Cooking in the Fall

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The weather finally turns cool and heavier foods seem appetizing again. When the Chapel Hill Museum holds its fall gala, chicken liver terrines are suddenly appropriate. A Brussels sprout and blue cheese salad replaces one of tomatoes and watermelon. Back come the big stock pots, because besides the everpresent brown sauce, our need for chicken broth increases, and we have to prepare for the arrival of duck and cheese pork. The mixed vegetables of summer have given way to sauteed leeks and cabbage as a side vegetable and mashed potatoes must now share the stage with rutabagas.

People may notice that when something comes into season it is liable to appear in several guises on my menu. In late spring that handful of the first fresh herbs is sprinkled all over everything. Later we'll show more restraint. Tomatoes show up everywhere in mid summer. Ditto fresh corn. Green tomatoes are presently being used both fried and in a wonderful relish for fish that I got years ago from an old friend from Lousiana. In the fall duck is perhaps the best example of this excess. From the roasted carcasses, we make both soup and sauce. With its liver, we make pate. The legs are cured in salt and slow baked under lard. They may show up in a main course or shredded into soup right away, or we may hold them back for jambalaya when we begin our Mardi Gras menu in late winter. The breasts will be seared, sliced and served with our vinegar-tinged glaze. We usually add fruit to this sauce- perhaps cranberries, or grapefruit sections or stewed kumquats. The hearts and gizzards will be picked off of the roasting pan and eaten by me. More about that another time.

It's also the season for hams. Last Sunday we brought out our first baked hams glazed with grainy mustard and maple syrup. We generally use these for large parties or buffets. They are good at any temperature and are also very pretty. Closer to the holidays corned hams will be on the menu most Saturdays. These hams are better than anything but unfortunately less attractive. They are an Eastern North Carolina specialty, and every year when they show up, I inevitably get a phone call or two from someone down east who hasn't seen one in years. Look for these to show up on an off until Easter.

posted by Bill Smith at 3:00 PM


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