braising, lamb shanks, polenta

Braised Lamb Shanks with Mascarpone Polenta

Icelandic Lamb shanks–I treat myself once or twice a year when it’s available.

Rubbed down and marinated for 14 hours in toasted cumin, garlic, coriander, aleppo pepper, salt and olive oil

After browning the shanks, sliced fennel, shallot, garlic was sauteed. Then Royal Trumpet mushies were added and browned, then diced celery and carrot and tomato paste.

Deglazed with a 1/2 bottle of Ravenswood Petite Syrah–any red will do. Added Beef stock, two rosemary branches, brought up to a boil, covered and removed from heat and placed in a 300 degree oven and cooked for 10 hours.

Removed shanks from liquid and reduced down until sauce was thick enough to start coating a spoon and served on top of Polenta mixed with mascarpone cheese.

Best braise ever

Lamb Shank on Foodista

lazy sundays, pumpkin carving, yoda

2nd Round of Carving

Just about two weeks ago I asked if I should“Cook or Carve? the “Stella Blue Pumpkin” aka Japanese Hokkaido squash. I declared this being the first and only year we carve gourds with 2″ thick shells. Not only that, but it was waste of good flesh. My partner had picked out a pink French ‘Brodé Galeux D’Eysines’ or ’embroidered with warts from Eysines.’ So, with knives laid out in front, stencils taped and the Simpsons Tree House of Horror on, we carved.

carving, pumpkin seeds, roasting

Tis the Season

Last night a group of seven friends gathered on the West End for a good ole timey pumpkin carving. I’m more of a kid around Halloween than Christmas, so I get really into pumpkin carving as you can see from of my past ones:




2009–so far–i still have 2 to carve

I think it’s funny that I can do this–albeit not freehand–but I can’t muster more than a stick figure when I try to draw.

Now, because this is serious business to me, I brought several knives and a tupperware container to take home the guts for seed roasting. Because, let’s be honest… when you spend almost two hours meticulously sawing at the flesh of a large gourd, you better get something more out of the deal then the rotting shell.

So, on this bitter gray morning, I’ve started roasting up those seeds. Normally, I’m a straight olive oil/kosher salt girl. However, this year I’ve decided to break tradition and am doing a trio of pumpkin seeds using this recipe posted on

I tried a recipe for toasted pumpkin seeds based on one for toasted butternut squash seeds with outstanding results. Boil fresh pumpkin seeds in salted water for about 5 minutes. Drain seeds; salt damp seeds generously with popcorn salt (superfine). Spread out on nonstick cookie sheet and bake 20-30 minutes at 325 degrees until seeds are dried out and some very slightly browned.

The seasonings are: Maple syrup w/Denny Mike’s Cowbell Hell; Olive Oil and Pink Hawaiian Sea Salt; Olive Oil and Bacon Salt.

The Bacon Salt one was ok. Faint hints of smoke came through, kind of like a nice bbq sauce, but was neither very salty nor bacony. Next batch gets twice as much and perhaps instead of oil, I’ll use some rendered bacon fat that I have on hand.

The Hawaiian Sea Salt ones rocked. The texture of the very coarse salted offered a fuller crunch to the seeds which were perfectly crunchy in their own right.

The Cowbell Maple seeds were just about perfect–sweet, smokey and very spicy.

When we carve our other pumpkins on Sunday, I’ll try some other blends and am definitely open to suggestions..

maine cheese, maine cheese guild, maine creameries, open creamery

Open Creamery Day 2009

For the past few years the Maine Cheese Guild has organized “Open Creamery Day” as a way for Maine turophiles to meet their local artisan cheese makers and to tour the farms that support the growing artisan cheese community. This year, unlike last, there was little to no press regarding the event and turnout at the farms I visited were nonexistent. While I felt bad for those that opened up their doors to us, it did create a unique opportunity to speak at length with the cheese makers about their passion, the growing politics of dairy farmers and to have some nibbles in a relaxed setting.
Maine is unique to me because of the sheer number of goat cheese producers in the state and last year I spent a good amount of time at Liberty Field Farms in Saco–who received local press, prior to Open Creamery Day, for beating out the much lauded Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog Mini’s at the American Cheese Society Awards. This year, we spent time visiting some local cows milk cheese makers and while we had an agenda of four creameries to get to in four hours, we only made it to half of them.

Our first visit brought us to Spring Day Creamery in Durham. Sarah, the solo cheese maker and local french language teacher, welcomed us late in the morning to give us a quick tour of her small facilities. Like many, she told us how she started making cheese in her kitchen until production threatened to overtake it and she decided to build a small room inside her garage for her growing ‘hobby’. Because she has no dairy animals on site, she outsources her milk locally and dabbles in both goat and cow milk cheeses.
Because I am admittedly burned out on goats milk cheeses, both her blue and washed rind cheeses were pleasantly welcomed. Her Spring Day Blues, aged 60 days+, seemed very fitting with her love of french cheeses as it instantly reminded me of Bleu D’Auvergne. Slightly salty and creamy with a hint of mushroom, this was easily one of the best locally produced blue cheeses I’ve had.
Her washed rind, Basket Case, had a mild nose to it but instantly melted into a creamy paste with a slight bitter bite. Easily it could be compared to a more subdued younger sibling to California’s Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk, who placed second this year overall at the ACS in Austin, TX. Both cheeses are currently residing in the fridge for a Maine cheese plate for later tonight.

Spring Day Blues and Basket Case

Spring Day Cheese Room

Because the community is small and,like most of Maine, everyone knows everyone else she asked if we were stopping down to Winter Hill just six miles down the road in Freeport. Unfortunately, the MCG website had last years info for Winter Hill and I hadn’t planned on making it because it listed a different day. Lucky for us, Sarah called them up and confirmed that they were open and would love to have us stop by. So, after some long chats with Sarah and her wonderful family, we packed up our purchases and headed down the road.

Now, Winter Hill is truly a hidden gem in Maine as they are one of eight dairies in the US that breed Randall Lineback Cattle. These are easily some of the most stunning breed of cattle and the owners, Jim and Kate, sought to rescue this breed from obscurity and we are so lucky to have them in our backyards. While they are only producing one cheese at the moment, a cheddar, Jim knows the value of time when it comes to cheese making. Too many makers are quick to get their products to market, creating a more mild cheddar, but Jim ages his wheels at least 8 months before offering it up to their customers–you can find their raw milk, yogurt and cheese at Rosemont in Portland or, better yet, become a regular customer and pick up directly from them–and you can tell the difference. Not only is it raw, the color is absolutely striking in it’s deep golden yellow paste. Easily, the flavor was sweeter and richer than any local cheddar and, honestly, better than just about any from New England that I’ve tasted…even those from Vermont. After nearly an hour and a half of chatting we left with nearly a pound of cheddar and a pint of their milk.

Mixed Randalls

Gorgeous Randall face with trademark markings

While many of us are spoiled by getting to know our farmers on a first name basis, not many of us know our cheese makers as well. If you have a free weekend day, I cannot implore people enough to visit the Maine Cheese Guild site for the list of local makers and plan a visit to one of the many creameries that are within a hour or less drive from Portland. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Chocolate Pudding, homemade, Limoncello, Way too much goats milk

Goaty Puddin’ and Homemade Limoncello

This week brought the question “What does one do with a gallon of raw goat’s milk?” as I happened upon some from local goat cheese maker, Tourmaline Hill(located in Greenwood, ME). This is by far the most goats milk I’ve ever been in possession of and lack the room and materials to make yogurt or cheese with it. My partner, sick of me suggesting that she snack on cereal with goats milk, suggested pudding and, really… why the hell not?

So, upon finding a simple recipe at Martha Stewart Online I’m making my 1st batch of Chocolate Goats Milk Pudding. I’m a huge fan of Chocolate Goat Cheese Truffles, so I’m really looking forward to gorging on this later tonight.

Egg yolks, Valrhona cocoa, goats milk, corn starch, sugar

Froathy goodness

Pour, strain and chill

While this only has to sit for a few hours, the batch of Limoncello I started on Monday is in it’s infancy–sitting for at least 30 days before moving onto the 2nd stage of it. While I’m not much of a drinker I’m throwing this together for the house and future Christmas presents.

carve, cook to, pumpkin, stella blue

Cook or Carve?

Before the stalls were completely set this morning, I banged over the Deering Oaks Farmers Market to grab some salsify and pumpkins before heading off to work. Because I couldn’t resist some smoked and dried chipotles and rainbow carrots from Fishbowl, I was left with a smaller pumpkin budget than anticipated. While the goal was carving pumpkins, my ‘look shiny pretty’ instinct drew me into grabbing a Japanese Hokkaido pumpkin. I was told it tends to be sweet in the flesh and now I’m torn between carving it up or cooking it up…

The Obama Action Figure was no help with suggestions—perhaps you could be… So, cook or carve?