The Alchemical Kitchen: Pantry raid

By Rebecca Brenner

Time for an all-out DIY-preserved local feast.
by Rebecca Brenner

I don’t know if it’s the seed catalogs piling up or planning the summer harvest dinners at Copper Moose Farm, but I’m suddenly serious about using all the goodies I preserved from last season. It’s time for a beginning-to-end preserved, local, DIY winter meal.

The menu: pork chops with a mustard mushroom sauce; edible flower pesto with sautéed onions over winter greens and rehydrated tomatoes; squash soup; salad with homemade chive blossom and garlic vinaigrette; mixed berry soufflé; and homemade dandelion wine, ginger ale and pumpkin beer.

Revisiting the last year’s Alchemical Kitchen columns, you’ll find recipes for making and preserving pesto, chive blossom and garlic vinegar, dandelion wine and homemade sodas, along with easy ways to freeze fruit. Other homemade elements of the feast: husband Allan’s pumpkin ale, dehydrated tomatoes, vegetable stock from the freezer and well-stored root vegetables. The pork chops come from Taylormade Beef of Emery, Utah.

On Friday I raid the freezer for the pork chops, berries and vegetable stock. A day or so in the refrigerator and they should all be thawed. I snag a few beers and bottle of dandelion wine from the basement to chill alongside the food. Half the fun is the anticipation, and I know Allan will sneak one of those beers before the next evening.

Saturday morning I stop by Tony Caputo’s for local eggs, wild mushrooms and winter greens. I drool over the amazing artisan cheeses in their cheese cave. I promise myself some day I’ll have a cheese room of my own.

Home again, I get right to baking and cooking. With the dehydrated tomatoes soaking in warm water, I start with the dessert—mixed berry soufflé. I blend the berries, then mix with eggs, milk, flour and sugar. I fill each soufflé dish to the top, place them on a baking sheet and nestle them into the refrigerator. The recipe says to bake them for only 15 minutes and serve piping hot, so I’ll bake them after the meal. (And while they bake, I’ll turn the raw milk from my last trip to Heber into whipped cream, with maybe a bit of fresh-grated nutmeg.)

Soufflés chilling, I head to the basement to pick out my best squash, a couple of onions and a head of garlic. I know I’m anthropomorphizing, but I can’t help but gleefully greet them and think that just maybe they are excited to see me too, even though they are about to be turned into soup. I assure them it is their time to shine.

I’m on a roll now—soup is simmering and I’ve placed the frozen pesto into a pan with chopped onion and rehydrated chopped tomatoes. Once the pesto is thawed and the onions are sweating, I’ll sauté some winter greens. Until then, I turn my attention to the pork chops and mushroom sauce.

A side note here: I’ve been a solid vegetarian for almost 17 years. I cook various local meats for clients and for our harvest dinners, but I’ve been known at those dinners to pile my own plate full of extra veggies and skip the meat. That was until I got pregnant. The Alchemical Kitchen is expecting a little chef this spring. Needing more iron, I’ve been enjoying local meats this winter.

I slice two cups of mushrooms. (I decided on shiitake, but any mushroom would work with this recipe.) I sauté onions and the mushrooms in butter. The pork chops are seasoned.

Then, the flurry of activity. Allan takes charge of table setting and ambiance. I simultaneously sauté greens, brown chops and make a mushroom sauce. A few charred onions and a minor burn on my pinky finger later, the salad is tossed with homemade chive blossom and garlic vinaigrette and we’re ready to enjoy our almost-all-local-homemade-DIY-preserved winter meal.

We sit. Allan pours me some DIY ginger ale and, for himself, dandelion wine. We toast to the Earth, to the farmers, to the animals and to the microbes. Cheers!

Pork Chops in Mushroom and Mustard Sauce

4 pork chops
Salt and pepper
1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbs. plus 3 more tbs. unsalted butter
2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 tbs. minced onion
3 tbs. homemade chive blossom and garlic vinegar
2 tbs. grainy mustard
3/4 cup homemade vegetable or chicken stock

Season chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and one tablespoon unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until butter foams. Sauté two chops on one side until golden brown, about three minutes. Flip, and sauté until cooked through, about two to three more minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining chops.

Add sliced mushrooms, minced onion and one tablespoon unsalted butter to skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until mushrooms are golden, about two minutes. Add vinegar and grainy mustard, scraping brown bits from bottom with a wooden spoon, then stock and any plate juices. Simmer until sauce reduces by half, about three minutes. Gradually stir in two tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces) until just melted. Season to taste.

Mixed Berry Soufflés

2 tbs. unsalted butter, chilled
more butter at room temperature to coat dishes
½ cup granulated sugar, plus some for sprinkling
8 large egg yolks plus 10 large egg whites at room temperature
2 tbs. organic all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus 2 tbs. berries, blended
1 cup whole milk

Butter six 12-ounce soufflé dishes and dust with granulated sugar. Whisk together yolks, flour and two tablespoons granulated sugar.

Bring milk to a boil, then slowly pour into yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent yolks from cooking. Return mixture to pan and whisk until thick like a pudding—one to two minutes. Strain through a sieve, and whisk in butter and berry juice.

Beat whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir a third of the whites into the yolk mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining whites.

Fill each soufflé dish to the top and smooth. Run your thumb around edges to remove batter from the rims. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet until soufflés rise and are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Top with homemade whipped cream and serve immediately.

Super Simple Squash Soup

1 medium red onion, chopped
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 tbs. celery seeds
1 tbs. ground mustard seeds
½ tbs. salt
½ tbs. black pepper
2 tbs. olive oil or butter
8 cups water

In a large stock pot heat oil on medium heat for one to two minutes. Sauté onion and seasonings for five minutes. Add water and squash and bring to boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until squash is tender. Remove squash and onion from stock and puree. Mix with stock and simmer for 5-10 minutes more. Serve warm.

Use local and/or organic ingredients whenever possible. The pork chop and soufflé recipes are adapted from recipes from the Martha Stewart website.

This article was originally published on January 29, 2010.