saucy. is a chronicle of (mostly) delicious adventures involving: farming, love, art, seasons, dirt, dinner, weddings, and D.I.Y-ing

saucy. is a celebration of creative, fresh food, ideally of the local and organic persuasion - inspired by globetrotting and created by me at Bliss Ridge; our farm in Vermont.

saucy. hopes to inspire YOU to live deliciously and creatively...

Click "EDIBLE ESCAPADES RSS" below to get EMAIL UPDATES from saucy!










BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE & SALTED CARAMEL CAKE! (the most delicious cake ever)






• CHICKEN LIVER PATÉ (the recipe that transforms haters)


STAND-UP BACON! (the bacon-centric hors d'oeuvre for bacon purists)























GO-TO (chocolate) GANACHE



CRANBERRY GELÉE (fancy topping for cakes, trifles, puddings)








MAJESTIC MAPLE GELATO (like ice cream, but better!)

Blog Post Archive
jorDan von Trapp


Contact JvT
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    Recipe Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

    The Sexiest Chicken Ever.


    You might already be thinking I've lost it...

    But yes I do actually realize that there is nothing sexy about that lonely naked chicken in the corner...



    Better with the red?

    No, not really.

    How about a new position?



    Okay okay sorry, I think I am am feeling a slight lingering Rosé Cava haze, which apparently entails the unfortunate side effect of bad jokes... and there is also something wrong with me


    ie: on the left is what we just left, in exchange for the glory on the right, which lies just outside the door... Clearly I am sick.

    But my enthusiasm for this particular chicken is not a part of my winter delusion disorder.

    "Sexy" may sound like a bit of a stretch as a yard bird branding... last night as I awkwardly held the phone to my left ear with my right hand, gripping an ice pack with burned fingertips and rattling off a waterfall of expletives regarding my dinner, my sister, giggling, asked "what exactly is it about this chicken that qualifies it as 'sexy'?" ...I am trying to remember why I have been referring to this dish as such for the past couple of months because, let's get real; a lonely naked bird doesn't have a chance in hell. 

    Wait a minute...



    How about an un-lonely, un-naked, un-dead chicken documented with a foxy-as-hell farmer!... that's better isn't it!?

    But the chicken we are talking about is dead, not dead-sexy. Oh dear sorry, sorry, I need to stop. I am just going to tell you how to cook this bird so you can continue your Valentine's week with another voluptuous and seductive dinner. And I am going to be serious and just get to the point.

    Spatchcocking. Have you heard of this? Well, the French do it differently than the technique described in the Gourmet cookbook, where I found the inspiration for this recipe, which is apparently different from the Australian version which is apparently different from the English... (why can't we all get along)... I was confused so I checked the Le Cordon Bleu Cook's Bible for the illustrated rendition of le spatchcock.  It sounds like a weird American bastardization so I didn't think I'd find anything, but alas, there it was, on page 92... but they used needles and stuff... and sewing flesh was not on my must-do list yesterday.  All of the photos I could find online featured a simple flattened bird... so I did my best to follow along with the text in the Best of Gourmet 2007 cookbook...

    Warning: these photos highlight the extreme un-sexiness of naked, lonely, dead chickens.


    Clearly Gusgus disagrees with our sentiment on the allure factor of this creature.

    Step 1: Take strong scissors (kitchen shears) and holding onto the tail of the chicken, cut along the backbone all the way through on both sides. (Our chickens still have necks because, back on kill day, we were too busy with the Rolling Rocks to make a unified neck pile location decision if you recall...)



    Anyway, the "backAndNeck," as the West Indian ladies call it, makes for a damn fine soup stock so make sure you save it.



    (I keep le Bone Bag in the freezer and add miscellaneous bones until I am in desperate need of stock and then empty it into my cauldron with all the chicken feet and a little abracadabra.)

    Just kidding about the feet... actually, I don't know what happened to those feet... there were 100, enough to overflow a five-gallon bucket... which we thought was absurdly funny...



    Is that morbid and weird?

    I did have a couple of chef friends that said they would've liked to make foot stock had they known about the surplus up here.  Anyone want to claim the 2012 bucket of feet? Let me know! They also make nice Christmas ornaments; my (vegetarian) sister-in-law made some killer duck foot ornaments that we proudly display each year.  I am serious.  Okay, okay I am sorry, enough, lets get back to the sexy part of this chicken.



    Step 2: After the backbone is removed, pat the bird as dry as possible with paper towel and place it skin-side up as in the above photo. Press down quite fiercely in the middle as shown above, breaking the breast bone and allowing the chicken to lie flat.

    At this point it feels all wonky and wobbly. And things just get weirder.



    Step 3: Find the center point between the thigh and breast and make a small incision, as shown above. Then, tuck the knobbly part of the drumstick through it (see right side of photo and try not to make such a big tear)



    Step 4: Make small incisions on the sides of the breasts as shown above, and tuck the wings in as well.



    Voila' –– a (sort of) neat little flat(ish) package. If that isn't sultry I don't know what is. 

    Haha, no no, I do realize that that chicken looks weird and playing with dead chicken is also nothing short of weird.

    BUT you just wait until you cook this thing up and then get back to me. The finished product is irresistable and you too will find yourself risking burned finger tips to crack into the crisp, perfectly browned skin... the silhouetted sage leaves luring you in... and then, I predict, you will burn your tongue and you won't care because it is so delicious. And then you will realize you haven't even taken it out of the pan to finish the sauce...

    The sauce is sublime and ridiculous and mellifluous and beyond noteworthy.  It will put you into a frenzy and you won't care that it is dripping down your arms and when your dinner is ready you will be gleefully picking up your drumsticks and dipping them into the extra, wishing that the sauce supply would never end. Then, it will, because you won't be able to stop guzzling it and you will want to do the whole thing again asap. I actually think you will agree that the deliciousness of this very chicken recipe is worth raising your own organic backyard birds.

    In fact, I think that this recipe is the only thing that I have cooked more-or-less exactly the same way more than twice in as long as I can remember... (did I mention I like to try new things? and that I only measure for the sake of being able to report recipes to y'all?)

    My point is, that there is much more here than meets the eye.  Of course the quality of the chicken matters, a lot.  My flamboyant claims above are based on an organic pastured chicken who spent their nine weeks of life at Bliss Ridge... Don't buy supermarket chicken and don't buy non-organic chicken feed... and don't get me started on GMOs... because I don't have time to rant all day right now because I have to give you this recipe so I can go eat leftover valentine chocolate-chile mousse with a mountain of fresh whipped cream.


    Rather nonchalant cast of characters:

    Generous handful of fresh sage, 1 tbsp whole pink peppercorns, 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns, kosher salt, black pepper, 1 bad-ass chicken (I used a 6.5lb one for this recipe)

    1/2 cup of good apple cider vinegar, a half-gallon of bootlegged black vodka

    1.5 cups Homemade chicken stock

    Fresh or dried Rosemary

    7 tbsp butter (I used homemade raw, organic salted butter)

    Just kidding about the boot-legged vod, its just really dark (grade C) maple syrup from last Spring's harvest; use 1/2 cup of the darkest and most flavorful you can find!

    The Sexiest Chicken Ever. (inspired and based on Gourmet's "Chicken with black pepper maple sauce")

    1) See above for graphic spatchcocking instructions.

    2) Salt and pepper the bird generously on both sides, taking care not to de-contortion the package as your flip it over.

    3) Slip fresh sage leaves under the skin liberally.

    3) Heat 5 tablespoons butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. When it is all the way melted and hot but not smoking, place your chicken, breast-side down, into the butter. Sprinkle with fresh (or dried and crumbled) rosemary.

    4) Place a piece of parchment paper over the chicken and then get something really heavy (I used a cast iron skillet containing two bricks, with the cover of the le Creuset on top of it all):



    5) Cook until chicken is perfectly browned, about 20 minutes (watch to make sure your flame is low enough so it doesn't blacken but high enough so it makes a perfect crust.)

    6) Meanwhile, get your sauce on: toast the whole peppercorns in a dry saucepan over medium heat, for a few minutes until fragrant, then coarsely grind them in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a heavy spoon or pan.  Put them back in the saucepan with the 1/2 cup of maple syrup, 1 cup of chicken stock, a teaspoon or so rosemary; bring to a simmer then reduce heat and simmer on low for 20 mins.

    7) Flip the bird: remove all the weights, then the parchment paper, turn the chicken over, replace the parchment and weights on the other side and cook for another 30 mins, at which point your should check to see if it is done cooking (I just stab a knife into the breast and check if the juices run clear.  If your meat thermometer didn't break last year then you could alternatively use that). This 6.5 lb-er needed a total of 55 minutes.  When it is done, move it to a platter and resist the temptation to strip the bird of all the crispy skin immediately, but under no circumstances should you forgo tasting it straight away.

    8) Pour the 1/2 cup cider vinegar into the hot chicken pan and deglaze it over medium-high heat, scraping up all of the bits and stirring constantly until the mixture is reduced by half.  Then add the additional 1/2 cup of chicken stock, as well as the maple mix to this pan and boil until the sauce thickens, about 3 mins.  Reduce the heat to low and whisk in 2 more tablespoons of butter.  Turn off the heat and taste taste taste. Add salt if you think it needs some.  Mine didn't need anything; it was so good I wanted to drink it.  You can either strain it to remove all of the bits and have a smooth velvety sauce, or leave the bits in.  Yesterday I went with silky and my woodsman asked nonchalantly about the missing bits.  Of course I had predicted this as he always likes bits.  So I added them back in.



    I just threw the thigh atop some simple chickpea and roasted delicata salad with goat feta, smoked paprika, red onion and lemon. and PEA SHOOTS. Oh how I love those springy little units... which brings me to the conclusion for today because I need to go water my pea shoot garden.  I will tell you all about it soon.

    Please cook this chicken asap.  I am serious. Even if you don't yet believe my lofty claims. It will beguile you.



    And let me know what you think.  Is it worthy of its title?

    Do you like your sauce velvety or with bits?



    Spicy & Alluring Brownies. And Fine Piggy Portraiture.

    What do piquant and risqué, chocolatey, gooey, dark, spicy brownies have to do with Gloria's glamour shot?

    (Other than the fact that, yes, I do believe the subsequent scrumptious morsels would be even further enhanced with the addition of BACON)... which reminds me that we don't currently own any bacon (well, in its un-alive form anyway) and furthermore, my Sunday swine-shooting (photos not bullets) session with these hilarious characters may have seriously compromised my long-term (passionate) entanglement with said second-favorite meat product.

    Oh, meet Gloria. Hi, Gloria! She has 21 children... all born in the same year... did you know a sow's gestation period is only 3 months, 3 weeks & 3 days... whew, efficiency is definitely her middle name.

    She clearly has a handle on the whole indoctrinating manners thing as well – note the door man... and to the left, the "safety first" lesson has clearly been addressed as well, with the buddy system in practice when venturing to greet a strange visitor... but...

    oh dear

    Something went awry... and why is it always the gingers that take the heat!? (I googled it, of course).

    On the subject of heat, these brownies have a bit of heat to them

    in the form of chipotle powder. They also have a bit of ricotta to them, which brings me back to the pigs. Still not seeing the connection? Well our piggies do not eat twinkies or "slop" (I have however heard tell of a unique breed of twinkie-eating hogs out there (probably more of a south-of-the-Mason-Dixon-Line-sort-of-breed). This eclectic bunch (we believe in hybrid vigor!!) however, dine on fresh whey, the by-product of cheesemaking. 

    In fact, these piggies are participating in our wicked cool new venture, Vermont Whey-fed Pigs...

    We don't save any whey for any Miss Muffett-type characters. Whey-fed pork products are too important for the welfare of culinary advancement AND creating an agricultural system that makes cows eat grass, cows make milk, we "liberate" milk, we make cheese, cheese leaves behind loads of whey, whey goes to the pigs and makes them taste delicious, we someone not participating in piggy portraiture session slaughters pigs, pigs get butchered locally at the Mad River Food Hub... and then delicious things happen––currently VT Meat Company is turning our fine product into another fine product in the form of sausages... and I'm supposed to be talking about brownies. More on meat-based Valentines later.

    Ricotta (as far as I know the quickest and easiest cheese to make in your kitchen in a few minutes) can be made from whey or milk.  To make it with milk, all you need is a dash of lemon juice and/or white vinegar and a pinch of salt and about 10-15 minutes.  I'll get back to you with the details! Clearly, since the whey is spoken for around here

    I opted to go with milk this time...

    "Pig-Pile" is not a fictitious term.

    They tend to be ravenous little units...which luckily steers them rapidly toward adulthood aka not-so-cute-hood aka bacon-hood, very quickly, almost before one gets attached...

    The grown-ups are still pretty cool though

    These guys and gals here are actually teenagers. They do exude that sort of tough and melodramatic attitude don't you think?

    But then there's these guys...

    So goofy and curious.

    AHH I need to stop. I have a running list of future bacon based recipes, at the top of which is bacon-maple-rosemary popcorn.

    No more pig-chas.

    Ok. Brownies!!!!

    Yes I like cute food.

    And heart-shaped food. And I guarantee your Valentine will like these cute heart-shaped food-lets. Unless they are someone who claims to "not like chocolate"... and in that case you have a Valentine on your hands whose overall character you should be weary of...!

    Did I mention these can be made in 30 minutes? (allow a little extra assembly time if you are opting for the heart action)

    So, we are going to use my original Brownies with Flair recipe from last May, as it is the best brownie recipe of all time.  And we'll make some tweaks in the spicy and alluring department.

    Spicy & Alluring Valentine Brownies (Originally inspired by Alice Medrich's "Best Cocoa Brownies")

    1 1/4 sticks butter (I like salted)

    1 1/4 cups sugar (I like raw, organic cane sugar)

    3/4 cup + 2 tbsp nice cocoa powder (I prefer Dutch process)

    1/4 tsp salt

    1 tsp vanilla extract (I sometimes use whiskey instead)

    2 cold eggs

    1/2 cup flour

    1 tsp chipotle or cayenne powder (taste batter and adjust depending on how spicy you like it)

    1/2 - 3/4 cup toasted walnuts (drizzle walnuts with a little maple syrup and a pinch of salt and toast in your preheated 325 oven, watching carefully, for about 5 minutes)

    1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (semi-sweet works fine too if you like things a bit sweeter)

    3/4 cup Ricotta cheese (or more if you are into it!)

    Sel Gris or other large crystal sea salt for garnish


    1. Line the bottom and sides of an 8x8 square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. 

    2. Combine 1 1/4 sticks butter, 1 1/4 cups sugar, 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp cocoa, and pinch of salt in a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over a sauce pan of simmering water. Stir with a wooden spoon and when the mixture is hot but not scorching (you can still touch it and lick your finger) and the butter is melted and stirred in, turn off the heat and move the bowl to the counter to cool to a warm (not hot) temp.  It does not look good at this point -- you might think you’ve made a mistake or that sand somehow got into your mixture, but it all gets better in a hot second, not to worry.

    3. Add the 1 tsp vanilla or whiskey and then one egg. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined. Repeat with the other egg. Your batter should now look shiny and gorgeous.  Add 1/2 cup flour.  Beat with a wooden spoon for about a minute.

    4. Make sure your mixture is cool enough that your chocolate chips won't completely melt. Add your walnuts and chocolate chips.

    5. Evenly distribute the 3/4 cup ricotta onto the surface of the brownie layer as if you were frosting a cake. Be gentle as not to make a milkshakey looking mess. After you have a smooth, even white layer, push a butter knife through the ricotta about half-way down the chocolate layer and swirl to make a marbly pattern... or make some wild pattern and send me a photo.

    6. Place sea salt crystals sporadically all over the top.

    7. Bake 25-30 minutes until your toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, but just barely clean (don’t overcook!) **Note: the cooking time really depends on your oven! In my many renditions of these, 30 mins has always been perfect but I have heard reports of longer cooking time needed so heed the toothpick rather than the ticker!

    8. Find your cookie-cutters if you're going the Valentine route.

    9. Let them cool completely and take a mouse nibble from the corner of the pan while they are still hot and enjoy with a shot of cold milk.

    10. When they are totally cooled, cut out your hearts...or piggies? Does anyone have a piglet cookie-cutter?

    11. Serve to your Sweetheart.

    xoxo Happy Valentines Day!

    p.s. Do you like heart-shaped food? Or do you think it is lame? Please leave a comment below!

    p.s.s. The majority of you know how we roll over here, and that piggies did live at Bliss Ridge before our wedding... (and then I was banned from hanging out with them for fear that I was inching precipitously close to vegetarianism) but for those of you who are new to saucy; these guys live over the hill at the other family farm (you know, the dairy farm where my woodsman and my bro-in-law have the cheese company!) where the VT Whey-fed Pigs team (the boys and our friend Ignacio 'Nacho') can keep a close eye on their antics... (this is beneficial for the longevity of my bacon-centric bucket list.)


    (far from your average) MEATBALLS ("wicked pissah" spiced lamb and/or beef balls)

    Bliss Ridge is "the balls" as some would say.  Actually the person who enthusiastically refers to this place as "the balls" really says "the bawwlls" with an unmistakeable New Hampshah accent. His name is Darryl and he drives a huge-ass truck filled with (organic-approved; remember we keep it clean & green up here!) potash.  He shows up around the beginning of July and dumps enormous "Ash Mountain" right at the bottom of where the meadows begin (see distant black lump in photo below)

    Then he heads on down the road with his "bible on bowahd" (Darryl's response when my husband directed him to maneuver his monster truck via the goatpath-esque route to the interstate, was "don't worry, I've got a bible on bowahhd"((onboard))).

    He thinks Bliss Ridge is "wicked pissah".  We think Darryl is wicked pissah. His wife's name is Sherry and he thinks she is wicked pissah too. And it is wicked pissah when he talks about how wicked pissah she is. We hope she rides up with him next time.

    Serendipitously, having not had "wicked pissah" or monster trucks or potash or Darryl enter my mind prior to typing the word "balls," which phonetically, mind you, is pronounced "bawwllz", I have now dedicated this post about wicked pissah spiced meatballs, to Darryl.  We can thank him for some great new vocab words and some seriously good-looking, red-clover-rich grass (the hayfields up here were in dire need of rejuvenation by the time I finally moved back home... for 17 years they had been hayed and manicured religiously however not a smidgen of fertilizer was applied... so Ash Mountain deliveries a few times per summer are a necessity, until these guys can get the fertilization regime under control.)

    They are good at mowing. And they are delicious. And they mowed down my winter carrot crop. So we took down their ring leader.

     Remember ole Skippy, the untrustworthy horned ginger guy there in the middle? Well... he got shipped off to Kermit LaBounty's place, in four pieces, shortly after the massacre of the carrot patch. He crossed the line one too many times ole Skip...

    At least he won't be making the same mistake twice

    (No, I didn't really shoot Skippy on Sunday Gunday, but I whacked two clay pigeons out of five. And if you do the math... you might just conclude there is a possibility I could be a sharpshooter; stay tuned; I've only ever fired seven bullets but we'll see... the next time my carrots are threatened we. will. see.)

    What I did do, was spend a day wrapping meat with John the Butcher. He rocks. I'll tell the tale of that classic day next time I write about cow meat!

    Meanwhile, back to the bawlls.

    Skippy and his high-tonnage team of beasts with an affinity for escaping and munching my garden, make for some exciting dinner. These are also lovely as an appetizer though I don't recommend serving them on toothpicks as the sauce is too delicious and you'll want to eat more of it than can be soaked up by a ball on a miniature stick.

    Spiced Lamb and/or Beef Meatballs ("Wicked pissah bawlls")

    (makes approx. 36 1.5-inch diameter balls)

    1.5 lbs ground meat (I have made these with all-lamb, all-beef and a combination of the two... DELICIOUS each time)

    1 medium onion, finely diced (I prefer red)

    3 very large garlic cloves (or 5 small ones...)

    2 tsps salt

    1/8 cup (packed) finely diced fennel (can use the fronds and stalks here)

    1.5 tsps cumin

    1/2 tsp allspice

    1/4 tsp cinnamon

    1 tsp fennel seeds (toasted = better)

    2 eggs, lightly beaten

    1/8 cup (heaping) raisins, chopped up–or use currants to save time!)

    1/8 cup (loosely packed) fresh mint leaves, chopped–or use 1 scant tsp dried mint

    1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

    *optional: 1/2 - 1 cup finely smashed fresh breadcrumbs (I didn't use them last time and the balls stayed together just fine and were equally as delicious. If you anticipate random dinner drop-ins or you want to "stretch the meat" add some crumbs!


    1.5 tbsps olive oil

    2-3 cups puréed tomatoes (hopefully frozen from your summer garden; canned will also work just fine if you are stuck in the middle of a yankee winter and have exhausted your supply, for example)

    1/2 cup milk (don't mess around with any bastardization of partially skimmed or skimmed (gag) milk!!)

    dash of salt



    1 cup tomato purée

    1 tsp toasted ground coriander

    1 tsp salt

    *whisk ingredients together in a saucepan while heating for about 10 mins to combine the flavors. Set aside.


    2 cups plain yogurt (see above threat regarding what type of yogurt to use... hint: WHOLE milk)

    Juice of 1/2 a lemon (I like Meyer lemons)

    1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped finely

    dash of salt & dash or ground cumin (to taste)

    *whisk ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
    Garnish: fresh cilantro

    1. Prepare both "serving sauces" and set aside - they can both be made a day or so ahead of time and refrigerated if you're the organized type.

    2. Place all meat ball ingredients in a large bowl and stir/toss with a burly fork to combine everything so that it ends up in an evenly distributed manner. (This can also be done hours or a day ahead of time and refrigerated, which will allow the meat to imbibe the spices = yum)

    2. Form your balls in whatever size you please! (I usually do about 1.5-inch diameter)

    3. Pour "cooking sauce" ingredients into large heavy-bottom skillet, to the level of about an inch deep – enough so that it ends up being 3/4 the way up the balls (I used a LeCreuset braising dish here...please excuse the horrendous photo, I was in a hurry and it gets dark at 4pm here in the tundra!)

    4. Place balls in tomato sauce and cook about 10 mins then flip over and cook 5-10 more mins (depending on how rare you like your meatballs. TASTE them and decide if they need to cook longer.

    5. Prepare large flat-bottom serving platter with sides (I like to use this yellow one, it is about 12-inch diam.)

    (yes the table is still decked out holiday-style thanks to my mom and sister)

    Pour some yogurt sauce slowly into one side of the platter and some tomato sauce slowly onto the other side of the platter. Now you can swirl the two if you like to be fancy (I like fancy).

    6. Place finished meat balls into the sauce in the same manner as you did when cooking them (but you can squeeze them in a bit closer to each other)

    7. Garnish with fresh cilantro (some thinly sliced scallions would be a nice addition as well) and provide size-appropriate serving utensil so that sauces can be scooped up with each ball.

    OOh ooh here is an idea; you could serve these beautes aside/atop this Israeli couscous... or as an app on their own, or you could hastily put them in a glass container, throw them in your backpack and ski into the woods to a cabin with 7 friends and have a ragingly fabulous New Years Eve,  pairing said meat balls with whiskey. Predecessed by fondue. And other delicious items.

    I apologize that there are no photos of the finished dish (yet)... but here are us meat ball recipients, (minus one brave soul who was already teaching small children to ski at the time this photo was taken) who, take note, still appear rather gleeful on New Year's Day, regardless of the staggeringly disproportionate sleep:whiskey ratio emblematic of the previous evening...

    I recommend whipping up some bawlls and heading into the woods for a wicked pissah time!




    TRIFLE! (Cardamom & Clementine Buttermilk Cake, Maple Bavarian Cream, Cranberry Purée, Candied Citrus...) 

    In reality, I'm not thinking about this right now

    well actually maybe now I am after scoping the photo and reliving the enrapturing experience of eating that thing...

    So the realization at hand is this: if you too just came inside from screaming at your 14 cows, who, despite their innate idiocy, managed to find a way out of their extremely generously sized meadow and trampled your garden, which you may or may not adore and put a whole lot of heart and soul into... perhaps you too, should check out that photo of my badass trifle and take your mind off of the belief that all cows should look like this

    (which is another story for another day... soon!)

    The first thing I did, in the midst of the panic, was call my husband and tell him that if I had had a loaded gun five minutes before, we would have a whole lot of meat on our hands.

    Believe it

    Clearly, I wasn't joking.

    But I would have looked more like this

    A state of simultaneous fury, triumph and rage... coupled with slimJim (note that the wrapper remains on–ie: the spear of "meat" was nothing more than a matter of aesthetic; a prop for the occasion, not under any circumstance considered to be an edible accoutrement... ie: on the same plain as the menthol VirginiaSlim Ultra Lights and the blue Mountain Dew purchased on the same day for the same celebration...)

    How did I go from fancy-feasting to Virginia Slims?

    Rage will do that to you I suppose.

    Anyway, feasting has been serious since Thanksgiving. I mean it is always pretty serious around here but we have gotten extra wild... from that fateful brined turkey in cooler-with-wheels on to butchering five of our lambs, experimenting with melt-in-your-mouth chicken under a brick with the sexiest sauce any bird has ever been blanketed with (recipe will appear as soon as I can remember to take a chicken out of freezer...) and on to a new fascination: TRIFLES. And by that I do NOT mean this... YIKES YIKES YIKES YIKES!!!

    This tragic photo in a way illustrates why I do this blogging thing...

    I feel strongly that the public should not discover this without warning, on wikipedia, if they happen to hear the word "trifle" and wonder what that might be... I don't think it is OK to be fed the belief that the potential of a "trifle" ends here, with what looks to be whipped "topping", Red #40 Gelatin and Wonder bread!?!?

    Further into my research I discover this: "The word 'trifle' comes from the old French term 'trufle,' and literally means something whimsical or of little consequence."

    Whimsical–perhaps.... "of little consequence" ?? I don't know. I'd say this beauty has the power to radiate quite the joyful reaction...

    Things I like about trifles (or my own definition of a trifle I suppose):

    creativity can ABOUND, you can use "scraps" left over from other cake projects, if you don't make a perfect cake it doesn't matter–it is hidden between other delicious layers, it looks cool and you can see all the coolness from all sides, rather than blanketing it with frosting (not that I don't condone that, I am way into cakes too as you know). And of course tastes sublime if you choose fabulous components. Oh, and of course, my favorite trifecta is present in a perfect ratio – efficiency, glamour, creative potential.

    For this one, the evolution went a little like this:

    Recipe test 1 – Thanksgiving Eve: I happened to have a lot of buttermilk kicking around, left over from making butter (YUM)... so I thought I'd make a buttermilk cake... I had heard from aforementioned rockstar pastry chef friend that he was bringing some big pears to poach and they needed a vehicle... naturally I wanted to implement cardamom because it rocks and I thought citrus would be a wicked addition–and there you have it, the cake element was sorted. We turned into mad scientists that night and ended up pairing the pears with a spicy chipotle-chocolate sauce, meanwhile spotting a new trifle dish in the corner and deciding to use the cake element there, paired with other delicious layers... Being partial to maple... and of course having some of our own dark dark dark maple syrup on hand I watched le chef whip up some maple Bavarian cream and for color, a little velvety cranberry-sugar "sauce"... It was beyond a hit... so good that I barely changed a thing this time around (unheard of for those who know me and my penchant for trying something new everytime I cook). I found Bavarian cream to be incredibly simple and wonderful and I even "wung" a cranberry gelée for the top, that came out beautifully smooth. 

    And I think you should give it a whirl - this glam dessert is a lot easier and less time-consuming than the finished product lets on!

    **If you do not have a trifle dish, or are partial to cute food, you can rock individual glasses or jars for the mini trifle effect!


    CARDAMOM-CLEMENTINE BUTTERMILK CAKE (or course you can use oranges or tangerines in place of clementines)

    2 sticks of butter (1 cup)

    1.5 cups sugar (I used raw organic)

    4 eggs

    1 vanilla bean

    1.5 cups buttermilk

    1 tsp finely grated clementine zest

    2 cups Flour

    1/2 cup cornstarch

    1 tsp salt

    1.5 tsp baking powder

    1/2 tsp baking soda

    1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

    1 tsp fresh grated ginger (or 1/4 tsp dried)

    1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

    1 tsp ground cardamom


    1. Bring all your ingredients to room-temp. Butter and flour two 9-inch diameter cake pans (**Or, if you are not confident in your horizontal cake slicing skills you could use four cake pans, which would give you your four cake layers without having to implement the serated knife at all!

    2. Sift all dry ingredients above (the list from flour down to cardamom ((not sugar)) into a large bowl together. Slice vanilla bean down the center vertically.

    3. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment if you have one, or electric beaters, Beat 2 sticks (1 cup) butter on med-low until lightly colored and fluffier. With the mixer on, add 1.5 cups sugar, a little bit at a time.  Blend until smooth and consistent and then add eggs one at a time. Scrape vanilla bean seeds into mixture and add in 1 tsp of citrus zest. 

    4. With the mixer still running on low, add the flour mixture - alternating with the buttermilk and beat until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake 25-30 mins, until a toothpick or stick or whatever pokey thing you use, comes out of the center clean! Let cool completely.



    While your cakes are cooking/cooling, start making component #2...A very simple, very delicious, snappy saucy, festive layer.

    2 cups fresh whole cranberries

    1/3-1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you prefer it–start with less and give it a taste of course to decide if youd like it sweeter, then just add more sugah!)

    2-ish tablespoons brandy/Cointreau/Gran Marnier

    1/4-1/3 cup water or orange juice if you like it extra orange-y.

    Throw everything in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir very often until the cranberries "pop" and deflate into a sweet saucy sticky consistency (about 7-10 mins). Let cool and then blend with an immersion blender to achieve a smooth consistency. Set aside.


    Have your other components ready to go when you start the bavarian, as you don't want it to set-up before you lather it onto the cake layers.

    1 (generous) tbsp powdered gelatin

    1/4 cup luke-warm water

    1/2 cup maple syrup (the darker the better)

    1 cup hot milk

    1 vanilla bean (or 1/2) (optional)

    1/4 cup sugar

    1/4 tsp salt

    3 egg yolks, beaten

    1 tbsp rum or whiskey!!

    1 cup heavy whipping cream

    Add 1 tbsp gelatin to 1/4 cup luke-warm water in small bowl.

    Place 1 cup milk in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of boiling water (don't let the water level touch the bowl).  Slice open the vanilla bean length-wise and scrape seeds into milk. When milk is warm to the touch, add 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir until ingredients are dissolved and consistent.   

    Beat 3 egg yolks in a medium-size bowl and slowly pour hot mixture over egg yolks, whisking rapidly the entire time.  Return the sweetened yolks to the double boiler/heat-proof bowl. Stir the mixture over the boiling water until it coats the back of a wooden spoon in a thick layer. Stir in the gelatin mixture until it is dissolved. Cool the custard and add in 1 tbsp liquor of choice (or 1 tsp vanilla if you're not alcohol inclined)  

    While the custard is cooling, whip 1 cup cream.  When custard is cooled to almost room-temp, fold in the whipped cream gently... it takes quite awhile and it looks lumpy but don't get impatient and rough with it, keep on keeping on – folding gently, round and round. You will probably get huge muscles like these cream folders pictured below

    Eventually you will end up with a lovely smooth, sweet, maple-y, velvety product like so:

    Now you are ready to assemble! (then we'll make the citrus and the gelée layer while trifle is setting up)

    Line up your components.

    For the cake layers, if you opted to use two cake pans rather than four, slice each of them horizontally in half to create four same-size layers. 

    Place one cake layer in the bottom of the trifle dish and spread a layer of cranberry purée over it. Spread a layer of the bavarian over that and gently top with another cake layer. Cranberry layer next, followed by another cake layer and then a bavarian layer. Cranberry layer then a cake layer then bavarian again.

    Consult photo below (or you can do anything you want and make your own pattern!)

    While the trifle is setting up, make the gelee for the top (if you so desire the glassy look above, or you can skip it and use the cranberry purée, or just end with the bavarian and candied citrus slices) If you are going for the gelée, make sure your bavarian layer is as flat and smooth as possible.


    1 cup fresh cranberries (1/4 pound)

    1/4 cup sugar

    1/8 cup orange juice

    3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

    Combine 1 cup crans with 1/4 cup water; cook over medium heat for about five minutes or until they pop. Cool and then purée with an immersion blender or pour into an upright blender and purée until smooth. Pour the purée through a fine sieve or strainer, into a bowl.  Sprinkle the gelatin over two tablespoons of warm water in a small bowl. Let stand until softened, about five minutes. Meanwhile, add to a small sauce pan: 1/8 cup sugar and 1/8 cup of water and bring to a boil, stirring, until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool down. Add the orange juice and cranberry puree and stir.
    Whisk the gelatin into the cranberry mixture until smooth.

    By this time your trifle should be set up. (I put mine on the porch to chill out, you could stick it in the fridge for a bit but make sure it is set before you pour on the gelée)

    Slowly pour the gelée over the top, tilting the trifle to even out the layer.

    Put it back on the porch:

    Meanwhile, make the


    1.5 cups water

    1/2 cup white granulated sugar

    3 clementines, 1 large navel orange or 2 tangerines (give or take)

    Slice citrus into very thin rounds. In a large, heavy skillet bring the 1.5 cups water and 1/2 cup of white sugar to a boil.  Add the citrus slices. Let the mixture boil for about seven minutes, turning slices once or twice, then reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for about 30 minutes. Turn slices occasionally and watch to make sure the sugar doesn't begin to burn. When the mixture becomes a thick syrup, reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook until the syrup is very thick and the oranges are nearly translucent but still have form! (approx. 10 more minutes) note* clementines will take less time than oranges so watch closely... don't walk away or you will end up with tooth-breakingly hard bits!.

    Remove the slices from the pan and place on wax paper to cool down.

    Retrieve trifle from the porch or fridge and top with slices, voila'!!!

    Let me know how your whimsical trifle-ing expeditions go! Also, of course you could make one of these components to combine with another item... for example, that cranberry layer would be killer with something chocolate and that maple bavarian would be stellar with some homemade nut brittle and of course that cardamom cake would work underneath some poached fruit...

    Enjoy!! xoJvT


    Brine is Divine, Where Meat Comes From & Other Untraditional Musings

    I cooked my first turkey this Thanksgiving, after a 16 hour stint in a brine bath based on the Bon Appetit recipe here (I omitted the mushrooms, replaced the scallions with leeks, doubled the star anise, added some cider vinegar and increased the brown sugar a little).

    It was, to my surprise, ridiculously delicious and not a bad looker either.  I definitely recommend cooking the bird "upside-down" ie: breast-side-down, for the first hour (and contrary to the Bon Appétit recipe, I had the oven at 475 for the first hour as well). Luckily my neighbors are quite far away and presumably are sleeping at 4:30 am, as I woke up with vivid visions of a bear on the porch opening the cooler (giant bird's home for the night before Thanksgiving) and stealing the 17-pounder.  I lept up from bed and ran outside, not bothering to stop for clothing nor weapons to fight off aforementioned visualized bear.  Alas, I found the beast pleasantly soaking up its delectable liquid... And then began the wrastling in order to achieve this:

    There was some pretty involved maneuvering going on (luckily not at 4:30 am with a bear) between removal from brine and time to put this beast in the oven.  My woodsman had gone off to plow the 10 inches of snow blanketing the driveway and I was left alone with a major job ahead of me. Unfortunately I needed both of my hands and couldn't adequately document the "procedure"... it was convenient that the cooler had wheels (why we have a cooler with wheels I don't know... or don't remember... could have had something to do with this mission...


    (the first and last Walmart journey that ever needs to occur... in preparation for the memorable White Trash New Years Extravaganza of 2010)

    So I took the bird out of its sweet rolling cooler bath and spent about 20 minutes drying the thing off as best as I could.  To my dismay, the thing looked haggard... I actually might complain to Misty Knoll Farms... the tail had a slice in it, the skin appeared to be shedding off the meat... it was a bad scene. I pulled out a fancy French "Kitchen Essentials" book and consulted the trussing department... and then decided I didn't like how that looked and proceeded to do my own version with some kitchen twine. Conclusion: truss-schmuss, fancy-schmancy French book schmook - it is easier and quicker to wing it. Just make sure you have an extra long piece of string.

    Originally, when I had started thinking about Thanksgiving (like two days beforehand) I wasn't going to bother with turkey; not that turkey doesn't have potential – but in my 30 years of thanksgivings – ok I probably didn't have any turk for the first couple... and I did live in foreign countries where they don't try to reenact weird pilgrim legends that are realistically most likely just another tall-tale scribed by the whitest, richest historians of the era, for another couple of those years, so I've probably participated in eating 25 of the giant birds.  The point is – in all honesty, the delicious factor never-ever comes close to comparing to that of our off-the-charts chickens (Bliss Ridge "yard birds")... And the freezer is full of them because we raised 50 of them this past summer... And killed 49 (I don't know what happened to #50...)

    AND I don't think that any inkling of pride I feel for being brave and unsqueamish of the day of death, has anything to do with the sublime flavor profile of the meat...

    Ok so maybe theres something to the fact that a splash of Rolling Rock may have made its way into a drumstick or two...

    But those birds did live a blissful 11 weeks roaming around up here eating bugs and grass and organic grain and drinking Bliss Ridge spring water... not a bad life...

    And then we ended it.

    While outfitted in T-shirts we felt were fitting to the task at hand.

    We enlisted the help of some enthusiastic friends...

    And got right to work...

    (Warning: for those of you who answer the question "where does meat come from?" with "the store", you may find the following to be slightly mind-bending and reality-altering... and maybe a wee bit graphic for  your taste...)

    There was a 7:30 debriefing

    which covered general anatomy of the chicken, as well as volunteers being warned of the consequences of using the hose in an unorthodox fashion...

    We do everything by the book, clearly

    Locked and loaded...

    Assemble the killing cones

    Is that morbid? I think I am desensitized... Hey, I'll challenge you to look after 50 chickens and then tell me that (after they grow feathers and instantly switch from cute fuzzy yellow creature to vermin) you don't visualize the beautiful sight of a freezer full of neat carcass-containing ziplocs every single day.

    We have clearly developed some good visualization techniques. 

    Speaking of technique




    You would never believe it but this man had never participated in a blood-bath prior to this memorable morning! And he is beaming! Observe the joy.

    You too, could transform from a 'meat-in-a-package-no-this-beast-was-never-alive-I-don't-wanna-think-about-what-nasty-hormones-or-chemicals-were-involved-in-raising-this-"food"-kinda guy/gal' to a 'Bad-ass Backyard Bird Slayer' or at least a supporter of such backyard bird slayers (ie: your local farmer)... I'd like you to trust me with regard to the fact that consuming random supermarket meat is not a good idea – or furthermore nonorganic meat in general. You do not have to be a health-nut or an environmentalist or an outspoken extremist or a hippy or rich or even have a lot of land, or have any idea how to garden (it is easy, see potato example here) to believe in clean, home(or local farmer-)grown food.  There are a lot of radical variables in the environment that effect the length and awesomeness potential of our lives, that we can't control on an immediate level, but we can certainly control what we put in our mouths... and that is HUGE . So do the best thing you can do and grow/buy FOOD (hint: "FOOD" is perishable, does not incorporate ingredients that you can't pronounce and does not live inside a package for long – ie: most of the stuff on the shelves of the supermarket is not FOOD)

    Some reading for you skeptics:

    Some Arsenic with your Supermarket Chicken?

    The Omnivore's Dilemma

    Genetic Expression of Chickens altered due to use of nonorganic grain

    A useful Fact sheet: The Difference: Organic vs. Conventional Chicken (scroll down about 1/2 way for a pretty decent summary)

    Feel free to pose questions or rant, etc. I'd like to hear your opinions and suggestions! xoJvT