Feeling Italian (Part 2)

As I continue to work Sunday through Friday, it has been a bit of a struggle to make my one day a week off count. Get all the errands run, get some posts written, and, most importantly, spend some quality time with Mrs. Flannestad and our dog Monty.

A while ago Michele got me a copy of David Tanis’ cookbook, “A Platter of Figs“.

I promised to make her some things from it, but after a persimmon cake which wasn’t as good as our usual recipe, I hadn’t gone back and tried anything else.

So for this Saturday night, the first we’ve had together in a while, I opted to do a whole menu.

Feeling Italian (Part 2)

Steamed Fennel with Red Pepper Oil
Roasted Quail with Grilled Raddicchio and Creamy Polenta
Italian Plum Cake

First things first, headed to the Alemany Farmers’ Market Saturday “morning”, with the hopes of finding as much of the produce as possible.

Stopped at the Tomatero Farms stand and were thrilled to find Raddicchio.

Dapple Dandy Plums (my favorites!) from Ferrari Farms.

We only found some questionable looking Fennel, so I hedged our bets with beautiful beets from Blue House Farms.

Also some Maitake Mushrooms from Far West Fungi, part of a sekrit plan to “improve” Tanis’ menu.

After some fortifying Sopes and squash blossom Quesadillas from El Huarache Loco, we headed home with our spoils.

A bit later in the afternoon, we headed up to Cortland, to Avedano’s Holly Park Market, where we perused our meat options.

No quail today, so we consoled ourselves with a whole Chicken (head on!) from Soul Food Farms.  As is usual, there was a little sticker shock with the price of a Soul Food Farms product.  “I just paid what for a whole chicken!?”  As this was our first time with this producer, we crossed our fingers that the flavor, and good feelings from supporting a small producer, would make it worth the price.

Monty and Squeaky Blue Ball (his favorite).

A nice family dog walk at Crissy Field, then back home to start cooking dinner.

Got home, Michele put on the music, while I cut up the chicken and started a simple stock with the chicken neck and back bones.

Made the Plum Cake.

Washed the beets and started them in the oven to roast.

The Fennel was indeed questionable, so decided to reprise a recent invention.

Nose to Tail Beets (or perhaps “Leaf to Root”?)

Ingredients:

1 bunch beets
2 cloves Garlic, sliced
Oregano
Thyme
chile flakes
raisins, chopped
olive oil
Chicken or Vegetable Stock.
salt

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 400.  Cut stems and leaves from beets.  Wash and clean.  Wrap in aluminum foil package, salting and adding a bit of olive oil.  Roast until tender.

Wash Beet greens and stems.  Chop stems into 1/8 inch pieces.  Slice Leaves.  Heat saute pan and add a couple tablespoons olive oil.  Add garlic slices and cook a couple.  Add Beet stems, Oregano, Thyme, salt, and Chile flakes.  Saute until tender.  Add beet leaves and splash in some stock.  Add raisins, cover, and cook until leaves are tender.  Check salt and add more if needed.

When Beets are cooked, rinse under cold water and remove outer skin. Cut into Eighths and add beets to pan with greens and stems.  Toss to mix and serve warm.

Started the Polenta. Roasted the Maitake Mushrooms.

Roasted Chicken.  One of my big issues with the recipe for the Squab was that they didn’t bother to use the fond from the roasting pan.  David! You’ve got a Pancetta and Squab fond, and you’re not going to at least make a pan sauce? Lazy!

So after the chicken was done, I started dripping based roux in roasting pan. Added the Chicken Stock I’d made. Finished pan sauce with Roasted Maitakes and some of pancetta which had been used to wrap the chicken.

Opened the wine.

Drin that bottle.

Carved the chicken and served it forth, perhaps not as beautiful as it would be at David Tanis’ house or Chez Panisse, but what can you do? I’m just a home cook! If it tastes good, I’m done.

Dinner.

And it was a really tasty chicken.  Totally worth the price, for flavor alone.  The good feeling of supporting a small producer, and happiness from making an amazingly delicious special dinner for my wife, were just icing on the cake.  An awesome Saturday night, I definitely made this one count!