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PHOTO PROVIDED BY The Farm House Kitchen

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The warmth of family pairs well with fresh cheese fondue

Boo Wells

Boo Wells

Breaking bread together has long been considered the best way to get to know another person. Sitting down at the table and partaking in even a simple meal allows us to transition from strangers to friends and even family. As we sit at the table, we eat and we share stories and experiences.

We exchange ideas and opinions. We listen and we learn about each other. By the end of the meal we are united.

This weekend my table got much, much larger when two families became one. The “We Do” weekend brought my three, plus one significant other, together with three of his five, three spouses and three grandchildren. A table for four has become a table for 17 with two simple words — “I do.”

Over the past four years we have woven our families together while preparing and sharing meals. There is always a task for every pair of hands and young and old work together to put food on the table. Classic barbecues in the summer and warm, cozy meals in the winter have created relationships and wonderful memories.

This weekend, the “We Do” weekend, we chose fondue as the celebratory meal. Warm cheese fondue with chunks of baguette, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, and tart apple slices. Lean steak and jumbo shrimp fondue cooked in hot peanut oil, served with several different savory sauces. Finally, a large green salad to balance out the richness of the meal.

There is plenty of work to be done to prepare for a fondue feast — baguettes need cutting, vegetables need steaming and blocks of cheese needs grating. The youngest members of our new clan are in charge of grating the cheese — three grandchildren with three cheese graters work side by side at the kitchen counter. Adults cut up raw steak and baguettes, and the in-betweens peel shrimp and slice apples. The cheese fondue is made on the stove, the mountain of grated cheese is slowly added a handful at a time to warm wine until the cheese has melted into a warm gooey concoction.

It is important to keep the heat low and stir constantly so the cheese does not stick and burn on the bottom of the pan. Once the cheese is completely melted it is poured into a prepared ceramic fondue pot and set on the table with all the ingredients for dipping. Sharp metal fondue forks are distributed and the feasting begins. At first some jostling and good natured teasing goes on as the members of this new family jockey for position around the table.

Then there is a companionable silence as everyone fills their plates and mouths with what we have created together. Once the initial rush is over, the stories begin and the laughter follows. Food is passed around the table and there are seconds and thirds, and the laughter goes on into the night. A table for four has turned into a family of 17. Our fabric has been woven together and will get tighter and stronger with every meal we share.

So, head up to the attic or down to the basement and locate the fondue pot you got as a wedding present way back when. Dust it off and call your family together for a fun and festive bonding experience over a pot of melted cheese.

Cheese fondue

Ingredientsl_fod_wells_1116
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

½ pound imported Swiss cheese, shredded
½ pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cherry brandy, such as kirsch
Pinch nutmeg
Instructions
In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside. Rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic then discard.
Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in cherry brandy, and nutmeg.
Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods on a lazy Susan around fondue pot. Serve with chunks of French bread. Some other suggestions are Granny Smith apples and blanched vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and asparagus. Spear with fondue forks or wooden skewers, dip, swirl and enjoy.

Boo Wells is chef and owner of the Farm House Kitchen, a catering company and cooking school in Sackets Harbor. Contact her at sacketsfarm housekitchen@gmail.com or visit thefarmhousekitchen.com.

Summer 2016: Food

Versatile frittata makes a meal

Boo Wells

Adapt an easy-to-prepare dish for all tastes

Feeding a family these days has become more of a political
statement than a menu plan. Depending on where you get your information, food can either save your life or kill you. [Read more…]

Spring 2016: Food

Plan grad party menus wisely

Boo Wells

Boo Wells

Grab-and-go foods best for fast-moving revelers

Despite the apparent confusion at Mother Nature’s Weather Headquarters, spring has begun and summer is reputed to be right around the corner. If you have children in grade school you have been repeatedly updated on how many days there are left until summer vacation. Those people in the back seat of the Mom-mobile have their iPhones counting down the days until they can begin parental torture with loud proclamations of boredom.

If you have a high school senior you definitely know the number of days until the end of the semester and the start of the graduation festivities. The clock is ticking down on the school year, the memories have been made, friendships have been forged, term papers and finals completed, college acceptance letters received, plans made for the future. Yet, despite all the joy and celebration there will also be loss and heartache. Most of us can look back at our school years and remember hearing about a tragedy that struck another community. If you were not impacted directly, chances are you were not really affected.

Flash forward to today and social media has made the world a much smaller place as it has brought us all closer together. One community’s misfortune is no longer contained and, as a result, we are all touched and we all grieve.

Social media has brought us closer together during times of tragedy, but it also teaches us how we can, and do, impact one another, for better or for worse. Learning the consequences of our actions may help us to be more compassionate and open minded. From the outside looking in, the youth of today seem to be a kinder and more tolerant group than when I was a child. As I eavesdrop on the conversations in the backseat I learn about kids who are different from their peers and in my heart I feel for them. But, as the back-seater’s dialogue continues, I hear more accepting comments that would not have been spoken in my school years. I cannot resist interjecting, my curiosity is too much to contain. I play the devil’s advocate, I try to bait the back seaters in hopes of comprehending their way of thinking.

Me: “That kid is (pick your adjective)?”

“Gross, why did he do that to his hair?”

“What’s up with that fashion statement?”

”I bet they are just trying to get attention”

“Do other kids tease him or her?”

The back-seaters always respond with a vengeance. They cannot believe my ignorance. How could I be so closed minded, so judgemental and so wrong.

The back-seaters: “Mom! What is wrong with you?”

“Who cares that they are (same adjective as above)!”

“So? What is the big deal?”

“Nobody cares about that! “

“Gosh, Mom!”

So I go back to being the silent chauffeur, stung by the back-seater’s reprimand and awestruck by their willingness to accept, even embrace those who are different. Their lack of tolerance for intolerance hangs heavy in the air. I am so proud of their empathy both locally and globally.

They are so much more aware of what is going on in the world around them than I was at their age, or maybe even now. They embrace diversity, they are kind to each other, they support and nurture even the most unlikely members of their community and they include everyone.

What, you wonder, does this have to do with food? As graduation draws near and the celebratory party plans come together, remember that their eyes are wide open, their arms outstretched ready to embrace and their hearts a large. They welcome everyone to the table. Be ready; the guests will be numerous, joyful and hungry.

Graduation parties will be well attended, even if the attendees are hoping from one party to another. Plan your menu wisely. I suggest focusing on foods that kids can eat while they are chatting or heading to the next shindig. Food that they can grab and go are especially helpful to “drive-by” revelers with lots of parties to attend. Fruit on skewers or grilled vegetables on kabobs, a taco station with loads of toppings or a barbecue pulled pork sandwich station with different types of cole slaw, barbecue sauces and rolls.

STEPHEN SWOFFORD n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Barbecue sandwich

Pulled pork & homemmade BBQ sauce

(Yield: 8 cups sauce; 12 to 15 8-ounce servings of pork)

Ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter
2 cup finely diced onion
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cup cider vinegar
2 cup Worcester sauce
4 cups ketchup
4 Tablespoons dry mustard
8 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 Tablespoons paprika
4 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (add more if you dare)
10 pound pork shoulder
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Melt the butter in a large stainless steel pot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Keep the heat low and avoid caramelizing the onion and garlic mixture. Stir in the vinegar, Worcester sauce, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, paprika, Kosher salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and cool to room temperature. If you are not going to use the sauce right away, refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. The sauce will be even better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to mellow. This recipe will make enough sauce for 45 pounds of meat. If you like to have more sauce for serving, double this recipe and you will have some leftover sauce for another time. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil. Liberally salt and pepper the pork shoulder. Place the meat in the roasting pan fat side up. Roast in a 250 degrees oven for 10 to 12 hours. The meat will be tender and falling off of the bone. Let the meat cool slightly and shred with two forks or roughly chop with a sharp chef knife. Discard the bone. Combine the meat and barbecue sauce and serve with crusty rolls and coleslaw.

Boo Wells is chef and owner of the Farm House Kitchen, a catering company and cooking school in Sackets Harbor. Contact her at sacketsfarm housekitchen@gmail.com or visit www.thefarmhousekitchen.com.

Winter 2016: Food

Meal prep made fast and easy

 

Boo Wells

Columnist Boo Wells

Keep a few staple ingredients on hand to impress

Life moves so quickly. When my boys were babies, random
strangers would constantly approach us while we were out for a walk or at the grocery store, “Thing One” and “Thing Two” in a stroller or shopping cart, “Thing Three” in a snuggle cryovaced to my chest, and they would ooh and ahh, complimenting me on how darling the boys were (really, I’m not biased). What I remember most was the number of times they would warn “time moves quickly, enjoy every moment,” and “Your boys will grow up in a blink of an eye,” or “Enjoy them now, because before you know it, they will be grown and gone.” It was one of those things that I heard so often it began to sound like the adult voices on a Peanut’s cartoon “Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.” [Read more…]

Holiday 2015: Food

Give the gift of food this season

Boo Wells

Roasted vegetable minestrone a holiday staple

I have never had food poisoning. I realize that is a is a strange proclamation but given my mother’s unusual food safety habits or lack thereof, it is actually a miracle. As I have mentioned in previous columns, my parents entertained often. It seems like these days people don’t entertain like they did when I was growing up. My parents had dinner parties several times a month and, as a result, were asked out multiple nights a week (read: babysitters in Connecticut make bank because of social obligations). According to proper etiquette, when you were invited to a dinner or cocktail party you are then expected to reciprocate with an invitation to your next party. [Read more…]

Summer 2015: Food

Savor the sweet taste of a north country summer

Columnist Boo Wells

Columnist Boo Wells

Treat your palette to the bold freshness of spring

Summer is one of the greatest reasons for living in the north country. It is Mother Nature’s reward for surviving yet another monster of a winter. It has only been a few short months since we were surrounded by an overcast and gloomy, monochromatic world, nature’s own version of “50 Shades of Grey.” The snow just kept falling as the plow guys and shovel-strong women and men struggled to keep up. On the days that the sun actually peaked out from behind the clouds, the thermometer rarely recorded a number above zero.

Hardly a cause for celebration, we survived and it feels like winter has been over for ages. Mother Nature has some pretty clever ways of making us forget the terrible by blessing us with the awe-inspiring, just look at childbirth. If babies were not cooing bundles of adorable, nobody would go through childbirth more than once. We forget the labor pains and exhaustion, the freezing temperatures and dreary days. The alternative to this selective amnesia would be a world of only children living in Florida. Enough reminiscing about mountains of snow that were taller than your second-story window or the 10-mile walk to school — uphill both ways. Just look outside your window. Spring has spring and, at this writing, summer is hot in its heels. As memories of last winter fade they are slowly replaced with the glories of spring: digging wild ramps, planting beets and lettuce seeds, the strange way your pee smells after eating asparagus, picking rhubarb and garlic scapes and, of course, cooking freshly picked food for friends and family.

During winter, I never want to leave my house. I give homebody a whole new definition. Come spring, I never want to be in my house. If I could, I’d stay out in the garden from sun-up to sundown. I would be a very happy camper. As I putter about with my trowel and pruning shears, the reality of what to serve for dinner lurks in the recesses of my brain. I tug a weed here and there and pinch back an overzealous basil plant, keeping low to the ground, hoping not to be spotted by a hungry teenager, avoiding being dragged back to reality. When I attempt to enlist their help with gardening chores I can usually buy myself another half hour of peace in my sanctuary.

Hunger is suddenly forgotten and the need to practice an exceptionally dusty instrument becomes urgent. What to make for dinner? Something quick, something easy, something that uses some of the incredible bounty that spring has brought. I try to camouflage myself among the climbing vines and asparagus spears as the teenagers begin to circle.

“Will it ever stop snowing?” has been replaced with “Where is Mom? What’s for dinner?”

Photo by Justin Sorensen, NNY Living.

Photo by Justin Sorensen, NNY Living.

Taste of summer rice salad

Ingredients

2 cups Arborio rice
1 pound fresh asparagus, tough ends snapped off, and cut at an angle into ¼-inch pieces
2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed
1½ cups frozen Edamame beans, thawed
¼ cups finely diced celery
2 shallots, finely diced
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice more as needed
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped chives
¼ cup roughly chopped mint
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Add the rice and boil until the grains are just cooked —they should be slightly al dente — about 15 minutes. Drain well and then spread the rice on a baking sheet to cool.
Bring a separate large pot of water to a boil and blanch the asparagus for 12 minutes. Have a large bowl of ice water ready, immediately submerge the asparagus in the ice bath until chilled, about 1 minute.
Remove the asparagus from the ice bath, drain well, and transfer to a bowl. Add the peas, Edamame, diced celery and all of the chopped herbs to the bowl and toss to combine.
To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in the oil. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
Combine the rice and the vegetables and herbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and a few twists of black pepper. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the rice and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Boo Wells is chef and owner of the Farm House Kitchen, a catering company and cooking school in Sackets Harbor. Contact her at sacketsfarmhousekitchen@gmail.com or visit www.thefarmhousekitchen.com.

Spring 2015: Food

Try a plant-based diet and enjoy many new surprises

Columnist Boo Wells

Columnist Boo Wells

Eat a little less meat and lots more fruits and vegetables

I have recently rejoined the real world after an eight-day visit to my past life in Breckenridge, Colo. The town where the little darlings were born and I had my very first food venture, Off the Beaten Path — A Dessert Company. [Read more…]

Winter 2015: Food

A taste of Jamaica comes home with vegetable curry

By Boo Wells

Columnist Boo Wells

Hearty family tradition continues in the north country

When I was younger, my parents and I would spend several weeks a year visiting my grandmother in the West Indies. My grandmother and step-grandfather became enamored with the English-ruled island of Jamaica after they honeymooned in the tropical paradise. [Read more…]

Time to open the lid on your grill and move the kitchen outdoors

Spice up your backyard barbecue with simple seasonings [Read more…]