Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another exciting adventure!

My dear friend and fellow Somerset Painter, JoAnne Carlton, had an accident and is stuck at home for a few days. When I asked her what I could do for her, she said.." Just keep blogging. I enjoy hearing about your adventures!” How sad is that! Having to sit at home and wait for my blog to have some entertainment! My adventures are pretty tame. How I wish I could suddenly become a super heroine to report my latest world altering adventure for JoAnne.
Instead, I am writing about our trip to the chicken farm to see and photograph the roosters and hens! Sad, but true, sorry JoAnne.
Actually, the road trip to 339th and Somerset Road in Miami County, Kansas, was full of fun and activity. My sister-in-law and another Somerset Painter, Vicki Johnston, and I took some of our grandchildren with us so they could check out the chicken scene.
The farm is owned by Annie Cassidy and her husband and daughter. They have approximately 60 birds at this point, but baby chicks are being delivered on the 13th and we have an invitation to return for the occasion.
I had “met” several of their chickens and the number one rooster, Bravery, several times, as Annie brings them to the vineyard on special occasions to “play” with the children and to sell their eggs. Let me take this occasion to say, unless you have eaten an egg that was gathered from the nest that morning….you have never eaten an egg! OMG! You open the carton and immediately have to decide if you want a white egg, maybe a brown one, or blue, pink, green! It looks like the Easter bunny has been here! And when you crack open the egg into a skillet, there is no splattering, no spreading….no, instead you have an egg that stays tight and round, with a yolk that stands tall and has a deep golden color. Absolutely amazing!
Okay, back to the chickens and roosters. Annie’s flock is made up of so many colors and types of hens. Some are very old breeds, some are “naturals” or new combinations of breeds. There is a great deal of “messin’ around in the chicken house, but there is a “pecking order”.
Bravery, the boss rooster, is huge, beautiful and very proud. He knows he is a hunk, and struts his stuff for all his “girls”, and they adore him. There are other roosters in the yard,
but they have to go through quite an ordeal to score with one of Bravery’s girls. Yes, Bravery does share, sometimes, but he does not necessarily have the final approval. The girls have a great deal to say about it.

Have you ever wondered where the term “hen-pecked” came from? Well, let me fill you in! These younger and definitely lesser roosters learn to strut, crow…and beg! As they flirt with the hens, they soon learn loving a woman is not an easy thing to accomplish. See this poor rooster with no neck feathers? Those missing feathers were payment for being allowed to “hang out” with a hen. She extracts payment, one feather after another, and he thinks it makes him look cool! He now has proof for the other boys that he has been successful! He is willing to look like this! And she can come back for more feathers when ever she feels like it, he is completely under her control….thus, hen-pecked!
Now, as I said, Bravery does have something to say about it, occasionally. Take for instance, this poor rooster. Notice he has all of his neck feathers…but look at his backend! No tail feathers! He was picked out by Bravery as the one rooster in the flock that would not be allowed to fraternize with the girls. He gets near one and Bravery descends upon him and plucks out his tail feathers as they race around the yard! Poor guy, what a depressing situation to be in…here the other roosters are doing their bare-necked strutting, and he has to keep his butt up against the side of the barn! Oh well, there is always next year.

Here are some special egg recipes, all tried and true.
Thank you Martha!
Egg in a Basket, Serves 6
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
12 slices extra-thin whole wheat bread
1/2 pound prosciutto or Serrano ham, thinly sliced
12 medium eggs
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
Chopped fresh chives, for garnish
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Manchego cheese, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Butter a 12-cup muffin tin. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Press each slice of bread, buttered side up, gently into the bottom of a muffin cup. Transfer to oven and bake for 3 minutes.
Gently press ham into each bread cup. Carefully, crack one egg on top of ham. Repeat process until all bread cups are filled. Season each with salt and pepper; top with 1/2 teaspoon cream.
Carefully transfer muffin tin to oven and bake eggs until whites are just set, 10 to 15 minutes. Using an offset spatula, remove bread cups from muffin tin and transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with chives and cheese; serve immediately.
Huevos Rancheros
Serves 4
2 mild to medium-hot dried chilies (such as New Mexico or Anaheim), cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
1 small yellow onion, cut lengthwise into 6 wedges with a bit of root end attached
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, skin on
1 jalapeno chile
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
5 whole canned tomatoes, without juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
8 large eggs
8 corn tortillas (6 inches each), warmed
Cotija, Chihuahua, or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded, for serving
Cilantro, coarsely chopped, for serving
Sour cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add dried chiles to dry skillet and toast on all sides, pressing down on them with a spatula, about 1 minute per side. Remove from heat and place in a large bowl; pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over chiles, and place a small heatproof plate on top to keep them submerged. Let soak for 20 minutes.
Add a teaspoon of oil to the skillet and swirl to just coat the bottom. Add onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook until charred on all sides, about 8 minutes, removing garlic if skins begin to burn. Remove skins from garlic and place in the jar of a blender. Cut jalapeno in half lengthwise, removing ribs and seeds; add to blender along with onion, chipotle peppers, tomatoes, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, honey, chiles, and their soaking liquid. Blend until smooth. In the same skillet over high heat, heat remaining 5 teaspoons canola oil until almost smoking. Add sauce to the pan, being careful as it will splatter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 2 minutes. Stir in lime juice, and remove the skillet from the heat. Crack eggs into the skillet and transfer to oven. Cook until egg whites are cooked through and yolks are still runny, about 5 minutes.
Place 2 tortillas each on 4 individual plates. Top each with 2 eggs and sauce. Garnish as desired with cheese, cilantro, and sour cream.
Caesar Salad
If you prefer not to use the raw egg yolk in this recipe, substitute one tablespoon of store-bought mayonnaise. The croutons are best made as close to serving time as possible. Note: Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, young children, or anyone whose health is compromised.
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 loaf (8 to 10 ounces) rustic Italian bread, crusts removed, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
4 anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 heads (10 ounces each) romaine lettuce, outer leaves discarded, inner leaves washed and dried
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, or 2 1/2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
Make the croutons: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine butter and olive oil in a large bowl. Add bread cubes, and toss until coated. Sprinkle salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper; toss until evenly coated. Spread bread in a single layer on an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet. Bake until croutons are golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside until needed.
Make the salad: Place garlic, anchovy fillets, and salt in a large wooden salad bowl. Using two dinner forks, mash garlic and anchovies into a paste.
Using one fork, whisk in pepper, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, and egg yolk
Using the fork, whisk in the olive oil.
Chop romaine leaves into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces. Add croutons, romaine, and cheese to the bowl, and toss well. If you wish, grate extra cheese over the top. Serve immediately.
To make a version of this dressing that you can store, simply mince garlic and anchovies, and place with remaining ingredients in a jar. Screw the lid on the jar tightly, and shake to combine. Shake the jar before each use. Store, refrigerated, for up to 4 days.

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