My blog is not about cooking food or recipes; it’s a subjective exploration of restaurant and food culture, and characters I’ve known. I try to avoid making it a cooking blog because there are so many great ones (see blogroll for a few). I want to see them all well supported. I value them. Some of these blogs inspire me, educate me, and open new new outlets for my professional and personal growth. As a professional cook for 30 years, I welcome this new culinary awareness which has given rise to and has been risen by the foodie phenomenon. For example, twenty years ago Michael Ruhlman would have a much smaller audience for the kind of cookbooks he writes today. He writes at a professional level of understanding; much of his audience has the will, tools and foundation necessary to comprehend advanced methods and concepts and his books go well beyond recipes and basic instruction. His blog and a couple of others have been a windfall of learning for me at a time and place in my life where stagnation and relevance are visceral concerns.
A couple of years ago I discovered Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. I was impressed by the way Hank Shaw, creator of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, offered something very much his own to the cooking, blogging, and food world. He covers his topics thoroughly and the recipes he creates work well. They respect his often painstakingly acquired ingredients. He is clearly a talented cook who respects culinary traditions and is a leader in forging a new wild American cuisine. The blending of the craft of cooking with the skills of hunting, fishing, foraging and gardening is what makes Hank’s blog, and his recent cookbook, Hunt, Gather, Cook so special – that and the extraordinary breadth of food and methods he covers. So guess where I went when I got my hands on some freshly foraged ramps and watercress the other day?
I was a ramp noob. I knew there was a lot of hype about ramps and that they are one of those often dubbed ‘foodie’ foods. I had never actually seen one (or 30) in person until two days ago. I wasn’t intending to have this discovery, but things just fell into place. One of our local professional foragers had the ramps – at peak, I was told. They looked delicious and I couldn’t resist them or her fresh watercress, of which I am very fond. The first thing I did before leaving work, on a rare Saturday evening off, was pull up Hunter Angler Gardener Cook to see what Hank would do. First amazed at his many applications for ramps, I was especially inspired by a ramp pesto that featured oregano and replaced the garlic with ramp greens. The oregano in our herb garden is sweet and tender now, just what you want for a pesto herb. Hank also had a recipe for ramp pasta that intrigued and intimidated me, but after tasting the ramps I imagine it is worth the effort — I went with dry linguini though. Two other items I encountered on Hank’s blog inspired elements of this meal, first, a photo of wonderfully caramelized ramp bulbs and second, several references to braising and using meats with watercress. Hank suggested lardo in one post, but my last batch of lardo took on an off taste in my freezer, so I decided to make some lardons with the bacon I had made from my cousin’s pig. On my way home I acquired a very fresh little yellowtail snapper and a 4-pack of Dogfishhead 90 Minute IPA, I fired off this tweet:
@Hank_Shaw ramps & watercress: gonna caramelize the bulbs add lardon & wilt the cress, serve w/ramp-oregano pesto. HAGC great wild food goto
And the rest of the evening went a little like this:
Washed my wild bounty, put a couple of thick slabs of bacon up to boil, cut lardons, added them and ramp bulbs to my 12″ Griswold with peanut oil,
scaled the snapper & stuffed some ramp greens & oregano into the belly,
seasoned the fish with some dry herb, salt & pepper, and set it onto a hot cast iron griddle,
after a good searing it gets flipped and moved to the oven,
ramps getting closer,
this is what I’m looking for,
boil pasta water,
no time for pictures,
cook pasta, wilt watercress with ramp bulbs, grate cheese, drink Dogfish ale, toss pasta,
This post was inspired by my appreciation for all the hard work that has gone into Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and the value I think its visitors get, but I have been inspired by ramps also. Foodie cliche they may be, delicious is what they are.