FARM 21: 'Citizen' staff create full day of 100-kilometre meals
DENNY SCOTT, DEB SHOLDICE & SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Citizen Publisher Deb Sholdice, Editor Shawn Loughlin and Reporter Denny Scott took to their kitchens to create 100K meals (meals sourcing only fresh ingredients grown and prepared within 100 kilometres of your home) in an attempt to highlight all of the wonderful food being grown and processed right in our own backyards.
Denny made breakfast, while Deb tackled lunch and Shawn cooked dinner. Here are our three recipes, with a full list of producers in the hopes of getting you to think locally next time you’re wondering what’s for dinner.
Big breakfast: Bacon, eggs, sausages, pancakes and more with Reporter Denny Scott
So, what did we have for breakfast? Well I’ve written about this in my column before, but my father, later into my life, started a tradition of having big breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday mornings – Sausage, bacon, eggs, pancakes, potatoes – I’d call it “The Works”.
It’s a tradition I adopted once my daughter was able to start eating solid food and, while it’s likely been detrimental to my waistline, it’s been something I look forward to every week. So, when I put forward the idea of these 100-kilometre meals, I claimed breakfast because I knew I’d be able to do it.
So our breakfast included the following (all homemade, unless it came ready-to-cook): bacon, sausage, fried eggs, hash brown patties and pancakes. Be warned, this recipe makes a lot of food.
While the ingredients came from across the area, I was able to source a lot of it from one place: Maitland Market and Supply just east of Goderich. The market puts a focus on locally-sourced goods and I was able to pick up numerous items there for my own meal including flour, coffee and bacon.
The pancakes and the hash browns were the most complex things to make, however I have developed my own way of making breakfast that I’ll share.
• BACON: There are a lot of different ways you can source bacon from within 100 kilometres of my house (which was my centre point for this little experiment) and all of them are great. I happened, however, to go with a staple in our house: bacon from Metzger Meat Products in Hensall.
Why am I even including the instructions for bacon? Well it’s because I find that baked bacon is far better than fried bacon and I’ve come to realize a lot of people don’t know that it’s an option.
First, decide on whether you prefer chewy or crisp bacon. While I prefer crisp bacon, I’m outvoted in my house. If you want crisp bacon and have a convection oven, preheat to 400°F using the convection setting. If, like my wife and daughter, you prefer a chewier bacon, preheat your oven to 400°F without using the convection setting.
Baking the bacon in the oven should take about 10 minutes before you rotate the tray.
Put the bacon back in the oven for eight minutes, then check every minute or so after that until the bacon is almost done to your preference. It will continue to cook once removed from the oven, so give a little buffer.
• SAUSAGE: Like the bacon, there’s plenty of great sausage-makers within 100 kilometres of Blyth. Heck there’s plenty of great sausage-makers within a 10-minute drive of Blyth. For breakfast, I chose an Italian sausage made by Bachert’s Premium Sausages in Auburn.
There’s no tricks or tips here though: throw them on the griddle, cook until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F and then serve and enjoy. Personally, I love a little of Hanna’s (of Auburn) maple barbecue sauce on mine.
• EGGS: Pointing to a commercial producer of eggs is kind of unnecessary because, odds are, you know someone who knows someone who sells eggs, or you can just drive down some of the county roads in Huron and find a sign offering a dozen eggs for a few dollars.
For my meal, I sourced eggs through Shelley Kroes, a sales representative within North Huron Publishing. Again, no real recipe here. I used to use butter and a splash of milk to really bring out the flavour of the eggs, but, with a daughter with a lactose sensitivity, I’ve gone to making them naked.
It’s pretty simple: crack your eggs, throw them in your oiled pan, break the yolk, fry, flip and fry again. If, like me, you like a little zing or flavour to them, toss some onions and cheese on top before the first flip.
The glory of making naked eggs is it lets people eat them how they want. My daughter prefers them cut up with ketchup. My wife likes to make a sandwich out of hers with bacon and cheese. Me, I eat them, as stated, with onions and cheese and a little bit of Hanna’s maple barbecue sauce.
• COFFEE: Huron County has become a bit of a mecca for coffee-lovers in the last few years with numerous coffee roasters opening their doors. For breakfast, my wife had Chalo’s Colombian from Coastal Coffee near Goderich. I enjoyed a medium dark roast from Shopbike in Bayfield.
• HASH BROWN PATTIES: The hash brown patties are the simpler of the two recipes that actually required mixing and measuring, but definitely the messier of the two, requiring copious amounts of cooking oil.
You will need: A jug of vegetable oil, two large- or three medium-sized potatoes, two tablespoons of flour, one egg and paper towels.
First, rinse and peel the potatoes and then shred the potatoes. Set them aside. In a bowl, whisk together the egg and flour. At this point, you can throw in anything you want for flavour, including salt or pepper.
Cover the bottom of a good-sized frying pain with a quarter-inch-deep coating of vegetable oil. Put on the stovetop over medium heat. Mix the flour, egg and seasoning in with the potatoes and mix until everything is well combined.
Using a one-third cup measuring cup, scoop out the mix into the oil, making sure to flatten it until it’s just above the oil. Let cook for three or four minutes and flip. Don’t flip too early or it may not stay together. Let them cook for another three or four minutes and remove from the oil. Drain on paper towels.
Be sure to top up the oil and bring it back to temperature between rounds. If the oil gets too low, you’ll end up with squishy hash brown patties and no one likes that. Serve with whatever you’d like. Personally, I prefer a dash of salt and pepper.
If you’re lucky to not burn many of them, you may get the rave review my daughter Mary Jane gave when she asked if I had just bought them at Tim Hortons (her favourite restaurant), despite them looking nothing alike.
• PANCAKES: My pancake recipe is a modified version of one that appears in The Phoenicia Diner Cookbook – put out by the diner itself, which is located in the Catskill Mountains in Phoenicia, New York. I say modified because there are some minor differences I’ve incorporated over time.
You will need: two-and-three-quarter cups of all-purpose flour (provided by Arva Mills and sourced through the Maitland Market), a quarter cup of sugar, half a teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of baking soda, two large eggs, two-and-a-half cups of buttermilk, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, one cup (two sticks) of unsalted melted butter, two tablespoons of vegetable oil and maple syrup (available at many local farm gates and community stores - personally, I use Freedom Syrup from Walton whenever possible).
Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda into a large bowl. Some people will say there’s a specific amount of cinnamon. I say measure that with your heart.
Then combine the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until most of the lumps are gone. Again, use as much vanilla as you want. Personally, I think anything between a tablespoon and the whole bottle should work.
Add the melted butter to the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and whisk it again. Then add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients.
On a hot pan or griddle, spread vegetable oil. Use a one-third cup measuring cup to spoon out pancakes. Once the edges begin to brown, flip the pancakes. After one or two minutes remove the pancakes. Serve as soon as possible.
You can add melted butter, however I find the butter within the pancakes to be plenty.
Zuppa toscana with Publisher Deb Sholdice
When I was asked to create lunch from ingredients that could be sourced within 100 kilometres of Blyth, I knew it was going to be cooked in my slow cooker. I’ve come to rely on this handy appliance so much that I’m the proud owner of four crockpots. (My Christmas dinner needs at least three working for the entire day to get the meal done perfectly.)
My friends and family have long known about my penchant for crockpot cooking. Several years ago, co-workers and I were upping the crockpot lunch game with an alphabet challenge. I drew the “Z” and ever since then zuppa toscana has been a hit at potlucks. Fortunately, the recipe is both simple and flexible, making it the ideal lunch for this challenge.
Zuppa toscana is a traditional Italian soup (the translation literally means Tuscan soup) which can be made from a variety of ingredients, but the recipe I first found when Googling meals that begin with the letter “Z” was this one made with sausage, potatoes and spinach.
• One pound of mild Italian sausage (Luckily, I had bought a bulk order from a local farmer just before Christmas that included 10 pounds of sausage from one of his pigs)
• One yellow onion (Maitland Market and Supply is a one-stop shopping mecca for local ingredients.)
• Two tablespoons of minced garlic (The Garlic Box in Hensall)
• Four medium potatoes (or equivalent – local from Huron County, purchased at Maitland Market)
• Five cups chicken broth (I had frozen homemade turkey broth left from Christmas. Again, just throw the turkey carcass and some onions in the slow cooker and keep covered with water until you have broth. Strain and freeze.)
• Two cups water
• Half teaspoon of salt (Sifto, of course)
• Quarter teaspoon of pepper
• Red pepper flakes (optional)
• One cup of heavy cream (Gay Lea in Teeswater is still processing cream!)
• Two cups chopped spinach (Also local from Huron County, purchased at Maitland Market. This can be replaced with kale, which is abundant in Huron in the summer.)
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove sausage from casing, cook and stir until browned and crumbly. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onion is translucent. Drain and discard grease.
Peel and dice potatoes into one inch cubes or smaller.
Place potatoes, sausage mixture, seasonings and broth in the slow cooker. Add water until the potatoes are fully covered (up to two cups). Stir gently, then cover and cook on low until potatoes are fork-tender, about five to six hours.
About a half-hour before your meal, add the cream and spinach. Stir to combine flavours and cook about 30 minutes on high.
For extra flair, garnish with grated local Parmesan cheese or Blyth Farm Cheese’s aged eweda cheese and some crumbled Green’s Meat Market bacon.
I brought this in for a fun Friday lunch for The Citizen staff. It served five of us with fairly generous portions, a couple of second helpings and enough left for a supper for one.
The best thing about crockpot cooking is how easy it is to make a meal that will impress your family, friends and colleagues. It is really as simple as chopping up some stuff and adding some other stuff and throwing it in a pot and forgetting about it for the rest of the day.
Spaghetti alla carbonara with Editor Shawn Loughlin
For dinner of The Citizen’s 100-kilometre day of meals, I chose a meal with a rather brief ingredient list, but a classic and traditional Italian dish: spaghetti alla carbonara.
The dish is Roman and when in Rome – as evidenced by a recent episode of CNN’s new Searching for Italy with Stanley Tucci – if you want to start an argument, you start asking questions about the origin of this dish. However, most people seem to agree that the pasta was designed generations ago to be an option for just about every Italian family, using ingredients most households in that country would have at the ready: eggs, cheese and pork, as well as flour to make your own pasta.
A traditional carbonara recipe is deceptively simple with very few steps. However, technique and timing are crucial to ensure the dish doesn’t go sideways on you, which it can in a hurry.
First I made my own pasta, which I have been doing when I have the time for the last two years or so. This is a relatively simple, albeit time-consuming process that involves just a few ingredients.
For the pasta, I used flour from the Arva Flour Mill, which can be found at Maitland Market and Supply just outside of Goderich, as well as at the mill itself, and eggs from a generous co-worker. As for eggs, you can source local eggs throughout the county and if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, there is no shame in buying dry pasta. In fact, using Italpasta means you’re using ingredients milled at Howson and Howson Limited in Blyth, letting someone else do the hard work for you.
To make the pasta, you measure out two-and-a-half cups of flour on your cutting board or kitchen counter, creating a well in the middle for four eggs, a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of salt.
Once set up, you whisk the eggs and olive oil into the flour, slowly incorporating more and more of the dry ingredients until you have a loosely-connected ball. From there, you continue to knead the dough for about another 10 minutes until it really firms up for you.
From there, you let the dough rest at room temperature for a half-hour in cling wrap before portioning it and rolling it out. Here, I use a by-hand pasta machine, so ensure the portions are small enough for the machine, but the real Italian grandmothers out there need only a rolling pin, a knife and robust arm muscles from this point on.
To begin the cooking process, you should crack four eggs and whisk them up, completely incorporating them. These will be used for the pasta’s sauce.
This is another point of contention with the recipe. Some say leave the egg whites in, others say not to, while some say to leave one or two egg whites in with a few more yolks. Apparently, the egg whites help make the sauce creamy, so let’s stick with that – plus it’s nice and easy not having to separate yolks from egg whites.
You should also grate one cup of cheese. The two acceptable cheeses for this pasta are Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano (or even a combination of the two).
For a while, I had resigned myself to supermarket-bought Parmigiano (even finding blocks that you can freshly grate has proven difficult in Huron County during a pandemic), a trip to Blyth Farm Cheese yielded a local answer to Pecorino.
There, the farm’s Blyth Eweda Aged cheese is made with sheep’s milk – a staple of Pecorino – and it’s excellent in this dish. Parmigiano, however, is a perfectly acceptable substitute – or you could always grate a mix of the two. Basically you’re looking for a hard, salty cheese.
To start cooking, get your water boiling, salting it liberally. Meanwhile, you need to make a lardon, which is just frying small cubes or strips of bacon in a frying pan. This is where we in Huron County will have to make some substitutions.
A traditional carbonara recipe should use guanciale, which is bacon from the jowl of the pig. And while we are lucky to have an abundance of pork producers and highly-skilled butchers throughout the county, there likely just isn’t a market for this cut here.
An accepted substitution is pancetta, but even that can be hard to come by, so standard side bacon is perfectly acceptable in this dish. That you can find at any butcher shop, but I’ve used packaged bacon from Metzger’s in Hensall, which is readily available at most local supermarkets.
You want eight ounces of bacon, cut into about quarter-inch strips and then get it going in your pan. Other than the pasta cooking in your pot, everything else is going to happen in this pan.
Cook the bacon until it crisps up and then take it off the heat. Don’t drain it or take it out of the pan – you’re going to want all of that fat left in the pan.
By now you should be cooking your pasta. How long it takes all depends on you. If you make fresh pasta, it shouldn’t take long at all to cook, whereas dry pasta will take longer.
In these final stages, mix your raw eggs with your grated cheese in a bowl, adding plenty of fresh-cracked pepper and maybe a little salt (though the bacon and cheese are both naturally quite salty).
When the pasta is nearing completion, put your lardon pan back on the heat and add about a half-cup of the pasta water to it to deglaze the pan. Some recipes call for a bit of white wine to do this instead – it’s entirely up to you.
After the lardon is back cooking and the water/wine is bubbling away (most of it will reduce rather quickly once the pan is hot again), put the pasta in the pan and toss it around for a minute or two, coating it in that fat (we promised local, not necessarily calorie-conscious – remember, everything in moderation).
Take the pan off the heat and pour in your egg/cheese mixture.
The second that’s in the pan, start mixing the pasta, eggs, cheese and bacon together. It’s important that it’s off the heat, otherwise the eggs will cook and you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. However, even with the pan off the heat, it will be very hot in there, so constant motion is essential. This achieves the creamy texture that you want in a carbonara and warms your eggs through, but stops them from cooking, ruining your dish.
Apparently here in North America, some chefs will add cream to their sauce to achieve that creaminess, but if you execute the traditional recipe correctly, there should be no need for that – and you won’t have to disappoint any of the Italians in your life.
Serve the pasta immediately with plenty of fresh-cracked pepper on top, complementing it with a chilled glass of white wine from any of the county’s excellent wineries.