Food writer and recipe tester Linda Avery reviews cookbooks.
When Tracey Medeiros moved to Vermont, she first noted all of the family-owned farms and she heard the word "sustainable" again and again - well before it peppered every culinary article (okay, no pun intended). Intrigued, she hunted for cookbooks that "were dedicated exclusively to Vermont products and recipes". Finding they were a rarity, she kicked into high gear determined to fill that void. Doing it right required research, meeting the farmers, the producers, the chefs and having community support. That took not only time but clocking a lot of miles on the road.
The result in 2008 was her first book Dishing Up Vermont. and apparently she loves taking road trips.
The new farm-focused book The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook, seems more personal with profile stories about each place she visited -- and there are many, along with very interesting people.
I counted 107 sources, and found myself smiling at some of the names and totally enjoyed reading the stories. Among them were Farmer Sue, Misery Loves Co., Vermont Cranberry, Eden Ice Cider Company, Smugglers' Notch Distillery, Misty Knoll Farms, and Square Deal Farm. The backstories were better than the names, and people photos personalized the stories. The gorgeous landscapes could be in a Visit Vermont pamphlet.
The book is structured by recipe category then contributor with cross-referencing. Information by source includes location, contact info, and recipe(s) contributed so if you want to walk in Tracey’s shoes (or drive in her ruts), the only thing you're missing is a road map. What a great tour.
Recipes include Pecan and Caramel French Toast Soufflé, Summer Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes, Blueberry Goat Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Rosemary, Penne with Creamy Smugglers’ Notch Vodka Sauce, Sapling Tiramisu, and Raisin Hell Pie (love the name).
Unfortunately I didn't have red polenta for this recipe but it lacked nothing with my plain yellow variety. Sherry in the broth adds dimension and if you have the time to make your own ricotta, it'll bring the dish to a new level.
Photo by Oliver Parini © 2013
Chef Ted Ask says, “For this recipe we grow the ‘Painted Mountain’ variety of red corn in the Twin Farms garden—it has done very well in this climate. After picking, we dry the ears, then remove the kernels for storage. This allows us to grind polenta to order for our dishes and have the garden featured on our menus throughout the winter months. The caring hands of Les Hook and Nova Kirn, from Wild Gourmet Food, provide the mushrooms, which are always picked with the thought of maintaining the land and preserving ihe wild mushroom patches for years to come.”
For the Polenta
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup coarse-ground or medium-ground polenta
For the Oyster Mushroom Broth
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces wild oyster mushrooms, trimmed and coarsely chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus 4 thyme sprigs for garnish
1 bay leaf
1-2 tablespoons dry sherry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Garlic Chips
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 elephant garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup ricotta cheese
Parsley leaves (optional)
1. To make the polenta: Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, add the polenta in a slow, steady stream. Continue stirring until the stock returns to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until thickened, 30 to 35 minutes. The polenta should pull away from the sides of the pan.
2. To make the oyster mushroom broth: Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over
medium-low heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft and golden, about 6 minutes.
Add the stock, thyme, and bay leaf and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 12 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Stir in sherry and season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. To make the garlic chips: While the mushroom broth is simmering, heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic and set aside on paper towels.
4. Spoon the polenta into bowls; top each serving with mushrooms, ricotta cheese, and garlic chips. Drizzle the mushroom broth over the polenta, garnish with thyme sprigs or parsley leaves, if desired, and serve.