I am frequently asked when I am going to write a "cookbook". It is something I have long desired and threatened to do, and I suppose someday I will, but the busy life of farming seems to always place higher priorities on other projects. In the meantime, I shall strive to throw an occasional "recipe" your way. I hesitate to use the word recipe as my cooking style is very improvisational, much like my musicianship. I suppose a more accurate description would be a "cooking inspiration". I find that I have accumulated many "riffs" and "chops" and culinary "chord progressions" over the years and when I set about to prepare a meal I draw from this repertoire for structural direction, but rely on the ingredients, tools and resources at hand to summon my culinary creativity in the moment.
This Wednesday, we visited the lovely Shemanski Park Farmer's Market in downtown Portland, which inhabits a peaceful, tree-lined, park-like median reminiscent of "La Rambla" in Barcelona, Spain. We made quick, friendly banter with the charming vendors and shoppers, soaking in the pleasant shade of the August afternoon. The impeccable quality of the produce selection filled us with culinary inspiration and we departed with a colorful and radiant array of summery abundance. Earthy-new purple potatoes, deep green poblano chilis, plump juicy tomatoes--striped with the rich, fiery colors of a summer sunset, "Rich Lady" peaches and thin-skinned, mellow Walla Walla onions. As Rose steered us homeward in the Magic Meat Truck through the Misty Mountains along the Nehalem River, I decided to get an early start on cooking our evening farm meal.
We have recently purchased an "InstaPot" type pressure-slow cooker unit for times such as this. The truck is equipped with a robust bank of Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, so we have ample power available, and the pot-cooker is much more practical for on-the-road use than a "hotplate" type unit. I am still getting accustomed to cooking with the gadget, but have found it to be quite useful. It has become a typical practice for Rose and myself to take turns driving whilst the other is beginning dinner prep in the back of the truck, which we typically finish off upon our arrival at the farm. The meal I prepared for us today was so deeply satisfying that I have decided to share it with you. It won't be in a traditional "recipe" format, but I encourage you to follow along and recreate you own, personalized version. Your own improvisation.
I began by setting the cooker to "Sauté" and placing three seasoned duck legs skin side down in the pan. As the fat rendered out of the legs, I flipped them to brown lightly on both sides. Removing the legs to a platter, I repeated the procedure with three more legs. In the meantime, I coarsely chopped one poblano chili and one medium onion. In the abundant pool of sizzling, aromatic duck fat rendered into the pan, I sautéed the chopped onion and pepper briskly, adding six whole garlic cloves in their skin, and one whole peach, stirring frequently. While that mixture was happily cooking, Roman and Madrona eagerly sorted out all of the new potatoes smaller than a large olive. We added those to the pot and sizzled the mixture for a few minutes. I re-incorporated the browned duck legs, along with a generous pint of our flavorful poultry broth. Stirring together thoroughly, I then closed the lid and set the unit to "pressure cook" for 20 minutes.
The timer completed just as we arrived at our Neverstill Ranch. I lugged the cooker into the farmhouse to complete the meal preparations in the farm kitchen. Arranging the duck legs on a platter to rest, I used a slotted spoon to separate the vegetables from the intoxicatingly aromatic broth and place them in a bowl. As Rose harvested a delightful selection of herbs from her garden I finely diced a medium tomato and about a quarter of a sweet onion. I tossed these with finely minced fennel fronds, lemon verbena, mountain mint, tarragon and a whisp of cilantro, finally adding a splash of red wine farm vinegar and an abundant grind of coarse sea salt, forming a frenchy-version of 'Pico de Gallo' salsa. As I carried out these preparations, I sloshed a glug of vinegar into the brothy-pan juices and reduced them vigorously over high heat.
By now the duck legs had rested to a moderately warm temperature and we enjoyed them in shallow soup-plates, garnished with the herbed-tomato salsa, a ladle of the vinegary pan sauce, and sided with a mound of the potato-peach-poblano stew. Paired with a Cremant d'Alsace we had procured at Vinopolis on the way home, we relished in an idyllic summer meal and reflected on our delicious life. Much to my delight and chagrin, there were no leftovers!
We are all eager to see you in the Magic Meat Truck this week!
--George, Rose, Roman, Madrona and River