The snow finally came to the Northeast this January. The pandemonium of the expectant snowfall provided a near-hysteria around the tristate area, as weathermen chanted-up a historic snowstorm.
I, fate would have it, had an event planned for the Saturday when we were expected to see the worst of the storm. My friend Graham Miller of the Bridge Cafe and I had been prepping for our event, Full Moon Pho, all week and had our glorious stock and supplies waiting for the full moon to emerge on Saturday. We waited it out as long as we could, holding onto the hope that the weatherman would prove to be over-forecasting, downgrade the storm and allow us to get on with the show. Thursday night the prediction had become greater than previous projections and we were forced to reschedule, bitterly, for the next week.
Saturday morning I awoke to a sight I had not seen for almost 20 years. I could barely see out my windows as the wind had covered them with a velvety snow that had begun the night before and did not quit for another 24 hours.
I was transported back to the great blizzard of 1996 when I awoke as a giddy six-year-old to the mystical snow that blanketed the earth and trapped us in our home for almost a week.
We watched the snow fall as we kept warm in our house and watched snow drifts blow about the property. The earth was brilliantly white, and heavy globs of snow fell from the dull grey sky, showing no sign of letting up.
At midnight, I looked out into the field and saw the moonlight glow atop of the snow. I quickly put on my snowsuit, ran outside, and fainted into the knee-deep snowbank. There is no greater joy than falling into the snow and having it cradle you gently; it always makes me laugh with pure satisfaction. At that moment, as I gazed up at the magnificent full moon above, I was truly happy the storm had interrupted my plans and forced me to hibernate and enjoy the majesty of a full moon snow.
I will never forget when Bobolink Dairy moved into town.
It was Christmas 2010 and my brother, and I we're home in Upper Black Eddy from Philadelphia, where I had been dutifully studying the artisan cheese movement. When we went into the kitchen looking to raid our parents' pantry, we found a hunk of cheese sitting on the counter.
A family friend had dropped it off earlier that day as a Christmas present.
A pungent smell had perfumed our kitchen. The inconspicuous cheese immediately piqued my interest.
"That cheese smells rank" laughed my brother.
We had been taught from a young age not to judge food by its smell and decided to have a taste.'Jean Louis' a raw cow's milk cheese from Milford, New Jersey, the label read.
We hacked into the cheese and devoured the creamy goodness. An earthy, mushroomy spice washed over my mouth, 'Milford?' I thought.
The sleepy river town wasn't exactly known for artisan cheese. This cheese was reminiscent of a robust French-style cheese like Époisses. Who were these people? Where had they come from? We needed to be friends immediately.
Fast forward six years and I am happy to call Jonathan and Nina White good friends. Bobolink quietly moved into our neck of the Delaware River, but their cheeses and breads scream for attention. Their wood-fired hearth produces hearty and rustic breads like Roasted Garlic Duckfat Ciabatta or Medieval Rye Levain with Kalamata Olives. Bobolink exclusively uses regionally grown organic grains. Their passion for natural fermentation and old world techniques leads to extraordinarily tasty results.
Jonathan & Nina love their cows which is seen through dedication to providing them with a stellar quality of life. They know that happy cows produce the best cheeses and go to extensive lengths to protect their herd, land, and values.
Over the years, Jonathan and Nina have been highly supportive of all my culinary endeavors. They have donated more product to me than any farm I have ever worked with and are always happy to participate in events.
I met up with Jonathan after the blizzard to take stock of his herd. We drove the tractor out to deliver hay to the cows one brisk morning and Jonathan glowed like a proud father as he gazed out at his cows. As we enjoyed watching the cows prance through the deep snow to gather round the hay, he pointed out many of them to me by name, telling me their age, describing their personality and medical histories.
When I came back to the east coast with my Pho recipe, I was excited to use Bobolink’s steak & beef bones in my stock as I knew their quality was unrivaled. I had beefed up my Pho recipe out in California, using bones from a nearby Ranch. When Graham and I merged our recipes, his stock included chicken feet in addition to beef bones. I had also read that in Vietnam, they frequently incorporated pork into their stocks. When I was at Bobolink earlier that week, Jonathan told me he had an abundance of pig heads We decided to run with it and used the heads in our stock as well.
Serves about 8
2 large onions, split
1 large knob ginger, split
5 pounds good beef bones, chicken feet or pork bones
4 cinnamon sticks
6 tablespoons coriander
6 tablespoons fennel seed
5 whole star anise
6 cardamom pods
4 oz salt, to taste
6 oz sugar, to taste
1/4 cup fish sauce
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a sheet pan laid with parchment paper, lay out bones in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. On another sheet pan, char onions and ginger, until almost black. In a large stock pot add bones, onions and ginger. Cover completely with water, plus a little more and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, toast spices until fragrant, wrap in butter muslin & knot. Add to stock pot. In the first hour while bones come to a boil, remove any foam that rises to the top. Add salt, sugar, fish sauce and allow to simmer for 3 to 6 hours tasting frequently. Adjust seasoning to taste.
fresh Banh Pho, flat rice noodles*
1-3 pound lean beef (london broil, eye round), sliced thin**
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch scallion, sliced into discs
Handful pickled yellow onions
1 jalapeño, sliced thin
1 cup mung beans
1 bunch Thai basil
2 limes, cut into wedges
Hoison & Sriracha
In a pot of boiling water (about 6 cups), cook noodles for about 30 seconds, tasting for firmness. Place in large bowl. Atop noodles, place raw thinly sliced beef, cilantro, scallion, onion and pour piping hot broth. Serve aside jalapeños, mung beans, Thai basil, limes, hoision and sriracha.
*ingredients should only be rice, water & salt
**to make cutting thin slices easier, firm up the beef by placing it in the freezer for 15 minutes
Cheese Curds with Spicy Maple Mayo
2 quarts vegetable/corn oil
1/4 cup milk
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup beer
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pounds cheese curds
salt, to taste
In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil to 375 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, cut a ring of an onion, place it in the oil as it is heating up and once the onion begins to turn golden, your oil is ready for frying.
In the meantime, prepare the batter. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together milk, flour, beer, salt and eggs until it forms a thin batter. Separate curds and cover in batter. Shake off excess batter and deep fry the curds until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Be sure to keep the curds moving so they dont stick together. Once golden brown, remove from pan and place on a plate with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.
Spicy Maple Mayo
1 cup greek yogurt
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons sriracha, to taste
salt and pepper
In a small bowl, mix together yogurt, maple syrup and sriracha. Season to taste. Serve with curds.