March 24, 2009

The Magical Fruit

Your cow for these beans

In a year of of forclosures, bailouts, and generally depressing economic news, frugality has become hip. Restaurants are offering special recession menus and it seems like every other food-focused magazine has spent the winter touting home-cooking and comfort food. Somehow, I became caught up in all of this and developed an interest in my new slow-cooker and a somewhat inexplicable fascination with beans. Maybe it was this article from Food and Wine, but then again, I guess I've always liked beans--even before they were trendy.

Cool beans

Recognizing my fixation, LSB presented me with the coolest Valentine's Day gift--3 sacks of Rancho Gordo heirloom beans. Legumes of love. While these beans aren't the simple, cheap fellas you can get at the supermarket, they are darn pretty looking and they came with a sexy Mexican bean lady pin-up calendar, of sorts. The company is interesting, too, as Rancho Gordo works "to help small farmers continue to grow their indigenous beans in Mexico, despite international trade policies that seem to discourage genetic diversity and local food traditions."

The "beans, come hither" look

Herein lies the problem--what do you do with such cool-looking, genetically diverse beans? I had intially planned to use them in this recipe, but at the last minute decided they weren't a good match and went with some plain old Goya pinto beans instead (which were delicious, nonetheless--how can you go wrong with the 3 B's of cuisine: beans, beer and bacon?).

Now my precious Vaquitas, Flor de Castilla, and Ayocote Morado sit perched atop our baker's rack, the eyes of the bean chica on the label gazing at me with culinary longing, while I search for a bean dish worthy of their virtue.

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March 17, 2009

Slow Moose

Just prior to departing Maine, on my return home from a recent smelting trip, my friend Paul gave me a somewhat odd parting gift--a top round moose steak, vacuum-sealed and frozen. Actually, it wasn’t that odd, if you know Paul. About a year or so ago, Paul won Maine’s version of the Golden Ticket, giving him the legal right to try to shoot a moose. To make a long story short, the moose got gotten, and I got a small hunk of said gotten moose.

Unsure of what to do with it, naturally I turned to the information superhighway. I offered a few key words (such as: “moose” and “recipes”) to Google, and was directed to various blogs and websites--many devoted to the worship of Sarah Palin. Governor Palin, it seems, is a big fan of moose and there are multiple listings for Sarah Palin’s Moose Stew. Strangely, I didn’t see any wolf recipes.

Not one to mix politics with my food, I ignored all of the Palin sites and decided to strike out on my own, using a recipe for beef stew as a guide.

Pucho’s Slow Moose Stew


- (about) 1 lb of moose meat (top round or whatever your hunter friend gives you)
- 1 cup stock (chicken, beef, or whatever)
- 1/2 cup dry red wine (I used Malbec, but I’m sure any dry red wine would do)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove (minced)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup (or so) of flour
- some olive oil
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 3 carrots (chopped)
- 1 stalk celery (chopped)
- 5 or so smallish potatoes (chopped into larges chunks)


Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Cut moose into 1-inch cubes. Coat moose cubes in flour mixture. Brown moose cubes in olive oil and add onions until softened. Dump browned moose chunks and onions in slow-cooker. Deglaze pan with mixture of wine, chicken stock, and Worchestershire sauce. Pour mixture into slow-cooker (feel free to add more wine or stock, if needed--I added more wine), add bay leaf, paprika, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Set to cook on low for 10 hours or so. Go to bed. Wake up to an apartment that smells disturbingly of stewed meat. Check on the moose and get ready for work. Place stew in Tupperware containers and bring to work to impress your coworkers at lunch.

Yeah, it looks nasty, but it really was delicious

Bon appétit!

March 08, 2009

Angling for Osmerus Mordax

Osmerus Mordax in Unnatural Habitat

"At the time of year when most anglers hang up their rods,
store their gear, and warm the easy chair next to the fireplace, Rainbow Smelt offer an opportunity for action!"

- Captain Dave

We told ourselves that this time would be different. It was much warmer this year and there were no snowstorms to contend with. We chose a different location and we had learned important lessons from last year--lessons on depth and jiggling. We were prepared to stare into the dark trench carved into the the ice beneath our shanty and patiently wait for the shifting tides to draw the schools of prey to the chunks of bloodworms dangling near the bottom of the river bed. Most importantly, we brought more beer.

This impulse purchase turned out to be a bad one

We took the Downeaster from Boston to Portland--our arrival slightly delayed by a jarring emergency stop in the New Hampshire countryside, which the conductor informed us was "on account of morons on the tracks." After a night out in the Old Port, we headed to a 4-Hour Sale! at a redneck wonderland, where we bought gifts for our friend's newborn baby and felt slightly frightened about being American.

It had me at: "when Pappy cleans his gun..."

This place was truly amazing. It had a huge fake habitat in the middle with a variety of taxidermic specimens scattered about in life-like poses, an aquarium with local species of fish, a carnival-like shooting gallery, cafe, and a Bargain Cave. Paul immediately went to find some fishing paraphernalia and then I lost track of Dan somewhere near the jerky section. When I came across Dan again, he warned me of the masses of "Wilford Brimley-looking people wandering through the gun section." Incidentally, if I'm ever under attack by zombies, nazis, communists, or aliens and need to arm myself, Cabela's is the first place that I would break into.


After an hour or so of superstore awe, we left to have a primitive, manly brunch of crab meat benedict (served over wilted baby spinach) and gather supplies for our evening on the frozen confluence of Kennebec and the Androscoggin.

Our friend, Hugh, could not make the trip this year, but he sent along a package that we were to open once we arrived at our smelt shanty. The package contained a tin of octopus in oil (with “man pills” written with a Sharpie on the top), some pictures that he created/altered (including one of Bill O’Reilly--“You are about to enter a NO SMELT zone”--and another of Alton Brown with a quote that made absolutely no sense to us), and a letter instructing us to eat the man pills and hang the pictures on the walls of the shanty. We obliged. None of this is strange to those who know Hugh.

Arthur C. Clarke reminds us of the Big Picture

outside our smelt shanty

We spent most of the next 6 hours in our shanty—trying to keep the fire going in our stove, drinking beer, cooking kielbasa with onions, and catching a bunch of shiners (like a smelt, only smaller and less desirable) and even the occasional smelt. As the evening wore on, the beer in our bucket was slowly replaced by minnows of various sizes. Full disclosure: I'm the one who kept letting the fire die and managed to pull only one smelt out of the water, but I did my fair share of cooking, eating, and drinking.

Deadliest Catch

Dan and I left the next day, after another lumberjack brunch—this time my eggs benedict came with caramelized onions and brie. We left the few smelt we caught (3 or 4?) in Maine for Paul to give to his grandmother, who is apparently a smelt fanatic, and headed South on the Downeaster.