This Week In The Box is a weekly roundup of what we’ve been eating and drinking in the past week.
Fall showed up this week! (And not a minute too soon, IMO. This summer can suck it.) I don’t mean that the calendar changed to a certain date, or that the autumnal equinox happened. I mean that we got the real signs of fall–I considered wearing a jacket, everything suddenly became pumpkin flavored, and Hazard was briefly taken over by the Black Gold Festival.
The festival had its usual glorious assortment of deep-fried delicacies, though I was disappointed that the folks with the Pickled Bologna on a Stick didn’t make it back this year. Before I even got there I was hearing buzz about an outfit called Smokers Wild out of Berea and their smoked fish tacos:
The buzz was well-deserved. Every time I eat smoked fish I wonder why I don’t smoke more fish. Their brisket sandwich, pulled pork nachos, and Cajun fries were all legit as well. Look for them at a festival near you.
Of course, it’s not Black Gold without a funnel cake, and we sought out a favorite from last year–the Red Velvet Funnel Cake.
This was a little hard to find, because their sign really doesn’t make a big deal about this variant, but if the response to my Facebook post is any indication they need a big flashing “RED VELVET FUNNEL CAKE” sign. And it wasn’t just the addition of that red velvet tang that made it great; it was also just a damn good funnel cake. (Not to mention huge–we were handing out handfuls to everyone we passed.)
Friday night we slipped out of Hazard to try out a new place in Whitesburg, The Thirsty Heifer.
Situated in the old Courthouse Cafe, they’re part of what I see as an emerging trend in the restaurant world–doing one thing, and doing it really, really well. (Call it the Chick-Fil-A model.) The menu on Friday night was a burger, a ribeye “burger” (really just a ribeye on a bun), and fries. They’re committed to local ingredients, even going so far as to get their buns from a bakery in Wise. The burger was superb, just thick enough with a nice crust and good flavor. And while I’m a shoestring fry guy at heart, their thick-cut steak fries were very well done, even on a busy opening night.
The beer list is not nearly so limited; they’ve got an impressive draft list (not just “for Whitesburg”), with some unexpected domestic craft brews and several dedicated to European beers. Lots of potential here.When we talk about green beans in Appalachia, we’re not talking about the same thing that the rest of the world is. Every non-Appalachian green bean recipe I’ve ever seen assumes you have the little skinny kind with nearly nonexistent beans, and not the big, tough greasy beans and half-runners and goosebeans that grow in the fields of the 606.
That’s fine with me, because when it comes to cooking and eating beans, I like the big tough ones that you have to string. (Especially if you’re roasting them, which we usually do.) But I also love pickled green beans, and the big tough ones are lousy for that, so I hadn’t made any in a while.
That’s why I was excited to see stringless “Provider” beans show up in Old Homeplace Farm’s online store. They’re perfect–substantial enough that you know it’s a green bean, but thin and tender enough that they get penetrated and softened by the brine.
I made our whole two pounds into a big batch of quick pickles to munch on during my study marathon. I kept it simple: half water and half cider vinegar made to a 5% brine, about 5% honey, two heads of garlic cloves, and a little pepper. Boil all that up. Meanwhile, blanch the beans in boiling water for 1 minute and shock them in ice water. Let the hot brine cool a little then pour that over the beans. They were delicious after 24 hours.Also thanks to Old Homeplace Farm (since my gardening efforts were pretty sad this year), I was able to put up a few batches of pesto. This is an essential line of defense against winter; in the darkest and coldest days of February when you find yourself wondering if summer ever really happened or if it’s just a dream you had, you’ve got little doses of concentrated summertime tucked away in the freezer to reassure you.
3 oz basil leaves, 1 oz walnuts (screw pine nuts–walnuts are just as tasty at half the price), 3-4 garlic cloves, 3 oz olive oil, salt and pepper. I make it in the blender, then smooth it out and cover it with a thin film of olive oil to freeze it. I always leave the cheese (1 oz Parmesan) out and add it when I thaw it out, but I’ve been doing it this way for so long that I don’t remember why I do it that way. (Makes sense, though.)I don’t make biscuits often enough to get good at it, but my game was definitely on Sunday morning. The only thing I did that I don’t usually do was to stash them in the fridge for about 15 minutes after I cut them out.
–It’s an exciting couple of weeks coming up! This weekend is the second annual Appalachian Food Summit in Abingdon, VA. Next Friday is the aforementioned test, which I’m taking in Asheville so the rest of the weekend can be spent celebrating appropriately. Then it’s the Bourbon Social in Lexington, and it just goes on from there. Because it’s fall, and the possibilities are endless.