Archive | May, 2012

Rapacki’s Smoked Kielbasa

29 May

Kielbasa package

Rapacki’s Smoked Kielbasa

A food review by Daniel B.

Sitting wrapped in plastic at Adam’s Faircare Farms market in Kingston, this package of sausage links with its plain white label may not look like anything special. Telltale streaks in the label suggest a home-office laser printer that’s running low on toner. However the best barbecue often comes from ramshackle buildings that serve food on wax paper. So as they say, don’t judge a book by its cover.

Let’s be clear about one thing. These are no ordinary smoked kielbasa. These are from Rapacki & Sons and kielbasa is what they do best.

In places as far flung as Boston, Orlando, LasVegas, and LosAngeles people call this small butcher (at 800-486-KIELBASA naturally) to have this smoked pork and beef sausage shipped across the country, or make a pilgrimage to Long Island and pack kielbasa from Rapacki’s in their bags to bring home. Obviously, I had to give it a try and see what all the fuss was about

Over the past several years I’ve eaten a lot of kielbasa on my trips to rural Pennsylvania, where the Polish influence is keenly felt in the region’s food. There are lots of delicious ways to eat it, but my favorite is steamed in a pot of sauerkraut, and put on a bun with plenty of spicy brown mustard.

It’s not fancy food. But it’s delicious. Sometimes you have to cut loose and enjoy things that may have made a few extra stops on the way from the farm to the table.

Now I know that the label says these sausages are “Great on the B-B-Q” but I’m guessing they meant grill. Because these kielbasa are already smoked and cooked, so blasting them with more smoke would just be wrong. On the high heat of the grill, I’m sure the resulting char and blisters on the casing would add a bitter complexity to the sweet smoke of this pork and beef sausage. Still, I’m sticking with my tried and true technique as taught to me by my father-in-law who has enjoyed a lifetime of kielbasa.

It’s the slow and gentle moist heat from the sauerkraut that melts the fat in these links and transforms what looks like dried and shriveled sausages into plump and juicy morsels. Really, the metamorphosis is striking. However, my favorite part about Rapacki’s kielbasa is how the casings, even when steamed, provide a sturdy and satisfying crunch and snap.

Beneath the casing, is a juicy and tender sausage that is finely ground and well seasoned. It’s cured, so the kielbasa is a pleasing pink all the way through. When it’s served on a toasted bun with sauerkraut and mustard, the toppings help to cut through some of the fat and provide a lot of textural contrast. Although I like to imagine that all of the cabbage makes this a healthful dish.

I lie to myself a lot.

Rapacki doesn’t have a website. They have no Facebook page or Twitter feed. There are precious few citations about them on the Internet, but they are beloved on Chow and people like them onYelp. Stumbling upon the kielbasa from Rapacki’s feels like uncovering a well-kept secret.

And thanks to Adam’s Faircare Farms market in Kingston, you can buy a little piece of Long Island up here in the Hudson Valley.

About Daniel B.

A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany.

Quattro Farm’s Pheasant Eggs

29 May

Egg1

Quattro Farm’s Pheasant Eggs

A food review by Daniel B.

In Miami, everyone has a swimming pool. Well, almost everyone. Growing up, I had some friends who instead of a pool had a duck pond in their back yard. They hatched mallard and wood ducks from eggs. And they did the same with pheasants.

Luckily at the time I was unaware of just how good pheasant eggs are to eat. Otherwise, they may have had a few less birds.

There is an easier way to get your hands on less conventional eggs. Drive to Quattro’s Game Farm and Farm Store in Dutchess County. They sell eggs from pheasants, ducks, turkeys, chickens and geese. Recently I was lucky enough to get my hands on some of their pheasant and turkey eggs, and have had my eyes opened to the wonderful diversity of this miracle in a shell.

In some ways building a meal with eggs, is like building with anything else. You need to have the right tool for the job.

While there are lots of eggs out there, unless a recipe specifies otherwise, the word egg refers to a large chicken egg. Egg size is important because when doing things like baking, the volume of liquid is critical.

In fancy food circles one comes across a lot of quail eggs. They are small and dainty things, which are perfect for small and dainty plates. But they are a little precious. Pheasant eggs on the other hand are diminutive, but they pack a punch. For something so small they have a remarkably large yolk.

Why these aren’t seen more often is unfortunate.

Egg3(fried)

Take a spring staple like grilled asparagus. Topping it with a quail egg is just cruel, because there is barely enough yolk to make the exercise worthwhile. On the other hand, topping it with a chicken egg can overwhelm the vegetable. A fried pheasant egg would be perfect.

Quattro’s turkey egg is still a bit of a mystery for me. It’s a bit larger than a conventional chicken egg, and it too has a greater ratio of yolk to white than standard supermarket variety. Remarkably turkey eggs taste virtually identical to chicken eggs, and Bill Niman agrees. It seems like such a crime to take something like this and scramble it up into an extra rich omelet. Frying it is fine, but it’s a little ungainly. Instead, this would be an ideal candidate for soft-boiling and eating with toast soldiers (read more about fresh turkey eggs).

A soft-boiled chicken egg is comforting treat, but one never quite feels like a meal. Not only would these larger turkey eggs be more satisfying, but you would get the added pleasure of enjoying its speckled shell at the table. Plus its generous yolk is ideal for dipping.

But Quattro’s isn’t just for eggs. They also have smoked meats, and they turn some of their pheasants into pheasant sausages. Maybe this is wrong, but I couldn’t resist frying up some of the sausage and topping it with a fried pheasant egg. At home I put this double pheasant meal on top of a garlicky white bean puree enriched with chicken broth. But there’s no reason it couldn’t have been pheasant broth. It was a quick, easy and delicious weeknight supper.

I’ve got to get into this store and get some more eggs, because now I’m totally hooked.

About Daniel B.

A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany.

Coach Farm Goat’s Milk

9 May

GOATMILK

Coach Farm Goat’s Milk

A food review by Daniel B.

Coach Farm has been famous for their goat milk cheeses for a long time. One of my most cherished positions is a well-worn copy of Steven Jenkins 1996 book, the Cheese Primer which I’ve taken all around the country and abroad. Even back then, Coach Farm was listed as an American Treasure.

It’s a crime now that I’ve lived in the region for almost five years that I have never once visited the farm out in Gallatinville, down in Columbia County. Especially since as a Californian at heart, Alice Waters’ Baked Goat Cheese Salad is sacrosanct to my former regional cuisine.

But before there can be goat cheese, there has to be goat milk. And if you are lucky, you may be able to snag a quart of this great product, which is pretty close to what I’ve been looking for in milk.

Raw milk is delicious, and maybe it’s safer to drink the stuff than it is to get behind the wheel of a car. You would probably have to find an actuary to tell you for certain. But for me, it is just not worth the risk. It’s not.

The fluid dairy I’m looking for comes from animals that are treated well and fed primarily on greenery. The milk itself should be only gently pasteurized, unhomogenized, and bottled in glass.

Coach Farm maintains a herd of about a thousand French Alpine Goats that each have their own name. They are fed mostly alfalfa hay grown on the farm, supplemented with other grains. There aren’t any growth hormones for goats, and antibiotics are only used if the animal is sick (with the resulting milk being discarded as a matter of law).

Supermarkets’ shelves are filled with Meyenberg goat milk, which is ultra-pastuerized and has all of the life cooked out of it. Coach Farm does pasteurize their milk, and leaves it gloriously unhomoginized. It is bottled in plastic, so it’s not quite perfect, but awfully close.

And I’m willing to forgive a lot after tasting that first scoop of silky, delicately flavored goat milk cream from the top of the milk. That bite alone is almost worth the price of the bottle. Consuming this little treasure is best left for a time when you are all alone, and no prying eyes can see you and ask for a nibble.

The milk is a bit more assertive on its own. In comparison to whole cow’s milk it is less butter and more barnyard. But that’s not a bad thing. In strong coffee it looses some of its distinctiveness. However the Coach Farm goat milk really shines when contrasted with something sweet and honeyed like granola, for a very decadent treat.

It’s not inexpensive, but full-fat milk isn’t something you should really drink a lot of anyway. I was excited to see that the goat milk had a slightly lower amount of cholesterol than cow milk. But I contend the reason to try this unique product isn’t for health, but rather for its unique flavor, and the sheer joy of scooping out the goat cream.

You can drop by the farm and see the goats being milked at 3 o’clock every afternoon. Most of that milk will go to their amazing cheeses. However, you can find yourself a quart of the milk itself and not just get a better understanding of where that great cheese comes from, but also have a delicious accompaniment to your morning cereal and coffee.

105 Mill Hill Road in the town of Gallatinville, NY

About Daniel B.

A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany.