Braised goat with allspice, cinnamon, figs, and vegetables.

1) Prepare the spices.  Here I used cinnamon, pepper and allspice.Image

2) Prepare the meat. Pretty easy in this case: Goat loin chops.Image

 

3) Melt some butter in a heated dutch oven.Image

4) brown the goat on both sides. About 3 minutes per side.Image

5) Remove the meat, and add a bit more butterImage

6) Add the chopped aromatics and sauté until softened. Here, it’s smashed cloves from a head of garlic, a chopped red pepper form a farmshare, and some dried figs I’d found in my pantry.Image

7. Add about 1/2 cup of wine, and reduce.Image

 

8) Add some stock and reduce.Image

9) Add some vegetables, and put the meat back in.  Cover and cook for an hour or so over low heat (with the liquid gently bubbling)Image

 

10) Remove the meat and vegetables.Image

11) Strain the remains, and reduce – if needed – until thick.Image

12) Add some butter for a nice gloss.Image

13) Serve and enjoyImage

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Braised chicken with parsnip-carrot mash

The chicken is based on the “Whole chicken braised with pears and rosemary” in All About Braising by Molly Stevens.

1) Rinse, stuff, salt & pepper and bind the chicken. The recipe called for pears and rosemary. Instead, I quartered an orange and stuffed it the cavity with some dried local rosemary, then bound the legs with some twine to keep the orange sections from falling out.

2) Melt 1tb of butter in a dutch over, and after it finished foaming, brown the chicken on its four sides, about 4-5 minutes each side.  It may smoke.

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3) While the chicken is browning, chop onions, and peel garlic.  The recipe called for leeks and onions; I used a couple of onions from a farmshare, and a head of garlic, cloves removed, bashed and peeled.

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4) Remove the browned chicken, add another TB of butter 

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5) Add the chopped onions and garlic; sauté over medium heat until soft

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6)  Add 1/4 cup of wine; reduce by half; add 1/4 c of stock + 1TB of vinegar; reduce by half.  The recipe called for white wine; I used red since that’s what I was drinking.  And red wine vinegar, since I’d used red wine.  For stock, I used a few ice-cubes of guinea-hen stock I’d frozen a few weeks ago.  I added potatoes; they weren’t in the recipe.

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7) Put the chicken in the pot, cover tightly, baste periodically, remove when done.  I kept the liquid gently bubbling, on the lowest setting, and basted every 20 minutes; after 80 minutes, I checked the temperature in various places – it was 160F, which seemed a bit hot, but the chicken was moist.  If it looks dry, add a bit of stock or water.

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8) Prepare for the gravy.  I decided to use some Meyer lemons I’d preserved.  This is 1/4 of a lemon, interior scooped out, peel thinly diced.

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9) Cook the parsnips and carrots. I steamed them.

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10) Let the chicken rest while preparing the gravy.  This is not a recipe for crispy skin.

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11) Reduce the braising liquid and vegetables over high heat

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12)  Prepare the carrots, parsley and chives.  I’d hoped the food mill would mash the roots; instead it just drained liquid and didn’t do much mashing.  I chopped these by hand.

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13) Mix carrots, parsnips, chives, butter.

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14) Strain gravy once reduced.  Continue to reduce until very thick.

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15) Add about 1/4 c of red wine.  Reduce until thick.

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16) Remove gravy from heat, add 1 tb of butter, and preserved lemons.

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17) serve & enjoy

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Pumpkin potato gnocchi with sautéd ramps and collard greens

Last summer I roasted, puréed and froze several small pumpkins.  While I’ve often used it for ravioli filling, gnocchi came to mind as alternative.  Online recipes suggest various ingredients; I opted for just potato, the purée with some nutmeg, and flour.  The greens came from some produce I’d picked up in the morning at the Montpelier Farmers Market.

1) Bake potatoes at 425 for 50 minutes.  Peel whilst hot and pass through a food mill.  Here, I used 6 fist-sized potatoes.  Waxy are best; I used whichever came with the Pete’s Greens farm share.Image

2) Dehydrate pumpkin purée in a pan with a bit of nutmeg over low heat. The purée filled a quart plastic bag to 1/4 – 1/3″ – perhaps 2-3 cups.  It was a small pumpkin, halved, seeded, wrapped in foil, and baked at 350 until soft, then passed through a food mill, bagged and frozen.

3) Mix the potatoes and the pumpkin with flour until thoroughly combined with the right consistency.  I used a bit more than a cup of white flour; the dough was somewhat sticky and could have used more without difficulty. 

4) Cut off a chunk of dough, roll out to 1 – 1.5 finger-widths. If it’s sticky, dust with flour.

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5) With a floured knife, cut inch-long sections. I needed to re-flour the knife every 3-4 cuts.

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6) Roll each section with your thumb against a surface. I started with a garganelli board, but that got tiresome, so switched to rolling it in the palm of my other hand.  the goal is to make little bowls with – or without – some pattern on the backside.  Sometimes I just gently mash (or mash and roll) each section with a floured fork.

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Gnocchi

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Ramps, or wild leeks.  Anything similar suffices: leeks, onions, shallots, scallions, garlic.

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7) prepare the ramps. I discarded the roots, then separated the thicker stems from the softer leaves, so I could cook them separately.

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8) Sauté the ramp stems in butter.

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9) Prepare the collard greens.  I removed the stems and thick central veins.  It’s not necessary (though these parts would have to cook longer if left in).  Other leaves would work just as well: chard, spinach, bok choi, etc.

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10) Add the greens, after the ramp stems have softened a bit.

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11) Add the ramp leaves and sauté until wilted. It won’t take long.  It looked a bit dry so I added a small amount of hazelnut oil.  More butter would have worked, or some other oil, or water.

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12) Toss the gnocchi into boiling salted water and cook until done. Bring to a boil, add some amount of salt. Put them in just after starting to sauté the ramps – neither takes long to cook.  Give the gnocchi a good stir to keep them from sticking to the bottom.  Conveniently, they have a built-in timer: they rise to the surface when done.

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13) Drain gnocchi, add to greens, add butter.

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14) Add grated parmesan

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15) Mix and serve

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It turned out better than I expected as I’m not a fan collard greens. I chose them as the farmers market offers few options this early in the season.

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day 1 Ljubljana



from the castle tower
Originally uploaded by mikefranklin

I took a taxi to work, with my luggage, and endured several minutes of religious chatter on the radio. I left around 1pm to head to the airport to endure what I expected would be rather long lines.

Normally when I wait for a taxi near work, it takes a while – occupied taxis pass on my side of the road; unoccupied ones with preoccupied drivers pass on the other. But the moment I crossed the street, an empty taxi showed up and we were off to the airport.

There was no significant traffic, which I thought was odd, and the international terminal at Logan airport seemed nearly deserted when I got out. I was so early for my 5:40 flight that the Air France ticket agents had not yet arrived, so I stood — third in line — for about 15 minutes.

I had managed to reserve an aisle seat in row 50 of the 747, so I inquired about a more forward aisle. The agent asked if I wanted one in an exit row, aisle 14, which was much, much much better. It looked to be a good start to the trip.

There was no line at security, and so at 2pm, I settled in for a long wait, at a chair near an outlet, pulled out my macbook pro, and realized I’d forgotten the power cord. Uh oh. I called a couple of colleagues to see if they could verify I’d left it in the office, but it took four calls to find one who was still there.

I had left the cord in the office, and with three hours before my flight, I figured I had time to get it, and to endure the security lines returning to the gate. I left the airport, hopped into another cab, and went back to the office.

This cab driver managed to miss the direct route, and instead chose a longer route, where we had to wait in traffic. While other drivers have turned off the meter in similar cases, this one just mumbled, “I didn’t realized …” a few times, while the meter kept running.

Back to the airport, the fare was $36.45, and I left a tip of $0.55 for his stupidity, rather than the more common 15%. He didn’t seem pleased, but then that made two of us.

The security line was much longer this time — I had to wait behind 5 people, rather than zero. And now, I had two hours to wait, which I did online. Overall, it was pretty uneventful.

Turns out that row 14 was right next to the door, and I had about 2m of legroom. It was, overall, a rather dull flight (which was good). Hordes of people sitting behind me, and it seemed that there were different flight attendants passing through every few minutes.

Charles de Gaulle was rather quiet at 6am, and I took a bus from one terminal to another terminal, for my flight to Ljubljana. Then it was a bus out to a regional jet, where the “A” seat was both a window and and aisle, since it was a 1+2 configuration.

I had a moment of panic when my camera bag didn’t fit in the overhead compartment, but removing the umbrella and a jacket allowed me to shove it it with only minimal bulging of the compartment. It was another (thankfully dull) flight, with another bus ride to the terminal, and then a quick stop at passport control to answer the inevitable question, “how long are you staying?”, and it was off to find transport into town.

There was a small minivan – €5 to the rail station, €9 to any address in town, so I chose that over a proper bus + taxi. Two younger Slovenians got in as well, one with a Harvard backpack. I’d seen them on the flight, and had noticed a friend of theirs had a Harvard scarf, so I asked if they attended Harvard (though Slovenia seemed a far way to travel for just Thanksgiving).

They chuckled, and said that no, they went to school in Ljubljana, but had participated in a genetic engineering contest at MIT, then had traveled around the east coast a bit. Perhaps not surprisingly, the father of one of them was Czech, and came from a town about 15km from where one of my colleagues grew up, Ostrava.

I arrived at the one-room B & B about 1.5 hours early – I was to meet the daughter of the owner at 12:00 precisely, since she was a busy university student. I wandered around for a bit, with my luggage, looking for a SIM for my iPhone, but had no luck finding out, though I did get directions to where I might find one – over the triple bridge, and up the middle street – but I decided to save that for later.

I had lunch at a simple little place – friend turkey with mashed potatoes for a thanksgiving-esque flavor, and then wandered back to the B & B entrance. 12 came and went, with no sign of the busy uni student. At 12:20 I wandered over to the cobbler next door, explained the situation, and as I was asking about borrowing a phone, he just walked out, buzzed the buzzer, and moments later, the door opened.

*sighs* why do I sometimes miss the obvious path? The husband – I guess – was home, and let me in. I went back to the cobbler to retrieve my luggage (he’d thoughtfully brought it into his shop), and surprisingly ran into my flickr friend Tine (TEE-neh, both vowels of short duration), and a friend of his, who had come by to make sure he knew where we were meeting later.

The room was small, but warm, and had wired internet. Did I have a cable? of course! Who travels without an ethernet cable? The “breakfast” part turned out to be a tiny kitchenette in a closet – cereal, orange juice and powdered coffee. After a brief nap, I went out again to meet Tine.

We walked up to the castle behind the B & B, I knocked over a postcard holder, then we ascended to the top of the tower for a nice view of the city. It looked large … but the population is only about 200,000 or so (just under 2 million in all of Slovenia). We wandered around a bit more, and I found the SIMobile shop and bought a SIM. The clerk was quite helpful, and even the other one had some useful advice. As we left, Tine chuckled and said that I seemed to make friends everywhere. Indeed, I do try…

We had dinner at a “traditional” restaurant with an odd waiter (though only if you understood slovenian), and parted company. Turns out the SIM didn’t work immediately in my hacked iPhone (as expected), but I apparently needed to do more work (which wasn’t expected). argh. I decided to wait until the morrow, and then I promptly went to sleep.

About time for lunch now, then off to wander. With any luck, Danny and Eva will be arriving around 9:30 tonight, and the wedding party (there are perhaps 30-40 people total), are meeting at the triple bridge around 10pm. Specifics of the wedding day (tomorrow) are still a bit vague, but hopefully I’ll find out more tonight.

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day 7 manchester



vanishing point
Originally uploaded by mikefranklin

Manchester turned out to be bright and sunny for my first full day there. I wandered into the Apple Store in the Arndale Mall and missed Stuart – the enthusiastic master of ceremonies for the Opening Day’s events of the previous year. But I did find Dom, the genius who had replaced the top case of my macbook.

He didn’t remember my name, but I was surprised that he did remember the various problems my macbook had. He provided some suggestions on where to go to eat, drink, and wander, which I promptly forgot by the time I left the store.

I probably ate at EAT, being a creature of habit, and then had a latte at the adjacent Starbucks. And then I wandered up to Albert Square which had regrettably been taken over by “fashion week” tents, and really messed up dreary, overbearing presence of the city hall.

Mid afternoon I met up with Nathan, and we wandered about before heading to back to Starbucks to meet Nik, and from there we once again went to the Apple Store to check out the iPod Touches.

From there, Nathan went home, and Nik and I parted company before regrouping to eat at some fine Italian restaurant near St. Peter’s Square. ‘Twas an enjoyable finish to a pleasant day of wandering around.

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day 6 departure to manchester




bedroom #2

Originally uploaded by mikefranklin

Ah, the pleasures of sleeping on the floor in the living room. I was woken inadvertently by the newly returned flatmates, who were up for their first day back at work. I had a pleasant breakfast with birthday-girl Eva, said goodbye to her and Danny, and then after a bit headed off to Euston station for the ride north.

The Hammersmith and City line — convenient to Shepherd’s Bush — didn’t connect directly with Euston, but the station was just a short walk around the corner from the nearest tube stop. I could have taken the tube directly to Euston, but it would have added a lot of time, and several line changes.

On the train, he fellow across from me prepared for the journey to Manchester by getting out his Blackberry, his cellphone and his laptop, all of which kept him pretty busy. The fellow next to me brought out his cellphone … and a variety of magazines emphasizing scantily clad women, though he did look like he was reading the articles. Interestingly, neither of them were able to complete a phone call: there was always at least one interruption of service as we sped towards Manchester Piccadilly.

Transportation costs are interesting. I paid £12 for a taxi from Piccadilly to my hotel (£6 for the ride, £6 for the luggage, apparently). Had I come from the airport, I could have paid £3.50 for a train to Piccadilly (for a total of £15.50), or a taxi directly (about £20). All things considered, the train + taxi is not such an improvement, and less so considering that the train station at the airport is at least a 10 minute walk from baggage claim.

Premier Apartments had upgraded me to a two-bedroom two-bath suite, for some reason. The receptionist was a bit surprised that I was paying only £79/$160 a night (I’d booked 6 weeks earlier), and noted that people were now paying £99 for a one-bedroom suite.

My assessment of the hotels in Manchester was that the £50/night ones were only by the airport (thus too far). There are £60/night hotels in town, but reviews where overwhelmingly negative, except by people who just wanted to crash after a night (or two) of drinking. Around £70 there were reasonable low-end chain hotels – i.e. a bed + bath, so for £79, I was getting quite a deal with a suite including a kitchen and a washer/dryer.

Once settled, I took a quick tour of slightly-rainy Manchester, stopping by the Arndale (site of last year’s early-morning wait for the opening of an Apple store), and the Manchester Cathedral, where I was pleasantly surprised to find an organ and choir practice going on. I kept trying to find wifi from The Cloud, from which I’d purchased unlimited access, but even though it was supposed to be available around the Arndale, I was unable to find it.

Later, I got take-away at Nosh, an Asian restaurant across the street from the hotel, and that was pretty much the end of my day of my first day in the fine city of Manchester, UK.

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day 5 london




parliament

Originally uploaded by mikefranklin

Tuesday dawned grey and a bit damp, but I’m getting used to it.

The temporary flatmates left at 4 in the morning to head to the airport for Spain, and I didn’t really get back to sleep. Danny and Eva left, and just after I’d finished uploading – and just before I was going to take a nap, the permanent flatmates returned from their 6-week jaunt across Europe, most recently from Oktoberfest.

Quite the voluble couple, they were as well an energetic whirlwind of cleaning up and putting away, and then making breakfast. “Do you want some? Don’t be shy!” hey, who can resist a second breakfast?

After that I was ready for a nap – I think I’ve not quite been getting enough sleep (yep, Mike the party animal) and may have a touch of a cold, perhaps from my lovely seatmate on the flight over. Feeling better I headed off — once again — to Piccadilly Circus to meet Andrew.

I texted him, but as we found out later, he didn’t receive it for over an hour. I waited a bit, then had lunch at EAT, texted again, didn’t get an answer, then wandered over to his office. After calling one of Andrew’s colleagues, the security guy let me upstairs, where I met Andrew just as my previous two texts were showing on his phone.

He was busy at that point, so I wandered off towards the Thames, in a light rain mist. I decided it was time to head toward Sloane Square so I could meet Danny and Eva for a movie. I was texting with a friend who chuckled that it would be easier if I had gps on the phone. I said it was easier just to text: “what’s the nearest tube station?” He told me, and off I went. I’d earlier run into some other Americans who were not so fortunate – not only did they have no one to text, they also had no map.

Sloane Square turned out to be just two stops from where I was, so I had ample time for a decent meal at a french cafe in the square. Duck confit with a nice Rioja Crianza, with a cup of tea to end the meal. The maitre d’ recognized the iPhone on the table, and asked if I’d gotten it in the States, since he knew it wasn’t out yet in the UK. I gave him a brief demo, though I’m not sure I made another sale 😉

I walked up Kings Road to the Cineworld movie theater to watch Kenny, a satirical documentary about a slightly dysfunctional aussie “plumber” in the business of corporate toilet rentals. £9/$18 seemed bit steep, but it was fun. Eva arrived just after the preview started; Danny arrived just as the movie was starting, and two friends of theirs arrived just a few moments later.

After about 10 minutes of, er, toilet humour, one couple left, leaving the five of us and two other people in the theater. Or maybe three. Overall — it was pretty funny in a bizarre sort of way, with a bit of poignancy thrown in for good measure.

After that, Danny rode his scooter back to the flat, while Eva and I took a bus — my first double decker bus ride. I prepared for departure the next day, then went bed, dreaming sweet dreams of dreary gray skies…

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