Friday, September 19, 2008

Lesson 1: Shopping

I have been thinking about the first lesson for quite some time now.  In doing so, I think I have read the recipe 10 times, and the introduction to the book 4-5 times as well.  I made a list, rather 2 lists.  The first being things that I knew I could get easily, which meant I had the items already, knew where to find them, or have used them in my cooking regularly.  The second list contained all of the things I needed to research, including where to find pickling cucumbers, fresh spring peas, pearl onions, as well as Chervil.  I was pretty dead on with these things needing some research and investigation, as you will see later.

I set off after work to pick up everything on my commute home from work.  I first stopped at a local fresh market, the kind of local market where everyone seems to know each other, expecting to find a free-range chicken.  I was disappointed that the only birds they had were the exact same that I could get elsewhere for cheaper.  I probably won’t go back, but I picked up a few things on my list that I needed, and looked for the Chervil and the pearl onions.

Next I went to my local farmer’s barn.  My wife and I frequent this place because they have great local produce and are very close to our house.  A farmer’s market, which we have lots of, may have better prices, however convenience and quality are both high at this place.  I was able to get everything for the fruit salad, including pluots as an addition because they are fresh and awfully tasty this time of year, the cucumbers and a head of lettuce.  No pearl onions and no Chervil.

I then hit up the wholesale store for the chicken, knowing it was the exact chicken that I was going to get at the other markets, but at a much better price.  I want to be able to find better options for buying meat such as chicken, and hope throughout the lessons I will be forced to find the best local butcher.  The last time I roasted a chicken, it was out of the Les Halles Cookbook, I stopped at a local butcher who sold me a frozen chicken.  This not only takes preplanning, but also, I am not the biggest fan of frozen meat (maybe this is not something to worry about it, but I prefer the fresh stuff).  I also live in a town with a university which has a big agricultural program.  I have been to their meat production lab.  They have frozen chicken as well, all of which I know are local and are a very reasonably priced.  They are only open about 8 hours a week and don’t always have a wide selection of meat.  I have a lot to learn in to find the best places to shop for food in my area. 

At the warehouse store I had seen pearl onions here before, but no luck this time.  I thought for sure I could find my elusive Chervil and pearl onions at the health food chain store, or next door at a discount grocery.  With one stop I hoped for luck at one store or the other.

I know lots of people love the health food chain store that I went to, but I don’t ever feel like I can get what I want from this place.  Today was no different.  So off I went to the discount grocery. 

Of all of the places that I went, this place had the friendliest staff.   A produce guy was stocking the onions when I went in, and I asked about pearl onions.  He searched and went to look in the back and didn’t find any, it was the closest I was able to get to pearl onions.  My substitute was some white onions, I not quite sure how it will work out, but sometimes I can’t find what I need.  The other thing that I could only find at the discount grocery was fresh thyme.

I couldn’t find the Chervil either, however I knew that I had another option in parsley.  Le Cordon Bleu AT HOME suggests this as a substitute.  My parents are members of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) weekly vegetable box.  The great thing about this is that my parents can never seem to eat all of the veggies, so I can enjoy fresh local produce to eat, enjoy and be adventurous with on a weekly basis without having to pay for it.  This week my parents were out of town and I was able to use all of their veggies including a bunch of parsley.  I also made Chile Rellenos and a great tomato salad out of a few of the other items in this week’s box.

Shopping for Lesson 1 done and ready to cook!

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