Monday, December 13, 2010

White Out

It was indeed white out this weekend, and very cold, windy, but thrilling, as well, and beautiful. We got out to Bide-A-Wee Friday afternoon, did some housekeeping, took a walk, brought in firewood, fried a couple of steaks, listened to some music, as well as to the increasingly emphatic predictions for the weekend snowstorm. Late in the evening it started, so that by bedtime, when I opened the cabin door it swept away snow as it opened, with a good six inches clearance from the deck.

Then Saturday morning looked like this:

And the afternoon, and evening, as well. We hunkered down. Mary shoveled a path to the woodpile, no farther. The car was parked at the top of our steep drive, just far enough from the road so the plough wake wouldn't bury it. Saturday brunch, scrambled eggs with smoked fish. Saturday supper, leftover sauerkraut, added smoked sausage (Whole Farm Co-op), and fresh Polish (Seward Co-op).

Sunday morning, bright, clear, cold, and white. The dogs were indignant at the bitter chill, lifted one frosty foot after another, looked at us as if to say, "Fix this, would ya?" They wouldn't stay out long, though long-legged Lily got some running in.

We had corn-apple pancakes for breakfast, listened to the radio, stoked the woodstove. All Sunday the wind worked the snow, shaping drifts, sculpting intricate designs on the surface. Occasionally it blew the windows open.

Sunday afternoon the plow came by--a road grader fitted with a massive wedge plow in the front, a wing plow on the side. I dug through the deep wake it left, and determined that we could get out if we needed too. The plow had made a pass on Saturday, too, but that only served to create a void into which prodigious amounts of snow could drift. Just east of our driveway entrance, the drifts were chest-high.

Sunday afternoon I worked on a relish to have with warm goat cheese. I meant to coat little pucks of fresh chevre with bread crumbs and black pepper on one side, crushed wild hazelnuts on the other, then fry them. I wanted something a bit tart-sweet to serve with them, and I've been noticing the fresh cranberries from Wisconsin Rapids at the co-op. The chutney would be the blast of color in a white weekend and an evening of white food. It was a total success. It needs a day to rest. I discovered that if you've forgotten or run out of dried apples, you can slice an apple, line a sieve with the slices, set the sieve in a cast iron skillet atop a Four Dog woodstove, and have dried apples in a couple of hours. They gave a nice, slightly chewy texture to the chutney.

I cooked the cheese a little too long, so it was difficult to turn and the crust kind of fell off. I shouldn't have turned my back on the frying pan; I should have stuck the coated chevre pucks in the freezer for a while before cooking them. It was tastier than it was beautiful:

Cranberry Maple Chutney
makes about one-half cup

½ cup fresh Wisconsin cranberries, quartered
1 small shallot, minced
¼ cup dried apples, chopped
2 tsp butter
Pinch salt
½ a small dried red chili, crumbled*
2 Tbsp maple syrup
½ cup water

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the shallots. Gently sweat them without browning for 4 or 5 minutes, until a bit soft and translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer, partly covered, until the mixture is thick and most of the water has evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes.

This is best if you make it a day or two ahead and give it some time for all the flavors to come together. Delicious with a round of hot goat cheese, and it would be great with pork, bison, venison, turkey, or game birds.

*Note: This was quite spicy; reduce the amount of chili if you’re concerned about it being too hot.

We followed that up with a creamy potato soup. Comfort food, indeed.

I'm not sure how much snow we got. My best guess: A lot. Over 18 inches was reported in the Menomonie area. With all the blowing and drifting, precise measurement is pretty hard, but I can say that there was knee-deep snow everywhere, and like, ridiculous snow everywhere else. A different world out there now. And I do believe that hunting season may be over (aside from plunking the odd rabbit in the front yard...).

Text and photos copyright 2010 by Brett Laidlaw


el said...

Brr. Comparatively, we got bupkis. Windy though! Sheesh! Sounds like a wonderful white weekend however. Did you pack in any books?

And yes, cranberries are wonderful in chutney!! Local is as local does; apples and cranberries, yum. Sweet and tart.

Did you harvest the hazelnuts? They're around here, just not in my immediate environment.

ESP said...

I loved that last shot!
My family in Scotland are having an incredibly hard winter...insane temperatures and continuing deep Russian Arctic cold fronts keep blowing through.
Have you tried Emeril Lagasse's beef and baby root vegetable fricassee? It is one I always revert to in cold weather (well as close as it gets to cold in Central Texas)...and oh, is it good...really good!
I will scan the recipe if you do not already have it...let me know.
Great winter images.


angie said...

Hi Brett,

Sigh... I often sigh after reading your posts. That sounds like a perfect weekend with lovely food and beautiful weather. Do you and Mary have snowshoes?

Trout Caviar said...

Hello El: We keep a little library out there. Mary's reading "War and Peace" on her Kindle, believe it or not. I worked my way through the New Yorker food issue--excellent piece on Sandor Katz and fermentation culture. Most memorable nugget from that article, though I paraphrase: "If you attempt to kill all the bacteria in your life, you are literally committing suicide...".

But anyway, yes, I foraged those hazelnuts. You have to pick a lot to get a few good ones, and gather them a bit green, before the squirrels, et al, run away with them.

Nice to hear from you,ESP. I've heard some harrowing tales from Europe, too--friends arrived in Paris in the midst of an epic blizzard, 4 1/2 hour trip from airport to town! Beef and root veg sounds excellent--I'll be browning up some oxtails in a bit, to oven braise with shallots and carrots. You keep sending us warm thoughts from the heart of Texas, ya hear? (p.s.~ I heard a great song this past weekend, I can't imagine what it was in reference to: "Please Don't Blame it all on Texas"!)

Hi Angie: Well, I consider sighing to be high praise! There's a good bit of toil involved in Bide-A-Wee winter weekends, but that just makes us appreciate the heartening food, reading sessions and naps under the quilt, all the more. We do have snowshoes, and XC skis, got around on the snowshoes last weekend--but it was still hard trudging, you'd sink down a foot or more with each step. I'll work on setting some ski trails next weekend.

Did you get the snow in Chicago, or down on the farm?

Cheers, all~ Brett

el said...

Ooo! You'll have to ask her for me: the Maude or the Bromfield edition? I've read both and I think the Bromfield one was better (and shorter!) but who knows, maybe not every edition is electronic now.

We used to harvest hazelnuts when we were kids, toast them in a dry pan (probably Teflon as it was the 70s) and you're right; I remember a lot of them being duds.

Trout Caviar said...

El: It's the Bromfield.


Nina LeSaout said...

Hey Mr. Caviar.....
Love that picture of Lily - it shows off her beard quite nicely.

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Nina! "Mr Caviar," I like that--about time somebody showed me the respect I deserve around here.

Lily is a pretty photogenic dog in the field, and on those sunny days in the snow, the light is amazing--I think I was shooting at something like 1/800 of a second.

"Bitten by the beard" is how they sometimes describe griffon fanciers...!

Cheers to ya~ Brett