Poultry Gravy (do ahead, or for when you just want some)

IMG_8597Sometimes it’s just way easier to do something ahead of time.

Every “gather-round-the-table” celebration is more enjoyable if the tasks are shared between several, and it isn’t all done “just before”. When a turkey is pulled from the oven, and set to rest on its cutting board, there are usually other pots simmering, and people talking & visiting. So here’s a tip.

Make your gravy ahead of time. Any juices from your bird can be set in the fridge for the next day or two, making it easy to remove any fat. Then the juices can be frozen, ready for the next time you want gravy. The only downside to this is that you need to have kept those juices for that time.

Here’s a do-ahead gravy that is started from scratch, using some bits of poultry like wings, neck, or even chopped up legs. You can make as much as you want on a day that you pick.

For this year’s Thanksgiving feast, the turkey, stuffing, and three side dishes will be brought by others, leaving me to do a couple of pies, cranberry sauce, potatoes & gravy. As ours truly is the “home-that-gathers”, I am looking forward to the happy chatter and laughter that I am so very thankful for.IMG_8594

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Lemon Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops

IMG_8425I took a long walk through the back trails of Thetis this morning with two young friends. I realized as we walked, that I’ve been walking on this island since I was 7 years old. The island has changed in so many ways, mostly just because more folks live here now, and that, in itself, brings change. One of the children asked me how I knew the trails, and wondered who looked after them all. The paths stay clear of growth from the many feet that travel them, and walkers toss off branch tips and such whenever they’re found. When I told them that the trails get looked after just by being used, it made me think of just how many trails traverse this small island.

We would find them with our parents leading the way when we were so young, and then later when we were given more freedom, we’d adventure through them, sometimes coming to dead ends, and working our way back. When I was older still, I would spend hours on horseback, sometimes getting a bit lost, but never in any danger, it would just take me longer to work my way back home. Our children were raised on the trails, and it thrilled me to hear them talk about their favourite glens or copses, and the imaginative things that would happen there.IMG_4032

One of the island’s main trails, Lawrence Trail, runs through the top corner of our farm (Lawrence Spring Farm), and then follows one of our boundaries through to the center of the island. We have many walkers, and a few mountain bikers, that use the trail regularly. People stop and talk to the horses, or the cows and calves, while they walk along in the cool of the shady trail.   I don’t think there’s anywhere on this island where you’re further than a few minutes from one trail or another. Most of the trails are on private land, and they continue to be used by all, graciously allowed by the owners.IMG_4029

Fifty years my feet have found themselves padding along the old paths, and I am so thankful that I live here, and am able to walk amongst these beautiful woodlands whenever I need or want to get out and walk. To be able to walk so freely to and from one’s home is one of the things that make it a home.IMG_4028

When I think of how important this island, and its beaches, meadows and woodlands are to our family, with so many years of our lives spent here, it is no wonder that several of us have made it our home. These days we gather from our different houses to meet for a simple supper together, maybe play a hand or two of cards, laugh, and enjoy each others company, knowing how wonderful it is that a place has brought us all back together.

This simple dish has been shared a few times during our gatherings, it is a lovely way to serve lamb; I hope you enjoy it. Continue reading

Herb Crusted Pork Roast

IMG_5394When my parents would visit my younger sister and I in our apartment in the late 70’s (returning to the city from their back-to-the-land adventures on Thetis Island) I would try to make a really sumptuous feast at least once during their visit.  I can remember buying a huge pork roast (in reality it was probably no more than four pounds) to serve one night.  I carefully sliced it through almost to the bone, every couple of inches, and stuffed it with nuts, herbs, and dried fruits.  There wasn’t a recipe to follow, it was just an idea I had.  I stuck garlic slices into it, and salt & peppered the fat.  I roasted it on low until the meat could be pulled from the bone.  I still have no idea what cut of pork it was, but its flavour holds fast in my memory.

Pork does so well when treated to a good crust or stuffing, or the both.  This herb & salt mix takes the humble pork butt roast to an amazing centerpiece.  The butt is full of flavour due to the lines of fat that run through it. The fat pulls the flavours in and through it.  Let it sit at room temperature for one hour after covering it with the seasoning.  It will give the pork a chance to take advantage of all you have offered it. Continue reading

Roast Chicken

IMG_2310For many years we raised our own meat birds.  We’d do 50 at a time, raise them on a vegetarian diet, with greens added, and could expect 8 – 10 lb. birds in a couple of months.  We had a chick room, and a finishing room, and during the warmer months, both would be busy.

One year we noticed that some of our young birds had black feathers around their necks and tails.  They weren’t growing as quickly as our Cornish crosses, and acted like, well, like layers!  We built a large outdoor run adjacent to the barn, and let them grow. Fortunately it was our last batch of the year, so we didn’t have to move them out to make room for the next group.  They turned out to be beautiful Columbian Rock chickens.  So we wouldn’t be getting meat from these birds anytime soon.  However, we did find a buyer for the flock of hens and a couple of the roosters, and about a month later had the rest of the roosters finished for meat.  I suppose there was someone out there that had a bunch of meat birds instead of these beautiful layers.  Sorry!Columbian Rock

Having spent lots of time outdoors, eating grass and bugs, these birds had a much fuller flavour than the chickens that had been raised under cover.  The usual Cornish crosses really didn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain and you could loose a few if there was a surprise downpour, consequently, they were raised with a roof over their heads.

It’s been several years since we last raised any poultry, and the flavour of store bought just doesn’t have the flavour of homegrown.  It’s well worth the effort to find someone in your area who raises meat birds on a vegetarian diet (except for any bugs the bird finds itself).  You don’t get handy little packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but you do get a rich bird that is perfect when roasted. Continue reading

Quinoa Tabouleh

In the spring of 1976, my best friend and I headed to San Francisco for the weekend in her dear old VW bug.  We had 4 days off from college, and knew that we could make it.  A friend of a friend had a house that we could stay at, and that’s about all we knew.  The weekend was fascinating and the people living in the house were so kind and welcoming.  We ate at the Acme Café, and for the first time in my life, I ate Quinoa.  I didn’t eat it again until it became mainstream about 10 years ago. I think we all welcomed it as a change from the ever-present couscous. Continue reading