06/12/11 4:51am
06/12/2011 4:51 AM

O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command. With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the true North strong and free! … From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
Excerpt from the
Canadian national anthem

Although I’ve lived on the North Fork for most of my life, I was born in Canada and have a warm spot in my heart for our Canadian neighbor. On a recent visit to Ontario, to my home town of Chatham, I found much in common with the North Fork: the rural landscape on Lake Erie with lots of farming of fruits and vegetables; the nearby freshwater fish of Lake Erie and the not-far-away fish and shellfish of the Atlantic Ocean; the local wines from the Niagara Peninsula and the regions along the shore of Lake Erie; and finally, the near proximity of Toronto and other population centers to provide consumers of the local produce.
The popular local freshwater fish include Great Lakes perch, pickerel and pike. They are sort of like our flounder in that they are a prized local product that is available, but not in great abundance.
Much of the fresh Atlantic seafood we eat on the North Fork actually comes from Canada. We are all familiar with Prince Edward Island mussels or Nova Scotia farmed salmon, but we are not often aware that a large percentage of our live “Maine” lobsters, fresh harpoon-landed swordfish and white-fleshed halibut also come from the northern waters of Canada. As wild supplies of our local fish have dwindled in quantity and become more expensive, we rely on steady supplies of fresh seafood from Canada to round out our seafood menu and get us through the season. Here are some recipes for these delicious products:

Poached Halibut with Leeks,
Shallots, Snap Peas and Mussels
Purchase 1 pound of halibut, about 2 inches thick, and 1 pound of Prince Edward Island mussels. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a shallow soup pot and add 1 chopped leek (white part only), 1/4 cup minced shallots, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley. Cook, covered, at low heat until vegetables soften.
Cut the halibut into 4 thick chunks and place on top of the vegetables. Add 1/2 cup sauvignon blanc and the rinsed mussels. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Season with freshly ground pepper and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Add 2 cups sugar snap peas (or green beans), cover and cook until the mussels begin to open and the fish turns opaque. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme and continue cooking until fish is fully cooked and mussels are open.
Serve over brown rice and garnish with lemon and chopped parsley.
Serves 4.

Sautéed Perch with Corn Sauce
Purchase 2 pounds of perch fillets. Dip them in 1/2 cup buttermilk and roll them in 1 cup cornmeal. Season with coarse salt and pepper and set aside.
Scrape the kernels off 4 ears of corn and sauté them in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter with 1/4 cup shallots, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme and the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Place half of this mixture in a food processor and purée. Add the purée back to the kernels in the pan and season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Heat a large sauté pan and add 3 tablespoons canola oil. When shimmering hot, sauté the perch fillets until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Place the corn sauce on 4 plates and the sautéed fish on top. Serve with steamed kale and pan-roasted fingerling potatoes.
Serves 4.

Cedar Planked Canadian Salmon with Maple Glaze
Soak 4 cedar cooking planks — available in fish stores or gourmet cooking shops — in water for at least 30 minutes. Cut 2 pounds of fresh Nova Scotia farmed salmon into 4 portions. Prepare a marinade of 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Marinate from 30 minutes up to 2 hours.
While the fish is marinating, boil 4 Yukon Gold potatoes in their skins until tender. Cool briefly and peel off the skin. Push the peeled potatoes through a ricer and finish with 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add 1/4 cup milk to thin the potatoes out. Place them in a pastry bag or an improvised one made from parchment paper.
Remove the planks from the water and spray with no-stick. Place the marinated salmon on the planks and brush with marinade. Pipe the mashed potatoes around the salmon on the edges of the plank. Put the planks in a covered char-grill, but not directly over the coals. Cover and cook until the salmon is opaque, about 15 minutes. While the planks are cooking, in a saucepan reduce the marinade to a glaze and serve with the salmon.
Serves 4.

Butter-Poached Canadian Lobster with New Potatoes
In a large soup pot, heat 2 quarts of water to boiling. Add the juice of 1 lemon and two 1 1/4-pound live lobsters. Turn off the heat, cover and steep the lobsters for 5 minutes.
Remove lobsters from the water and rinse under cold water. Twist off the tails and cut through the membrane with scissors to remove the tail meat intact. Break off the claws and crack them with the back of a chef’s knife. Remove the partially cooked meat, using a paring knife if necessary. Save the bodies to make lobster bisque.
In a large, shallow saucepan, bring 2 tablespoons water to a boil and whisk in 4 ounces cold butter, cut into chunks. This will form an emulsion. Continue to whisk in cold butter at medium heat until you have used a total of 3/4 pound of unsalted butter. Do not let it boil.
Cut the lobster into 2-inch chunks and place chunks in the butter sauce along with 1/2 pound of small, unpeeled, sliced new or fingerling potatoes. Add 2 ears of very fresh corn on the cob that have been broken in half. Cover and simmer at low heat until the lobster is just cooked, about 4 minutes, and remove lobster. Continue cooking the potatoes and corn at low heat for another 10 minutes.
Serve the lobster in small bowls or ramekins and ladle the butter sauce over it. Surround the lobster with the potatoes, corn and fresh green beans.
Serves 4.
Note: This recipe was made famous by Thomas Keller of The French Laundry.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: johncross@optonline.net.

05/30/11 10:07am
05/30/2011 10:07 AM

Argentina in the mind. How things fetch up,
Flotsam along a coastline stretching
To a land of fire where one may find
Glaciers, ice like glass, permafrost, snow.
The surreal is important because it is true.
Disparate things connect. Life is a palimpsest,
And lost images below show through.
—Margaret Wilmot

Argentina is one of the world’s biggest exporters of beef and Argentinians are huge consumers of meat. The Argentine barbecue, or asado, is the most popular way to enjoy it. This involves using a wood-fired grill, various cuts of meat and the signature sauce called chimichurri. The following recipes are for an Argentine style mixed grill using both charcoal briquettes and hickory wood chips.

JOHN ROSS PHOTO | Delicious mixed grill

Mixed Grill
Purchase 2 pounds of beef short ribs, 2 pounds of skirt steak, 1 whole chicken and 2 pounds of fresh chorizo sausage. Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and bone out the breast meat. Slice the boneless breast meat lengthwise to make 4 cutlets, leaving the skin on. Place all of the meats in a shallow pan and brush them with chimichurri sauce as a marinade. Marinate from 2 hours to overnight.
Serves 6-8.

Chimichurri Sauce
Place in a food processor 1 cup fresh cilantro, 1 cup fresh Italian parsley, 5 cloves garlic, minced, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, 2 tablespoons minced shallot, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and the zest from one lemon, 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 3/4 cup canola oil. Process to a finely chopped consistency, but do not turn it into a purée. Use about half of this sauce to marinate the meats (above) and save the rest to serve on the side.

Barbecue Instructions
If you have an outdoor barbecue smoker, place charcoal in the bottom, light it and wait for it to form white coals. Soak one pound of hickory chips in water for 15 minutes, drain and place over the coals. Place a bowl of hot water on the shelf above the coals to catch the drip. Above the water, place the grill with the beef short ribs, chorizo sausage and legs and thighs of the chicken. Cover and cook for 3 hours at low heat, allowing the hickory smoke to permeate the food. When the smoked meat is cooked, remove and set aside in a warm spot. Remove the water pan, add some fresh coals to the grill, and lower the grill so that it is directly over the coals. At service time grill the skirt steak and the chicken breasts to desired doneness. Place all the meats on a platter and serve with chimichurri sauce.
If you do not have a smoker, you can use your charcoal grill by placing a pan with water in it under the food. Rake the hot coals to the side of the grill, allowing space for the water pan. Place the soaked hickory chips on the coals and cover the grill.

The accompaniments:
Argentine Style Potato Salad
Scrub 6 Yukon gold potatoes and place them in boiling water to cover (do not peel). Simmer until they are just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove, cool and cut into half-inch chunks, leaving the skins on. Boil 4 eggs until hard, about 12 minutes. Cool, peel and chop. Trim, peel and dice 4 carrots. Trim the ends off of 1/2 pound string beans and cut them into half-inch pieces. Steam the carrots and beans together until just cooked, about 5 minutes. Rinse under cold water and set aside.
Trim and cut 6 scallions into small slices. Cut into quarters 1/2 pound of pitted olives, preferably almond stuffed or garlic stuffed, and set aside. Combine the potatoes, chopped eggs, cooked carrots and beans, sliced scallions and quartered olives in a large bowl and toss together lightly.
For the dressing, combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons chopped dill, the juice from 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon ground mustard, 2 teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. Toss the dressing with the potato mixture and check for seasoning.

Spinach Salad with
Bacon Vinaigrette
Mix 2 bags of baby spinach with 1 can of drained and rinsed chick peas and 1 cup diced red bell pepper. For the dressing cook 4 slices of bacon in a sauté pan until almost crisp. Transfer bacon to a paper towel and chop. Add to the bacon fat in the pan one sliced red onion and 1 teaspoon sugar. Cook until onion is soft and add 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and 1/4 cup cider vinegar. Season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss with spinach mixture and serve.

Grilled Tomatoes
Slice 4 large beefsteak tomatoes in half and remove the cores. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper. Place on the outer edges of the charcoal grill while the meat is cooking. Serve alongside the meat on a platter.

Empanadas
Make a dough by placing 2 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Add 1/3 cup chilled butter that has been cut into small chunks. Add 1/3 cup chilled shortening cut into small pieces. Pulse about 12 times to form a coarse meal. Add 1/2 cup ice water and pulse to form a dough. Remove onto a floured surface and knead briefly into two balls of dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Make the filling by cooking 1/2 pound of ground beef in a skillet. Remove with a slotted spoon and clean out the pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan along with 1 cup diced onion, 1 cup chopped red bell pepper, 1 small minced jalapeno pepper and 1 teaspoon ground cumin. Combine the ground beef and vegetables in a large bowl and set aside.
Peel one large potato and place in boiling water with two eggs in the shell. Simmer until the eggs are hard cooked and the potato is just tender, about 15 minutes. Dice the potato and add to the meat mixture. Peel and chop the eggs and add to the mixture. Add 12 chopped green olives along with 1/4 cup raisins, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Stir all ingredients together and refrigerate while rolling out the dough.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Mark out 6-inch circles in the dough and cut them out. Place 2 tablespoons filling on the side of each circle. Brush the edges with a little water and fold the dough over the filling and crimp with a fork around the edges. Make a slit in the top and place on an ungreased sheet pan. Repeat with all the dough — you should have 8 empanadas. Place them in a 400-degree oven and cook until the filling is bubbling and the crust is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve as a first course.
Serves 8.

The Wine: Argentina is the largest producer of malbec in the world. The full-bodied red wine is especially good with rich, marinated meats as in the above recipes. These dishes would also be very good with a North Fork merlot.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: johncross@optonline.net.

05/16/11 12:05pm
05/16/2011 12:05 PM

JOHN ROSS PHOTO | Are you getting hungry staring at this quiche? Go make it yourself.

Out walking in the swamp picking cowslip, marsh marigold,
This sweet first green of spring. Now sautéed in a pan melting
To a deeper green than ever they were alive, this green, this life,

Harbinger of things to come. Now we sit at the table munching
On this message from the dawn which says we and the world
Are alive again today, and this is the world’s birthday. And

Even though we know we are growing old, we are dying, we
Will never be young again, we also know we’re still right here
Now, today, and, my oh my! don’t these greens taste good.

“The First Green of Spring”
by David Budbill

It has been one of the longest winters in memory and the signs of spring have been slow to come. But as the weather warms, we begin to search for the first local things that stimulate our appetite and give us hope that another good season is on the way. One way to ensure that you will be able to enjoy fresh local food every week is to join one of our many CSAs on the North Fork. Community supported agriculture began in the 1960s in Germany, Switzerland and Japan as a way to guarantee safe, healthy food that was grown organically and biodynamically. Having a group of subscribers (a community) pay up front in the spring gives the farmer some much-needed cash to start the season, and it gives the consumer a steady supply of the freshest local food available. Along the way the farmer and the consumer get to know each other and develop a relationship that everyone enjoys. This system has become so popular that there are more than 13,000 CSAs in North America alone.
But what to do with that box of veggies every week? It sometimes looks overwhelming and too repetitive. The secret is to keep an open mind and focus on each ingredient separately. Should it be eaten raw in a salad? Should it be slightly wilted and served under an entrée? Or should it be fully cooked and incorporated into the main dish? These variations can transform a leaf of spinach into three completely different experiences. Here are some ideas:

Asian Style Slaw
with Field Spinach
Rinse and remove stems from one bag of spinach, 2 heads of baby bok choy and 1 head of Napa cabbage. Make sure the leaves are dry and slice them thinly, julienne style. Toss them together in a large bowl and add 1 thinly sliced red onion and 6 thinly sliced scallions.
For the dressing combine 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and 1/4 cup soy sauce. Add to this 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar. Toast 2 tablespoons sesame seeds in a dry sauté pan and add them to the dressing. Whisk in 1 tablespoon sesame oil and 1/4 cup canola oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Toss at the last minute with the greens and serve.
Serves 6-8.

Sole with Wilted Spinach
Sprinkle 1 1/2 pounds of flounder, lemon sole or fluke fillets with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper. Dredge them in 1 cup flour and set aside.
Rinse and remove the stems from 1 bag of local spinach to make about 8 cups. Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When oil is hot, cook the fish in batches to a golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. (Do not crowd.) Remove the fish fillets and keep warm. Place the rinsed spinach in the same pan and cover. Cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove to a colander.
Divide the spinach between 4 plates and place the fish on top. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the hot pan along with 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Stir with a spoon and pour over fish.
Serves 4.

Spinach Quiche with
Catapano Goat Cheese
Prepare a pie crust by combining 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Cut 3 tablespoons shortening into chunks and pulse into the flour mixture. Cut 5 tablespoons unsalted butter into chunks and add to processor. Pulse until it resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup ice water until dough forms. Flatten into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate while preparing other ingredients.
Thoroughly rinse 2 bags of field spinach and pick the leaves off the stems. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a large soup pot and add 1 teaspoon sea salt. Add the spinach and cover. Cook for 2 minutes and drain. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out all the moisture you can and chop with a chef’s knife. Set aside.
Whisk 4 eggs in a bowl with 3/4 cup heavy cream and 1 cup milk. Stir in 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and the juice from 1 lemon. Add the chopped spinach to the egg mixture along with 4 ounces of Catapano goat cheese broken into small pieces.
Roll out the pie crust and place in a 9-inch pie tin with high fluted sides. Pour in the spinach mixture and top with 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese. Place in a 375-degree oven and bake about 40 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.
Serves 6-8.

Pan Seared Sea Scallops
over Spring Mirepoix
A mirepoix is a mixture of aromatic vegetables used to flavor a dish.
Wash and cut the stems off of 1 bunch of asparagus. Cut into half-inch pieces and add to a large bowl. Trim 1 bunch of radishes and chop into quarter-inch pieces. Add to the asparagus. Trim 6 scallions and cut into quarter-inch pieces, using both the white and green parts. Add these to the asparagus along with 4 carrots that have been peeled and diced. Stir in 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves.
Dust 1 pound of fresh sea scallops with 1/2 cup of flour. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter to a large sauté pan. Heat until butter is frothy and add the scallops one at a time, being careful not to crowd. Cook at high heat until golden and remove. Keep warm.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same pan and add the chopped vegetables. Sauté at medium heat until they begin to soften. Toss in 2 cups of lightly chopped spinach and season with 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and the zest and juice from 1 lime. When the spinach is wilted, place the mixture on plates for service.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the same sauté pan and heat until it begins to brown. Quickly add the juice of 1 lime and 1 tablespoon Roses lime juice. Toss the cooked scallops in this mixture until they are hot and place on top of the cooked vegetables.
Serves 4.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: johncross@optonline.net.

05/01/11 5:02am
05/01/2011 5:02 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO Pete Danowski, pictured above, is one of the founders of Riverhead's annual horseradish fest.

For the past 30 years Peter and Sue Danowski have welcomed spring with the simple ritual of preparing horseradish. Over 20 bushels of the brown, craggy root are brought to the barn in a field off Herricks Lane in Riverhead. Groups of local volunteers sit on stools and peel the roots, then pass them on to others, who cut them into chunks. At this point there isn’t much aroma, but the next group of hearty volunteers run them through meat grinders and the pungent, sinus-clearing, eye-watering chemical reaction begins.

The chopped horseradish is taken to the food processors, where a new group adds vinegar and lemon juice and processes the mixture to a coarse meal. This is when the air becomes full of the beautiful smell of a spicy spring experience that cries out for oysters, clams — and kielbasa. People line up with glass Mason jars to get their freshly prepared horseradish. Amazingly, there is no charge. You just have to know Peter and Sue Danowski and find their barn on the Wednesday before Easter. Here are a few ideas for using your horseradish, and if you missed the festival, how you can make your own.

Prepared Horseradish
Peel one fresh horseradish root and trim the rough spots. Cut it into half-inch cubes and place them in a food processor (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). Pulse to break up the cubes and add 1/4 cup cider vinegar and the juice from one lemon. Process until smooth, adding a little more vinegar if it appears dry. Add a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon sugar if desired. Place in a glass Mason jar, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Apple Horseradish Relish
Peel 4 Granny Smith apples and grate into a bowl. Toss apples with 2 tablespoons cider vinegar to prevent browning. Stir in 1/4 cup of prepared horseradish (above) and 2 tablespoons white wine. Season with a pinch of salt. Serve with pork chops, roast pork or chicken.

Cold Horseradish Sauce
for Smoked Fish

Whip 1 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold in 1/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup shredded fresh horseradish, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Serve with smoked bluefish, trout or salmon.

Ale Batter Shrimp
Peel and de-vein 24 jumbo shrimp, leaving the tails on. Dredge the shrimp in 1/2 cup flour seasoned with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Break 1 egg in a bowl and whisk in 1 can of beer or ale. Continue to whisk in about 1 cup flour until the consistency is like pancake batter. Season with 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Add canola oil to a saucepan to a depth of 3 inches and heat to 350 degrees. Dip each shrimp in the ale batter and swirl it around until it becomes coated. Place in the hot oil and hold the tail until it just begins to cook (this will keep it from sticking to the bottom). Repeat with all the shrimp, keeping them warm when cooked. They will rise to the surface when cooked, about 2 minutes each.
Serve with Horseradish Marmalade Sauce (below) on the side.

Horseradish Marmalade Sauce
Place in a food processor 1 cup orange marmalade, 1/4 cup orange juice, the juice and zest from 1 lemon, 1/4 cup freshly grated horseradish and 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger. Purée until smooth.

Boiled Fresh Brisket
with Horseradish Sauce

Cut in half one whole fresh brisket of beef, trim excess fat and place both halves in a soup pot. Cover it with cold water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer, remove the scum with a slotted spoon and add 3 bay leaves, 8 peppercorns, 4 cloves and 1 teaspoon thyme. Simmer, covered, until almost tender, about 2 hours. (Pierce with a cook’s fork; if it goes in easily it is tender.) Add 2 carrots cut in large chunks, 2 parsnips, 4 small potatoes and 4 small peeled onions. When these vegetables are cooked, add one bunch of kale with stems removed and cut into 3-inch pieces. Remove everything from the pot and reserve the broth.
When cool enough to handle, slice the meat against the grain into thin slices. Serve with the vegetables and moisten with the broth.
Make a horseradish sauce by melting 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan and stirring in 3 tablespoons flour to make a roux. Whisk in 1 cup of the cooking broth and season to taste with salt and pepper. When slightly thickened, stir in 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish or grate 1/4 cup fresh horseradish into the sauce. Garnish the meat with chopped parsley and serve the horseradish sauce on the side.
Serves 6.

Slow-Roasted Pork Loin
with Horseradish Crust

Purchase a center cut pork loin and trim all fat and silverskin. Make a slit down the middle and open up the meat like a book. Chop 1 tablespoon fresh sage, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary and 1 tablespoon fresh parsley. Place the herbs down the center of the pork and fold it back up. Tie with butcher string and set aside.
In a small baking dish place 20 unpeeled cloves of garlic and 1/4 cup olive oil. Cover with foil and roast in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. When garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves into the oil and discard the skins. Place the oil and garlic in a food processor and purée along with 1/2 cup freshly grated horseradish. You will end up with a smooth paste. Rub this over the meat and sprinkle with 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. Season the meat with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Cook the roast in a 300-degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours or until internal temperature is 155 degrees. Let sit 20 minutes before carving and serve with above apple horseradish relish.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: johncross@optonline.net.

04/18/11 8:45am
04/18/2011 8:45 AM
Steamed and roasted Long Island duck.

JOHN ROSS PHOTO | Steamed and roasted Long Island duck.

The term “Long Island Duck” is famous throughout the world and still seen on many restaurant menus. And indeed, by the late 1960s Long Island was producing up to six million ducks annually. Eastport became the center of duck processing and distribution because of the proximity of the railroad and farmlands to good drainage and easy access to water.

As the population moved eastward, duck production declined. Today, the Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue, owned by the Corwin family, is the only duck farm left on the North Fork. They, however, remain very active, breeding, hatching, growing and processing all of their ducks right here on the North Fork. Crescent Duck Farm produces about 5 percent of the commercial ducks in the United States. The quality of these ducks ranks among the best in the world and they are purchased by the most discriminating chefs and restaurants.

The breed of duck used on Long Island is the Pekin duck, with its characteristic white feathers and orange feet. The first Pekin ducks came from China on a clipper ship in 1873. One drake and three females survived the voyage from Beijing to Long Island Sound. The ducks readily took to the sandy soil and tidal ponds of eastern Long Island and multiplied to create a booming industry and a name that would live on for many years.

The breed, Pekin duck, should not be confused with the famous duck dish, Peking duck. In the Peking (or Beijing) duck recipe the crisp skin is separated from the roasted duck and served with Mandarin pancakes, scallion brushes and hoisin sauce. The duck meat is served on a separate plate. Peking duck is famous in China and served throughout the world in Chinese restaurants. The authentic recipe, which requires inflating the duck with air and hanging it to dry in a cool breeze, is a little too labor-intensive for most home cooks, but here are some recipes that capture some of the flavors and style of that famous dish:

Steamed and Roasted
Long Island Duck

Remove the giblets and fat from the body cavity of a 6-pound duck and trim the skin around the neck area. Cut off the tail and trim the wing tips. Rinse under cold water, dry and prick the skin with a sharp fork. Make a spice rub by combining 1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder with 2 teaspoons sugar and 2 teaspoons coarse salt. Stir in 1 teaspoon soy sauce to make a slurry and rub it over the duck and in the cavity. Place in the cavity half of an unpeeled onion, half of an unpeeled orange, 1 tablespoon sliced ginger and 1 tablespoon sliced garlic. Tie the legs and wings against the body with a piece of string. Place the duck in a V-shaped poultry rack and set it in a roasting pan. Place the pan in a 400-degree oven and pour boiling water in the bottom so that it comes up the sides one inch. Cover tightly with foil and steam in the oven for 1 hour.
While duck is cooking, combine 1/2 cup honey, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar in a saucepan. Reduce by half and set aside.
After 1 hour remove the duck, still in its rack, and set on a sheet pan. Pour the water from the roasting pan and place the duck back in it. Brush the duck with the reduced glaze and return, uncovered, to the oven to roast for another 1 hour at 400 degrees. Baste with the glaze every 15 minutes. When the joints wiggle easily the duck is fully cooked. Remove and let rest before serving. It should be a deep mahogany brown and very flavorful. It does not need a sauce, but would go well with long-grain wild rice or a barley pilaf.
Serves 4.

Twice-Cooked Duck Legs
with Mandarin Pancakes

Trim excess fat from 4 duck legs (about 2 pounds). Cut each leg in half through the joint to make a thigh and a drumstick. You will have 8 pieces of about equal size. Rub the duck pieces with 1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder and place them in a soup pot. Add cold water to just about cover, along with 1 cup soy sauce, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tablespoon sliced ginger, 1 tablespoon sliced garlic, the peel from one orange and 6 black peppercorns. Slowly bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove from the cooking liquid, pat dry and cool.
For the Mandarin pancakes, place 2 cups flour in a bowl and quickly stir in 1 cup boiling water to form a dough. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 3 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Divide the dough in half and form into two balls. Roll these out into quarter-inch-thick pieces and, using a rocks glass, cut them into 3-inch rounds. Brush the rounds with sesame oil on one side and place them, oil side in, together with another round to form a pancake. Sprinkle with a little flour and roll out these rounds to a diameter of 6 inches. Set aside and cover with a damp towel.
At service time heat about 2 cups canola oil in a shallow pan to 375 degrees. Deep-fry the duck pieces until dark and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels and keep warm.
Heat a heavy sauté pan to medium and cook the pancakes until lightly browned on each side, about 3 minutes each. When cool enough to handle, peel them apart and serve on a plate. Cut the meat and skin off of the duck pieces with a sharp knife and cut into thin julienne pieces or slivers. Serve these in a bowl.
On a separate plate serve one bunch of scallions that have been cut in half crosswise and then cut into thin strips. Serve a dish of hoisin sauce on the side to spread on a pancake; add duck and scallion slivers and roll it up to eat as you would with a Peking duck.

Marinated Duck Breast
Trim excess fat from 4 duck breasts with the skin on and score the skin with a sharp knife in a crisscross pattern. Make a marinade by combining 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup hoisin sauce, 1/4 cup honey, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon grated ginger, 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Place the breasts in the marinade and refrigerate for 2 hours.
At service time, heat a heavy sauté pan to high and cook the duck breasts skin side down until brown. Turn the duck, reduce the heat and cook for another 5 minutes or until medium rare (130 degrees). Remove and keep warm.
Pour off all fat from the pan and make a sauce by adding the marinade, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon hoisin and 1/4 cup white wine. Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in cold water and stir into the sauce. Bring to a boil, taste for seasoning and strain into a serving bowl. Slice the duck breasts and serve over brown rice or noodles.
Serves 4.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. E-mail: johncross@optonline.net.

03/07/11 10:39am
03/07/2011 10:39 AM

Nobody there is that doesn’t love a bean,
If not the royal Navy bean, then the wax bean,
the soybean, the green bean, the black bean — the
pot is large, it contains multitudes…

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s bean?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Had we but world enough, and time,
this coyness, Lady, were no crime.
But, at my back, I always hear
a pot of beans bubbling near.

How do I cook them? Let me count the ways —
boiling, steaming, frying, baking.
And if these verses may thee move,
Sweet Lady, come live with me
and be my love. And if this fare
you disapprove, come live with me
and please be my cook.

“Bean Soup, Or a Legume
Miscellany” by Phillip Paradis

The large family of flowering plants that have double-seamed pods containing a row of seeds are called legumes. They include beans, peas, lentils and peanuts. Their history is as old as civilization itself. Already by 6000 BCE, legumes were a staple food, providing protein to people in Asia, Europe and the Americas. When legumes are combined with rice they become a complete protein food, containing all the amino acids, thus becoming a substitute for meat. Some of Rome’s most distinguished families were named after beans: Fabius (fava bean), Lentulus (lentil), Piso (pea) and Cicero (chick pea).
Today, legumes are available dried, canned, fresh and frozen and are regaining popularity due to their huge contributions to a healthy diet. All the legume plants take large amounts of nitrogen from the air and convert it to protein in the seeds. When the plants are plowed under they return nitrogen to the soil, creating an organic fertilizer. They are also high in minerals and vitamins and a great source of dietary fiber, especially the soluble kind. And, unlike meat, they are low in fat and contain no cholesterol.
Most legumes are pretty inexpensive and whether used as a vegetarian entrée or as an accompaniment to meat, poultry or fish, they represent an intelligent addition to your diet.

French Lentils with
Sesame Crusted Salmon

Due to their high protein, mineral, vitamin and fiber content, lentils are one of the world’s healthiest foods. They come in many colors and sizes, with the brown variety being most common. The tiny French lentils used in the following recipe have a hard exterior and a soft, creamy inside. They should not be overcooked.
Purchase 4 portions of naturally fed salmon (or wild salmon). Combine 1 egg white and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a small dish and brush onto the top of the salmon. Spread 1/2 cup sesame seeds onto a sheet pan and press the salmon into the seeds. Refrigerate. Rinse 1 cup French lentils and place them in a saucepan with 2 cups water, one quarter of a peeled onion, 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of thyme and the zest of 1 lemon. (Do not add salt.) Simmer, covered, until lentils are just tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, remove onion and bay leaves, and set aside.
At service time sauté 1 cup chopped scallions in 2 tablespoons olive oil for 2 minutes and add 2 cups diced plum tomatoes and the cooked lentils. Continue to cook until all ingredients are hot and stir in 2 tablespoons chopped dill, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 2 teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Add 1/4 cup olive oil to a large sauté pan and heat to shimmering. Place the salmon with the sesame crust down in the hot pan and sauté about 3 minutes. Turn the salmon and reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking until salmon is opaque and flakes easily. Serve over the lentils and garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.

Black Bean Enchiladas
The black bean has been a staple of Mesoamerica for at least 3,000 years. Its long roots make it well suited for the desert climates of Mexico and the Southwestern United States.
Rinse 1 pound of dried black beans under cold water and pick out any foreign matter. Place them in a saucepan and add 6 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Let rest 1 hour.
Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a sauté pan and add 2 cups chopped onions. Cook until they are soft and add 2 tablespoons minced garlic. Cook briefly and add contents of pan to the beans and water. Simmer the beans, covered, for 1 1/2 hours until very soft and the liquid begins to thicken. Pour off half the liquid and purée half the beans. Add the purée back to the pan with the beans and season with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon chili powder and 1 tablespoon sea salt. Simmer for 15 minutes and set aside.
Grate 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese and set aside along with 1 finely chopped red onion. Open 1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce. Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons canola oil, 2 tablespoons tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Place 12 small corn tortillas in the pan in batches of 3. Coat them with the sauce and let them soften in the pan for about 2 minutes each. Remove and place on a sheet pan lined with paper towels.
To assemble the enchiladas, spread a spoonful of black bean sauce on each tortilla and top it with grated cheddar and chopped red onion. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and a little salt and pepper. Roll up the tortillas and place seam side down in a small baking pan. Spoon about 1 cup tomato sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated cheddar, 1/4 cup chopped red onion and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro. Finish by chopping 1/2 cup of pecans and sprinkling them over all.
Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with sour cream.
Serves 4-6.

Sugar Snap Peas and
Sesame Shrimp

The sugar snap pea is a hybrid of the English pea and the snow pea. Peas are one of the few legumes that can be eaten fresh. They are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and protein. They are also one of the local vegetables that signal spring on the North Fork.
Purchase 1 pound of shrimp, peel and devein them, removing the tails. Place them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 teaspoons shredded ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Toss together and refrigerate while prepping the vegetables.
Bring to a boil 2 1/2 cups water in a saucepan and add 1 cup brown rice and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Simmer 30 minutes and turn off the heat. Rinse 1 pound of fresh sugar snap peas and remove the strings along the side of the pods. Slice 1 red bell pepper into 2-inch pieces. Finely chop 4 scallions.
Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons sesame oil and 1 tablespoon canola oil. When oil is shimmering, add the marinated shrimp and toss quickly to avoid burning the sesame seeds. When just barely cooked, remove shrimp and set aside. Add a little more canola oil and the peppers, snap peas and scallions. Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 3/4 cup chicken broth and add to the pan along with the shrimp. Toss together and season with 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar and a few drops of Tabasco. Serve over the brown rice.
Serves 4.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. E-mail: johncross@optonline.net.

02/21/11 9:30am
02/21/2011 9:30 AM

Note: This column was written (and cooked) by Dr. John Miller of Cut­chogue, a friend, an equestrian veterinarian and serious amateur cook.

Having had enough of this North Fork winter, I feel it’s time to take a break by having a few friends for dinner and celebrating “Fat Tuesday,” or Mardi Gras. Having a daughter who attends Tulane University in New Orleans has allowed me to explore the rich culinary offerings of “The Big Easy.” Mardi Gras refers to the tradition of eating rich food before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season begins. In New Orleans, Mardi Gras has become a world-famous event, and it showcases the regional Cajun and Creole cooking that has made the city famous.

The difference between Cajun (or Acadian) and Creole cooking has a great deal to do with their origins. The Acadians migrated from France to Nova Scotia in the 17th century and in 1755 were literally removed from their homes by the British and abandoned along the East Coast. They wandered to many places, but a large group ended up in Louisiana and settled there. They became known as “Cajuns” and developed a style of country cooking that used lard in making dark roux and hot peppers as seasoning for the many seafood and rice dishes.

The Creole people descended from French and Spanish colonists in Louisiana before the territory became part of the United States. Creole cuisine is distinctly French, influenced by Spanish, African, Italian, English and German colonists.

Cajuns put all of their ingredients in one pot, while Creoles like them separate. Cajuns use lard while Creoles prefer butter. The former can be considered more of a country cooking style while the latter more akin to city cooking. Here are a few recipes to start the celebration:

Angels and Devils on Horseback
Shuck 12 oysters and place them on the half shell on a sheet pan. Preheat the broiler. Combine 1/2 cup white wine, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce. Add 12 bay scallops and toss to coat. Marinate for 10 minutes.
Place 4 slices of bacon on a paper towel over a plate and microwave for 3 minutes to blanch the bacon. Cut the bacon into small pieces and set aside. Place 1 scallop next to each oyster and sprinkle the bacon over all. Spoon the marinade over the oysters and broil until bacon is crispy and the scallops are opaque. Serve with additional hot sauce.
Serves 4.

Gumbo
Perhaps the most famous of all Louisiana dishes, gumbo derives its name from a West African Bantu tribe’s word for okra, which is “ki ngombo.” It is a happy marriage of cooking techniques and ingredients used by settlers, Africans and Native Americans. It features okra, a vegetable pod that has been prized in Africa since prehistoric times. Slaves brought it to the Americas and called it gumbo, a name that was later extended to denote a stew made with the vegetable. Okra gives the gumbo a rich, earthy flavor, but more importantly thickens the stew as it simmers. It is readily available in the frozen section of grocery stores.
The Cajun version of gumbo uses a dark roux made from lard, andouille sausage and crawfish. Begin by placing a large Dutch oven over medium heat and adding 1/4 cup lard (you can substitute vegetable oil) and 1/4 cup flour. Cook this roux, stirring with a wooden spoon, for about 25 minutes or until it turns the color of chocolate. Add 2 cups chopped onions, 1 cup chopped green bell peppers, and 1 cup diced celery. Cut up 1 pound of andouille sausage and 1 pound of boneless, skinless duck breast into small pieces. Add sausage and duck breast to the roux mixture along with 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning. When vegetables are soft, add 2 quarts chicken broth and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours.
Season 1 pound of shelled crawfish and 1 pound of shelled and deveined shrimp with 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning and add to the gumbo. Stir in 1 pound of okra (thawed if frozen) and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Check for seasoning and serve over white rice topped with chopped green onions, chopped parsley and filé powder.
Serves 6.

Red Beans and Rice
In Louisiana, Monday is red beans and rice day. The beans are often simmered with the ham bone left over from Sunday dinner. The beans are ladled over white steamed rice and garnished with scallions.
Begin by soaking 1/2 pound of dried red beans in cold water overnight. In a heavy soup pot heat 2 tablespoons bacon grease or vegetable oil. Add 1/4 cup tasso (smoked ham butt) and cook for 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup chopped yellow onions, 1/3 cup chopped celery and 1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 2 bay leaves, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Cut 1/4 pound smoked sausage into 1-inch pieces and add to the pot with 3/4 pound smoked ham hocks. It’s important to crack the ham hock to expose the marrow. Cook until sausage and hocks have become brown. Stir in 2 tablespoons minced garlic. Drain the soaked beans and add them along with 5 cups chicken broth. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours or until beans are soft. Discard hock bone (if desired) before serving over white rice.
Serves 4.

Cajun Beer Biscuits
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder in a large bowl. Cut up 1 1/4 sticks of butter and add to the dry ingredients. With a pastry blender (or your hands) cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Gradually stir in 1 cup beer and 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno peppers until dry ingredients are moist. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead into a ball. Do not overwork the dough, as it will toughen it. Roll out the dough into a thick rectangle and cut into 12 biscuits. Line a sheet pan with parchment and bake until lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle with pepper and serve hot.
Serves 6.

Red Velvet CupcakesRed Velvet Cupcakes
with Cream Cheese Frosting

Sift together 1 1/4 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon cocoa. In a separate bowl whisk together 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon red food coloring, 1/2 teaspoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 3/4 cup canola oil. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix thoroughly. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners and fill them two-thirds full. Place in a 350-degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and cool.
For the frosting, combine 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 1 stick of softened butter and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract in a mixer bowl and beat with a paddle until smooth. Reduce speed and add 2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar. Increase speed and whip frosting until fluffy. Frost the cooled cupcakes and garnish with fresh raspberries.
Serves 6.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. E-mail: johncross@optonline.net.

02/04/11 1:43pm
02/04/2011 1:43 PM

North Fork Chef John Ross' Black Forest cake

Black Forest cake.

The stream that bubbles below,
Like an incessant lyric,
A monk’s chant in a monastery.
The cherry tree hangs

With bloom on its sagging boughs.
Ah, to look at trees in all their splendour,
In this Black Forest idyll.
The blue Schwarzwald range
Makes poetry out of the dying Sun.

excerpt from “Schwarzwaldlyrik” by Satis Shroff

The world-famous combination of chocolate cake, whipped cream, cherries and kirschwasser known in the United States as Black Forest cake is not named for the Black Forest specifically, but for the liqueur of that region known as Schwarzwalder Kirsch. Without this liqueur in the recipe, German statutory law does not permit the use of the name Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte. It is the perfect dessert in which to indulge yourself and loved ones during this sometimes bleak time of year.

On a recent trip to visit my daughter in Bockenheim, Germany, I attended a birthday party and, according to custom, many cakes were served. But a beautiful Black Forest cake struck me as both decadent and delicious. (If you invest in unwanted calories, they should be good ones.) This cake was made by Hildegard Bahrdt, a longtime employee of the Schloss Janson Winery and a serious amateur cake baker. She was kind enough to share with me her recipe given to her by her mother. My adaptation includes American measurements and easy-to-find ingredients.

The elements of this cake include the base (knetteigboden); the sponge cake (biskuitboden); the filling (fullung); the stabilized whipping cream (schlagsahne) and the chocolate garnish (schokolade geraspelt). A 10-inch springform pan and a mixer are required equipment.

Knetteigboden
(base)
Whisk 2/3 cup flour, 1 tablespoon cocoa, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl. Stir in 1 egg white (unbeaten) and 3 tablespoons cold butter cut into small pieces. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender as you would do with a pie crust. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead briefly to form a ball. Flatten the ball of dough and wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with no-stick spray. Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and place on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 12 minutes and remove. When slightly cool, remove the sides from the springform pan and slide the knetteigboden onto a cake plate. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of Kirschwasser (cherry brandy).

Fullung
(sour cherry filling)
Strain one 14.5-ounce can of sour pitted cherries into a bowl, saving the juice. Place 1/2 cup of the juice in a saucepan and dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 1 tablespoon cold water. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the juice and bring to a boil. When thickened, remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon kirschwasser. Add the cherries back to the sauce and refrigerate.

Biskuitboden
(sponge cake)
Combine 2/3 cup flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon cocoa and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder in a bowl and stir with a whisk. With an electric mixer beat 4 egg yolks with 1/4 cup hot water and 1/3 cup sugar at high speed until volume doubles, about 5 minutes. Separately, beat 4 egg whites until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract at low speed. Fold together the yolks and whites in a large bowl and gently fold in the dry ingredients. Spray the springform pan with no-stick and place the cake batter in the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and remove.

Schlagsahne
(stabilized whipped cream)
Place 3 cups heavy cream in a chilled bowl along with 2 .35-ounce packages of whipped cream stabilizer (omit this if serving the cake right away). Whip the cream at high speed until the soft peak stage and add 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. When stiff, remove and set aside.

To assemble the cake, place the cake plate with the knetteigboden on it in front of you. Spread 1/2 cup cherry jam on this base. Cut the sponge cake in half horizontally and place one half on top of the jam-covered base. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon kirschwasser. Remove 16 cherries from the filling mixture and set aside.

Add about 2 cups of the whipped cream to the remaining filling and fold together. Spread this on the cake layer and cover with the other half of the cake. Sprinkle another tablespoon of kirschwasser on this layer and coat with whipped cream. Cover the sides and top and smooth it all out with a spatula.

Place the remaining cream in a pastry bag with a star tube and pipe 16 stars on top of the cake. Place a cherry on each star. Using a vegetable peeler, make chocolate shavings with one bar of German chocolate (or other chocolate). Shave the chocolate onto a piece of wax paper and refrigerate briefly before placing around the sides of the cake. Sprinkle a few more shavings on top and serve.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. E-mail: johncross@optonline.net.