Monday, July 25, 2016

Grilled Pigeon Breast

Grilled Pigeon, Doe's Leap Trappist goat cheese, Adam's raspberries, Digger's Mirth greens

A few days ago, I remembered a story told to me by Sarah Flack, a vendor at Burlington Farmer’s Market some 16 years ago.

She extoled the eating of pigeons, which I didn’t appreciate at the time, since I was coming off a vegan phase and had only just started eating meat again.

I was reminded of that little chat when my husband Dan came home with a clear plastic bag full of meaty redness.

I thought it was squirrel. 

Because, I had asked for squirrel.

What was it? 
 Pigeon Breasts
“Pigeon breasts”, he said, “…and, I don’t guarantee they’re free of birdshot”.

I covered them in “Cheetah (cheater) Marinade” - sour cream and Italian dressing, overnight – then, roasted till medium rare.

The meat was red like duck, with a similar texture.

I sliced and served them in a salad of fresh raspberries (Adam’s Berry Farm), baby greens from Digger’s Mirth, and shaved Trappist goat cheese from Doe’s Leap Farm.  All complemented the extremely rich flavor of pigeon.  No dressing was necessary.

The best part of this recipe is that the cooking stage can be done a day or two ahead.

The difficult bit is sourcing farm-country pigeon, but duck breast is a fine substitute.

Sarah Flack was so right all those years ago!

Pigeon IS delicious.

Tip: If using duck breast, remove the skin before marinating and slice into ribbons.  Render over very low heat in ½ cup of water until there are crispy cracklings; drain on paper towels, salt and enjoy.  Strain the fat, refrigerate and save for another use. 
Wild Pigeon Salad

Grilled Pigeon Breast
Serves 6-8

12 Pigeon Breasts (boneless, skinless)


¼ Cup Cabot Sour Cream
¼ Cup Drew’s Classic Italian Dressing (soy/wheat-free)
¼ Cup Grapeseed Oil


Skewer breasts and place upside-down in a tall water glass (or two).

Pour marinade over the meat and gently agitate to coat.

Refrigerate 24-48 hours.

Let sit at room temperature 20-30 minutes.

Grill over medium heat, turning as necessary until plump and 140 f. for medium-rare.

Let rest covered with foil and a heavy towel for at least 10 minutes. 

You may refrigerate, or slice thin and serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Boucher Farm Pork Stir-fry

Boucher Farm Pork Stir-fry
This recipe comes from one of my very first cookbooks, Better Homes and Gardens Cooking Chinese.  While I still own many of their cooking series from the late 80’s my copy of this book devolved into sticky pages held together by paperclips. 

We parted ways long ago.

The Stir-fry Basics

1) Peanut oil and aromatics: garlic, onion, ginger, chilies

2) Sliced or diced veggies: carrot, sweet pepper, cabbage (mushrooms)
3) Thinly sliced or diced meat, marinated 24 hrs.

4) Sauce (cornstarch, wine, stock)

My go-to “secret” is using Wickle’s Pickle juice to marinate the meat, but any Italian-type dressing will work.

Half Pint Farm Pea Shoots

Pork & Pea Shoot Stir-fry
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, Cooking Chinese
Serves 4

1 lb. Pork Cutlets (Sliced thinly across the grain, marinated overnight) *
1 Cup Shallots and Spring Onions, (thinly sliced)
3 Dried Chinese Peppers
1 Handful Pea Shoots (Half Pint Farm)
½ Cup Stock or White Wine
1 TB Cornstarch

Peanut Oil for frying


Prepare and marinate the meat overnight. 

Drain well, and slice your veggies of choice.

Combine stock and cornstarch together, and arrange all your ingredients by your cooking station.

Heat the wok over medium-high heat (indoors or on the grill).

Dried Peppers and Onions
Add a tablespoon or two of peanut oil, then the dried peppers and onions.  Stir briskly for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add pea shoots, and keep stirring until just starting to wilt. Remove to a bowl.

Add another tablespoon of peanut oil.  Add ¼ to ½ of the meat to the wok, and stir until no longer pink. Add to shoots.

Stir the cornstarch/stock and add it to the wok. Stir until clear.

Last Step
Add the meat and veggies back to the wok and coat them with sauce.

Serve over baby spinach or with rice or noodles; sesame oil, soy sauce, Chinese vinegar, or chili oil on the side.

* Tip: It is easier to slice meat when it is slightly frozen.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Sautéed Pheasantbacks

I’ve been scouting in the woods for weeks, ever since two morels popped up under an apple tree in the yard. 

I found: nothing.

I went ‘shrooming with my husband Dan last Sunday; he found one medium-sized Pheasantback. 

I found: nothing.

I’ve never prepared one before, so I consulted Mara Welton’s blog (Half Pint Farm, Burlington Farmer’s Market).

To paraphrase:

Never consume any wild mushrooms without proper identification!

It's not easy to mistake other fungi for a Pheasantback; please check with an experienced forager or guidebook if you are unsure.

Pheasantbacks (a.k.a. Dryad’s Saddle) fruit from May to November and are found on deciduous deadwoods such as poplar, maple, willow and birch. 

If you can’t cut through it, it is too old to eat.

To prepare one, discard the stump and any other hard or sketchy-looking bits. 

The tenderest section is the outer edge; harder parts may be saved, frozen, and used for the stockpot.

Remove the thick "skin" on top of the mushroom. You may need to use a knife to get it started; peel off with your fingers.

Spray forcefully with water (normally a no-no with mushrooms). It is a polypore, so there are lots of holes on the underside for critters to hide in. You may even have to soak it for an hour or two to dislodge stubborn grit and debris.

Place pore-side down on a paper towel and press with a weight to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Portion into bite-sized pieces.  Now, you’re ready to begin!

(Visit Half Pint Farm’s blog for illustrations and step-by-step instructions, plus more local recipes.)
Wild Mushroom Fresh Spring Rolls

Sautéed Pheasantback Mushroom
Recipe by Mara Welton of Half Pint Farm
Serves 4

1 or 2 Medium (hand-sized) Pheasantbacks
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Optional: Chopped Garlic and/or *White Wine


After cleaning and peeling mushroom(s), set a sauté pan over medium heat. 

Add olive oil and a pat or two of butter to coat the surface.

Add prepared mushroom pieces; cook until they start to sizzle.

If desired, add garlic, salt and pepper.

Continue to sauté until beautifully browned. 

Transfer to drain on paper towels.

Use in stir-fries, pizza, or in fresh spring rolls.

* You may add a splash of wine at any time. Wine, garlic & mushrooms are a classic pairing.