by Jen Maiser, Editor
Laura McCrae, who writes at (Not So) Urban Hennery has been after me to join the Dark Days Challenge since the first time I met her. It's a wonderful challenge, and this year I agreed to do it. I will be writing my adventures of the challenge here on this blog. I believe 65 bloggers are participating, which is a record for the Dark Days Challenge.
You can read more about the challenge on Laura's blog, but it basically involves cooking, photographing, and blogging about an all local meal once a week between now and March 31. I will be posting my adventures here on the Eat Local Challenge blog.
I start the challenge with a lunch meal that I made this week: Roasted chicken with scalloped potatoes and pickled fennel.
I'm lucky to be able to work at home, and while sometimes it can get a bit lonely, I relish it for the fact that I can juggle kitchen projects at the same time I am working. It's a regular habit to bake bread, set a stew to cook, or tend to a soup with very little interruption in my work.
On Monday, I was craving chicken and decided to make one for lunch. A local farmer friend handed me a frozen chicken a couple weeks ago surreptitiously. "How much do I owe you?" I asked. "Nothing, just let me know how it tastes." I'd been hearing about his chickens for a little while, and was excited to taste one. I wanted to cook it in a way that showed off the chicken-y flavor of the chicken, and decided on my friend Pim's recipe that is in her new book: The Foodie Handbook. It's a simple and elegant recipe that involves rubbing butter on the chicken, putting aromatics in the cavity, and finishing it up with a pan sauce that is made from the drippings. It came out delicious, and I think the recipe will be a good addition to my roast chicken repertoire.
By noon, my kitchen was smelling delicious as the chicken cooked and I heated up the scalloped potatoes. I'd made them from all local ingredients (Little Organic potatoes, San Joaquin Gold cheese, Straus Dairy milk) the day before.
The plate was nearly done -- I didn't have time for a side vegetable so pulled out of the jar of pickled fennel in my fridge. One good thing about eating locally is that you quickly begin to surround yourself with others in your community who are like minded. My friends are constantly trading preserved goods or tasty tidbits made from local ingredients.
A couple weeks ago, I attended a party which involved 12 friends making apple butter from 60 pounds of local apples. It was a blast of an afternoon which involved lots of food, wine and laughter. My friend Spencer hosted the party and brought out several pickles he'd made including a jar of pickled fennel.
It was a revelation.
The fennel had stayed fairly crunchy in the jar, and was pleasantly salty without an overwhelming vinegar flavor. Spencer verbally told me the recipe which involved setting the fennel in a brine overnight, pouring it off and adding spices and vinegar before putting in a water bath. If I successfully recreate it, I will let you all know.