Allium Green: 06.09


Mahogany Glazed Chicken Wings

The first time I tried chicken wings was in high school one memorable evening at Europe Gryo in Kent, our local college town. I grew up in a vegetarian household and though I fairly regularly ate meat outside my home (suburban Ohio in the early nineties was not a hotbed of vegetarian culture and I'll confess that sometimes I just didn't want to be that different from other kids), there were definite holes in my carnivorous exploration. So the scene is spring break, junior year. Very late at night and I was with my soon-to-be-boyfriend and a mutual good friend. Europe Gyro is a take out place that serves decent gyros and hot wings. Boys being boys, they ordered super-extra-spicy wings and I sat there looking on in disbelief as they downed the whole batch, at least two dozen if memory serves. My experimentation with carnivory was new enough that the bones pretty much ruled out the wings for my palate, and my brief taste that night didn't change my mind. But the adolescent buzz of working my way towards this new boy and the subsequent make-out session in my parents' living room at 3 in the morning made the evening memorable.

So all that to say that I never really considered chicken wings an appealing option to eat for dinner. They're so often flabby, greasy and unappealing, drenched in some highly processed sauce from mystery ingredients. But then I made them at home. Made from Misty Knoll Farms chicken wings, very roughly following Lynn Rosetto Kasper's recipe for Mahogany Glazed Chicken Wings, they are something worthy of note. Roasted instead of fried, they are crisp, brown and totally yummy.

When I say roughly following the recipe, what I mean is that will I glance at the recipe (or maybe not) and start shaking some soy sauce, gluten free hoisin sauce, maple syrup, and cider vinegar into a bowl and then add a healthy couple of tablespoons of dry rub from our last go at pulled pork. So rough really means rough here but her recipe was the real inspiration for this when I started making them, so she still gets the credit. What I really think is the secret is the combination of salty and sweet, with a little spice from that dry rub and then the long baking in the oven.

I prick the skin of the wings with my knife and then place the wings on a cooling rack set over a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. The intent is that some of the fat will render and drip into the baking sheet, and you end up with non-flabby wings. And they're really lovely, I have to say. We ate them as a meal by themselves with a salad of lettuce from the garden dressed with oil and vinegar. They were good enough that we needed a walk after dinner to make me feel like we'd earned them. I'll admit that I probably could have eaten the whole batch, just like Mike and Ryan did 15 years ago.


Deer in the Strawberries

This is the first year of eating our own strawberries from the garden and the thrill of finding new bright red berries among the leaves is definitely worth the year-long wait before you get fruit. Yesterday was the first real harvest and we ate half of it before I could take this picture. The plants look lovely, very upright and vibrantly green.

Apparently, the deer think the plants look like dinner. We went out yesterday to find that all the tops of the outermost row of plants had been munched. This has happened often enough in my life as a gardener that I no longer experience the sense of utter despair that first came when I discovered that a groundhog thought my unfenced garden was his pasture of plenty but it still makes me grind my teeth. We knew it was coming and we knew we were tempting fate by not putting a fence up right away. So here we are, contemplating a Saturday of digging post holes and running fence line instead of the bike ride we had planned.

But those strawberries are worth it. We made drinks yesterday afternoon with dark rum and tonic and mashed strawberries and swung in the hammock that Ralph gave me for my birthday while we enjoyed them. The strawberries soaked up the rum and were just about the best part of the day. We might try strawberry mojitos this evening- the mint plant on the deck is growing so fast I almost expect to see it unfurling new leaves as I watch. We'll deserve it after digging all those post holes.


Spring Bounty

The spring has been good to our garden. The early spinach we planted last fall wintered over nicely and we've been eating it for a month now. Onions are in and thriving, garlic is nearly two feet tall now. My beans (special Rancho Gordo beans that I saved from the bags of beans we loved best) are doing well and are nearly ready to be trellised.

But most impressive right now is the 100 feet of spinach ready to be harvested, washed, blanched, bagged and frozen. This seemed like a good idea in April. Ralph and I decided to plant a whole bed of spinach in mid April in the hopes we'd be able to harvest it before the tomatoes went in. Well the tomatoes are sitting in the grass next to the garage, ready to go in. And I'm looking at a sink full of spinach, with more on the counter in a big bushel basket and wondering, how exactly do you freeze spinach? There is, incidentally, more in the garden still waiting to be harvested.
Oh my.

Maybe not exactly the smartest time to figure it out, but very much my style, and I've pulled out the Ball Blue Book in hopes of some inspiration. The mini snails that we've been finding in the spinach are crawling out of the sink, headed for dry ground. And I'm here, procrastinating on the blanching and bagging part of the deal.

But I'm definitely enjoying the thought of spinach omelets with mushrooms, spinach pizza, sauteed spinach with lemon, garlic, and red pepper flakes, spinach salad, and green goddess dressing colored with spinach.

So best get on with it, eh?