Welcome to Spring, dear readers. Yes, there may still be snow on the ground where you are, and maybe there's even some in the forecast. It's time to look forward and celebrate all nature will have to offer in the coming months until the freeze comes again. I'm thrilled to share an evening where there were stories told, laughs had, wine shared, and an education in local and seasonal eating imparted. This "Happy Spring Dinner" is part of March's 24x24 event, presented by Foodbuzz. It's 24 events, by 24 bloggers, in 24 hours. I'm honored this special evening was selected to be part of this month's event.
The idea was to invite friends and family from our community into our home and teach them about how to eat locally, and in season as we move into Spring and Summer. The menu was created around local meats, cheeses, and produce as a way to show how easy it can be, even in March, to create a beautiful meal with local or in-season ingredients as the stars. Let's begin with a cocktail to begin, because that's how civilized people do it, right?
Our Spring feast begins with a martini, shaken, not stirred. A combination of early spring rhubarb, vodka, and lemon-infused pellegrino. First you need my recipe for Rhubarb Compote to make this all happen, which is easy enough.
1 pound rhubarb, cleaned, and sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
pinch of salt
lime or lemon zest (about a teaspoon or so)
Put all ingredients into a saucepan and cook over low-to-medium-low heat until combined. For the cocktail, you want to put this cooked down rhubarb into a food processor and process until smooth. It can be used as-is for baked goods.
Makes: 1 martini
2 teaspoons rhubarb compote
1 ounce high-quality vodka
1/2 cup San Pellegrino Limonata Soda
Place all ingredients into a martini shaker with one ice cube. Shake to combine and pour into a large martini glass, can be served with a lemon twist if you would like.
I have to mea culpa here. The first course's pictures got eaten by my camera. It was a lovely Roasted Carrot Soup, made possible by the lovely sweet carrots I have gotten in pretty much every share from my Winter CSA at Heron Pond Farm. It was lovely, and a perfect set-up to the main and most-talked about part of the meal, the main course.
Flank Steak Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Spinach, served with Horseradish Cream Sauce
I knew by mid-week that I'd be getting spinach in our farm share for the week. It all pretty much started there, I explained to my guests that night. Yes, I told them, the whole menu pretty much started off centered around early spring spinach. I love it paired with blue cheese and I knew Great Hill in Marion, Ma. makes wonderful blue cheese, and I can always find it at our local Whole Foods. Blue cheese and spinach needed a hearty protein, and the flank steak at Tendercrop Farm in Newbury, Ma. is always beautiful, and only 5 minutes from our house.
Flank Steak Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Spinach
Serves: 6 (one roll a person)
2 pounds flank steak, pounded thin, sliced against the grain into 6 long strips
salt and pepper
montreal steak seasoning
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 cup blue cheese, broken into crumbles (I also used some Cabot VT Cheddar)
2 shallots, minced (I also used 1/2 a sweet white onion, it works just fine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup spinach leaves
6 slices bacon (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Now, take your strips of flank steak and season both sides with salt, pepper and montreal steak seasoning, set aside.
Now, in a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add your shallots or onions and cook until softened. Next, add your garlic and cook for about 30 seconds before adding your panko bread crumbs to the mix. Finally, add blue cheese and cook until warm, about 2 minutes. Pour mixture into a bowl.
Now take your seasoned strips of flank steak and spread the blue cheese mixture down the middle. Place several spinach of leaves on top of the cheese. Before you roll that pretty little piece of meat up, make sure you've cut a couple of pieces of kitchen twine, and have them ready. Next, roll the meat up tightly and secure the roll with your twine. If you'd like, and the husband did, before you tie the roll up, wrap it in a piece of bacon, it's yummy.
Get out a large oven-safe skillet, and put the other teaspoon of olive oil in it. Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Next, take your rolls and sear them in the skillet on each side to get that lovely color. Once they're seared on all sides, take the entire skillet and put it in the oven. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 145 or so. Now, take the skillet out of the oven, tent foil over the top and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes. At this point, you should have medium-rare meat. If it's not there yet, feel free to pop it back in the oven for a couple of minutes to warm it up and finish it off. Serve with Horseradish Cream Sauce.
Horseradish Cream Sauce
Makes: 1.5 cups
adapted from: Certified Angus Beef
1 cup sour cream (I used Cabot's)
1/3 cup prepared horseradish (not sauce)
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 teaspoons dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
heavy cream to taste (I used about 3/4 cup)
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir until completely combined. If you want a thinner sauce, add more cream.
Side Dishes: Pommes Anna and Rainbow Chard with Pancetta
When you're leaving winter and getting into spring, most likely you're going to have a lot of potatoes on your hands if you have a Winter CSA share. Pommes Anna is a beautiful, yet simple, side dish to use the pounds of potatoes you have on hand. This week, I told my guests, I was able to pick up two different kinds of red potatoes from Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton, NH. One had a decidedly purple tinge after skinning. It only made the Pommes Anna more beautiful. One of the best things about picking from local farms is the different types of produce you might not come across in your supermarket.
adapted from: Cooking Light
3 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
2 1/2 tablespoons + 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Using a mandoline, food processor with slicing attachment, or a knife, slice the potatoes fairly thin. Choose an oven-safe 10-inch skillet to use for this recipe. Melt 2.5 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. While that's cooking, melt the other 3 tablespoons butter in a measuring cup. Once the butter in the skillet is melted, start on the outside of the skillet and layer in a circle, overlapping slightly. Continue until the skillet is covered, sprinkle salt and pepper over the potatoes, and drizzle some of the melted butter over the top. Now, create several more layers of potatoes, salt and pepper and butter, finishing with the butter. Once done, place the skillet in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until layers are crisp.
Rainbow Chard with Pancetta
Heron Pond Farm also gave us a couple of bags of Rainbow Chard to work with. I love chard, and the simpler the preparation, the better. I knew I wanted to combine the chard with my home-cured pancetta I made for Charcutepalooza. This is a perfect side dish for a crowd.
5 cups Rainbow or Swiss Chard, washed, stems removed
3/4 cup chopped pancetta (or bacon, if you'd like)
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
First, get a pot of water boiling on the stove. Now, get a bowl of ice water on standby. We're going to blanch the chard first so it keeps its beautiful green color. Dump the chard into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, take chard out and plunge into ice water. While the chard is cooling in its ice bath, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet on the stove. Add pancetta to the skillet and cook until crispy. Now add garlic and saute until fragrant. Finally, add your chard, salt and pepper to taste and cook until all the flavors are combined.
Dessert, you may ask? We'll get to that in just a moment.
The Dinner Party
So the cooking was underway or set, so the tulips were placed on the table. The mason jars with their glowing candles set out as well. You know spring is coming when you still have the last rays of light even past six o'clock in the evening.
We were a party of six for the evening. The goal was to educate about where all the food we were eating that night came from, but to also talk about how it's not hard to start along a local and in-season food path. I went through with our guests the top 3 ways to start eating local come springtime.
Starting down a local path
1. Start at your local grocery store. Inquire or spend time looking for local/regional products. In Newburyport, the normal grocery store carries butter, flour, and cheese from Vermont and Maine. They carry local sausages from Dartmouth, MA. All it takes is a little investigative work.
2. Next, hit your local farmers' market. If you start there, then you can start chatting with the farms and artisans that are selling there. If there's something you can't find, most likely they can help you locate someone locally who has it. You can start with produce, but often you can find local sources of meat and other products as well.
3. Check our small, local food shops, butchers and bakers. Eating local isn't only about produce and meat. You can find small cheesemakers, winemakers, and prepared products. You're not only supporting the product, but the local person in your community selling it all.
|The happy guests|
Dessert: White Cake with Rhubarb Compote & Lemon Curd Filling, with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
I did say I'd get to dessert. I've already given you one piece of the puzzle, the Rhubarb Compote you've read about above. This cake, is truly, one of my most favorite creations, baking-wise, to ever come out of my kitchen. It screams spring. However, you'll have to wait until later this week to find out just what goes into it. I hope you've enjoyed this Happy Spring Dinner with me. It was a lovely evening filled with a lot of talk, debate, laughs, memories, and love. Until next time...