When it gets cold, get warm: Honeyed Apple & Turkey Pot Pie
"Don't pack away those winter clothes just yet: This morning, famed groundhog forecaster Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, meaning winter temperatures in 2010 will continue for six more weeks . . ."
-- National Geographic News (February 2, 2010)
Thusly did the Fat Rodent speak*.
Skeptics of the furry mage of meteorology were silenced this weekend as a mammoth blanket of snow landed with an audible 'thwump!' across the US, from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic. The groundhog's forecast certainly appears to be an accurate portent of wintry gloom, but for this Minnesota blogger, it's actually quite cheery news: only 35 more days of winter? Woo-hoo!
Despite five such seasons in the Land of 10,000 Currently Frozen Lakes, I have yet to acclimate to the climate - my genetic makeup is geared toward day shorts and beachwear, not short days and thermal underwear. Early on, I did make a sincere attempt to embrace the season by taking up cross-country skiing, until my vision of sweeping across fields of fluffy snow was dashed by the reality of icy trails and not-so-gentle slopes. After ending up on my back like a panicked, frost-bitten turtle one too many times, the skis were relegated to the Closet of Broken Fitness Dreams.
Now, when the temperature drops low enough to instantly freeze any mucous in my nostrils, I don't hesitate to don multiple layers of heavy clothes, fire up the fireplace and hunker down in the homestead until the spring thaw. Unfortunately, this semi-hibernation has serious implications on the food front as my limited outdoor excursions mean that I must rely on canned, dried and frozen ingredients to cook our meals. It's during this time of year that reading about CSA boxes or trips to the farmers' market from those of you in more temperate climes really grates my last carrot.
And yet, I have no reason to be envious. The cold, monochromatic landscape outside my window suggests that the principles of eating fresh, local and sustainable are in deep freeze during a Minnesota winter, but it's simply not the case. It turns out that I'm just a cold-weather wimp compared to the following hardy souls who don't let a few snowflakes and subzero temperatures get in the way of good food.
*Actually, groundhogs vocalize with whistles, squeals and barks (source: eHow.com)
Peace Coffee Be with You
"The bad thing about winter is people who think winter is a bad thing."
-- Peace Coffee Delivery Cyclist
Peace Coffee has been keeping the Twin Cities metro area well-caffeinated with organic and fair trade beans, which the company sources entirely from co-op farms in South America, Africa and Asia through Cooperative Coffees. But its commitment to social and ecological responsibility doesn't stop there: local distribution is done almost entirely by bicycle, year-round through rain, sleet or snow (a biodiesel van is used for suburban deliveries). Now this is dedication to beliefs and principles!
(Photo courtesy of Mel Meegan/Peace Coffee)
You can read more about Peace Coffee's unique local distribution at Peace Pedaling: Biker Delivery, then check out Metro magazine's recent behind-the-scenes glimpse inside their roastery. Though we'd love to keep it all to ourselves, Peace Coffee can now be found in markets throughout the U.S. But sorry - no bike delivery available!
To Market I (Should) Go
I am literally a fairweather friend. Sure, it's all sunshine as I rave about the Minneapolis Farmers' Market during the warm months, but when the mercury drops, I'm nowhere to be found. For shame!
Winter Schedule features local producers who provide homegrown fare of the meaty kind. Among them is Blue Gentian Farm, a 395-acre farm in New Richmond, WI, just east of St. Paul. Using sustainable practices, Renee and Darryle Powers raise hormone- and antibiotic-free heritage breeds of livestock, including Boer goats, heritage turkeys and ducks, Berkshire pigs (also known as Kurobuta pork) and the handsome, hairy Scottish Highland (Kyloe) cattle.
Who says happy cows are only in California?
(Photo courtesy of Darryle Powers/Blue Gentian Farm)
For Blue Gentian's meats and fresh eggs, and other great products from local farmers, I'm willing to bundle up and venture out to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market, which will be open this Saturday (2/13), from 9:30am until noon, and every other Saturday through April 10th.
Ice, Ice, Baby
Finally, what could possibly be more fresh, local and seasonal than fish caught in a nearby lake? In Minnesota, wherever there's a frozen body of water, there's sure to be an ice shack with a dedicated angler patiently sitting above a hole drilled through the solid surface, waiting for crappies, gills, pikes and walleyes to bite.
Ice tent on Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis
My idea of ice fishing is the wild-caught salmon
on sale at the Whole Foods Market, just past the buildings!
For today's enthusiasts, ice fishing is a sport, a form of socialization and a state of mind, rather than a means of gathering food. But its roots reach deep into the regional Native American tradition of spearfishing, which utilizes multi-tined spears and carved wood decoys instead of rods, lines and lures. While it's unlikely that I'll ever engage in this activity, I can appreciate the mental focus and physical stamina required, as well as its history in providing a critical food source during an unforgiving season and environment.
The lesson about the winter season that these folks exemplify (and I need to learn) is simple: if you can't beat it, join it! The snow has finally stopped falling and the sun is glowing behind the lingering clouds; perhaps I should dust off the old cross-country skis and re-discover the exhilarating feel of cold air stinging my cheeks. After all, as these Minnesotans show, there's a delicious reward for making the extra effort . . .
Honeyed Apple and Turkey Pot Pie
Although I've seen the light about braving the cold air to procure local winter products, there are times when cozying up at home and making the best with what you already have is irresistible. During a recent spell of particularly frigid temperatures (when daytime highs barely climbed into the teens), I put together this warming dish for dinner, using leftover frozen puff pastry, a lonely potato, and some omnipresent carrots and celery. This pot pie was assembled with nearly all raw ingredients and no liquid - as it bakes, moisture from the turkey and vegetables will create a nice savory sauce. It wasn't a terribly original or mind-blowing meal, but it was deeply satisfying. The best part is that by using up some of my provisions, I now have good reason to pull on the boots, button up the parka and slip on the mittens for an outdoor foray!
Makes 4 servings
10oz ground turkey, divided in half
1 medium potato, diced to 1/2" pieces
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 Granny Smith or other tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 to 2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon butter
2 strips uncooked bacon, cut into small pieces
Salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm)
Preheat oven to 325°F
1. In a small skillet or fry pan, melt butter over medium heat then add apples and honey. Stir to coat apples and cook until caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside;
2. In a small bowl, combine potato, celery, carrot and onion, and mix well;
3. Butter a small baking dish (I used a loaf pan), making sure to grease up the sides;
4. Crumble 5 oz of ground turkey on the bottom of the pan, followed by 1/2 of chopped bacon and 1/2 of vegetable mixture. Sprinkle salt, pepper and rosemary, then repeat with remaining turkey, bacon and vegetables;
5. Spread caramelized apples evenly on top of the layers;
7. Cut small slits/vents in the pastry and use excess to make a design, if you wish. Brush remaining beaten egg over the whole pastry.
8. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until pastry is a deep golden color. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.
For next time:
Although the moisture from the meat and vegetables created a natural sauce for the pot pie, it was more broth-like than I prefer. Next time, I will try sprinkling some all-purpose flour between the layers to provide a thickening agent. Also, I'd like to try other vegetables such as leeks and turnips, and rather than plain ground turkey, perhaps a seasoned bulk sausage to add more depth of flavor to the whole dish.
When there's a definite chill in the air, what would you prepare to warm up?