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Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Farm Fresh Egg-Stravaganza

chickenEarlier this year, during a little visit to Local Harvest,  I stumbled upon a local farm. This farm happened to be relatively close to my house, and they offered farm fresh eggs. Curious, I contacted Cindy Telisak at Jacob’s Reward Farm. Little did I know that over the coming months, I would gain so much. Not only have we enjoyed a wonderful bounty of the freshest of eggs, but I gained a friend and a new level of appreciation for the hard work and devotion of our local farmers.

Cindy bottle-feeding a baby lamb

Cindy bottle-feeding a baby lamb

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Cindy and her family own Jacob’s Reward Farm, a small farm north of Dallas, where they raise sheep, alpacas, and chickens. Over the past few months, I’ve regularly visited Cindy to pick up fresh eggs from her farm, during which we have been well-acquainted. Last weekend, I was honored to cater to her “Spinning Yarns: Cowboy Stories and Song” event. So this month, when I submitted an idea to conduct an interview with Cindy as part of a Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 event, I was ecstatic to find out that my idea was selected. Cindy has been an inspiration to me, and has been a key influence in my decision to actively support local farmers whenever possible.  

Alta: How did Jacob’s Reward Farm get its start?

Cindy: “Jacob’s Reward” got its start before I even left the suburban life in Plano.  I’ve always loved sheep and longed for a homesteading lifestyle, but for many years we had to tough it out in the composite-roof-privacy-fence jungle.  In order to get as close as I could to the shepherd’s life, I learned to knit, crochet and spin, and I struck a friendship with a local couple who raise Jacob sheep.  I lived the life vicariously through them for several years.  When the opportunity arose to buy 4.5 acres here in Parker, we jumped at it.  And though there have been many significant challenges, we’ve not looked back.  The name “Jacob’s Reward” refers to the story in Genesis when God blessed Jacob with vast herds of sheep and goats as a reward for his years of faithfulness.

Alta: What made you decide that raising sheep, alpacas, and chickens was your calling?

Cindy: I love animals and have always thought a farm would be a dream come true.  Once I learned to knit and spin, it only made sense to raise my own fiber animals.  Chickens and fresh eggs are integral to a farm, and they contribute to a healthy diet.  And chickens are really fun to watch!

Alta: Tell me about a typical day at Jacob’s Reward Farm.

Cindy: I am not a morning person, so I have my animals trained not to expect their breakfast at the crack of dawn.  But my usual round of chores takes about 45 minutes, depending on the weather.  Muddy conditions make everything more complicated.  I give a little grain to the eight sheep on the north end of the property, and hay.  The front yard chickens are released from their coop to wander the property in search of bugs, seeds and various greens.  I feed Smokey the barn cat so that she’s fortified for a day of rodent patrol.  On the south side of the property, I feed my six alpacas and two Jacob sheep, and release three other sets of chickens.  I top off all the water buckets and fill the hay feeders.  I do a similar set of chores morning and evening, ending with locking up the free-range chickens in their coops every night to protect them from predators.  Between sets of chores, I take care of my house and my family, teach classes in my studio, and keep up with my farm supporters on my blog, website, podcast, newsletter and other social media.  I also try to squeeze in some knitting and spinning of my own.  There’s never a dull moment.

Breakfast time!

Breakfast time!

Alta: Tell me about your chickens.

Cindy: I have a handful of breeds of chickens that I have raised from day old chicks.  Right now, the flock numbers around 37 total, though 15 of those are just babies.

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Free-Ranging Buffs

Alta: Why are free-range, farm-raised chickens so much better than even the premium eggs you can purchase at the grocery?

Cindy:  “Free-range” is a buzz word that may or may not mean what the consumer thinks.  It may mean that your pricey grocery store eggs came from chickens who can see outside, or who have access to a tiny concrete slab outside.  My free range chickens do just that.  I let them out in the morning and they have complete freedom to roam the property, resting in the shade of the native landscape plantings or sunning themselves in the herbicide-free lawns.  They gather their own food, following the instinctive promptings God gave them.  I do supplement them with commercial grain to round out their diet.  My eggs don’t sit very long once they’re laid, either.  (Alta’s note: there have been times I’ve arrived and helped Cindy gather a few eggs to fill my dozen – eggs laid just hours earlier. Now that’s fresh!) No telling how old those grocery store eggs are!

Alta: Jacob’s Reward Farm has a new Fiber CSA. Could you tell me a little about this?

Cindy: This is our first year to offer CSA shares, so we are feeling our way a bit, and we are under the mentorship of a highly successful CSA fiber farm in the New York area. As a CSA (community supported agriculture) fiber farm, we sell shares of our fiber harvest roughly based on the amount of fiber we hope to get from this year’s shearing of alpacas and sheep, distributed to a limited number of shareholders.  But just like vegetable CSAs, we can’t guarantee an exact amount of fiber we’ll end up with; there are too many variables involved.  Vegetable farmers call it a “shared risk proposition.”  However, by limiting the number of shareholders, we believe we can safely assure each shareholder of a satisfactory amount of fiber once the distributions are made.  Also, we’ll be processing our fiber only into spinning roving, rather than yarn, because of the extra expense. I do teach spinning, and a spinning lesson and drop spindle are included in the price of the share.  Also, we offer lots of opportunities to come out to the farm and participate in the life and care of the animals, in community-building days where we knit or spin together, shear the sheep, picnic together, or other fun events. A CSA share will not result in “bargain” yarn, but the other included benefits bring the price down well under retail levels.  And many of my shareholders tell me that participation in the Jacob’s Reward Fiber Farm life and community is actually a priceless reward that they would pay for alone, with the fiber as “icing on the cake.”

jacobs reward event 052

Alta: What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome here at the farm?

Cindy: One hurdle we haven’t encountered is lack of interest in what we’re doing.  The response has been fantastic.  There are vibrant knitting and spinning communities in this area who find my fiber irresistible, and I have more egg customers than I can handle at some times of the year.  But since this is my first farming experience, I am learning a lot, and I’m learning every day.  The jobs around here are so varied that there is no excuse for being bored.  The farm also sits on the banks of Maxwell Creek, and heavy rains sometimes bring the water level a little closer to the house than we’d like.  But that hasn’t stopped us.  I’m continually working on ways to deal with lots of water on the place.  The farm is hard work, but it’s the kind of hard work that gives us a delicious, bone-weary sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.

Cindy’s undying optimism, drive, and determination have allowed her to influence a great number of people, including our family. Our kids have loved visiting the chickens, sheep, and alpacas. I’ve enjoyed learning so much about farm life from Cindy, and visiting the farm has brought me a sense of connectedness with the Earth and the changing of seasons.

Of course, making the side trip to pick up eggs at Jacob’s Reward Farm rather than just picking them up at the grocery does take extra time and planning. Depending on the weather and the season, the supply fluctuates. But for us, it’s well worth it. We trade convenience for a lot of worthwhile benefits. Not only are the eggs are fresher, tastier, and better for us, we are choosing to support our local farmers – farmers who practice ethical and sustainable treatment of their animals.

In an effort to celebrate the fresh eggs we’ve received from Jacob’s Reward Farm, I planned a Farm Fresh Egg-Stravaganza dinner for my family. Each dish was carefully planned, so that I could highlight the eggs throughout the entire meal.

The meal began with a small appetizer: Chinese Tea Eggs. These eggs, a typical dish for Chinese New Year, were steeped for 5 hours in a black tea, soy sauce (tamari, actually, so they were gluten-free), cinnamon, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, and dried orange peel. They were gorgeous to peel, and a tasty first bite. I’ll definitely make these again. For the recipe, visit Steamy Kitchen’s beautiful blog.

chinese tea eggs

The second course? Gluten-Free Egg and Pancetta Tarts. I found a lovely tart crust recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, a new cookbook from Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry. The crust was a mixture of almond flour, grapeseed oil, salt, agave nectar, and baking soda. Easy as pie tart! I pre-baked mini-tarts for 8 minutes, and then filled them with scrambled eggs, tomato sauce, sauteed pancetta, and shredded white cheddar, and baked them until the cheese was melted and bubbly. These tarts were tasty, although next time, I think I may add some herbs to the tart crust (Elana has an herbed tart crust recipe in her cookbook as well), which would work to increase the savory taste of the tart.

egg and pancetta tart

Gluten-Free Egg and Pancetta Tarts

1 recipe gluten-free tart crust (recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook)

4 miniature tart pans (I used 5-inch pans)

6 oz pancetta, diced

1 T olive oil

4 eggs, beaten

1/4 c milk

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c tomato sauce (use seasoned jarred tomato sauce, or your favorite tomato sauce recipe)

1/2 c shredded white cheddar

2 T chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Divide tart dough into 4 balls, pressing one ball into each tart pan. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden. Remove and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, bring a large saute pan to medium heat. Add pancetta and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is crisp. Remove and set aside.

Add the olive oil to the pan and turn the heat to medium-low. Whisk the eggs and milk together, and pour into pan. Whisk occasionally, and allow to cook until eggs are just set. (Don’t cook all the way – you don’t want the eggs to dry out.) Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

To assemble the tarts: With a spoon, spread a little of the tomato sauce into each tart crust. Top with eggs, and sprinkle cheese and pancetta over. Place in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle parsley on top as garnish.

Serves 4.

The third course was the most “daring” for me to attempt – Soft Egg Gluten-Free Ravioli. Until yesterday, I had never made handmade pasta, much less gluten-free handmade pasta. I found a pasta recipe from Living Without that sounded promising, so I set out to make my own ravioli. But these ravioli weren’t just “normal” ravioli – inside each of these babies laid an entire, unbroken, sunny egg yolk. In my opinion, these were the ultimate way to celebrate the intense yellow yolks the Jacob’s Reward Farm chickens created.

egg ravioli

The flavor of these ravioli was tasty and rich, especially as they were topped with a white truffle butter sauce. However, I did learn that rolling out pasta by hand is hard – and I ended up leaving the pasta sheets too thick, which resulted in heavy, dense ravioli. Not a perfect dish, but I would definitely try again, using a pasta machine to ensure thin, light pasta. (note to self: put pasta machine on wish list!) These were served with sauteed swiss chard, which was delightful.

Soft Egg Gluten-Free Ravioli, adapted from Living Without and Epicurious.com

For the filling:

1 c whole-milk ricotta cheese

2 egg yolks

1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

1/8 t freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta dough (these instructions are for the use of a pasta machine – if you don’t have one, instead use a rolling pin and roll out sheets as thinly as possible.):

½ c tapioca flour or sweet rice flour

½ c cornstarch

⅓ c potato starch or arrowroot

⅓ c fine brown rice flour, more for rolling out

½ t salt

2 T xanthan gum

4 eggs

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 egg yolks

1 egg white, beaten (for egg wash)

For the butter truffle sauce:

1 stick salted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1 T white truffle oil

Mix ricotta, 2 egg yolks, nutmeg, parmesan cheese, and pepper in a small bowl. Refrigerate until needed.

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend using the paddle. In a separate bowl, lightly beat together the 4 eggs and oil.

While the mixer is on, slowly add eggs/oil mixture to dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Dough will be soft like play dough. If it’s not, add water, one tablespoon at a time. Lightly dust your counter with cornstarch. Cut the dough into 8 pieces and cover 7 with a tea towel or plastic wrap.

Lightly dust a piece of dough with rice flour and flatten. Roll through the widest setting of the machine. Continue to roll it through, folding it in half each time and lightly dusting with rice flour if the dough is tacky. Do this until the dough begins to hold together and seems smooth. It may take 5 to 6 times. Then decrease the thickness one notch at a time and roll through until desired thickness is achieved. Cut out a 5-inch circle from parchment paper (or use another tool to measure a 5-inch circle – I used my tart pans), and cut out 16 5-inch circles from pasta dough. 

egg ravioli assembling

Place the ricotta mixture in a pastry bag (or do as I did, place it in a quart-size ziploc bag, and snip a corner off of the bag). In the center of eight of the pasta circles, make a circle with your pastry bag/ziploc bag full of the ricotta mixture, leaving about 3/4 inch from the edge of the pasta, as if you’re creating a nest. Place an egg yolk in the center of your ricotta “nest”. Brush the edges with egg wash. Top with another pasta circle, pressing together to seal the edges. (You can use a pastry wheel or the tines of a fork to seal the edges as well.) Place pasta on a cookie sheet. If layering the pasta, dust it with rice flour. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

To prepare the butter truffle sauce, place the butter and truffle oil in a small saucepan. Bring to medium heat, stirring, until bubbling. Reduce to low, and stir occasionally.

To cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a dash of salt. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slide into boiling water. Cook until al dente. Fresh pasta cooks in just a few minutes. When the raviolis are done, drain and rinse it under hot water.

To serve, place two raviolis on a plate, and lightly drizzle with butter truffle sauce. Serves 4.

Of course, no “Egg-Stravaganza” would be complete without a dessert. But after the rich ravioli, a light dessert was in order. We enjoyed a pavlova – a lovely light-as-air meringue dessert that is popular in New Zealand. Pavlova has a meringue base, topped with whipped cream, and typically decorated with summer berries and kiwi. Since it’s not berry season, I opted to top it with pear slices, figs, banana, and clementines. It was very likely the best part of the meal – a lightly sweet, fresh, and airy finish to a wonderful evening.

pavlova

Pear, Fig, Banana and Clementine Pavlova, adapted from Saveur.com

4 room-temperature egg whites

pinch of salt

1 c plus 2 T superfine sugar (I placed sugar in my food processor to “pulverize” it)

2 t cornstarch

1 t white vinegar

few drops of vanilla extract

1 c heavy cream

1 banana, peeled and sliced

1 ripe pear, such as a Red Bartlett, peeled and sliced

2 clementines, peeled and sectioned

4 oz Black Mission Figs, quartered

2 T honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then trace a 10-inch circle on the paper. Put egg whites and salt in clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, and beat on medium-low until frothy. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until egg whites form stiff but not dry peaks. Gradually add 1 cup sugar while whisking, then increase speed to high and beat until stiff and glossy. Sprinkle cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla over egg whites, then gently fold in.

Fill traced circle with meringue, smoothing top and sides. Put meringue in middle of oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake for 1 hour. Turn oven off and leave meringue inside until completely cool, 3-4 hours.

 Remove paper and place meringue on a cake plate. Whip cream and remaining sugar to soft peaks, then pile on top of meringue. Arrange cut fruit over whipped cream, and drizzle with honey. Slice into wedges to serve.

Serves 8-10.

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Filed under Appetizers, Baked goods, Desserts, Eggs, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pasta

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Exploring Texas BBQ

smoker
When you talk about Texas food, one of the first things that comes to mind is barbecue, specifically, barbecue beef. After all, Texas is the place of long cattle drives, of cowboys, of chuck wagon cooking on a campfire. But ask a native Texan to define barbecue, and you’ll receive as many answers as there are miles of wide open spaces in Texas. Folks from the east will tell you barbecue means pork shoulder and pork ribs, with a healthy helping of sauce. From the south and along the border? Barbacoa (head of the cow) is popular, served in corn tortillas. In Central Texas, at famed places such as Kreuz Market in Lockhart, pork was smoked simply, with post oak to flavor, never with sauce. German-style sausages were also smoked and enjoyed. And of course, beef brisket was king in West Texas, as it is all over the state. Obviously, Texas barbecue can mean many things, depending on the Texan.

As I just recently purchased a smoker, it seemed only natural, as a native Texas foodie, that I attempt to prepare a sampling of the various barbecued meats from the Lone Star State. In addition, I recently read through Robb Walsh’s “Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook”, which excited me with the thoughts of beautifully smoked meats. However, once Foodbuzz contacted to me and let me know I was selected for this month’s 24, 24, 24, a slight panic set in. I had limited experience with the smoker…what had I gotten myself into? In an effort to gain confidence,I immediately re-read Robb Walsh’s book, researched the best ways to smoke the various cuts of meat, requested the advice of several friends, and made a game plan. I organized recipes, did some shopping, sent out invitations to family, and made a schedule, and of course, a menu.

The Menu:

West Texas Brisket

East Texas Pork Shoulder

East Texas Pork Spare Ribs

Central Texas Smoked Bratwurst

Barbacoa (with tortillas, salsa, cilantro, onions and lime)

Mom’s Texas Potato Salad

Texas Coleslaw

Ancho Barbecue Sauce

Pineapple Barbecue Sauce

East Texas Blackeyed Peas

 

Pork shoulder and ribs smoking

Pork shoulder and ribs smoking

The cooking started Friday evening, and continued almost nonstop until 5 PM Saturday. (Friday night was more passive cooking than anything. I say passive…the barbacoa was in the oven. I should have been able to sleep through the night. But instead, I woke up several times, thinking “Is the oven on? I don’t smell the barbacoa. Oh no, what if I woke up in the morning and it’s been sitting cold in the oven? I’m screwed! Must get up and check.” I’d walk into the kitchen, check on the oven…still on. Peek inside. Looks good. Go back to bed. Repeat several times until 7am.) I started the smoker at about 9am, so I’d have plenty of time to get a good fire going. I had decided to smoke with oak only. Getting the temperature to stay around 250 degrees was a bit tricky at first, but after a while, I learned to combine larger logs with smaller ones at varying times with success. During the day, while babysitting the smoker, I prepared the sauces and side dishes. (My Mom graciously prepared the potato salad and brought it to my house, saving me some considerable time and kitchen space. Her potato salad is a deliciously creamy, mustard and mayo combination that goes with any barbecue.) I was pleased when the meats were coming to temperature on schedule, and everything was just finishing as everyone started to arrive.

We were expecting about 24 people, so we had extra tables and folding chairs all over the house. (I have a lot of tables and chairs – Thanksgiving and Christmas are often celebrated at our house, so I’m prepared.) It was all pretty casual (the norm for our family), so everyone just found a spot to sit and chat until time to eat.

And eat we did! The brisket was flavorful, with a good 1/2 inch ring of smoke around the outside of the meat. The pork shoulder and ribs had a succulent smoke flavor, and the ribs fell away from the bone. The sausages were slightly smoky, but not so much that the smoke covered up the seasonings. Of course, the sauces were enjoyed on every kind of meat. But the barbacoa was the talk of the night. Most had never eaten barbacoa, and a few decided not to try it (I suppose the idea of eating cow head was a bit much for some!), but everyone had questions. “Were there eyeballs?” “Can I see a picture?” “How did you cook it?” And of course, we ate our fill of potato salad, coleslaw, blackeyed peas, and a “Sock It To Me” cake that my sister-in-law brought. My niece brought some strawberry cupcakes, complete with M&Ms on top, that the kids thoroughly enjoyed.  

All in all, I felt it was a successful party. I was glad that my family was so willing to act as guinea pigs in my first big barbecue with the smoker. (But then again, who will turn down free food?) I would have liked for the brisket and pork shoulder to be a bit more moist, so this will be my goal for the next barbecue. My idea to remedy that? More frequent use of a mop – one with a higher oil content. We also prepared way too much potato salad and blackeyed peas – next time, we’ll cut those recipes down by half. (I did share with you a recipe for the blackeyed peas for a smaller crowd.) But after everyone had their fill, I think the conclusion was clear. No matter what kind of Texas barbecue is being served, we love it all. Every last bite.

Barbecue Rub (adapted from Saveur magazine, June/July 2009) – I used this on the brisket, ribs, and pork shoulder.

3 T kosher salt

3 T dark brown sugar

2 T paprika

1 T garlic powder

1 T onion powder

1 ½ T mustard powder

3 T black pepper

1 t ground coriander

1 t ground cumin

 Mix in a jar. Store for up to 6 months.

 

Mop (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

8 oz brown sugar

16 oz canola oil

1 stick butter

8 oz white vinegar

5 oz Worcestershire sauce

Large dash celery salt

6-7 cloves garlic, smashed

3 onions, cut into large pieces

3 lemons, cut in half

Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot, and add enough water to bring total about halfway up the pot. Bring to a simmer on the stove. Mop onto meat every 30 minutes to an hour with a basting brush or cotton mop.

 

 

Sliced brisket (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

Sliced brisket (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

West Texas Brisket

 1 8-10 lb untrimmed beef brisket, cut in half

 Barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Rub brisket generously with rub. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke brisket, fat side up, mopping every 30 minutes, for 6-7 hours or until temperature of meat reaches 185 degrees. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice off the fat cap from top, and slice brisket thinly across the grain. Serve with ancho barbecue sauce.

Serves 8-10 people.

 

East Texas Pork Shoulder (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

1 bone-in pork shoulder roast, 4-5 lbs

6 T barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Season the pork roast with the rub, and wrap with foil or plastic wrap. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke pork, mopping every 30 minutes, and turning, for 4-5 hours or until temperature of meat reaches 170 degrees. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice or pull pork from the bone, removing big chunks of fat as you go. Serve on sandwich rolls with pineapple barbecue sauce.

 Serves 6-8 people.

 

 

Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

East Texas Pork Spare Ribs

 6-7 lbs pork spare ribs

 Barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Sprinkle rub over ribs lightly. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke ribs, mopping every 30 minutes, and turning, for 3 1/2 hours or until meat begins to fall off of bones. Remove from heat and tent with foil for 5 minutes. Cut ribs apart and serve with pineapple barbecue sauce.

 Serves 5-6 people.

 

Central Texas Smoked Bratwurst

4 lbs of your favorite fresh bratwurst sausage (I got mine at the meat counter at Sprouts)

Set up smoker for indirect heat with a water pan. Sear sausages over direct heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. Move to indirect heat and smoke for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice on diagonal and serve.

 Serves 6-8 people.

 

 Barbacoa is traditionally cooked by wrapping in maguey leaves, banana leaves, foil or a canvas bag, and buried in an earthen pit with hot coals. However, as most of us don’t wish to dig a pit in our yard, (and in the restaurant business, the health department forbids it, save a few places that have been grandfathered), there are alternate ways of cooking the barbacoa. Most no longer use smoke at all. The oven makes a good alternate place to cook the barbacoa.

Barbacoa Tacos

Barbacoa Tacos

 

Barbacoa in the oven

Barbacoa in the oven

Barbacoa (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

1 cow head, skinned and cleaned

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Garlic powder to taste

Chili powder to taste

2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters

 8 cups water

Sprinkle cow head all over with salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder. Rub spices in. Wrap head in aluminum foil (you may need an extra hand for this), and place in large aluminum roaster pans. Place in oven at 250 degrees for 12-24 hours.

barbacoa after cooking

barbacoa after cooking

When barbacoa is done, pull cheek meat off, and remove the jaw bones. You’ll find another large piece of meat inside. Remove any other large chunks of meat you can find. Cut away excess fat and cartilage, but don’t clean the meat too thoroughly. (Some fat in the barbacoa is tasty!) Skin the tongue and break the tongue meat into small pieces as well. Wet the meat with some of the cooking liquid to keep moist. Serve with accompaniments as tacos.

Makes about 4-5 lbs of meat. 

 

Accompaniments (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

Accompaniments (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

 Accompaniments:

Corn tortillas

Lime quarters

Diced onion

Cilantro, chopped

Salsa pequin (recipe follows)

 

Salsa pequin (adapted from TasteofTx.com http://www.tasteoftx.com/recipes/salsa/pequin.html )

1 28 oz can whole tomatoes

2 t garlic powder

1 t kosher salt

4 T dried crushed chile pequin

1 medium onion, quartered

 Add all ingredients together in food processor. Blend until desired consistency. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. (I let it sit overnight.)

 

potato salad

Mom’s Potato Salad (adapted from, well…my Mom!)

30 medium potatoes

30 hard-boiled eggs, 26 diced, 4 sliced

2 c Miracle Whip or mayonnaise

1 c yellow mustard

1 large red onion, diced

2 c diced dill pickles

salt and pepper to taste

A few dashes of paprika

Boil potatoes until tender. Drain water and allow potatoes to cool. Peel and cut into 1-inch chunks. Add potatoes, diced egg, Miracle Whip, mustard, onion, and pickles into a large bowl and gently mix. Salt and pepper to taste and mix. Lay slices of egg on top of potato salad as decoration. Sprinkle with paprika.

Serves about 30.

 coleslaw

Texas Coleslaw

½ c extra-virgin olive oil

½ c white vinegar

1 t salt

1 t ground black pepper

1 t celery seed

1 t sugar

1 t coarse ground mustard

¼ t cayenne pepper

1 medium head of green cabbage, shredded

3 large carrots, shredded or julienned (I used my julienne peeler)

1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced

½ red onion, thinly sliced

Combine oil,vinegar, salt, pepper, celery seed, sugar, mustard and cayenne. Toss with the cabbage, carrots, apple and onion until well mixed. Allow to mellow in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Makes about 8 cups.

 

Ancho Barbecue Sauce (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

1 T olive oil

2 c chopped onion

7 cloves garlic, chopped

1 c ketchup

½ c Worcestershire sauce

1/3 c brown sugar

¼ c cider vinegar

¼ c lemon juice

1 ½ T coarse ground mustard

Salt to taste

 Soak the anchos in water for 30 minutes or until soft. Reserve water. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes or until wilted. Add ketchup and anchos and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients plus about ½ cup of ancho soaking water, and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the mixture from heat and allow to cool. Place in food processor and puree. Before serving, add up to 1 cup of meat drippings and reheat. (do not store sauce with meat drippings)

 Makes about 4 cups.

 

Pineapple Barbecue Sauce (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

2 c pineapple juice

¼ c cider vinegar

¼ c Worcestershire sauce

1/3 c wheat-free soy sauce

½ t salt

1 ¼ c ketchup

1 T coarse ground mustard

1 c chopped onion

½ t Chinese five-spice powder

1 ½ T Tabasco sauce

3 T molasses

1 lemon, sliced thin and seeded

 Combine all ingredients in saucepan and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until onion and lemon are soft. Remove lemon, and remove sauce from heat. Allow to cool. Puree sauce in food processor. Reheat before serving.

 Makes about 4 cups.

 

East Texas Blackeyed Peas

4 slices bacon, diced

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 lb fresh or frozen blackeyed peas

2 c chicken broth

water to cover

Heat large saucepan to medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook for 5 minutes or until bacon starts to render fat and crisp a little. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Saute for another 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft and bacon is cooked through. Add blackeyed peas, chicken broth, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until peas are tender. Serves 6-8.

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Filed under Beans, Beef, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pork

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Bringing the Bayou to the ‘Burbs

Hot and Tasty Crawfish, Ready to Eat!

Hot and Tasty Crawfish, Ready to Eat!

It seems as though nowadays, neighbors don’t speak with one another as they used to. Everyone works long hours, there are countless events away from the home, and even to some degree, those (gasp!) electronic distractions, such as the internet, TV, and gaming consoles, all keep us from meeting our neighbors and socializing. My family has, truthfully, fallen victim to this dilemma as well. We always mean to make efforts to get to know everyone, but for some reason or another, we never get around to it. My husband John and I decided that we were missing out on one of life’s many pleasures, as having a relationship with your neighbors can allow friendships to form, can enhance a sense of belonging and safety, and can allow neighbors to share ideas on how to make the neighborhood a better place.

What better way to bring people together than to provide a fun, exciting food event to the neighborhood? It’s crawfish season (which runs from about March until June), and a lot of North Texas residents have not truly experienced a fun, Louisiana tradition: the crawfish boil! When John suggested that we should submit our neighborhood crawfish boil idea for this month’s 24, 24, 24, I was excited. And when Foodbuzz.com selected us, I was ecstatic! We had an excellent opportunity to make our idea come alive!

Once the excitement subsided somewhat, reality set in. How do we pull this off? We had SO much to do! I started to make a list. We needed to reserve the neighborhood park, which is just across the street from our home. It is a perfect place to host a party, as there is a covered pavilion, a playground, a basketball court, and plenty of space. (Thank you, City of Wylie!)

Kids playing basketball while waiting for crawfish

Kids playing basketball while waiting for crawfish

The next big step was to gather some guests. We opted to go door-to-door, handing out flyers and speaking with our neighbors whenever possible. (Next time, we will probably opt to just leave flyers. As much as we liked the “personal touch” of the door-to-door greetings, we didn’t get to visit as many houses as we would have hoped.)

We then needed a game plan on how and where to obtain the crawfish and other necessities. This was a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. There aren’t many groceries that offer live crawfish in this area, so we were limited to locating a specialty company. If you search around the internet, there are numerous companies that claim to deliver the freshest, tastiest crawfish available, straight from Louisiana. How to choose? I decided on going local. A few years back, I introduced myself to a guy in the parking lot of a grocery store that was offering his crawfish boil services, and obtained his card. I kept it, just in case one day I decided to throw a crawfish boil. I’m glad I kept it. I called up David at www.cajuncrawfishco.com, a company based in the Dallas area, and as insanely busy as he was, he took the time to personally discuss with me all of the ins and outs of throwing this crawfish boil, his product, and he worked with me on pricing. He even had tips on how to prepare the crawfish, which we followed with great success…but I’ll get to that in a bit. As for the other “necessities”, such as drinks, plates, and napkins, I made sure I looked at grocery store advertisements to compare prices, and worked to get the most for our money.

John and I made a game plan about who was to do what during the actual event. He was to be the one in charge of the actual cooking(which for those of you that know us or read this blog on a regular basis, I’m usually the “chef”, he’s usually the critic. However, he has a few meals that he is “in charge” of – and boiling crawfish is one of them. There is definitely something to be said for keeping your signature dishes to just a few, because he certainly excelled at this!) I was in charge of playing hostess and making sure I visited with each of our neighbors. We both worked to discuss with people one particular topic – that we wanted to do this every year!

the crawfish, about to be placed into the basket for boiling

the crawfish, about to be placed into the basket for boiling

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Helping the little one eat a crawfish

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The boy in orange probably ate more than anyone there!

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crawfish, ready to be devoured

How did everything go? We were very pleased with the event. We had a great turnout, and neighbors got to meet and become acquainted with one another, share a meal together, and enjoy a pleasant evening outdoors. We even had a chance to meet a gentleman running for City Council here in Wylie, which was a pleasant surprise! The neighbors discussed how wonderful it would be to make this an annual neighborhood event, and everyone threw out great ideas on how we could make it even bigger and better for next year. We took down email addresses, so that we can organize together each spring. A lot of positive feedback was received, both about the idea of throwing the event, and about the delicious food, thanks to the direction of Cajun Crawfish Company and John’s excellent preparation. We thought about things that went well, and things that we felt we could improve upon for next time.

I encourage you to throw your own crawfish boil! It was a great amount of fun, and compared to preparing other foods for a large amount of people, it’s relatively simple. We are by no means experts, but part of what made our crawfish boil a success was the advice we received from “experts”. I do have a good list of recommendations on what to do (and what not to do) that I’ll share with you, should you decide to throw your own boil.

Do

-Plan for 2-3 pounds of crawfish per person. If you’re feeding a lot of kids, you can plan for less, but if you’re feeding a lot of “Cajuns”, plan for 5-6 pounds per person.

-Pick up the crawfish the same day as you plan to boil, and keep them cool and wet. We kept them in their sacks and used towels that were dipped in ice water to lay over the top of the sacks, and regularly re-wet the towels in the ice water to keep the crawfish cool.

-Call your city to reserve the park, should you decide to use a city park, so you can be sure you have the space available.

-Shop around for crawfish, and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions about the crawfish.

-Make a checklist and follow it. This checklist will be your lifesaver as time draws near and you become incredibly busy.

-Buy more drinks and ice than you’ll think you need. We ran out of ice and soft drinks and had to make a run to the store for more, and I estimated about 2 drinks per person.

-If you’re planning to blog about it, take a WHOLE lot of pictures. I became so caught up in talking with neighbors that I didn’t take as many as I’d hoped.

-Have instructions on how to eat crawfish, for those first-timers. See below for instructions!

-Plan for a day of rest afterwards. We’re glad Sunday will be relatively uneventful, as we’re pretty worn out from the party!

Don’t

-Go hungry! John and I both did not really have time to eat until near the end of the event. We were too busy preparing food, talking with the neighbors, and other “hosting” duties. Of course, when we did have a moment to take a bite, it was well worth it, as those “mud bugs” were good!

-Be afraid to ask for assistance. Thankfully, we had additional family among our guests, and they were very helpful in assisting us carrying items to the park, setting up, preparing food, or even running to the store when we ran out of something. A big thanks to our family, as they really helped make this event successful!

-Overestimate how many potatoes you will need. We ended up with so many leftover potatoes that it’s not even funny. Don’t know what to do with them!

-Be afraid to improvise. Follow a recipe, but if something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to make changes as necessary. We had to change how we were preparing crawfish. We started out cooking 10 pounds at a time, and quickly changed our method to prepare 30 pounds at a time. Those crawfish were going quickly, and we had to feed the crowd!

How to Eat Crawfish

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A diligent crawfish eater indeed!

We made handouts for our first-time guests that illustrated, step-by-step, so that everyone could enjoy their “mud bugs”.

1. Grab the head in one hand, and the tail in the other hand.

2. Twist and pull the head and tail apart.

3. Optional: A true “Cajun” will suck the juice out of the crawfish’s head.

4. Throw the head away. Extend and press the bottom of the tail.

5. Grab the meat sticking out of the tail with your teeth.

6. Pull the tail with your teeth, while pressing the bottom with your finger. This will remove the meat from the tail.

7. Chew! Yummy!

8. Repeat as many times as necessary to get your fill.

Alternatively, you can peel the shell from the tail to eat. Of course, this might take longer, and the experienced “Cajuns” might beat you to the next plate of crawfish, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

And of course, without further delay, the recipe. This recipe is based on Cajun Crawfish Company’s recipe, and produced a consistent, delicious flavor. We started out using two pots, one for boiling and one for soaking/seasoning, but our boiling pot was pretty small, and we changed our method to use the larger of the two pots for both boiling and soaking/seasoning. The following recipe details how to do this with one pot. The one (larger) pot we used was huge – 120 quarts – but you can always scale back the recipe to a third in order to accomodate a smaller pot.

Ingredients:

40 quarts water

3 lbs dry seasoning (we used a seasoning blend provided to us by Cajun Crawfish Company, but you can find other seasoning blends. Zatarain’s provides a lot of seafood boil seasoning packets. http://shop.zatarains.com/default.php?categories_id=1406 Most of these blends include salt, cayenne, garlic, onion powder, and other spices)

1 cup concentrated liquid boil seasoning (we used a liquid seasoning provided by Cajun Crawfish Company, but Zatarain’s provides a liquid as well. Most of these liquids have a good deal of clove oil, which smells delicious)

20 silver dollar-sized red potatoes (or if your potatoes are larger, as ours were, cut them into fourths so that they will cook relatively quickly)

30 lbs live crawfish

12 ears sweet corn, broken in half

Ice

2 lemons, cut in half

Extra dry seasoning, for sprinkling

 

Bring water to boil. Add seasonings and mix well. Boil potatoes in pot for about 5 minutes. Add crawfish and corn. Boil an additional 10 minutes. Turn off/down heat and add enough ice to water to bring the temperature down to around 140 degrees. This temperature will allow for optimal soaking/seasoning. Add lemons. Soak for 10-30 minutes, depending on how strong you would like the seasoning. Dump crawfish onto a prepared table, and if desired, sprinkle additional seasoning over, for added flavor and heat.

Enjoy! If you don’t have a huge crowd ready to devour the steaming pile of crawfish (like we did), you can use an empty ice chest to preserve the temperature of the crawfish until they are eaten.

We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to throw this crawfish boil, and hope to do this every year with our neighbors. I hope that this is only the beginning of a great relationship with our neighbors!

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Filed under Main Dishes