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A Winter Rabbit Stew With Mushrooms and Hakurei Turnips

Rabbit Stew

Rabbit Stew

Winter. Cold and white this February. We have seen -2F (-19F) several nights, which, for us, is cold, and it’s been sustained. There are days where the high temperature nudged 15 or even 20F ( -9 or even 77C). Even the Chesapeake is frozen in place preventing boats from reaching tiny Tangier Island!

Few clients are entertaining and, with snow on the ground, there is no outdoor gardening. There are only so many seeds you can start in the greenhouse … So… I cook (and I write a little more)

Long simmered dishes call to me on those bleak days – or on those piercingly clear and cold days. When I have rabbit, I generally roast it, but recently, I made a rabbit stew, which just reminded me how good rabbit is. Especially when a little cream is thrown in the sauce… and then something almost magical happens.  Because, you see, rabbit does not taste like chicken, it tastes like rabbit! And that’s good.

The dish is white – sorts, off –  muted in color is a better description: I used peeled potatoes as well as Hakurei turnips  which I had on hand, but any young small turnips will do. Just don’t go for those old shriveled things that have been sitting in the produce bins. Carrots would certainly work, although they would bring sweetness instead of a slight bitterness to the stew – and will also break the whitish color of the stew. But the important point is: don’t get hang up on the specifics of the ingredients! Just make the stew. It will taste great and comforting.

It’s rather soupy stew; if you want it less soupy then decrease the amount of liquid. It’s critical however to use a really good chicken broth, that means homemade. If you decide to decrease the amount of liquid, you may omit the potatoes, add more turnips, and serve the rabbit over grits or rice. Otherwise, pass the bread!

A Winter Rabbit Stew With Mushrooms and Hakurei Turnips

Rabbit Stew A rabbit’s back leg is very meaty… Read more

A Duck Roast With Currant Jelly Sauce

Roasted Duck, Photo by Molly Peterson


Let’s get it out of the way right now: duck is fatty, and duck is delicious, a rich dark meat that is quite distinctive and … – surprise! – does not taste like chicken. I sometime roast a duck mainly to collect its fat – because (as everyone knows) duck-fat fried potatoes are a treat. So if you are afraid of fat, skip the duck!

Duck is poultry, but a duck’s skeleton and body are very different from a chicken. A 5-lb duck yields a lot less meat than a 5-lb chicken — don’t forget that pound of lovely fat — mostly in breast and leg meat. Everything else is “gnaw off the bone” meat (wings, neck and back – and innards, of course!), stuff that not everyone cares to eat. At least not at a fancy dinner as fingers are required. Go figure.  So… anything smaller than 5 lb is not really worth roasting.

Ducks are — I am told — somewhat harder to raise than chicken. Mostly the processing (getting the feathers off) are a lot trickier and slower. So, it’s not that easy to get local ducks in the mid-Atlantic area. The closest duck farm I know is  Free Union Grass Farm in Free Union, VA, more than  60 miles away (which is further than I want to drive on a casual basis).

So duck is a treat here.

A rich meat, it marries well with bitter or sour: cherries in the spring, turnips and ginger in the fall, oranges & olives in winter, or like the recie here, make a tart sauce with current jelly. Or you could use tart cherry jam or jelly, or a seedless blackberry jam. Read more

The Miraculous and Delicious Egg



To the music of “These are a few of my favorite things” – and  with apologies to Maria! – let’s all sing together:

Soufflés & Quiches, Omelets & Crepes

Clafoutis, Flans, and Croque-Madames

Waffles & Cremes, Meringue & Mousse

Not to mention sunnyside up

Custard & Ice, and Devil & Neige

Angel Food Cake

Steamed  bread pudding and lemon pound cake

These are a few of my favorite things.

Somewhere along the line, eggs got a bad rap. Too much fat! Too much cholesterol! This from people who did not blink an eye about recommending margarine and other wholly unnatural man-made white fats. And then thanks to the horrors of factory farming where hundred of thousands of hens are crammed together, fed junk,  and forced to lay continuously, salmonella scares have  further discourage the eating of eggs. But of course! Anything produced in factory “farms” conditions is going to be less than wholesome.

But  a pastured flock has access to a varied diet of grass, weeds, bugs; enjoy sunshine & fresh air; range and do what chicken naturally do (scratch, run, take dust baths etc). Those eggs are truly an amazing food, a power house of protein, minerals, vitamin and oligo elements – delicious and nutritious.

In my area, eggs from pastured hens sell vary from $4.25 to $5.75 a dozen, generally depending on whether the grain rations are GMO-free or organic, or soy-free. At 2 oz per egg extra-large), that’s 24 oz or 1.5  lb per dozen – or $2.83 to$ 3.83 per pound – a pretty good deal!

Besides, consider that chicken lay unfertilized eggs while wild birds lay eggs only after mating. Does that give us an indication of how long the relationship between chicken and humankind is?

So… need some egg ideas?


eggs - strata 009

Strata, aka savory bread pudding, here with roasted pepper, slow cooked onions & spinach


grits & manchego souffle

Souffles – here corn grits souffle



Everyone like deviled eggs! Here’s my recipe.


Vegetable, buckwheat noodle  & egg stir-fry


Sunnyside eggs anytime – that’s the ultimate fast food!


Sunnyside eggs, chayote shoots, rice & spicy zucchini rougail

Sunnyside eggs with purslane, blue potato & cherry tomato salad

Sunnyside eggs with a summer salad of purslane, blue potatoes & cherry tomatoes


Spring omelette with asparagus & morellesmorels-2009-04-043




While many desserts include eggs, some rely almost exclusively on eggs, including these:

Baked custard. I vary the sweeteners, often using honey, as well as the flavoring: almond extract, fennel seeds, orange oil are flavors I often use (but vanilla bean is the most frequent)


Fruit curd, including lemon curd are good on toast, mixed with plain yogurt, as cake filling,  or as a base in a fruit tart. Add whipped cream and/or whipped egg whites and you’ve got lemon mousse.

meyer lemon curd

Meringue & passion fruit curd… and also pavlovas

Meringues with passion fruit curd

Meringues with passion fruit curd (lemon curs or any kind of curd works too)


pavlova 030

Early Summer Pavlova with rhubarb curd


Chocolate mousse.

chocolate mousse

Spicy Chocolate Custard. custard, spicy chocolate 005




Winter Tomato Soup

winter tomato soupAs far as I am concerned, I grow tomatoes for winter eating. In fact, this year, I am mostly growing paste tomatoes: Roma, Amish Paste, San Marzano, and Grandma Mary’s Paste

Tomatoes in summer? oh, sure, I like a good tomato sandwich as much as anyone (they are a summer staple lunch in fact). And roasted tomatoes, fast or slow, as well as tomato salad or gazpacho or the occasional tomato sorbet.

But in February nothing beats a lasagna redolent with garlicky and rosemary tomato sauce (unless it’s one with mushroom & bechamel) nor homemade pizza with thick red sauce. Or a piping hot tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwich. All perfect comfort food that’s warming and delicious. A pleasure to eat when it’s gray and cold. And that is why I bother and can tomatoes.

The soup is easy, comforting and delicious. Read more

Mushroom & Crème Fraiche Pizza

Homemade pizza is one of the simple pleasures of life. Make dough. Let rise (as many as 4 or 5 days in the fridge if needed). Roll out dough. Spread toppings. Put in a very hot oven. Open a bottle of beer or pour a glass of wine. Patient 10 minutes. Enjoy.

PS – use a pizza stone: it will immensely increase the quality of your pizza. One word: perfect crust!

PPS – neither tomato nor pepperoni necessary (although sometimes they have their use!)

Mushroom & Crème Fraiche Pizza Read more

A Different Kind Of Pie

French Réunion Island where I grew up has a multi-ethnic population, hailing from France, the West coast of Africa, the East Coast of India (Malabar coast), Pakistan (people came when Pakistan was part of the British empire), and Indochina. Its cooking reflects the diversity of its population, each group’s culinary traditions enriching the common cooking pot.

An example is Paté Créole, a savory meat pie probably of French and Indian origins served on feast days, particularly at the beginning of the Christmas or New Year’s Eve meal.

So I think it’s an appropriate pie for Thanksgiving. Read more

Venison Chili (with Vanilla and Cocoa)


Venison Chili

The flavors of chili

Bow hunting season is less than 2 weeks away. And I am ever so hopeful for a good harvest this year. It is really time too make room in the freezer and use last year’s harvest… and with weather being now markedly – and blessedly – cooler (especially at night), what’s not to like about a good batch of venison chili?

You don’t often see cocoa and vanilla bean called for in chili, but it’s a great combination with chile peppers. We are so used to cocoa and vanilla in sweet recipes that we too often overlook how well they work in savory dishes. In fact, in their native Central America, they weren’t used for sweets. It’s the European palate that added sugar and milk to cocoa to turn it into chocolate as we know it today — and used vanilla for dessert.

If you do not have venison, use fully grass-fed, grass-finished beef – the kind that ‘s on pasture their entire life, and if you can, not Angus but a breed with a more robust flavor, like Texas Long Horn, Scottish Highland or Red Devon. They are perfect for that recipe. But – like venison, they are super lean, hence the need for ground pork (which is also sold as plain/unseasoned bulk sausage).

Venison Chili with Vanilla and Cocoa
Read more

Spring Salads


Every spring , without fail, I become almost tear-eyed that we are eating great bowls of arugula, spinach, mache, sorrel, chicories and the very first of the lettuces – all planted last fall, all growing again with the milder temperatures… and the rain.Brave greens braving the still chilly weather, they show us winter’s over.

Greens make wonderful companions to fried eggs, poached eggs, omelet, lard-fried croutons, bacon, lardons, duck-fat fried potatoes, duck breasts, thinly cut steaks, any meat really… any thing really. Early spring greens are just glorious, so alive. And I am glad I have them, because, I have to wait at least 30 days before I’ll be able to harvest from the just planted seeds. And with spending so much time out, we definitively need a lot of those quick lunches.

One of my favorite quick meals is a green salad topped with warm breaded goat cheese on a croute (a croute is a French crostini – or vice-versa). I like to marinate the goat cheese ahead of time for added flavor – and I’ll often marinate a lot more than what’s immediately needed – they’ll keep well in the fridge for a few weeks. In a pinch,  if you did not marinate the cheese but want that salad right now, just brush the freshly cut rounds with oil before breading them. Read more

Fast Food My Way (Tongue it is!)

We eat plenty of fast food here – especially for lunch. Don’t believe me? well… take a look at the picture of one of our not unusual lunches.


  • Green salad from the garden (Pick early in the morning, wash, dry, refrigerate, ready to go in seconds) with hard boiled eggs from the hen house (hard boil, refrigerate – they will keep several days and only take seconds to chop and add to the salad)
  • Various homemade pickles: curried zucchini pickles, dilly green beans, cornichons and green tomato relish. Made last summer. 3 seconds to open each jar.
  • Sliced Beef Tongue with really good mustard. Tasty (really! don’t knock it off until you try it), easy, inexpensive. What else do you want? Prepare the tongue up to days in advance, keep it in the fridge, ready to slice at a moment’s notice for sandwiches or just for a cold cut platter with pickled veggies.
  • Sun tea: steeped in the sun in 1/2 gallon jar and rebottled in recycled glass bottle for more convenience.

Voila – that is slow food, but it is also fast food. Better: it’s real food.

The how to on cooking beef tongue (or other tongues for that matter like lamb), you may find here at DC-based The Slow Cook. Ed Bruske gives very detailed instructions on how to cook tongue and brine it first – if you want.

But really, it’s easy to cook tongue; in a nutshell, this is what you do: Read more

Oxtail Soup

A dish of oxtail soup is a thing to share with those you love. Or not. (depends how much you love them)

What’s not to like about oxtail?

It’s traditional farm fare, a simple country dish with robust complex favors – many parts of the world have perfectly succulent ways to use oxtail as a matter of fact. It’s a slow simmered dish, perfect for cold days. It’s a dish that can be made in advance and in quantity. Reheating it makes it even better.


Never had oxtail? If you like osso bocco, you are simply going to love oxtail. It might take a little looking to find them, although they are becoming more popular. It used to be a throwaway part of the animal – and used to be very inexpensive. But chefs in search of robust flavors obtained from slow traditional methods and the new-again emphasis on eating from nose-to-tail, is making oxtail almost trendy. So more expensive. It is one of the few cuts that I buy retail: there is after all only one tail in cattle, so when I buy a split beef half, I get – at most , if I am lucky – one tail. Hardly enough. The farmer I buy it from sells it for less than burger meat, typically the cheapest cut. So, still a pretty good deal.

Maybe oxtail is intimidating because people think of it as offal and are grossed out. Technically it is offal, but it is not an organ. Not that that would stop me from eating it if it were. Or maybe people are intimidated because they do not know how to cook it. It’s simple really, it should be cook slow. Very slow. A day in advance if possible so it has a chance to sit and mellow even more. Read more