Essex Farm Note
Week 21, 2012
It’s avalanche season, work-wise. As long as the weather holds we are all under pressure to get things plowed! composted! planted! weeded! fixed! moved! while simultaneously keeping up with all the quotidian work that the great living machine demands. This avalanche happens every spring, and every spring, the intensity of it takes me by surprise. Corn planting is the most pressing emergency this week. The fields are now just barely dry enough to work, and every day that goes by without seed in the ground is a loss of yield. So now every step must be done at once. Yesterday, Cory and I spread compost on the corn ground in front of Chad, who was using the two-bottom plow. It was a serious mixed-power moment: Cory drove the little red International tractor, I drove Jake and Abby, Chad drove the six-horse hitch, and Mark filled our spreaders with a skid steer. (Meanwhile, Courtney was cultivating the vegetables with Jay and Jack – a platoon of 10 horses, fully employed.) Over the course of the day, several things went wrong, as they always do when the pressure is on. The International has some issues with an intake valve, I snapped the chain on one of the spreaders, and then Cory got mired to the axels in a part of the field that should probably qualify as swamp. Chad tried to pull him out with the six horse hitch, but it was the kind of stuck that required even more horsepower, so Mark pried him out with the skid steer. It was ten o’clock before all the horses were fed and put out and our own dinner eaten, and still it felt like we didn’t get enough done. This is our ninth avalanche season, and exciting as it is, it’s a relief to know it won’t go on forever, and that we have this amazing, dedicated team of farmers to work with.
First chickens in the share today. They are pasture raised, tender young birds. They are one of the most precious things we produce, in terms of labor and inputs, so please savor them, and make use of every part, including using the bones for stock or soup. And the organs! Chicken liver pâté is a big favorite in our house and it’s really easy to make. I’ll share my method with you here but there are many variations. We also have unlimited asparagus in the share today, and the first green garlic. Out in the field, the plants are turning up the volume. Lettuce is just a couple weeks away. Strawberries, too. This is the very last stretch of what I call freezer month, folks – the time to raid your chest freezer for last year’s green things.
Today is the first member farm walk. We are going to stick close to the barnyard and see hundreds of hot chicks. Va va va voom. Meet at the chalkboard at 4pm. Next week, vegetable fields. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this look out below 21st week of 2012. -Kristin & Mark Kimball
Kristin’s Theory of Chicken Liver Pâté
Pâté is EASY. It’s just liver plus butter plus a breadcrumb binder (optional), flavored with onion or garlic and herbs, and fancied up with some kind of alcohol. There are lots of variations on this theme and it is extremely flexible.
Step one: Trim, season well with salt and pepper, and sauté the livers in a little butter until they are no longer pink inside. You want the outside good and brown – adds flavor – so don’t crowd the pan. If you are using breadcrumbs as a binder (which is totally optional) soak them in some kind of alcohol for a while. Cognac is traditional but I’ve used scotch, port, and even rum.
Step two: Remove the livers from the pan, and set aside. Now sauté some fresh herbs (sage, thyme, or rosemary are all good), plus some garlic and/or onion until soft and translucent. Don’t go too crazy with garlic. Onion is better, in my opinion, because it’s less assertive. Green garlic would be delicious, being milder than garlic garlic. Deglaze your pan with the alcohol (see breadcrumb soaking, above) and mix everything (liver, breadcrumbs, onion/herb and deglazings) together.
Step three: Process the liver mixture with butter. You can use an immersion blender or a food processor. Process until the liver is coarsely pureed, then add butter a couple tablespoons at a time. Keep processing until everything is smooth. Taste and add more salt, alcohol, herbs, etc. if needed. Chill until cool and firm.
Presentation is important, because pâté, left to its own devices, will look like a gray-brown mass. It doesn’t take much to liven it up – an attractive bowl, with a sprig of fresh or dried herb, some chopped green onion on top. Spread on crackers or good bread.
AMOUNTS: Again, this is flexible. For a pint of livers I would use about one onion, a fistful of herbs, half a cup of breadcrumbs, a good slosh or three of alcohol, and up to half a pint of butter. One of my favorite variations is to add some toasted walnuts at the end, plus some dried cherries that have been reconstituted in port.