April is upon us, and that can only mean one thing: Time to sign up for your local CSA!
When Susan Underwood of October Rose Farms gifted me a bag of chicken feet at the farmer’s market on Saturday I wondered what I could possibly have done to offend her. The feet of chickens? Did she really dislike me so much? “Trust me,” she said, “these make the most delicious broth. Google it if you don’t believe me.”
I took a deep breath. I accepted her gift. And I Googled the heck out of it.
Chicken feet, I’ve learned, have an ironic presence in our world: they are regarded as a delicacy in some parts, discarded offal in others, and serve as a standard, everyday ingredient in too many ethnic culinary circles to count. The American food culture, me included, seems to have forgotten our long-standing relationship with the lowly chicken foot. Pre-WWII Americans were probably unaware of the unique micronutrients found only in that part of the bird but clearly understood that the collagen, gelatin and high flavor profile made this an essential ingredient for every-day cooking.
In “the olden days” chicken feet were the standard thickener and flavor enhancer of American soups, stews, and gravies; just after the Second World War the food industry figured out how to hydrolyze proteins to a base containing free glutamic acids, and MSG was born. With the resulting explosion of the convenience-food industry along with the disappearance of back-yard chickens, chicken feet as a matter of daily life were forgotten. Americans began gorging on hotdogs and pre-packaged chicken patties made from chemical infused this-and-that pieces-parts and turned our noses up at the very idea of cooking with something so gruesome.
The stock we made from October Rose Farms’ chicken feet was rich in body and flavor, worlds better by far than any store-bought product, mercy yes, and superior even to our carcass and vegetable stock-making method which, until now, has been our gold standard.
This week we learned to connect with a culinary tradition that goes back hundreds of years: utilizing all the parts of the animal,
evenespecially the highly nutritious and flavorful feet.
CHICKEN FEET STOCK
2 pounds of chicken feet
1 bay leaf
Vegetables: Tomatoes, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, etc: use the vegetables you have on hand, course chopped and thrown into a large stockpot.
Water (enough to cover all ingredients in the pot)
1) Rinse the chicken feet under running water to wash away any surface debris.
2) Scald the chicken feet for 15-20 seconds in a pot of salted boiling water, then immediately quench in a bowl of ice water to cool.
3) Peel the yellow membrane entirely from each foot.
4) Chop off the tops of the claws at the first knuckle using a sharp knife.
5) Place the feet in a large stockpot and add vegetables and herbs as desired. We used: tomatoes, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaf and thyme
6) Cover stockpot contents completely with water.
7) Bring to a boil, then reduce to a very low simmer.
8) Simmer for at least 4 hours.
9) Allow liquid to cool completely, then strain.
10) Freeze or can. Yield: approximately 1.5 gallons.
|The humble radish.|
Not long ago I made a peevish reference to radishes in a post and received reader comments and e-mails suggesting I’d missed the point – that radishes are not the bitter, moody root I made them out to be.
I wondered: have I paid this veg its proper due? Maybe not. Perhaps there were other applications for the peppery raphanus sativus aside from the radish rose. I googled ‘radish recipe’ and got more than three million results; this was going to take awhile, particularly since the recipe would have to conform to the 10-mile Challenge. And also not taste disgusting. I hunted through scores of sites and from that endeavor the following three dishes came to pass.
In the process I learned a lot about the radish. Did you know they are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, and potassium? And radishes have a long history of medicinal uses, particularly for an upset stomach? That ancient tomb paintings show black radishes being used as payment in Egypt during the construction of the pyramids? Or that radishes were so highly regarded in ancient Greece that wealthy aristocrats wore little gold radish replicas around their neck for good luck?
Now you know.
Of the three recipes we made this is my favorite. Turns out radish soup, at least in this configuration, is utterly delicious. The yogurt adds a wonderful creamy element that cools the root’s heat. My soup didn’t turn out the pretty pink color depicted on the recipe link because I used my own vegetable stock which is quite dark and hearty. Yes, the recipe turned out so tasty I will make this soup again. (quick note: I added the potato back into the broth before pureeing it as opposed to separating them as instructed in the recipe.) See the Recipe.
potato and onion: Horsford Farms, Weedsport NY
bay leaf: from The Husband’s herb garden
vegetable stock: mine! Made entirely from farmer’s market vegetables a few weeks ago then vacuum sealed in 1 cup batches and frozen;
yogurt: Wake Robin Farms, Jordan, NY
radish: from the garden of my friend Karen. Many thanks!
|Raw Root and Cucumber Salad.|
Raw Root and Cucumber Salad
This crunchy salad is not just quick and easy it also makes excellent use of what is in season at the market: carrots, cucumber and, of course, radishes. There is such an abundance of these vegetables right now that they are very inexpensive, so this salad cost pennies to make. We’re sure to make it again many times this summer as an easy, inexpensive veg- accompaniment for whatever else we’re cooking. Incidentally, had I any apple on hand I would have julienned it and tossed it in this salad for a sweet element. Here is the Recipe.
cucumber and radish: Hobbit Hollow Farm, Skaneateles, NY
carrots: Andy’s Specialty Garlic and Produce, Newark, NY
apple cider vinegar: Owen Orchards, Weedsport, NY. This was an exciting find at last week’s farmer’s market! Really delicious vinegar for summer cooking.
|Roasted radish with black pepper and balsamic vinegar.|
We followed the advice of readers and roasted ourselves a batch of radish grown by Hobbit Hollow Farms in Skaneateles. The Husband tossed the root in oil, sprinkled lightly with salt and baked until soft. I didn’t care for the squishy interior when the veg was done so he gave them a quick pan-searing and topped them with ground pepper. What people say about roasted radishes is absolutely true: it brings out the root’s natural sugars and eradicates the bitter flavor I’ve always associated with radish.
|Ready for the oven.|
These are three humble offerings among endless possible recipes. They’ve helped change my mind about radishes. The root is a lovely thing fresh from the ground, so different from the leather-skinned horrors I’ve encountered in the past. I’ve decided to give other hated vegetables another go. Maybe. Next on the list: Brussels sprout. Thankfully I’ve got a few more months to prepare before those awful interesting things are in season.