN LYNCH PHOTOGRAPHY BY HILARY KLINE AND SARAH DORIO

The chestnut is quite possibly the only ingredient to have reached an iconic status in American cuisine more for its lore than its actual consumption. Chestnuts were served at the first Thanksgiving, and after the first snowfall, the chestnut conjures thoughts of roasting, and open fires, and Christmas.

But these images are far from the reality of chestnut production today. This quintessential American ingredient, which was once produced by three to four billion trees in the U.S., has been ravaged by blight. Today, only a few thousand trees remain. Which means that those chestnuts you plan on serving this winter are most likely Korean, Chinese or Italian.


Until the turn of the century the American chestnut tree was a defining feature of eastern forests. A quarter of all trees in the Mid-Atlantic region were chestnuts, providing wood for homes, fences, and railroad ties — as well as a bounty of nuts to feed humans and hogs alike. “If ever there was a place defined by a tree, it was Appalachia,” according to folk historian Charlotte Ross. The trees’ prevalence in the mountainous region created its own economy, from timber to food, from medical tinctures to fertile hunting ground. Yet, within the span of just two generations, the tree was nearly driven to extinction. Cryphonectria parasitica, or chestnut blight, was discovered in, of all places, the decidedly un-Appalachian New York City by Hermann Merkel, the German-born chief forester of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. By 1906, researchers knew that the fungus was infecting the trees beneath the bark. As the fungus produced spores, the tree would be effectively starved of its own stores of water and nutrients. The fungus left visible pocks of orange and red on the bark, and could kill a healthy mature tree in less than three years. Scientists struggled to combat the blight as it spread across the Eastern Seaboard and into the Appalachians. Within a few short years, the blight was considered to be a fullfledged epidemic. The lament of the fall of the stately chestnut tree was planted firmly in the public conscience, given voice by such disparate forms as The New York Times and Henry David Throreau. The American chestnut shifted from being a provider easily taken for granted to an embodiment of nostalgia. As Susan Frienkel, author of American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree, notes starkly, turn of the century America’s love of the Chestnut spawned its own verb, Chestnutting, yet forestry science was left with one thought: eradication. She quotes an editorial from the Los Angeles Times in 1923, which asked wistfully, “Will eating chestnuts by crackling log fires become one of the lost arts preserved by a devoted people only in poetry and romance?”

PREVIOUS PAGE: YOUNG CHESTNUT TREES AT MEADOWVIEW FARM, MEADOWVIEW, VA. PHOTO BY HILARY KLINE. (FROM TOP) CHESTNUT GIANTS, GREAT SMOKEY MOUNTAINS, WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA. COURTESY OF THE FOREST HISTORY SOCIETY, DURHAM NC; AMERICAN CHESTNUT CATKIN, MEADOWVIEW FARM, MEADOWVIEW, VA. OPPOSITE PAGE: (FROM TOP) CHESTNUT BURR, MEADOWVIEW FARM, MEADOWVIEW, VA. COURTESY OF THE AMERICAN CHESTNUT FOUNDATION. LEAD SCIENTIST DR. FRED HEBARD, PHD.


Hebard is ecstatic about the early success of the recent plantings and can’t imagine doing anything else. “This is my dream job, to breed chestnut trees for blight resistance in a practical field setting,” he says. “I hope that someday, the mountainsides of the Appalachians will once more be white with chestnut blossoms on the fourth of July.” These days, two southern chefs are doing more than most to draw attention to the history of the chestnut as well as help keep it alive in America’s forests — and kitchens.

By 1965, labs from the United States to France engaged in a new form of trench warfare to save the species. The timing could not have been better: the USDA had just written off the American chestnut and abandoned its breeding programs. Despite the massive losses, these few labs continued their quixotic attempt to save the tree. To survive, the American chestnut would have to be reincarnated. Those who remained focused on the fight would undertake a decades-long effort to make the species impervious to the disease by crossbreeding it with a blight-resistant Asian species. One group of scientists, formed under the aegis of The American Chestnut Foundation more than 30 years ago, endeavored to backcross surviving American chestnut trees with their blight-resistant Chinese counterparts. The resulting trees, which were half-American and half-Chinese, were then backcrossed with another 100%-American chestnut producing a tree that was three-fourths American. The process was then repeated until the backcrossed trees were eventually intercrossed with each other to create a predominantly American tree that could survive in the wild. “With each backcross, additional American chestnut characteristics are regained,” states Dr. Hebard, the current Chief Scientist at the foundation. “Only at the final intercross, however, is blight resistance equal to that of the Chinese parent restored.” Today, The American Chestnut Foundation’s 160-acre Meadowview Research Farm in far western Virginia, where Dr. Hebard works, has more than 30,000 trees at various stages of breeding. In just the past few years, the foundation has begun reintroducing hundreds of blight-resistant American chestnuts to forests in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Dr.

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SMALL CHESTNUTS. OPPOSITE PAGE: CHESTNUT BURRS. PHOTOS BY HILARY KLINE.


Chef John Shields’ Town House restaurant in Chilhowie, Virginia is a mere 11 miles from The American Chestnut Foundation’s Meadowview research farms. Shields, who trained in the Chicago kitchens of Grant Achatz and Charlie Trotter, brings an original presentation of very traditional ingredients to the table. He spent years working for Achatz at Alinea, where technologically advanced techniques and implements are the name of the game. Yet when he left Chicago with his wife Karen to run the kitchen at Town House, Shields eschewed modernist technique to focus singularly on the ingredient itself. He surprised himself with the degree to which he embraced his new rural surroundings.

The fresh chestnut’s crisp texture inspires Shields to shave them raw — like truffles — over a dish with Dungeness crab, brown butter, lime and lardo. He also loves the natural fattiness and sweetness in the chestnuts, which play perfectly on the plate with these bold ingredients. Hugh Acheson, the chef and owner of Georgia restaurants Five & Ten, the National, Gosford Wine and Empire State South, takes an equally cerebral approach to the humble chestnut. Chestnuts, he says, are a “quintessential Southern bounty.”

“We have a terrific abundance of chestnuts fresh off the tree,” says Shields. “Access to these amazing ingredients drives us in the kitchen.”

Acheson sources around 200 pounds of local chestnuts each year and is constantly looking for new ways to serve them. When scored, par-roasted, and hyper-local, chestnuts provide an unctuously sweet note to some of Acheson’s favorite dishes, including his rustic chestnut and porcini soup.

Reflecting on his life back in the big city, Shields is adamant: “I don’t think I can go back. The inspiration is not there, it's here.”

The chestnut allows Acheson to pay tribute to his roots in Canada, as well as his new home, with traditions as varied as the Appalachian chestnutters and the Gullahs.

Shields has worked closely for years with the growers who hand-deliver the chestnuts he uses at Town House. For him, they embody “the soul of the land on the table.”

Despite creating tangibly delicious results, he views using American chestnuts in admirably abstract terms. For anybody who has ever tried to peel a chestnut, you will recognize what Acheson calls the “glory of inconvenience.” Ultimately, however, the inconvenience is worth every effort.

“[The chestnuts] are like nothing you have ever tasted before,” Shields says, contrasting the crunch of the raw product with the tired and chewy, canned and imported chestnuts that are found on most store shelves today. Because most people have never tasted a fresh American chestnut, Shields believes it’s easy “to live one’s life knowing of the chestnut without actually knowing it.”

For Acheson, using chestnuts is not simply an end unto itself, but it is an act of fanning the flames of heritagebased ingredients. “This is an ingredient,” he says, “that we need to preserve to advance.”


(CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) THE EXTERIOR OF EMPIRE STATE SOUTH, A RESTAURANT IN ATLANTA, GA; CHEF HUGH ACHESON; THE DINING ROOM AT EMPIRE STATE SOUTH. PHOTOS BY SARAH DORIO.


Chestnut and Porcini Soup Recipe by Hugh Acheson This soup marries three flavors I love: chestnuts, sherry and porcini. They just work brilliantly together. If you cannot find fresh porcini, use frozen. If you cannot find frozen use dried. If you cannot find dried, use shiitakes. If you can’t find shiitakes you should consider lobbying for better shopping in your neighborhood.

Serves 8 2 tbsp. unsalted butter 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and minced 4 stalks celery, peeled and minced 1 russet potato, peeled and cut to 1 inch cubes ½ pound fresh porcini mushrooms, brushed of any dirt and cut to 1 inch dice ½ pound fresh button mushrooms, thinly sliced 1 cup dry sherry 1 ½ quarts chicken stock 1 cup (about 12) fresh chestnuts, roasted, peeled and chopped (see Note) 8 sprigs thyme and 5 sprigs flat leaf parsley, tied in a bouquet with kitchen twine 2 bay leaves 1 cup heavy cream Salt and pepper to taste (amount will vary based on chicken stock)

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1. Place a heavy soup or stock pot over medium heat. Add the butter to the pot and when the butter begins to bubble and froth, add the onions and celery and sweat down for 10 minutes. 2. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 10 minutes. Once the mushrooms are sautéed down a fair bit, add the sherry. Allow the sherry to reduce for 5 minutes. 3. Add potato and chestnuts to the pan and cook for 10 more minutes. At this point you add the chicken stock, the bouquet and the bay leaf, and cover the pot. Cook until potato is tender, about 15 minutes. 4. With the pot still on the heat, add the cream. Immediately remove the herb bouquet and bay leaves using a slotted spoon or tongs. Then remove the pot from heat. 5. Season the soup to taste and then carefully puree it in a blender. Pass through a fine chinois for a smoother texture. Editor’s Note: To prep the chestnuts, cut a good-sized X across the flat side of the chestnut with a sharp knife. Be sure to cut through the shell but try not to cut into the nut. Soak the chestnuts in a bowl of water for 30 minutes. While the chestnuts are soaking, preheat your oven to 350°. Place chestnuts scored-side up in a single layer in a baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Peel.


Dungeness Crab in Brown Butter and Butter Whey Onions, Chestnuts, Lime, and Shaved Pork Fat Adapted from a recipe by John B. Shields This dish is inspired solely by the freshness of the local chestnuts. Their sweetness matches perfectly with delicate shellfish and onions, while the touches of lime add the pop it needs. The final shaving of raw chestnut is so important for that fresh cleansing of the mouth and their crispy texture.

Serves 8 Chestnut cream (recipe follows) Charred onions (recipe follows) Pickled onions (recipe follows) 1 pint picked and cleaned Dungeness crab Brown butter (recipe follows) Zest from 1 lime 1 pinch sea salt Juice from 1 lime Reduced roasted onion juice, warmed (recipe follows) 8 2" thick slices (or 16 1" thick slices) of lardo Fresh ogo seaweed 2 finger limes, cut in half and pulp pushed out Raw chestnuts (recipe follows) Butter whey mixed with crab oil (recipe follows) 1. Spread a layer of the chestnut cream down on each of the 8 plates with a few of the charred and pickled onions on each. Mix the crab with a few spoonfuls of the brown butter, the lime zest, sea salt and the lime juice. Evenly divide the crab among the plates, placing on the cream and onions. 2. Spoon some of the onion juice on the crab and place a sheet (or two) of lardo on top. Put each plate in a 450째 oven for 10 seconds to melt the lardo. Garnish each dish with a few strands of the seaweed, a few sacs of the finger lime pulp and, of course, an equal portion of the sliced raw chestnuts. Spoon a few drops of the butter whey with the crab oil and a few additional drops of the roasted onion juice over the chestnuts on each dish. Serve.

(FROM TOP) CHEF JOHN B. SHIELDS AT TOWN HOUSE RESTAURANT IN CHILHOWIE, VA; THE FINISHING TOUCHES ON THE CRAB AND CHESTNUT DISH. PHOTOS BY HILARY KLINE. OPPOSITE PAGE: CHESTNUT AND PORCINI SOUP. PHOTO BY SARAH DORIO.

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Chestnut Cream 1 cup roasted and shelled chestnuts 2 cups roasted onion stock (recipe below) 2 cups shellfish stock (preferably made with crab shells) 4 oz. unsalted butter Salt and fresh squeezed lime juice to taste

2. Once the second batch is golden, add the previously fried onions back to the pot. Add the water, honey and a pinch of salt. (This will cook and reduce for a long time on very low heat, so you don't want to add too much salt in the beginning.) Bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 12-14 hours.

1. Combine everything in a saucepan except for the salt and lime juice and cook until the chestnuts are tender and the liquid has reduced slightly. Puree in a blender until completely smooth. Taste. Add salt and lime juice to the puree taste. Blend to incorporate.

3. At the halfway point, remove two cups of the stock to use with the chestnut cream. Continue reducing for the remaining 6-7 hours. Taste the sauce (be careful, as the fat from the butter will have risen to the top and will be hotter than the liquid below). Adjust the seasoning with additional salt and honey as needed. Add the kaffir lime leaves and steep until ready to use. (The reduced onion juice can be stored in the fridge until ready. Warm before serving.)

Brown Butter and Butter Whey 1 lb. unsalted butter 8 kaffir lime leaves 1. Place the butter in a sauce pan and cook on low heat until the butter starts to bubble and the foam rises to the top. When the butter first starts to turn color a light brown, remove the pan from the heat. Carefully skim off just the foam (whey) with a spoon. Reserve the whey for use with the crab oil.

Roasted Onion Stock and Reduced Roasted Onion Juice 6 yellow onions, cut into large dice 1/2 recipe brown butter (recipe below) 1 gallon spring water Sea salt 2 tbsp. of honey 8 kaffir lime leaves 1. Add half of the brown butter to a large, highsided pot and heat on medium high heat. Add half the onions and season with salt. You want to fry the onions in the butter until nicely golden brown. Remove the onions and butter and set aside, then repeat the process with the remaining butter and onions.

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2. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the butter looks brown and smells like toasted nuts. Remove from the heat, add the lime leaves and steep for 1 hour.

Charred Onions 1 onion sliced into 1/2 inch rounds 1 tbsp. olive oil 1 tbsp. unsalted butter 1 pinch of sea salt 1. Preheat a sautĂŠ pan over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and char the onion rounds until tender. Take the pan off the heat, allowing it to cool slightly and add a tablespoon of butter. Stir the onions to coat with the butter. Season the onions with a pinch of sea salt.


Pickled Onions 10 small onions separated into petals. 1 cup water 1 cup white wine ½ cup white wine vinegar ¼ cup sugar ½ tbsp. sea salt 1 lime, peeled

3. Pour everything into a container and marinate in the refrigerator for 3 days. After day 3, strain the oil though a chinois (or a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth), allowing the oil to drip on it's own (do not press down on the solids).

1. Combine everything in a pot except the lime. Bring to a boil and cool, add the lime. Pour over the onions and marinate in a clean, sealed glass jar for at least one week.

Raw Chestnuts

Butter Whey with Roasted Crab Oil 2 bodies of leftover crab shells Canola oil Reserved butter whey

4. Whip the reserved butter whey with 4-5 tbsp. of the roasted crab oil.

10 chestnuts 1. Cut the chestnuts in half and soak in hot water (that is around 175°) for about 5 minutes. Working one chestnut at a time, peel the skin off of each chestnut and store the peeled nuts in cold water until ready to use. Right before serving, slice the chestnuts very thin on a mandoline.

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Roast the shells in an ovenproof sauté pan until caramelized and very brittle (do not burn or blacken the the shells). 2. Add some of the shells to a blender with enough canola oil to allow for smooth blending. Blend for 2 minutes and then add back to the pan with the remaining shells and all of the beautiful crab bits that have formed at the bottom of the pan. Cook over a medium burner, lightly toasting the oil and scraping up the bits with a wooden spoon.

PHOTOS BY HILARY KLINE


spenser:


socializing.


one drop at a time:

Think back to the last time you had a craft cocktail at a bar or restaurant. Did the bartender use a house-infused bitter or tincture? Could it have been a Manhattan variant made with a sweet vanilla tincture? Or maybe a drink that balanced mezcal with cinnamon and blood orange-infused bitters? Until a few weeks ago, if you were drinking that cocktail at a bar in California, your bartender could have been busted for breaking the law. Because of the growing popularity of house-infused spirits, the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control took it upon itself, in May 2008, to issue a "trade enforcement advisory" stating that bars in California could not legally infuse distilled spirits with fruits, herbs and spices unless those infusions were meant for “immediate consumption.� In early 2010, the first bars started seeing enforcement actions taken against them. Within days, house-made bitters and tinctures were pulled off of menus and thousands of dollars of infused spirits were poured down the drain.


An Introduction to Bitters and Tinctures BY MIKE DUNDAS PHOTOGRAPHY BY JUN BELEN

Those that enjoyed the originality and creativity that could only come from house-made infusions had to turn to their own home bars for satiation. Unfortunately, many folks I know, all amateur enthusiasts, gave up even before they began because of the seemingly steep learning curve that would have to be overcome. In reality, making your own bitters and tinctures at home is no more complicated than preserving fruits or pickling vegetables. In fact, it’s easier because the

high alcohol levels mitigate many of the food safety concerns that come with preserving foods. To kick start my education, I tracked down Brad Thomas Parsons, author of the recently released Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas, to find out why he still makes homemade bitters despite having access to all of the readily available commercial products.


Parsons says he enjoys the gratification that comes from making something with his own hands. It’s the same reason many of us make our own homebrews or cure our own salami. You are given the freedom to experiment with signature flavors and seasonal ingredients, and can create something that is truly unique. Parsons told me in a phone interview that whenever he sees something new or something exotic at the farmers’ market, he asks himself, “Would this make a good bitters.” At its most basic, a tincture is a single-ingredient infusion that uses a high-proof spirit to extract the base flavor. A bitter, on the other hand, is a combination of many different ingredients, some of which act as bittering agents while others provide the desired flavor profile. Unlike tinctures, bitters are also diluted with water and sweetened to taste.

T

inctures are quite easy and generally foolproof to make, and will add a burst of flavor to a cocktail without much effort. To make a tincture, you simply fill a clean Mason jar with a portion of your desired flavoring agent and then fill the jar with a high-proof spirit (typically vodka or neutral grain spirit like Everclear). The jar is then covered with a lid and left to infuse for a period of time. Just taste as you go to figure out the proper length of time to extract the best flavor from any particular ingredient. And it really can be any ingredient. At the Wilson and Wilson bar inside Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco, general manager Ian Scal-

zo and bar manager Jayson Wilde stock a kaleidoscope of whimsical and esoteric house made tinctures for use in their original cocktail recipes. Sitting and watching Scalzo and Wilde do their thing, I saw marshmallow, cardamom, elderflower, peppermint candy, sarsaparilla, puerh tea, pink salt, clove and even morel mushroom tinctures behind the bar. One of my favorites from my time at Wilson was a licorice root tincture that Scalzo added to a scotchbased cocktail called the Truth Serum. The aroma that emanated from the drink after the addition of just one drop of the tincture was revelatory. I couldn’t believe the concentrated aromatics that came from simply extracting a single flavor using alcohol. I was instantly hooked.

U

nlike tinctures, which add a burst of a specific flavor to a cocktail, bitters act behind the scenes, holding the drink together. “For the most part,” Parsons says, “bitters don’t add a specific flavor to a drink, rather they bring disparate ingredients together by adding a level of complexity or subtlety, or tamping down a sweet ingredient, or playing up another one.” After a short pause, he added, “That is really what I love about the magic of those two, three dashes that are playing around in there.” Because bitters add such complexity to a cocktail, they are invariably harder to make at home. Bitters,

TINCTURES PREPARED BY THE BARTENDERS AT BOURBON AND BRANCH IN SAN FRANCISCO, CA.


unlike tinctures, require some planning to ensure a think it’s enough stop there. thoughtful balance of bitterness, sweetness and flavor. To match what the professional bartenders are doing, Parsons tells beginners that once you have gathered however, you should consider infusing each ingredient “your witch’s cabinet of rare and exotic bittering ingre- separately. Barks, roots, spices, fruits, these all have their dients” — like gentian, quassia, and chinchona bark respective flavors extracted at different rates of speed. — it’s about taking cues from the flavoring agents. By infusing them individually, you can pull each individuThat generally means focusing on either seasonality, al infusion at its peak of flavor without compromising the like concord grapes in the fall or citrus in the winter, or other ingredients. accessibility, like dried juniper berries, coffee or white peppercorns. Some bitters fanatics, like Jamie Boudreau, the owner of Canon Whiskey and Bitters Emporium, in Seattle, give The easiest and perhaps most common way folks put each ingredient its own Mason jar. Others, like Maggie

their own mark on DIY bitters is to take store bought products and make them their own by mixing them together or by adding an extra infusion. Don’t think this is copping out either. Bars across the country with highly regarded cocktail programs do this in a pinch. Scalzo and Wilde at Bourbon and Branch infuse toasted cinnamon sticks and add them to a mixture of Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters and Angostura Orange Bitters to create a cinnamon orange bitters for the gin-based Hard Boiled cocktail. Fatty ‘Cue Restaurant, in Brooklyn, uses what the menu calls an “autumn bitters” in its Stone Fashioned cocktail. The autumn bitters are simply equal parts Angostura Bitters and Fee Brothers Cranberry Bitters mixed together.

P

arsons suggests that beginners mix all of the ingredients in the same jar with the base spirit and infuse them for an equal amount of time. The recipes in his book all utilize that single step technique and he has been careful to balance out the quantity of the ingredients in each recipe such that they finish infusing around the same time. Given the success you can achieve following his taste tested recipes, you might

(CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) BAR MANAGER JAYSON WILDE PREPARES A COCKTAIL. GENERAL MANAGER IAN SCALZO STANDS BEHIND THE BAR AT WILSON AND WILSON, WHICH IS INSIDE BOURBON AND BRANCH; A CUSTOMER ENJOYS A COCKTAIL IN A PRIVATE ROOM AT BOURBON AND BRANCH.


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JAYSON WILDE PREPARES A COCKTAIL; THE SERAPH’S CURSE, HARD BOILED AND TRUTH SERUM COCKTAILS. OPPOSITE PAGE: IAN SCALZO SERVES A CUSTOMER AT WILSON AND WILSON.


Savarino, General Manager of Madison Park Conservatory, also in Seattle, use a single jar, with each ingredient tied up separately in organic tea bags. Both methods give you more control over the final product to ensure that no one ingredient overpowers the brew. Whatever method you chose to try, we think you won’t be disappointed. And just to be sure I wasn’t over selling the simplicity of the process, I sat down with Joe Alessandroni, the General Manager of Rickhouse in San Francisco, for some extra input. Alessandroni is wonderfully creative when it comes to selecting the ingredients for his original cocktail recipes. Take for example his cocktail called the Uptown, which tastes like a gourmet salted caramel apple in a glass. Alessandroni took the time to test a multitude of ingredients and even different measures of the same ingredients, before settling on the final recipe for the Uptown. In so doing, he created a cocktail that, by its description,

“...bitters don’t add a specific flavor to a drink, rather they bring disparate ingredients together by adding a level of complexity or subtlety, or tamping down a sweet ingredient, or playing up another one.”

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(FROM TOP) GENERAL MANAGER JOE ALESSANDRONI CHATS WITH A CUSTOMER AT RICKHOUSE IN SAN FRANCISCO, CA; SPICES AND TINCTURES AT BOURBON AND BRANCH. OPPOSITE PAGE: (FROM TOP) IAN SCALZO PREPARES THE TRUTH SERUM. JOE ALESSANDRONI BEHIND THE LONG RICKHOUSE BAR.

could have been cloyingly sweet, when, in fact, it has the perfect balance of salt, sweet, spice and alcohol. So, I posed him this question: Would he agree that bitters are not much harder to make than creating one's own original cocktail recipe? His answer was a quick yes. Both require basic building blocks of quality ingredients measured in varying amounts to achieve a proper balance. Both take time, patience and testing to get it right, but neither process is ultimately that difficult. Anybody who has successfully experimented with creating their own original cocktail recipes, already has what it takes to make their own bitters. And for the rest of us? We simply have some quick catching up to do.


zTruth Serum

by Ian Scalzo and Jayson Wilde (Bourbon and Branch, San Francisco, CA) The perfect fall drink, the Truth Serum combines the rich malted barley flavor of the Highland Park paired with the sweetness of the brown sugar syrup and balanced out by the herbal Amaro Nonino and the sarsaparilla infused bitters and licorice tincture.

Makes one cocktail 2 oz. Highland Park 12 Year Old Scotch ½ oz. Amaro Nonino 1 bar spoon brown sugar cinnamon syrup (see recipe below) 2 dashes sarsaparilla infused aromatic bitters (see recipe below) 1 drop licorice root tincture (see recipe below) Add first four ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail coupe. Add drop of licorice tincture. Enjoy.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Syrup Makes about 2 ½ cups 6 cinnamon sticks 2 ½ cups water 3 cups dark brown sugar Place cinnamon sticks in dry sauté pan over medium heat. Toast cinnamon, shaking pan repeatedly, for 3-4 minutes. Add water and toasted cinnamon to a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer cinnamon for 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks, then add the sugar to the pan. Stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Remove syrup from the heat and allow to cool. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Sarsaparilla Infused Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters This recipe is a great example of an easy way to personalize bitters without much effort by utilizing and infusing a store bought product.

1/3 cup organic sarsaparilla root 1 bottle Fee Brothers Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters Add the sarsaparilla root to a clean pint-sized Mason jar. Carefully remove the plastic insert at the top of the bitters bottle and set aside. Pour the entire bottle of bitters into the mason jar, cover with lid and allow to infuse for two days. After two days, strain the infusion using a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Funnel the bitters back into the original Fee Brothers bottle. Replace the plastic insert at the top and use as needed.

Licorice Root Tincture Makes about 1 ½ cups 1 cup organic licorice root Everclear 151 proof Grain Alcohol Place licorice root in a clean pint-sized Mason jar. Fill jar ¾ of the way with Everclear. Cover with lid and allow to infuse for three days. Agitate the tincture once daily by shaking the jar. Strain the infusion using a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth and funnel into a clean bottle with an eyedropper cap.


zThe Uptown

Adapted from a recipe by Joe Alessandroni (Rickhouse, San Francisco, CA) This cocktail recipe results in the most delicious salted, caramel apple that we ever tasted.

Makes one cocktail 2 oz. Elmer T. Lee Bourbon ¾ oz. Carpano Antica ½ oz. Schonauer Apfel Schnapps 1 barspoon salted caramel sauce (Trader Joe’s brand is a good option) 1 small pinch kosher salt 2 dashes apple bitters (see recipe below) 2 sprigs fresh rosemary Add the first six ingredients to an empty mixing glass. Smack one of the rosemary sprigs in between your hands and add to the mixing glass as well. Stir until the caramel has dissolved. Fill the mixing glass with ice and stir again until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail coupe and garnish with the other rosemary sprig (smack this one too, just before serving).

Apple Bitters Recipe by Brad Thomas Parsons There is no better sign that fall has arrived than a basket of crisp apples on the kitchen counter. Whether you pluck them straight off the tree at an orchard or pick them up from a vendor at a farmers’ market, its hard to resist eating them out of hand, but try to save a few for this recipe. The cinnamon and brown sugar echo the flavor of traditional apple pie, but in this recipe you use only the skin of the apples, a tip recipe creator Brad Thomas Parsons picked up from Bobby Heugel at Houston’s Anvil Bar (the peel introduces bitterness and apple flavor without the added sugar and water that would make the solution too sweet).

Makes about 20 ounces Peels from 6 medium to large apples, preferably organic Zest of 1/2 lemon, cut into strips with a paring knife 2 cinnamon sticks 1/2 tsp. allspice berries 1/4 tsp. coriander seeds 1/2 tsp. cassia chips 1/2 tsp. cinchona bark 4 cloves 2 cups high-proof bourbon, or more as needed 1 cup water 2 tbsp. rich syrup 
(see recipe on following page) Place all of the ingredients except for the bourbon, water, and rich syrup in a quart-sized Mason jar or other large glass container with a lid. Pour in the 2 cups of bourbon, adding more if necessary so that all the ingredients are covered. Seal the jar and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 2 weeks, shaking the jar once a day. After 2 weeks, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into a clean quart-sized jar to remove the solids. Repeat until all of the sediment has been filtered out. Squeeze the cheesecloth over the jar to release any excess liquid and transfer the solids to a small saucepan. Cover the jar and set aside.

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Cover the solids in the saucepan with the water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover the saucepan, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool completely. Once cooled, add the contents of the saucepan (both liquid and solids) to another quart-sized Mason jar. Cover the jar and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 1 week, shaking the jar daily. After 1 week, strain the jar with the liquid and solids through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into a clean quart-sized Mason jar. Repeat until all of the sediment has been filtered out. Discard the solids. Add this liquid to the jar containing the original bourbon solution. Add the rich syrup to the jar and stir to incorporate, then cover and shake to fully dissolve the syrup. Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature for 3 days. At the end of the 3 days, skim off any debris that floats to the surface and pour the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined funnel one last time to remove any solids. Using a funnel, decant the bitters into smaller jars and label. If there’s any sediment left in the bottles, or if the liquid is cloudy, give the bottle a shake before using. The bitters will last indefinitely, but for optimum flavor use within a year.

Rich Syrup Recipe Makes 1 ½ cups 2 cups Demerara or turbinado sugar 1 cup water In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a simmer, stirring the mixture occasionally to dissolve the sugar. At the first crack of a boil, remove from the heat. Let cool completely, then store the syrup in a glass jar with a lid. The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month. [Reprinted with permission from Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas by Brad Thomas Parsons, Copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.]

zSeraph’s Curse

by Ian Scalzo and Jayson Wilde (Bourbon and Branch, San Francisco, CA) This cocktail may seem suited to summer with the use of Aperol and soda, but citrus is at its peak in the winter and the richness from the egg white and the herbal notes from the rosemary and fennel make this a fun cool weather drink. At Bourbon and Branch, the bartenders use an atomizer to spray the fennel tincture on just before serving to give a real boost to the aroma of the anise, but you can use an eyedropper at home.

Makes one cocktail 1 ½ oz. Aperol 1 ½ oz. Vya Dry Vermouth ½ oz. egg white (See Note) ½ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice ½ oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit ½ oz rosemary syrup (see recipe on opposite page) Splash of soda 2 Drops of fennel tincture (see recipe on opposite page) Add first six ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled. Strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Add the splash of soda and then the drops of fennel tincture. Serve with a straw. NOTE: RAW EGG WARNING please see page 39

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Rosemary Syrup

Fennel Tincture

Makes about 2 ½ cups

Makes about 1 ½ cups

16 sprigs fresh rosemary 2 cups water 3 cups sugar

16 sprigs fresh rosemary 2 cups water 3 cups sugar

Add 8 sprigs of rosemary to a sauce pan with the water and place over high heat. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the pan with a lid. Allow to steep for 30 minutes (you are making a rosemary tea). Using tongs, pull out the rosemary sprigs and return the pan to medium heat. Add in the sugar and stir gently until it dissolves. Add the remaining fresh rosemary sprigs to the syrup, remove the pan from the heat, cover and allow to steep for another 15 minutes. Strain out the rosemary and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

You don’t need to limit yourself to dried roots when making tinctures. You can create a tincture with almost anything, including herbs, spices, chiles, tea, fresh fruits and even vegetables, like this fennel tincture. 3 fennel bulbs, preferably organic, stalks and fronds removed Everclear 151 proof Grain Alcohol Thinly slice the fennel bulbs and add to a clean pint-sized Mason jar. Fill jar all of the way with Everclear. Cover jar with lid and allow to infuse for three days. Agitate the tincture once daily by shaking the jar. After three days, remove the fennel by straining through a fine mesh strainer. Funnel tincture into a clean bottle with an eyedropper cap.

zHard Boiled

by Ian Scalzo and Jayson Wilde (Bourbon and Branch, San Francisco, CA) This winter cocktail features another quick and easy bitters recipe that mixes both Fee Brothers Orange and Angostura Orange Bitters with toasted cinnamon.

Makes one cocktail 1 ½ oz. Hayman’s Old Tom Gin ½ oz. Cardamaro ½ oz. Zucca Amaro ½ oz. Lairds Bonded 100 proof Apple Brandy 2 dashes cinnamon infused orange bitters (see recipe below) Add all ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with one large ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist.

Cinnamon Infused Orange Bitters This recipe is another example of an easy way to personalize bitters without much effort by utilizing and infusing a store bought product.

Makes about 1 cup 3 whole cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces 1 bottle Fee Brothers Orange Bitters ¹⁄³ bottle Angostura Orange Bitters Place cinnamon sticks in a dry sauté pan over medium heat. Toast cinnamon, shaking pan repeatedly, for 3-4 minutes. Add the cinnamon pieces to a clean pint-sized Mason jar. Carefully remove the plastic insert at the top of the bitters bottles and set aside for later. Pour the entire bottle of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters and ¹⁄³ of a bottle of Angostura Orange Bitters into the Mason jar, cover with a lid and allow to infuse for three days. After three days, strain the infusion using a fine mesh strainer. Funnel the bitters back into the original Fee Brothers bottle. Replace the plastic insert at the top of the bottle. Reserve the rest of the infusion in a sealed container until needed.

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zComancheria

by Joe Alessandroni (Rickhouse, San Francisco, CA) This cocktail gets is name from the historic range of the Comanche Nation, which, at one time, included parts of Texas close to where the Balcones distillery is located. It’s tailor-made for fall with the flavors of apple, dried tobacco, and “blue corn whisky”.

Makes one cocktail 1 oz. Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky 1 oz. Lairds Blended Applejack ¾ oz. Cynar 2 drops Tobacco Tincture (see recipe below) 2 dashes Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters Add ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with one large ice cube. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Tobacco Tincture Makes 1 cup You must take great care when using a tobacco infusion. Because high-proof alcohol is such an efficient extractor, any infusion made with tobacco will have very high nicotine levels. Under no circumstances do we think you should ever infuse a base cocktail spirit with tobacco because it can be too easy to ingest a toxic level of nicotine by pouring whole ounces of the infused spirit. Just don’t do it. Use Jade’s Perique Tobacco Liqueur instead. With that said, if a mild, low nicotine level tobacco is used sparingly to make a tincture, as called for in this recipe, a tobacco infusion can add a smokey, vanilla and spice flavor profile to any cocktail with only small amounts of nicotine in the glass.

5 grams (about two pinches) “My Mellow Blend” tobacco from Grant’s Tobacconist Original Moonshine Clear Corn Whiskey

STEP1: Add tobacco to a clean pint-sized Mason jar.

STEP 2: Fill the jar ½ way with Moonshine.

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STEP 3: Cover jar with lid, shake for a few seconds.


Sources for Botanicals and Spices San Francisco, CA Rainbow Grocery 1745 Folsom Street San Francisco, CA 94103 Los Angeles, CA Spice Station 3819 W. Sunset Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90026 Seattle, WA Dandelion Botanical Company 5424 Ballard Avenue Seattle, WA 98107 Chicago, IL Merz Apothecary 4716 N. Lincoln Avenue Chicago, IL 60625 New York, NY Kalustyan’s Spices and Sweets 123 Lexington Avenue New York, NY 10016

STEP 4: Allow the mixture to infuse for 30 minutes.

STEP 5: After the 30 minutes, strain tincture twice through a layered cheesecloth.

STEP 6: Funnel into a clean bottle with an eyedropper cap and store in the refrigerator. Discard after two weeks.


THE WRIGHT WAY:

R

Learning the Art of Charcuterie STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT WRIGHT

Editor’s Note: The first in a series of features about homemade charcuterie, Matt Wright gives us a look into his first-ever attempt to salt and cure a cut of meat, while sharing helpful tips and tricks along the way.

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I never really meant to cure meat. I never had a life-long desire to hang meat until well and truly moldy. I don't have Italian or French grandparents, parents, or second uncles twice removed that introduced me to cured meat when I was a wee lad. It all started, as I am convinced all good things do, with a party. On a trip back from California to see some friends, I told my wife that I wanted to host a meat party for some local food people. I don't remember her reaction, but she might well have laughed. We don't eat much meat, so the idea of us throwing a meat party was slightly balmy. She might well have thought I was joking. I wasn't.


Over the following weeks I planned a menu and got thinking that it would be great to start with some charcuterie. I have a fairly delicious game pate recipe up my sleeve, but I wanted some dry cured meat too. I was looking around at local places where I could buy some prosciutto and salami when the idea suddenly struck me — why not cure my own? I mean, seriously, we have all seen photos of meat hanging in a rather dicey looking shed somewhere in the Italian countryside. Surely it can't be that hard to do? With a good many years of experience under my belt, I can now say that it is and it isn't. The incredible simplicity of the process constantly astounds me — you add salt to meat, wait a bit and, if all goes right, it tastes great. At the exact same time, the complexities continue to baffle me. Meat science is no small subject and to cure safely and properly you have to teach yourself the basics of this geeky scholarship to understand what is happening as the meat cures. As with many others, the first thing I did to get started was to order a copy of Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie book. It’s a great wealth of knowledge for a fledgling meat curer. In there he had a recipe for bresaola. This air-dried beef eye of round was going to be my first ever attempt at a dry cure. I was certain of it. I read the book. I read it twice. I was going to be successful. I started the meat in salt, herbs and spices as directed. The next job was to find a cool, humid environment where it could hang safely, slowly loose weight and find some mold. I considered hanging it on my front porch. I considered hanging it on my bedroom balcony. Neither seemed like the smartest of ideas, since our neighborhood can get its fair share of city animals that enjoy food nearly as much as me. There was one place left — the garage. We don't park a car in there, nor do we store anything toxic. Some gym equipment and

old Halloween decorations shouldn't pose much of a threat to a lump of beef. There is still the problem of vermin, however. I had visions of a stream of rodents sneaking in to my garage at night and taking a happy bite of this project that was quickly becoming an obsession. Plugging every hole in our old house's garage didn't seem like the best plan, so it was decided that we would build what we started calling “the rat cage”. My rather handy father-in-law lent his construction skills one afternoon and we knocked together a wood and wire mesh cage that would hang around the piece of meat. No detail was left out — solid wood frame, thick wire mesh and a door for my easy access to the meat. This would have been a very happy home for even the finest piece of meat. A week later, the meat came out of its salt and got washed down. Into the cage it went, and the whole thing got hung off the rail for the garage door. It's a very strange sight indeed, with me running on the treadmill along side a hanging cage of meat. The anticipation was unbearable.


It was now a month to the meat party to which I had invited far too many people. I started to wonder if having this as the centerpiece of our party was such a good idea. Cured meat needs to loose about 35% of its weight in water before it could be deemed safe to eat. A lot of factors effect how fast it looses that weight. I needed this piece to be done in a month. It had to be done in a month. I checked it twice a day. That is a lie. I checked it 10 times a day. Perhaps more on the weekends. I was constantly weighing it, and graphing its weight loss trying to predict if the thing would be ready in time for the now looming party. Things were actually looking good, or so I thought. That’s when I realized I hadn’t been paying much attention to the humidity. I had a thermometer hanging by the meat, making sure I was in a safe temperature range, but never really considered the level of humidity. I mean, we live in Seattle — it rains a lot, and it's cold. Surely that should give me some good humidity. Well, no. The winters have very dry air here and this bresaola was being cured in December. Cold air generally holds less moisture in it than warm air, so I learned much later. When it comes to curing meat, humidity is a big deal. If it is too low then the exterior of the meat can dry out and go hard (in the business it is called “case hardening”). This stops moisture on the inside of the meat from escaping and you end up with rancid meat. If the humidity is too high then you invite all manner of mold to grow on your meat — most of it not the kind you want. Back in the garage, I suddenly became paranoid about humidity, but it was too late. The damage had been done. I was a victim of case hardening. Turns out, every time I opened the garage door, the icy cold and incredibly dry winter air would come rushing in to the garage, knocking down the humidity by a great deal. I tried to rectify this by placing a large pail of water under the meat cage, and wrapping the whole thing up in way too much plastic wrap. The idea here is that the bowl of water should give some humidity to the air space around the meat. It did. It created way too much humidity. I now started to get some bad mold growing, anything green really isn't good. Then some black mold started to grow. This is when you know it is time to open the lid of the trashcan.

(FROM TOP) THE WIRE MESH CAGE PROTECTING THE BRESAOLA; THE CAGE, WRAPPED IN PLASTIC AND SET OVER WATER TO CAPTURE THE HUMIDITY. OPPOSITE PAGE: MATT WRIGHT SPOONING A MOLD SOLUTION OVER HIS SALAMI.

I was, in a word, mortified. This is something I had been working on for a long time, checking every day, researching and recording. In a strange way, you grow emotionally attached to a piece of meat. I wanted this to work so badly. I wanted to serve it all proud at this now looming party. But the prospect of seriously poisoning some of


SLICING HOME CURED BRESAOLA. OPPOSITE PAGE: MATT WRIGHT’S VINTAGE HOBART SLICER.

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Seattle's best food photographers and writers kind of put the whole thing in perspective. The rat cage went in the trash. I think I might have jumped on it first. I know I cursed it. This was over three years ago. Since then, I have cured a lot of meat and had a lot of really great successes (without any poisonings). A lot of meat has gone in the trash. It's a learning experience, and the curve can be pretty steep sometimes. Even in professional meat curing, companies factor in 10-15% wastage. Bad things just happen — no matter how much you try to prevent it. Even right now as I type this, I have another bresaola hanging in my curing chamber that is causing me a good share of worry. So what was next after the rate cage? Well, a fridge. A very modified fridge. Time to do things properly in a more controlled environment. I found an almost free old fridge on Craigslist and dragged it in to the garage and modified it with a few controls, a temperature gauge, a humidifier and a fan. Now all that is needed when I want to cure is to throw some meat in there. Over the years that fridge has seen hundreds of pounds of salami come and go. Bresaola, lonzino, guanciale, pancetta, duck prosciutto as well. The garage was starting to smell very, very meaty, in a good way. When I finally scored a great old meat slicer and set that up in the basement, I would often take lunch down there. I would sit on the seat of our rowing machine with some bread, a little salad, and slice whatever I fancied from the fridge. We started curing so much we even got a second fridge to put more meat in. I will warn you as I was warned by a good friend of mine that this hobby quickly becomes an obsession. It isn't just the taste — however that is certainly part of it as it is still pretty hard to find really truly great commercial cured meat in many places in the US. For me it’s

equally, or perhaps more about the technique. This is like nothing else you will ever make in the kitchen. The process is long, but the reward is great.


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“The incredible simplicity of the process constantly astounds me — you add salt to meat, wait a bit and, if all goes right, it tastes great.”


MODIFIED FRIDGE: Temperature

Since the air-drying of most meat works best around 55°F — ideally you want the temperature to stay between 50°F and 60°F — and most fridges work at 36°F, you need a way to control the temperature. Some home brewing companies make a controller to plug into your fridge that has a temperature probe on it. You stick that probe into the fridge, and the controller turns the fridge on and off to maintain whatever temperature you want.

Humidity

Humidity can be controlled in a similar fashion. Get yourself a handy humidity controller. Plug a humidifier in to that, and it will turn the humidifier on and off to maintain whatever level at which it’s set. Ideally, when you first put something in to dry cure, Matt says you generally want the humidity around 85% to start, and then, over the course of the next week, you want to drop the humidity down to 70%.

Airflow

The final part of the setup involves, in Matt’s words, a drill, a pair of goggles, and some luck. You cut a 4” round hole through the side of the fridge, over which goes a small fan. Drill a few small holes in the other side of the fridge, cover them with wire mesh to keep out pests, and you now have constant airflow. This helps the meat dry and keeps nasty molds from growing.

Matt’s Equipment Picks:

For a temperature and humidity sensor, Matt recommends the Quality Importers HygroSet II Adjustable Digital Hygrometer. Because the sensor needs to be calibrated to ensure accuracy (and safety), Matt suggests the Boveda One Step Calibration Kit — a simple calibration kit that Matt says is “incredibly easy to use.” To keep your fridge at the proper temperature, by overriding the manufacturer’s cooling cycle, Matt uses the Freezer Temperature Controller by Kegworks. He says it works “exceedingly well for meat curing applications.” Maintaining the necessary humidity inside the curing chamber is easy too. Matt uses an affordable, ultrasonic cool-mist humidifier made by Crane to generate the humidity and the Dayton Humidifier Controller to maintain the proper moisture levels. For airflow, any simple 120V computer fan will work fine.


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Bresaola

Excerpted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. This air-dried beef is common in the mountainous regions of northern Italy. A very lean, intensely flavored preparation, it’s usually sliced paperthin and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. You might also serve it with shaved ParmigianoReggiano, some greens, and thin slices of baguette. If possible, use grass-fed or organically raised beef.

The Spice Cure

1 oz./25 grams kosher salt (about 2 tbsp.) 2 tbsp./30 grams sugar ¾ tsp./4 grams Insta Cure #2 or DC Curing Salt #2 1 ½ tsp./5 grams freshly ground black pepper 1 tbsp./6 grams chopped fresh rosemary 2 tsp./6 grams fresh thyme leaves 5 juniper berries, crushed with the side of a knife One 3-lb./1.5 kg beef eye of the round roast, no more than 3 inches/7.5 centimeters in diameter, trimmed of all visible fat, sinew, and silverskin. 1. Combine all the spice cure ingredients in a spice or coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. 2. Rub half the spice cure all over the meat, rubbing it in well. Place in a 2-gallon/8-liter Ziploc bag or a nonreactive container and refrigerate for 7 days, turning it every couple of days. 3. Remove the beef from the liquid (discard it) and rub in the remaining spice cure. Return to the refrigerator for 7 more days. 4. Rinse the beef thoroughly under cold water to remove any remaining spices and pat dry with paper towels. Set on a rack on a baking sheet uncovered at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. 5. Tie the beef with butcher’s twine. Hang the meat (ideally at 60°F/15°C with 60 to 70 percent humidity) for about three weeks. The meat should feel firm on the outside and silky smooth when sliced. (Yields approx. 2 pounds of bresaola; about 30 appetizer servings.) Note: A favorite source for all sausage making and meat processing supplies is Butcher & Packer Supply Company in Madison Heights, MI. They ship nationwide. If this is your first time attempting to dry cure meat, we highly recommend that you read the food safety sections in Charcuterie before starting.

MATT’S BRESAOLA. OPPOSITE PAGE: MATT’S HOMEMADE PORT AND FENNEL POLLEN SALAMI.


A DEFINITIVE DISH:

96 | spensermag.com | nov.dec 2011 


Celebrating Goat in Jalisco BY LESLEY TÉLLEZ PHOTOGRAPHY BY DYLAN HO & JENI AFUSO

A

t 11 a.m. one morning in Jocotepec, a small town about an hour outside Guadalajara, Margarito “El Tartamudo” Loza Parra takes a break from eating a plate of water-

melon to call out to customers.

“Pasen señores! Aquí hay lugar, pasen! Aquí siéntanse!” This way, gentlemen! There is a space here, come! Sit here!

His spot — Birriería El Tartamudo — is already busy. Customers slurp a deep-red, oregano-spiked broth under the plaza’s porticos. Liquor bottles filled with homemade hot sauce lie in wait. In the kitchen, a worker opens the oven and we catch a glimpse of the goods: reddish, spice-rubbed goat meat, spread in pieces on a tray. The meat has already steamed on the stove for four hours. It will crisp in the oven, turning slightly golden-brown.

“I’m the most famous birriero in Jocotepec,” says Loza, who started making birria 41 years ago, after quitting his job as a bullfighter. “People have made me that way. Not me, them. I’m the one who sells the most, who has the most customers for some reason. Maybe it’s the service that I give. I’m going to have a tequila, do you want one?”

A morning chill still hangs in the air. Two of his customers politely decline. One had driven from Guadalajara specifically for El Tartamudo’s birria.


Birria doesn’t get the respect it should in the United States. You can find the dish at birrierías in Latino neighborhoods, but rarely, if ever, does it make an appearance on a mainstream Mexican restaurant menu. When done correctly — and there are a lot of ways to do it — birria lures you in with its simplicity. Goat meat, slathered in an aromatic adobo, cooks over a low flame until it falls off the bone. You eat this meat in tacos (with homemade corn tortillas) or with a lightly spicy tomato broth. Scorching hot sauce is sometimes dribbled on top. In Mexico’s Jalisco state, the birrieros, as the preparers of birria are known, are some of the region’s culinary gatekeepers. They prepare birria for weddings, baptisms and quinceañeras. It’s almost an artisan trade — many birrieros learned by watching their parents, and they in turn have taught their children. Some birrieros in the smaller villages still make birria in the old-school way, baked in a homemade oven and covered in maguey leaves. Birria contains humble ingredients, but it inspires pride in Jalisco. It’s intricately tied to people’s lives and livelihoods. “Birria, really, is a special-occasion dish,” says Ricardo Bonilla, a Mexican gastronomy researcher, restaurant consultant and teacher in Mexico City. “If your grandfather is having a birthday and you have to make him a special meal, you make birria. For a baptism, a wedding — things like that, you make birria.” Every birriero will put his own stamp on his dish. (The ones I met were all men.) The tomato broth can be aromatic or tangy, or rich with fat. It can be made with the juices that ooze out of the goat upon cooking, or not. It doesn’t even have to be made with goat — beef and mutton are popular. Toasting the meat in an oven, a technique known as tatemada, is closest to birria’s original roots; baking in earthen ovens was a Mesoamerican cooking technique. But tatemada is not the definitive birria recipe. In fact, the definitive birria recipe is a matter of personal preference. "It's like when you're making a cake," says Juan Venegas Martinez, a Guadalajara native who has made barbacoa and birria for 20 years, and takes orders from his stand at the Tianguis del Sol in Zapópan. "If you like it sweet, you will put more sugar.” As the largest city in Jalisco, Guadalajara is the easiest place to begin a birria-tasting journey. The city of 1.4 million has a colonial, laid-back charm, and friendly locals who speak slowly and clearly. (They also say “ey” instead of “sí.” Kind of odd.) We asked a taxi driver for a birria recommendation and he took us to El Chino, a birriería off the busy Avenida Cristobal Colón. A picture of legendary balladeer Vicente Fernandez, a fel-


A PLATE OF BIRRIA, AT BIRRIERIA EL CHINO IN GUADALAJARA. OPPOSITE PAGE: (FROM TOP) GOAT MEAT SIMMERING IN A CHILE-TOMATO BROTH; A CHEF AT BIRRIERIA EL CHINO.


(FROM LEFT, ACROSS BOTH PAGES) JALAPENOS WITH ONIONS, TOMATOES AND CILANTRO AT A TIANGUIS IN GUADALAJARA; A STREET VENDOR SELLS GRILLED CORN IN LA BARCA; A STALL AT EL MERCADO CORONA IN GUADALAJARA; THE OWNER OF A SMALL ABATTOIR THAT PROCESSES GOATS IN GUADALAJARA.


“If your grandfather is having a birthday and you have to make him a special meal, you make birria. For a baptism, a wedding -- things like that, you make birria.�


(FROM LEFT) THE OLD GAS FIRED OVENS AT BIRRIERIA EL TARTAMUNDO; OWNER MARGARITO “EL TARTAMUNDO” LOZA PARRA; GOAT MEAT ROASTING ON A SHEET PAN. OPPOSITE PAGE: A PLATE OF BIRRIA AT BIRRIERIA EL TARTAMUNDO IN JOCOTEPEC, MEXICO.

low Jalicense, hung on the wall, his arms around the El Chino staff. El Chino sells goat or beef birria, cooked in massive pots in the back of the restaurant. The broth is served in a separate pot near the entrance, in heaping ladles. One bowl contained the tangy broth and bits of fat and soft meat, clinging to a bone called peinecillo. I asked the taxi driver, whom we invited for lunch, whether I should pick up the bone and suck the meat off.

la. At 9 a.m., the village was already bustling: pickup trucks full of reddish-purple corn lay parked on a narrow street near the plaza. Vendors sold fresh sweet tamales, rosy-pink guavas and tangles of sweet potatoes, still covered in dirt. Loza of El Tartamudo owns four birrerías in town, staffed mostly by his family. He likes to sit at the tables of his restaurant on the square and talk to customers. “What do you need, hot tortillas?” he asked one couple. “Hot tortillas!” he yelled into the kitchen.

“That’s the traditional way,” he said, smiling. If El Chino is a neighborhood joint, on the other side of town is the spot heralded for tourists and businessmen: El Chololo, a large restaurant that sits like a country estate off the highway past the airport.

El Tartamudo’s adobo contains chocolate and cinnamon. The broth tastes overwhelmingly of oregano, like a minestrone soup. The secret is in the slaughter, Loza says. A lot of people don’t like goat because it smells bad, but what smells bad is the hide, not the meat.

The restaurant specializes in birria slow-baked in a clay oven. Waiters walk around with pitchers full of steaming broth. The meat here almost resembles brisket: smoky and crispy-edged, with a slathering of adobo that sits on top of the meat like hard ened barbecue sauce. In El Chololo’s open-air kitchen, a young man with a New York Yankees cap mopped on the adobo, shaking it on the meat like holy water.

“My children... with the hand that they use to touch the hide, they don’t touch the meat,” Loza said. “That’s one of the most bad-ass secrets for a birriero.”

There was nothing wrong with the birria at El Chino or El Chololo. But trying birria only in Guadalajara would be like trying wine only in Napa. Early one morning, we left for Jocotepec, located about an hour south of Guadalajara, near the western edge of Lake Chapa-

From Jocotepec, La Barca is about a two-hour drive — it’s located east of Lake Chapala. The town is not known for much else. La Barca’s birrierías lie clustered around the small bus station, advertising birria tatemada and tortillas hechas a mano on hand-painted signs.

Loza asked what other birrierías we were visiting, and I told him La Barca, a village recommended by the owner of the hotel where we were staying. Upon hearing the name, he paused, almost reverentially. “Oh yes,” he said. “La Barca.”


SHOTS OF MEZCAL AT PARE DE SUFRIR IN GUADALAJARA. OPPOSITE PAGE: DINERS EATING OUTSIDE AT COCINA 88, A RESTAURANT IN GUADALAJARA.


nov.dec 2011 | spensermag.com | 105


Birrería Guzmán, which faced the bus station, seemed like the tidiest, cheeriest place. A grayhaired woman in a flower-print dress, whom we’d later find out was the owner’s mother, sat near the door, squinting into the sun. Owner Ricardo Guzmán insisted on plating the birria in a beautiful way — arranging the broth-soaked meat on the plate, adding a pile of radishes, some chopped onion and cilantro. His birria is made fresh daily, from goats slaughtered the previous day and then baked, covered in maguey leaves, for 6 to 7 hours in a brick-and-adobe oven. Guzmán’s birria wasn’t like El Chino, El Chololo or El Tartamudo. It practically melted in our mouths, hinting of smoke and herbal perfume. The broth, made from tomatoes and spices, seemed more like what you’d find in a Mexican guisado: slightly thick, with a mellow sweetness. Guzmán said later that he uses a female goat, which has a milder aroma than the male. But his real secret, he said, was consistency. “If someone comes here and they like my birria, I want them to come back the next day and it’s going to taste exactly the same,” Guzmán said. He learned how to make birria from his father, Ricardo Guzmán Takahashi. Guzmán told me so many interesting details about his birria preparation method that I asked if I could see his earthen oven up close. He said it wasn’t nearby and offered to send me photos of the oven via email. I later found out that La Barca birrieros’ ovens are outside their homes, and they would never invite a stranger there. I called Guzmán later, hoping to get some answers as to why birria had a particular hold on people. I hoped he’d be philosophical. Instead he answered the question matter-offactly. “I imagine because of the direct contact that the meat has, on the embers,” he said. “A grilled steak that you cook on the stovetop, in a pot or a skillet, doesn’t taste the same as one you put directly over the fire. The wood, the coals -- it gives another flavor.”


THE ENTRANCE TO BIRRIERIA GUZMAN IN LA BARCA, MEXICO. OPPOSITE PAGE: (FROM TOP) A HEAVILY USED TORTILLA PRESS IN THE KITCHEN AT BIRRIERIA GUZMAN; OWNER RICHARD GUZMAN CAREFULLY POURS THE BROTH OVER HIS ROASTED GOAT.

nov.dec 2011 | spensermag.com | 107


GOAT MEAT IS A STAPLE OF MEXICAN, GREEK, INDIAN, AFRICAN AND MIDDLE EASTERN COOKING, SO YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO SOURCE THE MEAT AT MARKETS IN NEIGHBORHOODS WITH THOSE ETHNIC CONCENTRATIONS. WITH A LITTLE EXTRA EFFORT, YOU CAN FIND A LOCAL FARMER SUSTAINABLY RAISING PASTURED GOAT IN YOUR AREA. THESE ARE A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE SOURCES: Seattle, WA Quilceda Farms and Toboten Creek Ranch. Quilceda Farms, owned by Terry Whetham, sells grass fed goat meat every Sunday all year round at Seattle's Ballard Farmer’s Market. They sell a variety of cuts of meat and take special orders for whole goats. The 29-acre Toboton Creek Ranch is home to free-ranging goats that are brought up on a balanced diet of hay and grass. Toboton Creek sells year round at the University District Farmer's Market. Portland, OR Full of Life Farm – Located near Oregon's historic Champoeg State Park, Full of Life Farm is about 20 miles south of Portland. Owner Bernard Smith follows practices that preclude the use of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, growth hormones and routine antibiotics on our farm. You can purchase Full of Life goat meat online or at the farm’s store in St. Paul, Oregon. San Francisco Bay Area Marin Sun Farms – The Marin Sun Farms’ goat flocks are located in Solano County. They are 100% grass fed and free of synthetic hormones and antibiotics. MSF sells goat at its retail butcher shops in Point Reyes Station or Oakland, at the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market in San Francisco as well as a number of retail shops throughout the Bay Area. Central and Southern California Jimenez Family Farm – A small-scale family farm located in California’s Santa Ynez Valley that utilizes “beyond organic” and sustainable farming practices. The farm sells at the weekly farmers markets in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Camarillo, Vandenburg Village, Santa Monica, Hollywood, Ojai, Atwater Village. Resources continued on page 110.

THE BIRRIA AT BIRRIERIA CHOLOLO.


Birria Makes 5-7 entrée portions, serves more as a taco filling

them submerged by using a bowl or small plate and set aside for 25-30 minutes.

1 white onion, roughly chopped 5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced + 2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole 3 bay leaves Water 1 4-5 lb. bone-in goat leg, (have your butcher cut in two pieces, crosswise, to fit in pan) 3 tbsp. kosher salt 20 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded 15 whole black peppercorns 5 whole cloves 2 tbsp. sesame seeds 1 tbsp. ground cumin 3 tbsp. white vinegar 1 14.5 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes 2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano 1 small cinnamon stick

4. While the chiles are softening, toast the peppercorns and cloves in the same cast iron skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Remove the spices and then use the same pan to toast the sesame seeds for 2 minutes as well. Grind the peppercorns and cloves in a spice grinder while the sesame seeds are toasting.

Serve with: Diced white onion Chopped cilantro Fresh limes, quartered Hot sauce (see recipe below) Fresh corn tortillas, warmed

5. After the 3½ hours steaming, remove the pot from the oven and allow to rest on a heatproof surface, without lifting the lid, for 30 minutes. After resting, carefully remove the foil and the plastic wrap. The meat should be fork-tender and pull easily from the bone. Using care, remove the bones and gristle, and trim off any visible fat from the meat. Reserve the bones. (You will be roasting the goat in the oven with the chile glaze, so try to keep the pieces of meat intact. Do not be tempted to shred it yet.) Remove the steamer insert from the Dutch oven, discard the aluminum foil ring (if using), and pour the steaming liquid that has collected in the bottom of the Dutch oven through a fine mesh strainer into a large saucepan. (If you prefer to strain off the fat from the steaming liquid, it will be easiest to do so at this time.)

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Put the onion, 5 sliced garlic cloves, bay leaves and 5 cups water in an ovenproof Dutch oven holding a steamer insert. If the insert is not tall enough to sit above the water, you can create a ring with rolled up aluminum foil to use as a base. 2. Generously coat all sides of the leg pieces with the kosher salt and place on the steamer insert. Cover the top of the pot with a tight layer of plastic wrap (make sure there are no holes for steam to escape). Then cover all of the exposed plastic wrap with a layer of aluminum foil and place the lid of the Dutch oven on top of the foil to form a tight seal. Put the pot in the preheated oven and cook for 3½ hours. 3. While the goat is cooking, toast the guajillo chiles and the two whole garlic cloves in a cast iron skillet set over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally. Remove the garlic from the pan when it starts to brown. When the chiles start to blister, remove them from the pan and put them in a heatproof bowl. Cover the chiles with boiling water. Keep

5. Drain the chiles, discarding the water, and place in the blender along with the two whole garlic cloves, ground peppercorns and cloves, sesame seeds, cumin, vinegar, and 1 cup of water. Blend until completely smooth. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to ensure the mixture blends properly. Set aside.

6. To make the accompanying birria sauce (traditionally known as the “consome”), pulse the canned tomatoes with their accompanying juices in a food processor until completely smooth. Add the tomatoes the large sauce pan with the strained steaming liquid, along with reserved leg bones, ²⁄³ cup of the chile sauce, oregano, cinnamon stick and 1 ½ cups of water. 7. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and gently simmer for one hour. Remove the bones and the cinnamon stick and then run the sauce through a fine mesh


Maine Thyme for Goat - A group of four Maine family farms that have joined together to provide sustainably raised goat meat. Their herds are raised in a natural environment exposing them to pasture feed, sunlight and shelter from inclement weather. Thyme for Goat does sells direct to the customer at Dragon Fly Cove Farm in Dresden and by mail through Heritage Foods USA. New York New York City – Three farms sell goat meat at the Union Square Greenmarket. Those are Patches of Stars, Lynnhaven, and Ardith Mae Goat Farm. All three farms specialize in wonderful handmade goat’s milk cheeses, but they do bring various cuts of goat meat to market. Hudson River Valley Darlin’ Doe Farm is a small goat farm in the Hudson Valley. They raise their goats naturally on the pasture and in the woodlands of Saugerties, NY. Owner Dana Gentile believes in a natural and holistic approach to raising healthy livestock. They sell their meat direct to the consumer at the Montgomery Place Orchards Farm Market near Red Hook, NY. Washington D.C. Painted Hand Farm – Located in Cumberland County, PA, Painted Hand Farms is a sustainable, diversified farm. Home to naturally “browsed” meat goats, the Painted Hand philosophy is to raise food as naturally as possible without the use of pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics. Their products are all sold at the farm and at the Bloomingdale Farmers Market in DC. Austin, TX Rocking B Ranch – This 320-acre working ranch is owned by the Brownson family: Founded in 2001, the Rocking B is located between Mason and Menard in the heart of the Texas hill country. Their animals are never held in confinement, never fed antibiotics, and never receive synthetic growth hormones. They sell their goat meat at the Sunset Valley Farmers' Market and the Austin Farmers' Market (where it also sells beef).

110 | spensermag.com | nov.dec 2011 

strainer into a clean saucepan. Use a spoon to extract as much of the liquid from the strainer as possible. Taste the sauce and add a pinch or two of salt only if necessary. Keep the sauce warm on your stove’s lowest heat until ready to serve. 8. Raise the temperature of the oven to 400°. Warm a baking sheet in the oven for five minutes. Place the remaining chile sauce in a flat bowl. Dip the goat pieces in the chile sauce, such that they are completely covered in a thin layer of the sauce, and place in an even layer on the pre-heated baking sheet. Put the goat in the oven and roast for 20 minutes (no longer or the goat will dry out) to set the chile glaze. 9. To serve, shred the meat with your hands. Equally portion the shredded meat in separate bowls. Using a ladle, equally portion the sauce over the meat. Serve with the chopped onions, cilantro, limes, hot sauce, and the fresh corn tortillas on the side.

Hot Sauce Makes about 1 cup 25 dried chiles de árbol, stemmed 3 dried cascabel chiles, stemmed 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole Water 1 cup white vinegar ½ tsp. kosher salt 1. Pre-heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Put the chiles de árbol, cascabel chiles and garlic cloves in the skillet. Occasionally shake the pan to keep from burning. Remove the garlic cloves from the pan when they first start to brown. Press down on the chiles using a spatula. When the chiles start to blister, remove them from the pan and put them in a heatproof bowl.


A METICULOUS PRESENTATION OF BIRRIA, SERVED BY RICARDO GUZMAN, OWNER OF BIRRIERIA GUZMAN IN LA BARCA.

nov.dec 2011 | spensermag.com | 111


b.y.o.b. - chez us

We haven’t yet decided whether we support Denise Woodward and Laudalino (“Lenny”) Ferreira’s decision to move to a new home in Oakland, CA. The fact that they were able to make a 20 sq. ft. kitchen with a small oven, minimal counter space, and only one cupboard look good on Chez Us makes us think one shouldn’t go messing with a good thing. Of course, no matter where Denise and Lenny end up cooking, whether it’s at home, with family or around the campfire, they are always sure to cook from the heart. SPENSER MAGAZINE: You have moved into the house, but you are still unpacking, right? CHEZ US: (Denise) It was a tough decision to leave San Francisco, but we are really excited about the new place. My favorite farmers’ market is actually over here in Berkeley on Saturdays. It’s perfect because it is really small, only a couple blocks long, but it still has everything you need except for milk. It is part of the community. SM: Are you excited to be in your new home? CU: (Denise) We weren’t really in the market for a new house, it just kind of happened after casually looking for about three years. (Lenny) But, we just met our neighbor and we saw her kitchen and we’re already jealous. But not as you might think. It would be a great place to shoot [photos]. The funny thing is that we had one cabinet in our old kitchen, and now we have a wall of cabinets. Denise doesn’t think she will be able to fill them. SM: We can see how that would be the case, given your style of cooking. You have such a focus on freshness on your blog. CU: (Denise) With the small space we had, I really only kept baking goods, some good olive oil and our spices in the pantry. Pretty much everything I cook is seasonal and used within a day or two of purchase. SM: Even with the lack of space, you aren’t afraid to make traditional ingredients from scratch, like your homemade salt cod. You really encourage folks to try new things. CU: (Denise) Lenny loves salt cod. He’s Portuguese and grew up eating homemade salt cod on special occasions.


Even now, it is hard to find really good salt cod here. Years ago, I actually contacted a few restaurants to ask how they cured their cod and nobody would tell me. I had forgotten about it until I saw Matt Wright’s blog post on curing cod. I gave it a try and when it was done, it had a great texture and was very flavorful. The best part about making your own salt cod is that you have control over the ingredients from the start to finish. SM: Is that something you make often? CU: (Lenny) We’ve seldom ever had the same meal twice in the three years since Denise started the blog. It’s kind of a theme here. As good as something might be, like the cod, we may never have it again. But she did make a great cured salmon. (Denise) I cured it using juniper berries, vodka and lemon peels. I used fresh, wild caught salmon and the texture was like butter. (Lenny) It was pretty outrageous. Really, really good. SM: And these are techniques that you think beginners can handle? CU: (Denise) Yes. As long as you salt it right, and follow a good recipe and start with good raw ingredients, there really isn’t anything to fear. It just takes time. You can’t wake up and say I am going to have salt cod tomorrow. (Lenny) Plus it really tastes much better. A lot of these things aren’t as cumbersome as they’re made out to be. (Denise) My grandmother and great-grandmother were Basque. They used to can everything, including tomatoes and summer fruit. That is what you would use to eat all year. I just try to do the same thing.

nov.dec 2011 | spensermag.com | 113


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nov.dec 2011

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