Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Our Own Private Vermont

her own private VT fig. a: Michelle, Shelburne Farms

Our own private Vermont is an awfully nice place. It's made up of many of the sites we've visited over the last ten years, as well as many of the tastes we've tasted. It consists of numerous trips and countless memories. 2010 had its fair share, so when we tried to figure out what we'd be serving at this year's AEB holiday bash, we ended up settling on a Vermont theme. Which, of course, meant we had to pay yet another visit to the Green Mountain state to stock up on Green Mountain goodies. And although we made sure to hit a few old favorites--like Al's for lunch, Shelburne Farms for aged cheddar, and Dakin Farm for ham and bacon--we also got a chance to visit a few new places and further expand our Vermont.

settlers sunset

settlers shadow figs. b & c: Jericho sunset, Jericho shadow

We arrived at Jericho Settlers Farm in Jericho Center just as the sun was setting, and consequently the light was as gold as it gets and the shadows were as long as can be.

settlers farmstand fig. d: Settlers' farmstand

We'd read some great things about Jericho Settlers Farm's pastured meat, and especially their pastured heirloom pork. We'd also read that you could get their meat in Burlington, but we were curious to see what the farm looked. And with that sun setting, and fresh snow on the ground, it looked pretty heavenly.

There was no one around, but Jericho Settlers Farm has a farmstand that's open to the public 365 days a year, and it runs on the honor system (!).

settlers birds fig. e: Settlers' birds

We stepped inside, took a look around,

settlers freezer fig. f: Settlers' freezer

and made some selections. We were pretty focused on their pork, beef, and chicken,

settlers sweet carrots fig. g: Settlers' sweet carrots

but we were happy to see that they had some root vegetables for sale too, so we added some beautiful multicolored carrots and some fingerling potatoes to our bag and logged our purchases. We noticed that we were the first farmstand customers of the day, which is hardly surprising, I guess, because Jericho Settlers Farm operates primarily as a CSA.

Jericho Center Country Store fig. h: Jericho Center Country Store

Just down the road, in the very center of Jericho Center, we found the Jericho Center Country Store, one of the oldest continuously operating country stores in all of Vermont (since 1807!). The interior is a true treasure trove--it's filled to the rafters with antiques and memorabilia from its 203-year history--and in addition to all the usual country store staples, they also carry meat from Jericho Settlers Farm, in case the farmstand happens to be closed.

In the village square, directly across the street from the country store, Michelle noticed a historical marker that told the story of Wilson Alwyn "Snowflake" Bentley. I had no idea who she was talking about, so she filled me in (scientist, photographer, snowflake specialist) on the ride out of town.

Old Red Mill fig. i: Moonlight on Vermont

A few minutes later, in Jericho (not to be confused with Jericho Center), we spotted an old red mill and decided to take a closer look.

snow crystals by W.A. Bentley fig. j: snow crystals by "Snowflake"

And inside the Old Red Mill (a.k.a., the Jericho Historical Society), not only did we find reproductions of the work of "Snowflake" Bentley for sale, but we also found a small museum display on his life and work. It included quite a number of Bentley's original photographs and slides of (what else?) snowflakes,

Bentley quilt fig. k: 19th-century Op Art

but it also included this magnificent quilt made by old mother Bentley.

On the way back home to Montreal, we listened to some episodes of This American Life that we'd collected on our mp3 player. One of the segments was a story of fate, faith, and destiny, chance and coincidence, and much of the segment focused on events that occurred in and around the town of Snowflake, AZ--a town that had been founded by two men, one named Snow and the other named Flake. Apparently, still to this day, half the town is named Snow and half is named Flake. Presumably there are a few Snow-Flakes there too.

When we got back to our neighborhood, I dropped Michelle off at home and then set off again to find a parking spot. When I returned our dining room table looked like this:

the loot fig. l: L is for loot

And a few days later we threw our Our Own Private Vermont party, featuring a smoked country ham from Vermont glazed with a mustard-maple syrup concoction, a selection of Vermont cheeses (Shelburne Farms' nutty, crumbly 2-year cheddar and Jasper Hill impossibly creamy Moses Sleeper and Bayley Hazen blue, Lazy Lady's lovely ashed Trillium, and Von Trapp Farmstead's [yes, those Von Trapps] washed-rind Oma), and some baked beans made all the more succulent with 100% pure maple syrup and a smoked ham hock from Jericho Settlers Farm. Completing the scene was a white birch.

Martha's Maple-Mustard Glazed Ham

1 whole (18-lb) bone-in, fully cooked, smoked ham, room temperature
1/2 cup champagne vinegar
1 cup 100% pure maple syrup
2/3 cup Dijon mustard
2 tbsp apricot jam
pinch of kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350º F. Line a roasting pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Rinse ham under cool running water. Pat dry and wrap with parchment paper-lined aluminum foil; place in prepared roasting pan. Transfer to oven for 4 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat vinegar over medium-high heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 6 minutes. Add maple syrup, mustard, jam, and salt; season with pepper. Cook, whisking, until well combined, about 2 minutes. Set glaze aside.

Remove ham from oven and uncover. When cool enough to handle, cut off rind using a sharp knife. Slice off most of the fat, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick layer. Score fat on top of ham in a pattern of 1- to 2-inch diamonds.

Brush ham evenly with one-third of the glaze and return to oven. After 20 minutes, brush ham again with half the remaining glaze. Cook for 15 minutes and brush with remaining glaze. Continue baking ham until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of ham reaches 145 to 150 degrees, about 15 minutes more.

Transfer to a cutting board. Let ham cool 30 minutes before carving.

Serves a whole lot of people.

Note: We used half a ham (9 lbs) and adjusted the recipe accordingly. We fed 30+ guests.

[Martha Stewart ain't from Vermont, but she makes an awfully good maple-mustard glazed ham. This is pretty much exactly her recipe]

Jericho Settlers Farm, 22 Barber Farm Road, Jericho Center, VT, (802) 899-4000

Jericho Center Country Store, 25 Jericho Center Circle, Jericho Center, VT, (802) 899-3313

The Old Red Mill, Route 15, Jericho Village, VT, (802) 899-3225

If you're intrigued by the sound of Jericho Settlers Farm's pastured meat, but you can't make it out to Jericho Center, you can also find their meat at a massive health food store in South Burlington called Healthy Living (which lies in close proximity to Al's French Frys and South Burlington's Dakin Farm outlet, conveniently enough). They've got an outstanding meat counter with a wide range of organic, pastured, and artisanal meats on offer, and a talented butcher who offers workshops on everything from butchering to sausage-making.

Healthy Living, 222 Dorset St., South Burlington, VT, (802) 863-2569

For more on Jericho Settlers Farm's heirloom pork, as well as the state of sustainable, humanely raised pork production in America, please consult Edward Behr's in-depth report in The Art of Eating #84.


Monday, December 20, 2010

The Mighty Bûche

xmas 2010 fig. a: the look of xmas 2010

In case you didn't get the memo, it is that time of year again. Time to deck the halls with boughs of holly. Time to get lit on egg nog. Or if you're feeling especially adventurous, time to contemplate making your very own bûche de noël.

Now, here at AEB, we've been known to lean toward pastries that have a bit more of a Central and Eastern European inflection during the holidays, but there are exceptions. Plenty of them, actually. And most of them involve candied fruit in one way or another: there's panforte, panettone, and stollen, plum pudding, mincemeat tarts, and fruitcake. But one Christmas dessert that has never really been a big part of Michelle's repertoire is the traditionally French (and by extension, French-Canadian) bûche de noël, the yuletide log in pastry form. Michelle learned to make a professional-caliber bûche de noël in pastry school, of course--Quebec's pastry schools are nothing if not classical--but when she bakes Christmas goodies for our home, she dreams of sugar plums and crescent moons, wasps' nests and infant Jesuses.

All that said, when Ève Dumas of La Presse approached Michelle with an intriguing proposition--what if you were to re-imagine the bûche de noël to reflect your family roots--she couldn't pass it up. Suddenly the mighty bûche took on new relevance.*

In terms of appearance, Michelle modeled her bûche de noël after the beautiful white birches (les bouleaux) that are such an important part of our forests here in la Belle Province (and in the Northeast in general);

graffiti fig. b: white birch

and in terms of taste, she gave it a torte-like character that drew from her Central European heritage.

The result was a walnut cake with mocha filling, one that came liberally spritzed with rum and iced with a white meringue with beautiful brûlé accents. It looked like this:

birch bûche fig. c: birch bûche 1

The recipe ran in La Presse at the end of November, but Michelle wasn't crazy about the accompanying photograph. The photographer chose a low angle, probably to highlight the cake's "tree rings," but in doing so he lost most of the cake's birch-like qualities.

birch bûche 2 fig. d: birch bûche 2

Which is why we decided to run the recipe again here, with new photographs.

Feeling inspired? Here's the recipe as it appeared in La Presse (with translation courtesy of Yours Truly):

Gâteau à rouler/cake roll (10 personnes)


2 oeufs/eggs

3 jaunes d'oeufs/egg yolks

1/4 de tasse de sucre/cup of sugar

4 c. à soupe de farine/tbsp flour

4 c. à soupe de fécule de maïs/tbsp corn starch

1/2 t. de noix de Grenoble/cup walnuts


Mélanger la farine, la fécule et les noix dans un robot culinaire pour faire une farine et réserver. Chauffer les oeufs, les jaunes et le sucre dans un bain-marie en brassant, jusqu'à ce que ce soit chaud. Fouetter jusqu'au ruban (lorsque le mélange tient sa forme en tombant) avec une mixette ou un batteur sur pied.

[Preheat oven to 350ºF. Blend the flour, starch, and walnuts in a food processor until powdered and well mixed, then set aside. Heat the eggs, the yolks, and the sugar in a double-boiler, stirring constantly, until the mixture is hot to the touch. Whip with a mixer or a standing mixer until the egg mixture "holds a ribbon."]

Ajouter les ingrédients secs avec une maryse en faisant attention de pas trop mélanger. On ne veut pas faire tomber l'appareil. Étendre sur une plaque à biscuits (18" x 13") couverte de papier parchemin ou d'un tapis en silicone.

[Add the dry ingredients and fold in with a spatula taking care not to overmix so that lose volume. Spread on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet or a Silpat™.]

Cuire de 8 à 10 minutes à 350°F, jusqu'à ce que le gâteau soit doré. Couvrir tout de suite avec un linge humide et laisser refroidir.

[Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until the cake is golden. Cover with a damp towel and let cool.]

Crème mocha/mocha cream


1 t. de chocolat noir haché/cup of chopped dark chocolate

1/4 de tasse d'espresso chaud/cup hot espresso

1/2 c. à thé d'espresso en poudre (de type Nescafé)/teaspoon powdered espresso (such as Nescafé™)

1/3 de livre de beurre mou/pound softened butter

1/3 de tasse de sucre à glacer/cup icing sugar

2 jaunes d'oeufs/egg yolks


Dans un bain-marie, faire fondre le chocolat avec le café et le café en poudre. Réserver à la température de la pièce.

[In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate with the espresso and the espresso powder. Set aside and keep at room temperature.]

Avec une mixette, battre le beurre et le sucre jusqu'à ce qu'il soit léger. Ajouter les jaunes et mélanger. Ajouter le chocolat fondu et mélanger encore jusqu'à ce que ce soit homogène.

[With a mixer, beat the butter and the sugar until they are fluffy. Add the yolks one at a time and mix. Add the melted chocolate mixture and mix some more until thoroughly combined.]

Glaçage meringue/meringue icing


4 blancs d'oeufs/egg whites

1 t. de sucre/cup of sugar


Faire chauffer les blancs et le sucre au bain-marie, en brassant.

[Heat the egg whites and the sugar in a double-boiler, mixing all the while.]

Fouetter jusqu'à formation de pics moyens.

[Place mixture in a mixer and whip until it forms medium peaks.


1 oz de rhum brun (ou plus!)/ounce dark rum (or more!)

Feuilles de laurier fraîches/fresh bay leaves

Canneberges fraîches/fresh cranberries

pine branches

Démouler le gâteau à l'envers sur un morceau de papier parchemin et enlever l'autre morceau de papier avec délicatesse. Couper les bordures pour faire des côtés droits. Badigeonner le gâteau avec le rhum brun.

[Unmold the cake onto a piece of parchment paper and remove the other piece of parchment paper carefully. Trim the edges to make right angles. Brush the cake with the dark rum.]

Étendre le glaçage chocolat avec une spatule coudée. Couvrir toute la surface.

[Cover the entire surface of the cake with the chocolate cream using an offset spatula.]

Lentement, commencer à rouler le gâteau dans le sens de la longueur. Le papier va vous aider.

[Slowly roll the cake lengthwise. The parchment paper should make this process easier.]

Couvrir la bûche avec la meringue. Pour obtenir l'effet bouleau, adopter un mouvement de côté à côté, et non en longueur.

[Cover the bûche with the meringue icing. To get the birch effect, use a side-to-side motion, instead of applying the icing lengthwise.]

Faire colorer la bûche avec le chalumeau. Commencer tranquillement, sinon ça va faire l'effet d'une bûche dans le foyer! Si vous n'avez pas de chalumeau, saupoudrer de la poudre de cacao (dans un tamis fin) au-dessus de la bûche pour créer une texture.

[Use a torch to give the bûche its brûlé highlights. Start gently, otherwise you might get a burnt log effect instead. If you don't own a torch, you can dust the surface with cacao powder instead to give it some texture and highlights.]

Disposer les feuilles de laurier autour, puis les canneberges.

[Garnish with bay leaves, cranberries, and pine branches according to desire.]

Servir la journée même. Sinon, faire le gâteau et le remplir la veille. Bien emballer et mettre au frigo. Finir avec la meringue le lendemain.

[Serve the cake on the day you make it. If you'd rather make it the day before, make the cake, fill it, and roll it, then wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated. Ice the cake with the meringue and decorate it the next day.]

Makes one bûche, roughly 18" in length.

Now, once you've made your very own bouleau de noël/yuletide birch, the only thing left to do is to invite some folks over for the log-sawing ceremony. Make a batch of punch or some egg nog, some mulled wine or glögg, and send out invitations to friends and family.

Our AEB ceremony looked like this as things got underway.

bûche-serving ceremony fig. e: sawing log

What you can't see are the 20+ ravenous souls who were standing/sitting/crouching off-camera, just waiting for their own slice. Within an hour or two, there was nothing left of that 3-foot monster bûche but the branches.


p.s. Thanks to all those who helped us burn through our log in record time!

p.s. No time? Holidays got you frazzled? Get your very own ever-so-stylishly deconstructed bûche from Pâtisserie Rhubarbe.

* For one thing, there was no reason it had to look so Smurfy.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Some Candy Talking, 2nd rev. ed.

the set-up fig. a: the set-up

If you couldn't attend last night's class on candying fruits and holiday baking led by Michelle and hosted by Natasha, Bernie, and Dépanneur Le Pick Up, and you're curious about what it looked like, well, the scene was something like this as Michelle launched into her introductory remarks.

the class fig. b: Michelle in effect

We're happy to report that attendance was 100%, in spite of the chaos and headaches that inevitably accompany the season's first real snowstorm. Plus, everyone showed up with their "A" game--they were eager, enthusiastic, and ready to roll up their sleeves and do some cookin'. The class was loose, fun, participatory, and it finished with the distribution of the night's booty, which included wedges of panforte, slices of stollen, cookies, and jars of candied fruit.

who's that girl? fig. c: who's that girl?

Michelle has posted quite a number of recipes, ideas, helpful hints, and other tidbits of information regarding the making and using of candied fruits here in the pages of AEB over the years. So, if you're interested in the topic, you weren't able to attend (space was extremely limited), and/or you're prepping for the holidays, you might want to check out the following links:

candying Meyer lemon peel

making fruitcake with exotic fruits

making homemade panettone

making panforte

making the world's most expensive marmalade

and last, but certainly not least, making quince paste

Finally, thanks to Natasha for organizing, to Bernie and the Dep for hosting, and especially to everyone who took part in the course. The idea is that Michelle's class was the kick-off to a cooking class series at Dépanneur Le Pick Up, so stay tuned to these two blogs for any and all information about upcoming events.


p.s. If you're interested in a somewhat less biased (and much more thoroughly photographed) account of Michelle's night of candied fruits, check out this link to the Gastronomeal blog. You won't be disappointed.

p.s. 2 Still hungry for more photographs? Check out the extensive coverage at Dépanneur Le Pick Up's blog!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Hear, ye! Here, ye!

Wow, that was quick.

MM @ CBC 2 fig. a: MM @ CBC #2

For those of you who missed Michelle being interviewed on yesterday's edition of All in a Weekend, you're in luck--the interview's already available. Just click here, and you'll be taken to the CBC's "Listen Again" archive.  Scroll down the list, click on the appropriate tab next to the words "Michelle Marek," and you'll get to hear Michelle and Jeanette Kelly having a chat about desserts, candied fruits, holiday baking and more.

And for those of you who'd like to see the dessert that Jeanette was sampling during the interview, it looked something like this,

apple fig. b: apple x 3

minus the dulce de leche ice cream (which would have melted en route).

However, if you'd like to actually try the dessert Jeanette tried, sorry, no link, no photograph will do. You're just going to have to go and visit Laloux (or Pop!) in person.


Sunday, December 05, 2010


MM @ CBC fig. a: Michelle! Live!! On Air!!!

Actually, it was more like "MM @ CBC," because that's where Michelle was to be found today at about 7:40 am: on air, with the CBC's Jeanette Kelly. I was in-studio, too, but only to lend moral support (and to snap a photograph or two).

The occasion? Well, Michelle has a cooking class on candied fruits and how to use them tomorrow evening at Dépanneur Le Pick Up, and when the good folks at All in a Weekend caught wind, they asked her down to the studio to say a few words about candied fruits, holiday baking, being in the restaurant biz, and how she got into this pastry chef racket in the first place.

If you're thinking to yourself, "what's the point of telling us after the fact?," well, Michelle specifically asked me not to advertise her guest spot on AEB. She told me she was shy. Then she went ahead and tweeted all about it, unbeknownst to me. Go figure.

Anyway, I bring up the matter only to tell you that if you're interested in taking Michelle's class, you might still be able to. The class was SOLD OUT, but as of this morning, there was one spot available because some unlucky soul had to cancel. So if you contact Natasha at "natasha DOT pickowicz AT gmail DOT com"--in a hurry!--you might just be able to join us for the fun. And, if you missed this morning's broadcast, our friend Graham at "All in a Weekend" told us that they'd be archiving Michelle's interview later this week, so we should be able to post the link sometime soon.

How'd the interview go? Great. Michelle was a little more buttoned-down than usual, and 7:40am is a little early for a pastry chef/night owl like her, but she loved talking to Jeanette, and Jeanette really enjoyed talking to Michelle, and the fact that Michelle brought in some treats (ginger cookies!) didn't hurt either.

Can't make the class? Missed the radio show? Feeling shut out? Well, you can find an AEB-approved recipe for panforte (with candied fruit) here.

Now we're back at home, having a coffee, enjoying the morning, and listening to Michael Hurley sing about having tea and listening to the CBC...


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Top Ten #38

Me'al Moun'ains

1. Metal Mountains, "Structures in the Sun" (Amish Records)

2. Errol Morris' First Person: The Complete Series

country 1

3. Tartine basic country bread

4. W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

wade in the water

5. Destroyer, "Archer on the Beach/Grief Point" 12" (feat. Tim Hecker and Loscil) (Merge Records)

6. Kermit Lynch, Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer's Tour of France

blue hills

7. Michael Hurley, Blue Hills (Mississippi Records)

8. Soirée Choucroute, Pop!, feat. James MacGuire, Nov. 29, 2010

9. Anvil: The Story of Anvil, dir. Gervasi

black moun'ains

10. Black Mountain, Wilderness Heart (Jagjaguwar)