From Firefly Farm to Table

Wednesday May 22nd was a beautiful day to be visiting Firefly Farms in North Stonington, CT for an exclusive butchering workshop.  Firefly Farms is a Certified Humane animal farm located in the South Eastern most point of Connecticut that specializes in rare breed animals that are pasture and forest raised.  The farm is fairly new and is currently specializing in raising Mulefoot hogs which are the only hogs to be considered a breed and Mulefoot hybrids as well as chickens and cattle.

Mulefoots were likely brought over to the Gulf Coast via the Spaniards and since the early twentieth century their population has been in a decline.  I had a rare opportunity to be apart of this butchering workshop at Firefly Farms to further hone my skills in butchering and learn about modern breeding techniques.  What makes this more unique is that Mulefoots thrive on pastures and open land, which Firefly has plenty of and can tell you all about on their website.

Prior to this event I made the trek out there to visit their farm and get the full tour, their property is small by the standards of pasture raised animals but they have adequate land for what they are currently raising.  Dougan, one of the family members that owns and manages the property, was my first contact a few weeks prior to my visit while I was in search of the perfect piece of fat to make my lardo.  The excitement in his voice to meet me and get me out to the farm was a breath of fresh air since moving to the East Coast.  During our first talk he was on his way to New York to pick up some rare cattle so our chat was short, but the following week he called me again excited to talk to me about the wonderful and underrated pork fat that he has available.  When making lardo, I not only look for the best tasting fat but also the thickest, which has proven to be difficult.  The back fat needed for lardo comes off of the back of the pig, above the loins (along the spine), and is hard to get and has a lot to do with the breed of the pig and its diet.  After our second talk I was convinced that this was the farm to begin working with, not only for myself but for Cavey’s restaurant, and I headed out there a few days later.  Dougan’s passion and excitement for his farm is something that I enjoyed and can relate to when I am in the kitchen.

During my first visit there was massive demolition going on, Dougan’s family is in the process of removing a lot of their trees to allow for better growth and development of the land, which during my second visit, was already beginning to show.  The idea behind thinning the trees, which I know very little about, was to allow for more sunlight to reach the ground to help with ground cover and food for the livestock.  Other techniques that are applied to the land are all controlled by animal rotation, this farm is truly on its way to being sustainable, from limiting erosion to natural development of the land and feeding the animals with what grows naturally, which happens to be acorns and grass, and acorns are great to finish pigs on.

My second visit started with another mini tour where we were all given a refresher on how the farm operates.

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After our tour we began our butchering workshop, we broke down into pairs and we each had half of a pig to work on. Our first step was to decide what we wanted to do with the meat, which would determine how we broke it down. Our goal was a little different than the rest of the attendees, as they were going for the singles out tenderloin and a full rack of chops we were more focused on the parts that have more flavor. We started by removing the middle section, loin and belly, and proceeded to break down the front of the pig. Out of the front we got two nice roasts with a good amount of fat and a beautiful jowl that will be great when cured and smoked. After the front was cleaned up we broke down the back leg. Ours was very large, we were going to continue to break it down but with the time constraint we decided to cure it and hang it for prosciutto.

Black Bass and Local Shad

It’s been a month since starting work at Cavey’s in Manchester, CT and we have just started to receive all of the local spring goods such as ramps, fiddlehead ferns, and mushrooms. The one that has surprised me the most though is, the local fish, Shad. When shad season starts you better have it in your restaurant, we receive calls daily asking if we are running any shad specials or if it has made it to our menu. I was more excited to get the roe as I have not had a chance to work with it much, until we got the filets from our fishmonger. Each filet of Shad has four rows of curved bones and the art of filleting Shad is a 400 year old tradition for most fishmonger’s. The fish is very similar to herring and is typically and best served with the roe, and at Cavey’s we wrap the roe in pancetta before pan frying.

The same day the Shad arrived we received another shipment of fresh ramps and black bass, and since I am an amateur with the shad I decided to tackle a bass special. This dish was inspired by the long awaited spring and the desire to grill. I started this special by poaching some fingerling potatoes in seasoned water then allowing them to cool in the fridge. We only want to par cook them because we will be grilling them later when ready to use. After spending an hour or so cleaning ramps I sautéed the bulbs and when they became tender I added the green tops until they wilted. I placed this mixture in a blender and created a very bright and flavorful purée that will be used as the sauce. My favorite attribute of black bass is the thin skin that is great when fried or grilled when left on the fish. Scoring the skin in a few spots helps prevent the fish from curling too much when being cooked. The final key component is the asparagus, since the season is just starting to take off we have had the opportunity to get some local product that is out of this world. The best way to cook asparagus is from raw and either roasting or grilling until tender but still crisp, and for this special I chose to roast them in a hot oven



Finally, there have been a bunch of tasting menus from vegetarian to all meat since the last post so here are the ones I was able to capture.

What’s In Season?

With so many things to cook and enjoy in life sometimes you need a helpful little chart to remind you of when they are available. This chart will be available in the resources tab above.

= In Season = Conditional
Crop Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Apples Heir
Apple, Mountain Rose Limited Limited
Asian Pears
Beans, Bush
Beans, Dry
Beans, Fava
Beans, Garbanzo
Borage Flowers
Brussel Sprouts
Cara Cara Oranges
Citrus Coriander bloom
Currents, White
Fiddle Ferns
Green Almonds
Garlic, Spring
Lime, Finger Limited
Lime, Kaffir
Melons, Water
Miner’s Lettuce
Peas, English
Squash, Summer
Squash, Winter
Swiss Chard
Foraged Products
Crop Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Golden Chanterelle Euro NW NW NW NW NW NW
White Chanterelle
Sask & QC Chanterelle
Blue Chanterelle
Yellowfoot Chanterelle
Violet Chanterelle/Pig’s Ear
Black Trumpet
Chocolate Hedgehog
Chicken of the Woods
Fried Chicken
Mousseron/Fairy Ring
Sweet Tooth
St. George
Domestic Porcini NW NW & CO
Imported Porcini S.Africa S.Africa S.Africa
Morel Orchard Black & Grey Burn
Early Morel/Verpa
Spruce Tips
Wood Sorrel
Wild Salad
Wild Licorice Root
Wild Ginger Root
Wild Spring Onion
Stinging Nettle
Miner’s Lettuce
Ramp Leek
Huckleberries Mountain/Costal
Crop Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
OR Black & WhiteTruffles
Bianchetti Spring White
Alba White Truffle
Burgundy Black
Australian Winter Black
Perigord Winter Black
Italian Summer
NW Fish
Crop Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Halibut WA Dayboat
Yelloweye Rockfish
Albacore Tuna Hawaiian Dayboat Washington Coast Hawaiian Dayboat
King Salmon
Sockeye Salmon Copper River/WA Troll Blueback
Black Cod Year Round / Subject to Weather Conditions/Area Restrictions
True Cod Year Round / Subject to Weather Conditions
Ling Cod Year Round / Subject to Weather Conditions
Petrale Sole
Dover Sole Year Round / Subject to Weather Conditions
Skate Wing Year Round / Subject to Weather Conditions
White Sturgeon
Live Razor Clams
Live Dungeness Subject to Area and/or Temporary Closures

Food Pairings

My own worst enemy on the internet is wikipedia, with all of its “knowledge” and endless links I get trapped staring at my screen for longer than I want to admit. So here is my food pairing “wiki”, which is open for people to submit their favorite pairings, so add it in a comment or an email and I will add it to the list.
-Happy Clicking-

AKI Gluten Free Flour Giveaway!


Introducing the
AKI Culinary Giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a $20 dollar e-certificate to the AKulinary online store. All you need to do is name any three (3) of the nine (9) cookbooks (title only) shown in the picture below. All entries must be submitted by March 7th at 11:59 pm ET.
All correct answers will be put into a magic hat and one (1) winner will be picked at random and the winner will be announced on Facebook.

Submit Your Answer Here!

The Summer of Wedding Cakes

It’s the beginning of December and I am now just getting to this summers wedding cakes.  It seems like every year there is a new challenge for me to take on and this year was the mass amounts of cakes and even more specific, how they were decorated.  When I started doing wedding cakes three years ago I kept them simple and with the intention of making sure I could balance my typical twelve-hour work day.  Since the first year I started the wedding cakes I was able to train my ambitious bakers to properly bake the multiple layers of cake, make fillings, and to begin assembly.  This was a huge weight off of my shoulders in the middle of wedding season and all of the summer activities at Black Butte Ranch.  I have noticed, since beginning my culinary career, that bakers are the first to be cut out of hotels and restaurants, and to me this is a real disappointment.  Sure, you can save on labor and you can turn your bakeshop into storage space for banquet equipment, but to me you are removing key components to a brigade.  A kitchen is not supported in whole by one department but by many departments, you need all of them to create a truly divine experience, and when you remove one link, one key component, you are slowly bringing down the brigade and the quality of what is offered, but I digress.  I will be taking time off from wedding cakes as my new job is not in that business, yet, so these will be the last for a while.

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