Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I made butter!!!

We picked up our first gallon of milk from our cow, Nell, yesterday, and I tried some and it was like drinking half-and-half. Crazy rich. So I let it sit overnight so the cream would rise up and then I siphoned the milk off the bottom into smaller bottles, and dumped the cream into a big pyrex measuring cup thingy - I got almost a litre of cream off a gallon of milk.

Tonight I used just over half the cream, and turned it into butter. It was less hassle than I thought it'd be... of course, it's not like I was using a butter churn like Laura Ingalls or anything, I have a KitchenAid stand mixer with a whisk attachment. In a very short time I had butter globules floating around in buttermilk. I used a cheesecloth to strain out the buttery bits, squooshed them all together and squeezed out as much buttermilk as I could, then rinsed the butter under cold water. That was the only PITA part, and only because it was cold! It was actually kind of fun mushing the butter around. Then I threw it back in the mixer (after washing it of course), added some salt, whipped it around a little and put it in a nice little bowl. See?

It's lovely butter. It's WAY darker than store-bought, which is partly due to the breed of cow (Nell's a jersey) and partly because she eats proper cow-food (ie, grass) rather than nasty soy and grain feed. This is Nell, btw - having a moment with Rowan.

And buttermilk tastes nothing like what is sold in stores as buttermilk. It tastes just like milk. I don't quite get that, but whatever. I guess I'd have to culture it to make it taste sour. (And I would want to do this why...?)

Monday, April 21, 2008

lamb shanks

I cooked lamb shanks the other night, for my ma, and have received a request for a recipe. Well, there kinda isn't one. Sorry. Here's basically what you do:

Fry some diced onions and bacon in a dutch oven until golden and just starting to brown. Remove and reserve.

Add oil if necessary. Salt lamb shanks well, brown on all sides. Return onions and bacon to the pot, add minced garlic and rosemary and a bay leaf or two.

Toss in most of a bottle of red wine. Bring to a boil, cover, then place in a low oven. Cook for 2-3 hrs.

Remove shanks from liquid, keep warm. Taste liquid, determine how much you can get away with reducing it before it becomes too salty. If it's already salty enough, get rid of half of it and replace with the remainder of the bottle of wine. Strain out solid bits, separate off the fat, and reduce the remaining liquid until it tastes good, then thicken it with a paste made from the fat and some flour (you can add this to the boiling liquid, just whisk as you're adding it and it won't go clumpy.)

Serve and enjoy!

restaurant recommendation

Ok, anyone who has a child and likes good food - you have to go to Cafe Brio. A couple years ago I went there and found the food not fabulous, portions too huge, overpriced, etc. But when my mom was last visiting about a month ago we were looking for a place to go and discovered they had an early dinner special, and when I called for reservations they didn't freak out when I said "two adults and a small child", they just asked if I needed a high chair.

Well, it turned out to be one of the best restaurant experiences I've had with a child. The food was *fantastic* - the early dinner special was well worth the $28 for 3 courses - and they were great with Rowan, even bringing her the extra dill pickle she asked for. The children's pasta we ordered was bucatini - fun - LOADED with butter and parmesan, and there was enough that Stirling ate the leftovers for his dinner later on. But Rowan isn't that super-keen on pasta, especially when there's pate and steak.

So we went back when my mom visited this month, with Stirling this time, and we had another fantastic meal, quite similar to the previous early dinner special, but with a different kind of steak, different veg, and different dessert. All of it still super-tasty, and we all just contributed to Rowan's meal instead of ordering her pasta she wasn't going to eat. In retrospect, we probably could have ordered her a whole meal and taken the leftovers home, because Stirling and I both lost about half our steaks to her. But again, wonderful service, especially with Rowan - no raised eyebrows at her spooning her ice onto her bread plate and munching it, and none of the other diners seemed to mind her loud proclamations of "YUM YUM YUM" as she hoovered in the steak. At the end of the meal, she got stickers.

I have to say I am just super-impressed by this restaurant. They serve great food, they do all their charcuterie, their pickles, and some of their cheese in-house, they source locally as much as possible, the service is outstanding and they do a great job of balancing family-friendliness with upscale dining. And it is great to have restaurants to go to like this, so that Stirling and I actually feel treated (as opposed to "family" places like White Spot or whatever, where I know I can cook everything on the menu better than they can), but where Rowan is welcomed and can learn restaurant manners without us being all stressy about it.