Where's the book?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

One fish, two fish, so many new fish. 
I'm a decent cook. Have I said that before? I love to cook, I find it creative and calming. There's something meditative about chopping and mixing and blending. And what's the result? Good stuff to eat.

Last weekend I took a two-day cooking class with a couple of friends. The class was called Sustainable Local Seafood Orgy, a bunch of words I never thought I'd see in one phrase. It was taught by a very talented chef and cookbook author, Peter Berley, who happens to have a house down the street and around the corner from my little cottage on the North Fork of Long Island. A couple of years ago, before I met him or heard about him, I watched as some sort of renovation/addition took place at his home. It looked like they were adding on a big room. That room turned out to be a big, beautiful kitchen with one wall taken up by a beautiful wood-burning oven. There's a long wooden table down the middle of the room, for cooking and dining, and two gas ovens, sinks, a counter with a range, shelves, a pantry...it's cook's heaven, in other words.

The class ran Saturday 2-8 PM and Sunday 10 AM-2 PM. What did we make, you ask? What didn't we make, I answer. Wood-roasted clams (in that beautiful oven), roasted monkfish, sauteed kale, mashed potatoes with parsnips and turnips, two oyster dishes (one roasted with aioli and one raw with sherry mignonette), pan-roasted whiting, seared scallops with a cauliflower-leek puree and brown butter (the aroma!), a seafood risotto (which required making fish stock), and a shaved fennel salad. And for dessert, cinnamon almond shortbread and one of the best warm chocolate cakes I've ever eaten. And everything -- from the oysters to the kale to the milk and eggs we used in cake -- was local, from the amazing bounty of the North Fork, still providing, even in the middle of frozen winter. 

The ricotta curd-ing.
The clams roasting.
The whiting snuggling.
The cake cooling.

A friend at the farm.
We also took a side trip to nearby Ty Llwyd farm that sells fresh eggs and veggies and raw milk from their own little herd of cows -- in glass bottles. The sight of the cream rising to the top made me feel all Little-House-on-the-Prairie happy. I learned how to shuck oysters, something I've always wanted to do. And without bleeding or losing a finger! But my favorite thing was learning how to make fresh ricotta from that raw milk, which we served with the almond shortbread cookies and a dried fruit compote for dessert. I brought my raw milk home and made another batch on my own -- it's very easy -- and used it for lasagna and blueberry ricotta scones (Smitten Kitchen recipe, very good -- she made hers with raspberries; I had blueberries on hand, so...).

Smitten's scones, Mine were blue.
We drank much wine (also from the North Fork) and met nice folks, including Peter himself and his wife Meggan, a young couple from Brooklyn who brought their two-year-old on Sunday (despite my aversion to little ones in big people places, she was pretty well-behaved and darn cute) and a teacher from Smithtown.

And in case you'd like to know how, here's the secret to the most delicious ricotta cheese:

1/2 gallon raw whole milk (you can find out where to buy it here)
7 TB distilled white vinegar or lemon juice (I used vinegar)
1 tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream
(if you make it without the cream, I'm told, it comes out more like paneer or queso frescro -- I haven't tried this but will and I'll let you know how it turns out)

Combine everything in a pot and slowly bring it to a very gentle simmer. The curds will begin to separate -- stir it very gently once or twice, with a large slotted spoon. There's no need to stir much. When it begins to simmer, shut it off and leave it alone for 10-15 minutes, then strain into a bowl. Leave it a little bit wet, because it will firm up as it cools. Put it in the fridge to cool and firm. How simple is that?

The pale milky stuff left behind is the whey (remember Miss Muffet? eating her curds and whey?). You can save this and use it for baking or in soup (potato leek would be nice). I'll let you know how that goes, too.

But what the hell's a tuffet? It looks like she's sitting on a Hostess Ding Dong.


  1. What a wonderful weekend! My favorite picture - and despite that delicious-looking cake - might be the moo cow. She (he?) looks really nice.

    You've got a follower :)

    1. It's a he. They were all "she" except that one.

  2. She looks sooooooo nice. Makes me want a moo cow.