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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cook With Me: The Season of Eating with The Southern Host

Ed and Valerie's Old Apple Orchard 

I call fall The Season of Eating; as the temps cool, we need more fuel. Right? Fuel food and friends.
What is your favorite fall food memory?

A few weeks ago we traveled north a couple of hours with our good friend, Neil Smith, aka The Southern Host. Please check out his new blog, about Entertaining. And Food. C'est naturel, we were excited about a weekend of fall in Salem and Roanoke which we had heard so much about from Neil, who grew up raising all sorts of food and a bit of hellfire on a 200 acre farm near Salem.

The Southern Host, Mr. Neil Smith

Neil and apples and fall go back. Way back about oh, a thousand years to when I first met Neil. It was in the fall, duh, and he was in the audience at Barnes and Noble for an heirloom apple event with Lee Calhoun. Lee is an expert, on Old Southern Apples. While Lee discussed the finer points of his book, Old Southern Apples, I demoed how to make apples pie. Neil ate. Then we chatted, and we've been eating and chatting ever since. But Neil grew up in and around apples and cider on a 200 acre farm near Salem, Virginia.

On Friday night we ate at Blue Apron Restaurant and Red Rooster Bar and holy Rigatoni with Veal & Foie Gras Meatballs, sweet potato-pimentone cream, and shitake mushrooms  - this was a super sweet find. Just the right mix of ambiance and simplicity. The ambiance brought sophistication and an affinity to the land and local farms together on the same plate. A warm bucolic beat of the eating season. Don't you think fall is the season of eating? Other southern venues and restaurants BAR brought to mind were Birmingham with Hot and Hot Fish Club, Athens with Farm 255, and even Atlanta with JCT Kitchen.

The morning dawned bright, clear, and cool. After an oatmeal breakfast out on his Orange Marmalade Momma Queen, Martha Smith's, screened porch we visited the Grandin Village Community Market, a small scale specialty and mostly organic Farmer's Market that supports local sustainable agriculture. Neil bought peppers and chestnuts (!!) from his Aunt Betty and Uncle Clyde who "sell fresh local flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and more, all produced by a rare wondrous mixture of soil, seed, labor, and love" at their very own Catawba Meadow Farm.

Apple cider and apples. A perfect beginning to Fall and to follow. Merci, Mr. Smith!

 Catawba Meadow Farm

Aunt Betty at their Stand, Grandin Village Community Market

Ed pressing cider. 

Beautiful 20 year old apple tree

Golden delicious apples

pork and apple stew with fennel

this recipe says fall, without a doubt. once your mise en place is assembled, a term meaning your ingredients are chopped and ready to be thrown in the fire, you’re almost soup, or home. i really like the bonus of mesmerizing chopping. the fragrance of browning the meat, the tart/sweet apples, the deep accent of the stout, and the combination of turnips and sweet potatoes all contribute to the ambiance of the dish. now all we need is a crackling fire. and friends coming by soon...very soon!

serves  8-10

2 1/2 pounds lean pork shoulder, cut into 1/2 " cubes
2 tablespoons butter or oil
2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
6 cloves garlic, crushed but not minced
5 medium size tart apples, such as arkansas black, granny smith, pippin, or jonagold, peeled, cored, and chunked
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chunked
1 bulb fennel, thickly sliced
3 onions, thickly sliced
3 medium turnips, peeled and quartered
2 medium golden beets, peeled and quartered
2 cups stout, such as guinness
additional beef stock, if necessary
1 dozen peeled sweet chestnuts
1 teaspoon each thyme, sage, and crushed fennel seed
1 tablespoon coarse grain mustard
3 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
salt, freshly ground  black  and white peppercorns to taste
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

heat a large dutch oven or  large heat proof casserole over medium high heat. 

brown the pork cubes in the butter, doing this in 2 batches, so as not to crowd the pot.  remove the meat to a the same pot, reduce the heat to medium and sautĂ© the garlic and onion, till translucent.  stir in the flour till it is completely absorbed.  then pour in the stout, bring to a boil, mixing well to thicken the sauce.  add the browned pork and all the remaining vegetables and seasonings. 

bring the sauce to a boil, cover the pot and place in the oven for 20 minutes.  reduce the heat to 250 degrees and cook for an additional 1 1/2 -2 hours.  continue to check  the vegetables for doneness. serve with some crusty bread for dipping into the sauce.

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