I know it's been forever since I last posted, it's been quite a busy summer. This year we decided to grow more of our own vegetables than we had in previous years. This included 15 different tomato plants, bok choy, rainbow chard, cippollini onions, leeks, red peppers, sorrel, strawberries, blueberries, basil, thyme, and I'm sure I'm missing something else. It was pretty great being able to just go into the backyard and pick what we were going to eat for dinner that night.
But the weather this summer was kind of weird so a lot of our tomatoes didn't start coming in until the end of the summer and the bok choy was done pretty much right away. Our only consistent crop was the rainbow chard that kept on giving all summer and is still producing even today. Our strawberries were a pretty big disappointment, I think we only got to eat 3 or 4 of them the entire summer. I'm sure the squirrels got away with a few more than that, but not many.
We've actually done a pretty good job procuring most of our produce, fish, and meat from the farmers markets this year. It wouldn't be uncommon for me to visit three different markets over the course of the week. There's something pretty fun about trying to figure out what you're going to make for dinner based on what's fresh at the time. "Looks like asparagus is almost done, but look at the beets!"
I've been getting getting a bunch of meat over the past couple of years from Skagit River Ranch up in the Skagit Valley. I think the aha moment happened a couple of months ago when I had made a pork shoulder roast. We were sitting down eating it and I had noticed Kristen had nothing left on her plate while I had trimmed off the pieces of fat. When I asked her about it she said, "I don't think my piece had any fat." Being pork shoulder I knew there was fat all over that thing so maybe she just didn't notice. So I decided to sample a bit of the fat with my next bite and it was a revelation. It just melted in my mouth like the most beautiful butter you had ever tasted. Normally with the fat from factory farmed pigs it would either be chewy or leave a greasy film on the roof of your mouth. But not with this pork and that's when I knew I couldn't go back to factory farmed meat.
Tonight is the first night of the harvest moon, which is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. During this time the moon rises pretty close to when the sun sets which means there isn't a long period of darkness so farmers could continue to bring in their crops under the light of the moon.
To celebrate the ushering in of autumn and the harvest moon we decided to throw a little harvest moon feast at our house this past weekend. It was a great time with lots of great food and a whole lot of good friends. At first I was a bit overwhelmed because a lot more people were coming than I thought would. It's kind of like college admissions, where the school would accept a certain number of people know x% wouldn't accept the offer. While the idea of feeding so many people was daunting, I must say it was heartwarming knowing so many of our friends were willing to spend their Saturday night with us.
I had originally planned four courses, three of which I would do the bulk of the cooking. In order to make sure I got everything done on time I had a little notebook that I used to schedule my week and assign tasks for each day. I gotta say, coming up with that schedule save my butt because luckily I got everything done with minimal stress on the day of the dinner.
The first two courses were salads and starches and I tried to do as much of that in advance as I could. Two days before the dinner I rolled and cut the pasta as well as made the two different sauces. The day before I braised one of the proteins and made one of the salads and prepped the other's dressing. The morning/afternoon of the dinner I cooked mushrooms, made the last starch and made my mise en place for the rest of the night.
The night of the dinner went pretty smoothly and according to plan. First course was salads so all I had to do was bring the one prepped salad and the other prepped dressing up to room temp and grill the romaine prior to serving. The starch course just involved cooking the pasta I had made two days before and reheating the sauces. I also had to reheat the third starch dish I had made earlier that day.
The protein course was the most challenging because a lot of that had to be made a la minute. So while people were working on their starches I threw the snapper in the oven to roast. I then took the chicken out to the grill to cook but soon found out the coals had burned down too much so I had to cook them on the stovetop and finish in the oven. While I was doing that, I also needed to make my polenta, saute my kale, warm up the mushrooms, and fire my shortribs that had braised the night before. It sounds like a lot to do, and it was, but everything happened really quickly. When the chicken was ready to be finished in the oven, the snapper was ready to come out. That made it easy to put the chicken and shortribs in the oven while I plated the fish. On the stovetop the polenta cooked, while the kale sauteed, and the mushrooms reheated. The fish went out first with the kale while I plated the shortribs, chicken, and polenta. Then those two went out and I was done. Phew!
I left the last course, dessert, for our guests to supply and I was happy I did. People brought all sorts of wonderful crumbles and cakes and other sweet tasty treats. It was an exhausting but amazingly fun night and I can't wait to do it again.
Here is the menu of things we prepped:
Potato, bacon, haricots verts served with a dijon and sherry vinagrette
Grilled romaine with roast garlic and asiago dressing
Braised lamb ragu with hand cut pappardelle
Veggie ragu with homemade linguine
Farro with chard and chanterelle and lobster mushrooms
Whole roast Alaskan wild red snapper (aka rockfish) with sauteed kale
Braised shortribs with creamy (and cheesy) polenta
Pan roasted chicken breasts with chanterelle mushrooms