Old Porch Snow
Winter isn’t without its upsides. When the weather is cold, I want to put a pot of something hot on the stove. I want it to simmer for hours and fill my home with its aroma. Putting some moisture into the dry air isn’t a bad secondary outcome either. Plus, when completed, this house-warming project is going to result in some tasty food to boot.
I’m a little disappointed with B.A. Nilsson’s story about The Grocery in Troy. Actually, it really makes me want to go there and check it out. I love the focus of the place and its raison d’etre. However, he leads off with the following:
“Farm to table,” that catchiest of current culinary catchphrases, typically refers to a restaurant’s table, although the proliferation of farmer’s markets has allowed us, seasonally at least, to drag that bounty to our own boards.
The truth of the matter is that it’s possible to eat farm-to-table all year round thanks to the amazing four-season markets we’ve got in the region. Just earlier this week I had written a bit about the diversity of edible roots, and yesterday I played hooky and cooked up a storm.
Luckily it’s winter and I had some old porch snow.
Baba ganoush was not a seasonally appropriate dish, but I made it anyhow. Mrs. Fussy prefers it over hummus and occasionally Trader Joe’s has some nice looking eggplants. This one had been sitting around for a couple of days and needed to be fire roasted stat.
Despite the cold outside, I opened the windows a crack to let out some of the smoke. It’s a great dish and a simple technique. But it’s not without its consequences.
To warm the apartment back up I made a potato soup using local New Jersey organic potatoes. I had a couple strips of relatively happy bacon that I rendered and crisped. Onions were then softened in the rendered fat (mine weren’t local but they could have been). A true blue localvore would have used celery root instead of celery to keep this truly seasonal. I didn’t, but it’s possible. For me, the purpose of this dish was also to use up odds and ends of what was laying around the house.
So after sauteing the vegetables, I put in the peeled chopped potatoes, some homemade chicken stock, and a bit of water. Then I simmered the heck out of it until the potatoes got soft.
Making this soup was fun and easy. Eating it was going to prove to be a good bit trickier. It wasn’t ready for lunch, and there wasn’t enough of it for dinner. So I put a lid on the hot pot and put it on the old porch snow.
Man, that stuff is amazing. It’s like a blast chiller. That soup cooled down lightning fast. Which was great because I was able to store it in the fridge and move onto the next cooking project.
Sometimes I just get on a roll.
The giant pot of chana masala could also be a winter farm-to-table dish. Surely there is someone local who is growing and drying beans. The spices are clearly an international element, but the bulk of the dish is beans and onions. There is some canned tomato. Honestly, I don’t ever think I’ll be one of those people who cans his own summer tomatoes. But I can live with that.
There was some dal too, although I’d be less convinced about finding a local farm source for split mung beans.
After dinner, both of these pots went out into the old porch snow too. I do really love that stuff. It’s right off the kitchen and it brings hot food down to refrigerator temperature in minutes. All you have to do is keep an eye open for the squirrels.
Man, those critters love food. I hate them like poison. Actually, I just had to hire some Albany trapper to evict a family of squirrels from the walls of our house.
Don’t let them eat your food. But do take advantage of this snow while it lasts. Come spring time, you’ll just have to chill your foods the newfangled way in the fridge or in an ice bath. And you won’t be able to cook nearly as many things in the same day.
The weekend is here. Now let’s get cooking.