This week I’m thinking about Northwest pears and a couple of easy-but-hearty options for the center of my plate, a term that once meant some kind of protein that complemented the sides. Today, people are redefining the plate – but let’s stick with the traditional meaning for today’s purposes.
So let’s just say I’m thinking about those “central components” and if they could be on sale – even better!
This Chicken is Smarter than the Average Bird
Take it easy tonight – our plump and tasty rotisserie chickens are on Big Board Buys this week for $2.78 a pound (that’s $1.51 off per pound).
Pick one up, grab a salad and a side dish, and you have time to enjoy the autumn evening instead of cooking dinner. And in this weather, that sounds like a great idea. Then use the leftover chicken (or pick up another one) for easy soup, enchiladas, salads, wraps and sandwiches.
We started roasting air-chilled Smart Chicken in our rotisserie ovens a few years ago and haven’t looked back since. A customer favorite in our Meat Markets, Smart Chicken is humanely raised without antibiotics or growth stimulants. They’re also air-chilled – rather than being chilled en masse in pools of chlorinated water during processing (sorry, I know that’s gross), they’re chilled in cold air so they don’t absorb water which dilutes flavor and compromises tenderness. And who wants to pay for the weight of the water in your chicken? So yea, that is pretty smart.
The Deli crew rubs them with Hometown Seasoning, a savory spice blend developed in Port Townsend years ago by Chef Joel Levy, who consulted with our food service team back in the day (long-time customers of our Bainbridge Island market might remember Joel playing the saxophone by the deli on Fridays).
Between the quality of the birds, the flavor of Hometown, and slow-roasting in our rotisserie ovens, these chickens are meaty, tender, delicious and extremely smart!
They’re great to make recipes even faster to put together like Chicken Enchilada Verde Casserole (pictured here).
No Cold Shoulder for Porter & York Corned Pork
You know what a pork shoulder is, and you’ve had corned beef. If you like both, you’ll love our corned pork shoulder.
The folks at Porter & York in Woodinville use humanely raised pork and an old family recipe to create this incredibly tasty and tender meat. A few days ago I cooked one in our office kitchen and it couldn’t have been easier. I plopped it in a Dutch oven, added a bit of water and baked at 300˚F for three and a half hours. You can also cook it in your slow cooker.
It was so tender it shredded easily with a couple forks. I served it on Pretzilla buns with OlyKraut and mustard, and my coworkers RAVED (someone commented that I was a great cook, but really, it required no skill or talent whatsoever. I just grinned and accepted the compliment anyway). At $3.49 lb. through Oct. 2, this corned pork shoulder makes a truly easy, economical and scrumptious meal.
And in case you’ve ever wondered, the term “corned beef” comes from salt-curing the beef. It’s done with large-grained rock salt. Those grains also are called salt “corns.”
Fall’s Arrival Means it’s Time to Grin and Pear It
Just as we bid a sweet farewell to the fruits of summer, the fall harvest shows up to fill our fruit bowls. Favorite fall fruits of mine include one of the few fruits that doesn’t ripen on the tree – pears. As in Northwest-grown Bartlett, D’Anjou, Comice, Bosc and Starkrimson pears. Which varieties are for you? Read on.
Bartletts are a classic pear in shape and flavor, and they ripen to a bright yellow. They’re sweet and juicy, and while they’re good eaten fresh, they’re the traditional choice for canning, preserves and chutneys.
Bosc pears, with their long necks and cinnamon-brown skin, are firmer and denser than other pears so are ideal for cooking, broiling and poaching. Their honey-sweetness can be enjoyed before the flesh is fully softened, so if you like some crispness in a pear, this one’s for you.
Comice pears might be described as short and squat, but they’re also the sweetest and juiciest, with a soft and creamy texture. They’re green when ripe and may have a bit of red blush to them. They’re best enjoyed fresh, and the buttery sweet flesh makes Comice a wonderful complement to soft cheeses.
Starkrimson pears are named for their deep crimson red color, which makes them not only pretty but perfect for adding color to gift baskets, cheeseboards and salads. They’re mild and sweet with a bit of floral aroma.
D’Anjou pears are versatile with a dense flesh that holds up well when poached, roasted or grilled. They’re also wonderful sliced in salads and eaten out-of-hand. D’Anjou stays green when fully ripe, and has a citrusy-sweet flavor.
After picking, growers cool the pears to about 30°F (they don’t freeze thanks to the sugar), which is required for them to ripen properly. When they arrive at the market, they’re ready to ripen. Lots of people swear by the process of kick starting the ripening process by putting freshly purchased pears into a paper bag with a ripe banana or apple (they give off ethylene gas … which they all need to ripen).
To see if it’s ready to eat, put your thumb just below the stem. If it yields evenly to gentle pressure, it’s time to eat it!
Our very own cheese whiz, Shauna Howell, offers up a cheese worth discovering.
Lattebusche Piave Vecchio: This classic Italian table cheese often is forgotten when building cheese plates, and yet it’s one of my favorites because it pairs so nicely with whatever you’re serving.
Whether your favorite beverage is red or white wine, or a good amber ale, Piave promises to play nice. And drizzled with a hint of good balsamic it stands out on any cheese plate.
Sweet nuttiness, often likened to that of the other famous Italian cheese, Parmigiano- Reggiano, Piave might just become your new favorite cheese-plate cheese.
Marketing Manager Sue Transeaux joined Town & Country Markets 23 years ago, working in Bulk Foods at the market on Bainbridge Island. She’s always watching for what’s fresh, delicious and inspiring in our markets.