Local Food: Northeast Family Farms

March 7, 2007 in beef, farm, Local Food, product, review

niman ham

As I promised, this post covers my experience with the [tag]New England Farmer’s Conference[/tag] in [tag]Sturbridge[/tag], MA this last week. This was the first year for this event and it was well attended. Many [tag]small farm[/tag] [tag]farmer[/tag]s packed into several auditoriums and theaters to listen to topics such as how to grow for and market to the [tag]public school[/tag]s in [tag]Massachusetts[/tag], how to build an effective [tag]marketing plan[/tag], how to build and project the “story” about your family farm so that people will feel attracted to it and your produce/products, etc.

In addition to these presentations there was a large convention floor filled with the trade show attendees. Makers of boxes and crates and bags for PYO fruit were next to specialty food producers offering samples of their delicious products.

The attendees were very well fed with sumptuous lunch buffets on both days. On the second day, selected foods from trade show exhibitors were showcased in the buffet.

Northeast Family Farms

One exhibitor that was quite popular was Northeast Family Farms, a brand of Dole and Bailey. (Top image shows some of their meat) They, by far, had the most compelling story for the average foodie of today. I spoke with Laura Sapienza-Grabski of Dole and Baily, a 137 year old [tag]New England[/tag] purveyor that had butcher stalls in Faneuil Hall, [tag]Boston[/tag], in the mid 1800s selling artisanal [tag]farm raised[/tag] [tag]Vermont[/tag] [tag]lamb[/tag]. In fact, if you look up on the columns of [tag]Faneuil Hall[/tag], you will find the name [tag]Dole and Bailey[/tag] inscribed in the facade.

Laura was quite enthusiastic about their support for [tag]local[/tag] ranchers and farmers as well as the attention to detail around how farmers and [tag]slaughterhouse[/tag]s treat their [tag]artisanal[/tag] [tag]meat[/tag]s and [tag]seafood[/tag]s. The effort it takes to find the farmers who are dedicated to [tag]sustainable[/tag] practices, the [tag]ethical[/tag] and organically correct methods for harvest/slaughter, and the presentation/positioning of this product in a marketplace saturated by faux [tag]USDA[/tag] [tag]organic[/tag] labeled foods is daunting. Its something I absolutely applaud, appreciate, and want to support.

Once you step beyond the very few choices of “natural” or “organic” meats in the [tag]big-box grocery[/tag] stores, you quickly realize that what is billed as organic or [tag]natural[/tag] (add your favorite euphemism) may not be in fact what you THINK it is. If you are an “ethical” buyer, you may be buying food that you think is grown humanely when in fact, it is not. If you are a “quality grown and processed” buyer, you are very likely misled. Government regulated organic labeling is pretty much worthless and regulation of self-labeling regarding ethical practices is likely less than exact (thank the current administration).

Dole and Bailey strives to inspect and [tag]authenticate[/tag] each part of the production process, including using organic certified slaughterhouses, something that can be difficult to find. I understand that the only organic slaughterhouse in [tag]Massachusetts[/tag] is no longer in operation so animals have to go out of state and then back in. If this is the case, I hope that a new one is back in operation soon, there is definitely a need for this as more and more local farmers opt-in on the sustainable and organic raising of animals.

Whew, OK, I likely do not need to preach to you. If you are reading this far, excellent, thanks! Take an [tag]eye candy[/tag] break and see some of Northeast Family Farm’s family of products.

Dole and Bailey features meats from several local New England farms:

[tag]Kobe Beef[/tag] from the BrigadoonFarm in Vermont

[tag]Veal[/tag] from Azaluna, calves nursed on their moms who get no antibiotics

[tag]Chicken[/tag] from MistyKnolls Farms in Vermont

[tag]Artisanal cheese[/tag]s from a huge list of NE cheese makers, the Massachusetts makers being:

[tag]Organic egg[/tag]s from The Country Hen from Hubbardston, MA

Country Hen in Hubbardston

A fantastic number of local farmers providing fresh produce to our region, such as:

And other hard to classify specialty foods such as:

What a fantastic bounty here in [tag]New England[/tag]!

If you can patronize Northeast Family Farms and these farmers and producers (even from afar, I am sure some of them ship), then do!

I am going to see how many of these hard working farmers I can visit personally. I am getting [tag]hungry[/tag] just thinking about it.

Stewing goodness: Oxtail soup and homemade corn tortillas

February 26, 2007 in beef, cookbook, cooking, Food Porn, ingredient, latino, recipe, review

Ahh, this was yesterday’s [tag]lunch[/tag]. For supper we had the [tag]soup[/tag], more [tag]meat[/tag], all over rice. This sort of food is just so amazingly fulfilling and filling. It is very fulfilling for the cook who likes to create foods that are rich, deep in flavor, and that start from very inauspicious ingredients. Oxtails are about as simple as you can get. No pretense!

I looked through all of my new [tag]latino[/tag] [tag]cookbook[/tag]s – [tag]Mexico One Plate At A Time[/tag], [tag]Mexican Everyday[/tag], and [tag]Secrets of Colombian Cooking[/tag] – and did not find any [tag]recipe[/tag]s for this soup, nor did I find anything in my enormous [tag]Gourmet Cookbook[/tag] (again, it strikes out.. one day I may actually make something from that cookbook). I wasn’t able to find anything about actual cooking of [tag]oxtail[/tag]s in my [tag]Culinary Institute of America[/tag] [tag]The Professional Chef[/tag] book either, pity. So, I did the sensible thing and turned to my [tag]The Joy of Cooking[/tag]. In it, I found the basics and went from there. The way I did it, it took 2 days. No reason to rush this.

I made the tortillas fresh from my new [tag]Rick Bayless[/tag] cookbook, Mexico One Plate At A Time. I used the dry [tag]Maseca Corn Masa Mix[/tag] and his recipe. Finally, I was able to make tortillas that were presentable! His directions are absolutely perfect. He is a GOD (*winks*) He also seems like a nice guy, would like to meet him one day.

If you look at the photos, you will see this mysterious symbol at the center of my tortillas. Ah, yes, the [tag]tortilla[/tag] [tag]Illuminati[/tag].. no, wait, actually, read to the bottom and you will see.

Onward to the recipes

[tag]Oxtail Soup[/tag], adapted from The Joy of Cooking

(about 7 C output)


  • Package of cut up oxtails (mine was something like 5 lbs, rinse them really well before use)
  • olive oil
  • [tag]sea salt[/tag]
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 8 C cold water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 C squash, diced
  • 10 quartered button mushrooms


Day 1

Grab a heavy bottom dutch oven/stock pot and add some olive oil, heat to medium high. Rinse oxtails and pat dry. Sprinkle with a slight amount of salt and ground pepper. Sear in the pot until a nice dark brown all over (will get your house smokey, become one with the smoke) .

Add 8 C cold water and bay leaves, bring to a simmer on low and covered. Simmer at least 4 hours. Cool pot and then put it in the fridge (we put ours in our mud room, our extra fridge in the winter) overnight.

Day 2

Remove solidified fat from surface of soup and then heat slowly back up to a simmer (covered). Add 1 C diced squash and 10 quartered button mushrooms.

Simmer for 3 hours and longer, as long as you can hold yourself at bay.

Joy says to remove the meat and fat from the bones and put only the meat back in. I left it all on the bone because people around here like to gnaw meat from bones, go figure.

Las Tortillas

As I mentioned before, I have started delving into my new cookbook by Rick Bayless, Mexico One Plate At A Time, and the first thing I wanted to try was his method for making [tag]corn tortilla[/tag]s. I am going to paraphrase it here, there are many more details is in the book itself.

A while back, [tag]Homesick Texan[/tag] did a beautiful post on making corn tortillas. She used a nifty tortilla press, which I do not have. To make both my corn and flour tortillas, I use a cast iron pan. In particular, I use this square Emerilware cast iron grill pan because it is darn heavy. (I got it for free when I bought a set of Emerilware stainless steel pots and pans at Linens and Things, its awesome stuff – All Clad)

It works like a charm BUT there is one issue. Almost every tortilla I make is embossed with the “[tag]Emeril[/tag]” logo that is on the bottom of the pan. So my tortillas say “liremE” (tho not terribly legibly). Thats the funky circle you see on the tortilla in today’s photos. Without further trivial ado, here are the details.

Bayless Tortillas


  • 1 3/4 C Maseca Corn Masa Mix
  • 1C & 2 tablespoons hot water (actually as much as is needed, see directions)


Have two cast iron pans (well seasoned), both dry, one on medium low heat (for 1st stage) and the other on medium high heat (for 2nd stage).

Mix 1C hot water with the Maseca with your hands. Incorporate more water until it is like a soft cookie dough but not sticky. Since I live the the cold frozen dry-as-a-bone-North East, I had to add a lot of water because the Maseca was quite dessicated.

Make dough balls the size of large walnuts (or to the size you think works best for you). Cut open a heavy duty 1 gallon freezer zip-lock back, down the sides but not along the bottom (so it opens up into a long rectangle). You can use a tortilla press or my method (the counter and a heavy pan pushed down onto the ball from above). Squish the ball flat, open the press or pull away the pan, and rotate the bag 180 degrees and squish again. This evens it out.

Peel off one side of the plastic bag, lay the tortilla onto your hand and then peel off the other side of the bag. Gently put this raw tortilla in the cooler pan and allow to cook 15 or so seconds. It wont take on any brown color but you can tell, when you flip it in a second, that it has cooked a bit. Take a fork and gently pick up this partially cooked tortilla and flip over and into the hotter pan. Let it cook 30 to 45 seconds and then flip again and cook some 15 seconds. Bayless said that if you did a good job with the masa dough, the tortilla should puff a bit at this stage, mine did! It should NOT end up looking like a pita bread tho.

Remove to something like another 1 gallon zip lock bag that holds in heat and moisture so that the tortillas soften up a bit (might need to put the bag between foil or some cloths).

Enjoy with a bit of salt, butter, and your oxtail meat!

Books of Interest:

Products of Interest:

Cabernet Sauvignon – Guinness Brown Beef Sauce

January 1, 2006 in beef, cooking, drink, Food Porn, How-2, recipe

Beef Wine Guinness stock reduction

We (my husband, my mom, and I) adapted a Demi-glace-based brown sauce recipe from the Culinary Institute of America’s textbook The Professional Chef 7th Ed., p. 287. Sure this recipe breaks some rules, but we are not enrolled at the CIA and don’t have to follow the rules! For example, the wine should be reduced separately and many more pots would be used in the traditional method. We used one baking sheet, two stock pots, and one 12 inch cast iron skillet.

We melded elements from the Bordelaise and Chateaubriand sauce protocols as well as inspirations of our own, including the Guinness. This recipe will allow for wide variation in its ingredients and their proportions and still turn out great. The technique and loving patience are what matter most.

Note that this recipe takes two or more days. This time is WELL worth the effort. The resulting sauce stores well in the refrigerator or freezer.

(Copyright 2006 email us for permission to use recipe or photo)

Cabernet Sauvignon – Guinness Brown Beef Sauce

Stock ingredients:
One 3 foot beef thigh bone, cut by butcher, into 6 inch parts
Water for stock, as needed
1.5 liters Cabernet Sauvignon (good quality, not the boxed kind!)
2 11.2 ounce bottles of Guinness
Ham bone
1/2 C ham trimmings

Mirepoix ingredients:
8 large carrots, 1 inch dice
8 celery stalks, 1 inch dice
6 ounces mushrooms (equal parts: shitake, baby bella, and oyster)
1 large white onion, 1 inch dice
1 large Vidalia onion, 1 inch dice
5 shallots, small dice
6 cloves garlic, small dice
1 stick clarified butter
8 ounces tomato paste

Bouquet Garni ingredients:
3 sprigs of fresh
– Sage
– Tarragon
– Thyme
2 Rosemary stalks

Roux ingredients:

3/4 C drippings from 11 lb roasted beef rib roast (or the current meat you are roasting or have saved drippings from)
3/4 C all purpose flour

4 parts sauce to 1 part heavy cream

Stock Directions:

Day 1

Roast bone pieces on an oiled pan at 425 F until brown (about 45 mins).

Pour grease off pan and scrape up any non-grease drippings, add to stock pot.

Place roasted bones into cold water in a large stock pot (to cover bones).

Bring to simmer and continue for 5 hours. Remove scum occasionally with slotted spoon.

Add water to keep bones submerged, as needed.

Add ham bone and trimmings, boil 2 hours more. (This can be omitted or you can add other sorts of bones but try not to add something that has a really strong aroma to it.)

Remove from heat and place in refrigerator or cold room over night.

Day 2

In the morning, remove solid fat from top of stock.

Replace pot to stove and add wine and beer to stock, bring to simmer.

Simmer for 7 hours, uncovered, and continue to skim.

Prepare mirepoix (see directions below).

Remove bones.

Add prepared mirepoix (in batches if necessary) and bring stock back to a simmer.

Simmer 2 hours, uncovered.

Remove boiled mirepoix with slotted spoon to colander, catch dripping back into pot. (This cooked mirepoix is tasty and can make a nice snack.)

Strain stock into another stock pot through a colander with several layers of cheese cloth, removing top layers as necessary when they become saturated with solids and block further drainage. Have a lot of the cheese cloth on hand as this straining should be repeated several times. You can rinse the cloth and reuse.

Return to a boil for 45 minutes.

Add Bouquet Garni (can be loose to be removed later or in a sack) and then boil for a further 45 minutes or so.

Continue boiling until stock volume is reduced to about 1/2 to 3/4 of a gallon.

This reduction is done when the stock begins to thicken (to coat back of a spoon).

Remove bouquet garni and strain stock through fine colander.

Cool until remaining fat congeals and remove it. (This can be stored frozen or refrigerated.).

If chilled at this point, the stock will congeal into a gelatin.

Spoon all of the roux mixture (see directions below) into simmering reduced stock slowly, stir until incorporated.

Simmer gently for 20 minutes and then cool, until thickened.

This can be stored in the refrigerator to be spooned out into a sauce pan as needed, if not used immediately.

Prior to service, warm 4 parts sauce in a medium heat sauce pan and then add 1 part heavy cream. Do not boil. Continue simmer

This sauce has a lovely velvety sheen, even before the addition of cream, but if you wish to make it even more decadent you can also do a Monter au Beurre*.

Allow cream to warm in the sauce and then slowly add a small amount of butter (1/2 inch thick butter pat). Just as that is almost melted, ad the next butter pat. Depending on the volume, you can add 1/2 a stick of butter to a whole stick. Take care; you do not want your sauce becoming the Exxon Valdez of the sauce world. Alton Brown did an AMAZING episode on butter, including a Beurre Blanc sauce.

Associated directions:

Mirepoix directions:
Put carrots, celery, mushrooms, onions, shallots, and garlic into a hot skillet with clarified butter. If needed, do in batches and add to simmering stock as each batch is done. It takes about 15 minutes at medium heat to bring carrots to a nice brown stage. Add tomato paste to each batch after the vegetables have browned, about 4 minutes before transferring batch to stock.

Roux directions:

Collect clear beef fat (about 3/4 C fat) from roasted prime rib roast that had been coated with a kosher salt crust. Any salt that had fallen into roast fat is all the salt that will be included in this stock/sauce. Heat fat in sauce pan, sift in 3/4 C all purpose flour slowly. Whisk to avoid lumps. The secret here is to essentially have equal amounts of fat to flour. Simmer 7 – 10 mins at medium heat, stirring constantly, until the roux thickens and the flour has been cooked to a medium brown color.

* To go up to Butter: To incorporate in the whip or by rotational movements, of butter in a sauce. This applies especially in the phases of completion of sauces. Source – translated from French, Untranslated link.

Related External Links

– Alton Brown’s “A Case for Butter” episode
– Alton Brown’s recipe for Raymond Beurre Blanc
Meilleur du Chef (French language cuisine resource site)
Meilleur du Chef in English