You may have wondered whatever happened to me and my sometimes blog. Well, I’ll tell you. Last spring I was offered my dream job. I was hired to design, build and manage a teaching garden for the Marvelwood School, a small Connecticut private school that both my sons attend. I get to spend part of each day planning, organizing and actually digging in the dirt. It was a very successful first season, and it just keeps getting better. I was offered the use of a small greenhouse on the campus so I can continue puttering about with growing things this winter. I’ll tell you a little secret…I’m experimenting with aquaponics too! I already have 8 little goldfish working hard to produce nitrogen for my sprouts. Well, they actually produce ammonia that will turn into nitrites that will turn into…that’s a story for another day, though. Today we’re gonna talk about a freakishly warm December.
It’s freakishly warm, right? What the heck! I waited until late late late in November to plant garlic, which I usually plant in the end of October, and still the garlic has sprouted and is 4 inches tall. Further disturbing evidence of this unusual weather is the fact that my parsley is actually growing. I have been pulling it in fist-fulls to use in the kitchen, but still it grows. Hard not to when it’s 60 degrees out.
I have still been able to plant narcissus bulbs, as the ground isn’t nearly frozen yet, and whenever I hit one that’s already there I find it has sprouted and is trying to pop out of the earth. My strawberries have actual flowers, for crying out loud! What gives? Anyone? Even I, who loves growing things, am ready for the season to end. Enough already.
I’m trying to pretend it’s winter. Despite the fact that they are still green and healthy, I pulled out my leeks today. They last almost as long in the fridge as in the ground, and I keep telling myself there has to be a hard freeze soon, so I might as well get them out now. Of course I was wearing a T-shirt while I dug, so it really was pretend. I could have probably left them in another month.
I decided to make a real one pot winter style meal tonight with some of the leeks and other put-up foods to try to get in the winter mood. I used the parsley, some potatoes and onions I have in the cellar, and some pheasant leg meat I had left over from a broth I made.
I also had the good fortune to trade a venison sirloin for some guanciale with my good friend Sarah. For those of you who are scratching your head (like me the first time I heard of it), it’s a pork jowl. That’s right…pig cheeks. and I’m here to tell you that it’s one tasty item! It’s an Italian specialty food traditionally used in carbonara, and it is super yummy. More delicate than pancetta, and with a stronger taste than bacon, it ramps up the flavor of any dish. Here I sauteed it until crisp, removed it with a slotted spoon and cooked the leeks and onions in the fat left in the pan.
The potatoes I diced and cooked until soft in salted water, added them to the leeks and fried them until a little crispy. After that I added the removed guanciale, the parsley, the pheasant, salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of cayenne and finally shredded Havarti on the whole thing, covered it and turned off the heat. Meanwhile I had a nice winter cocktail to get me in the holiday spirit. Nothing wrong with rum and eggnog, am I right?
The final product was a stick to your ribs one-dish meal that made everyone happy. It’s still about 50 degrees out, but I’m going to go decorate my Christmas tree and pretend. Happy Holidays!