Huron Farms to Tables: Scott, Loughlin attempt second 100K meals
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN and DENNY SCOTT
BY DENNY SCOTT
The last time the editorial department at The Citizen tackled a 100-kilometre meal, it was for our farm section, which is produced early in the year, making one-stop shopping a priority.
We wanted to be able to gather as much as possible from one place not just due to the potentially wintery weather but also because sites that offer fresh produce is few and far between in the winter. For the Huron Farms To Tables special section, however, we’re in prime growing season for Huron County farms and gardeners, making it easier to tackle everything from the basic building blocks of the meals, the proteins and starches, to the herbs and spices that make those building blocks fantastic.
For this year’s 100-kilometre meal, I decided to tackle a simple but sensational meal with roasted chicken and potatoes.
The main course included a whole oven-roasted chicken, from Steele Wool Farms just outside of Blyth, dressed in garlic and onions and cooked with other local vegetables for that fall-off-the-bone tenderness that makes it great. Steele Wool provides chickens (though they’re all out this season) and lamb products and are branching into other agricultural endeavours as well. Find them online or through Facebook for more information.
The vegetables, including some mini red potatoes for our from-scratch oven-roasted potato medallions, were all sourced through various vendors at the Goderich Farmers’ Market. With my assistant (my daughter Mary Jane) and one of the people who taught to me to cook (my father) we meandered through the market, picking up vegetables from a few different stands, alongside some baked goods for dessert from the Red Cat Bakery north of Goderich and a bag of peas from Firmly Rooted Farm north of Blyth (those were just to snack on while we walked, as was the giant pretzel Mary Jane picked out at the Red Cat Bakery food truck). We also picked up some ginger cookies (a personal favourite of mine) and havarti cheese from Shanahan’s Quality Meats on the Square in Goderich.
I’ll start this off by saying that my wife Ashleigh, alongside my father, picked out a wonderful oven for us when we had to upgrade a few years back and we’ve got some fancy features that make cooking a meal like this easier. Not only do we have a convection oven, which makes cooking multiple pans easier, but we also have one with a built-in temperature probe receptacle, so we can keep an eye on the chicken without ever actually removing it from the oven. You don’t need those kinds of features to make the meal, as rotating pans can help with spreading heat evenly and you can always manually check the temperature of the chicken. If you’ve got them, however, take advantage of them.
Starting from frozen, the chicken was cooked at 175°C (approximately 350°F) for a half hour, then dressed appropriately with the oven-probe inserted.
Dressing appropriately included some olive oil, finely chopped garlic and onion and inserting some celery and some herbs and spices.
When everything was said and done, it took about four hours to get even the deepest-placed temperature probe to read 75°C (about 165°F) on the nearly-seven-pound chicken. The last 40 minutes of cooking was done in convection mode, not only to help cook the potatoes evenly, but also to give the outer skin of the chicken that nice crisp texture. It is a simple recipe, but it produced some fantastic chicken that ended up providing leftovers for a couple days for chicken caesar salads and wraps.
The potato medallions were similarly simple, but the best meals usually are. After washing the bounty of potatoes, we formed the medallions using a mandolin slicer set at 3/8 of an inch. We then tossed the medallions in a bowl with olive oil and spread them out over two parchment-lined baking sheets. From there, we spread chopped parsley, rosemary, garlic and onions over the potatoes before cooking for 20 minutes. We then flipped and dressed the potatoes with a sprinkling of shredded havarti cheese and rotated the pans (just in case) before roasting for another 20 minutes, resulting in tender potatoes that didn’t taste too starchy, but also weren’t too crunchy.
For dessert, we split some cinnamon buns from the Red Cat Bakery and some ginger cookies.
Everyone around the table appreciated the meal, with my wife loving the chicken, my daughter the potatoes and me enjoying everything (though the cinnamon buns, not too sweet and perfectly covered with sauce, were definitely a great surprise after a very savoury meal). It was an appreciated meal with some great leftovers that, with the exception of the olive oil (which I could’ve found locally, I’m sure, but I don’t like buying something I’ve already got at home), was all sourced within 100 kilometres of Blyth.
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
In last year’s “Salute to Agriculture” special issue, The Citizen’s editorial department - Publisher Deb Sholdice, myself (Editor Shawn Loughlin) and Reporter Denny Scott - tasked ourselves with putting together a day’s worth of meals featuring entirely local ingredients.
The experiment proved to be a popular one with readers, so Denny and I are back with another pair of meals for this year’s Huron Farms to Tables section.
This year, I decided to do another pasta (after last year’s spaghetti carbonara) with a bacon mushroom cream sauce and some bread from scratch.
This time, I’ll skip making fresh pasta. Those instructions can be found easily online or in any Italian cookbook and surely fit within the 100-kilometre meal parameters, using flour, eggs and salt, all easily found in the community.
As I mentioned last year, using dry Italpasta ensures you’re using products grown locally and processed through Blyth’s own Howson and Howson Mills, so by definition, I think that works.
Start building your sauce in a heavy-bottomed pot with some olive oil and at least six or eight strips of side bacon from Metzger’s or any other local butcher, like Green’s Meat Market. (If you can get your hands on some pancetta, that would be lovely, but it is harder to find in this area.)
Cook the bacon off until it’s to your liking and remove it from the pot, along with the bacon grease that’s accumulated in the pot.
At the same time, get cooking your mushrooms from a local company or farmers’ market. I do this in a second heavy-bottomed pot to save time, though I guess if you’re really committed to making a one-pot meal, you could make it work somehow.
Put the pot on a high heat and get some oil hot in the pot. Once the oil begins to let off wisps of smoke, get your mushrooms in the pot. Be very careful, as the mushrooms will be a bit wet from washing and ensure there isn’t any water left in the bowl with your mushrooms - you don’t want an oil-and-water explosion on your hands.
Stir the mushrooms to ensure they’re completely covered in oil and then try to agitate them as little as possible over the next 15 minutes or so. The mushrooms will let out a tremendous amount of water and to ensure you get a good sear and some colour on them, rather than boiling them, you need to let the water come out and have the mushrooms spend some time on the pot’s surface.
There will be plenty of fond (a French culinary term for the brown bits of food stuck to a pan after cooking) built up on the bottom of the bacon pot (where you’re building your sauce). Run a few cloves of garlic through a microplane and throw them into the pot. Stirring them around for 30 seconds or so to incorporate those flavours before deglazing the pan with a cup or two of local white wine (you can use chicken stock if you’d prefer).
It will sizzle away, so get scraping the bottom of the pot to release all that flavour and make it part of your sauce. Once the bottom of the pot is clean and the fluid is bubbling away on medium heat, add two cups of local heavy cream and one-and-a-half cups of chicken stock. (This is easily bought at any grocery store, though it likely won’t fit the 100-kilometre meal parameters. Now is the perfect time to try and make your own stock for the first time, using a whole local chicken and in-season vegetables, simmering them away for a few hours to create a tasty, from-scratch, local chicken stock.)
Stir the cream, stock and wine together, adding some salt and pepper. Allow it to come up to a boil and then turn it down, allowing it to simmer and reduce down.
At this point, return your cooked mushrooms and bacon to the pot and incorporate them all together, letting the sauce reduce and get creamier. Near the end, you’ll be adding in about a half-cup of grated cheese (Parmesan cheese if you can find it or any of the delicious hard, salty cheese produced by Blyth Farm Cheese), which will also help to thicken the sauce.
Once your pasta is cooked and your sauce is ready, mix the two together, coating your pasta (use a wider noodle with a lot of surface area to take on more of the sauce) and serving with some freshly-grated cheese and pepper.