Kristin’s grocery goodies
I love grocery shopping. I truly do. Run out of milk and I am the first to jump up and offer to go get some. Sure, I know that I will need food tomorrow, but I think I will just get enough for today so I can go back tomorrow, too. All I need is some olive oil and a dozen eggs, but I will most certainly grab a cart and meander up and down each aisle, just in case I find something else yummy that I didn’t know I needed.
A great grocery store, to me, is a thing of beauty. I could easily while away hours roaming the produce section, squeezing each peach until I found the ideal one that is perfect to eat today. I could sniff every interesting, gooey looking cheese in the cheese case, oohing and ahh-ing over their stinky-ness, all the time wishing I could just eat everything… all the time.
There isn’t much that brings me more joy than discovering a new, fun, delicious something or other. So, I thought it fun to share a few of my most beloved grocery store finds with you below.
All bacon is not created equal. Of course, you have your applewood-smoked, your brown sugar glazed, your cheap and your hoity-toity. Your all-natural, nitrate-free, heirloom pig fed on acorns brands, and then you have… the slab. Slab bacon is taken from the side or the delicious belly of a hog (the best part) and smoked like regular bacon, but left whole, in one chunk. The skin is left on, which is removed before using — and hopefully made into crispy cracklings Yikes, y’all that was the Southerner in me, who just slipped out.
Wonderfully, slab bacon it’s less expensive than sliced. So you can eat more of it. I just adore cutting slab bacon into big, beautiful cubes, sautéing till crispy, and tossing into salads, for garnishing soups or even, yum, serving as nibbles with cocktails. The French love them, and call them lardons, and you know the French know something good when they see it. I always have one on hand that I’ve picked up in the meat department of Sonoma Market. I cut it into thirds and keep them in the freezer for those times when I’m in need of a little slab of happiness.
Are you like me and on a lifelong quest to make the perfect roast chicken? If so, you need to be aware of something that I very luckily stumbled upon a while ago… air chilled chicken. This chicken is chicken intensified. Chicken-y chicken. Chicken probably the way it tasted in the good old days before factory farming and bird flu. Not a soggy, salty, waterlogged, grocery store bird.
My preferred small, California producer, Mary’s Chickens, saves more than 30,000 gallons of water per day, and their chickens are safer, fresher and retain that tasty natural chicken flavor. Ask for Mary’s Chickens locally at Sonoma Market and Whole Foods, finally ending your lifelong quest for that perfect roast chicken. Just a warning: you will never be able to eat that other chicken again.
Brown rice, the earnest mascot for the fibrous health food movement, has somehow ingrained itself in my brain. Pun intended. Alas, not just any brown rice, but the certified organic, heirloom Kokuho Rose medium grain brown rice from Koda Farms, located in the dusty heart of California’s Central Valley. It has a pale golden color, subtle nutty texture and a somewhat sweet, floral aroma. Each grain remains individual, with a slightly sticky texture that amazingly improves in the refrigerator over time. White rice simply pales in comparison. Find Koda Farms rice locally at Sonoma Market.
Laura Chenel, now practically a household name, was America’s first commercial producer of goat cheese, an early icon of the California food scene. After a trip to France in 1979, she returned to Sonoma County to produce her fresh chèvre and sell it at local farmer’s markets. In the beginning, her product was received with mixed success. At the time, Americans were simply unfamiliar with goat cheeses. Her huge break came when foodie pioneer, Alice Waters, placed a standing order for her cheese to use in her salad of mesclun greens and sauteed chèvre. Waters listed the cheese by name on the menu, in what was more then likely the first American instance of “goat cheese salad.” The salad remains on the menu at Chez Panisse to this day. Laura Chenel cheeses are still my go-to brand for goat cheese no matter what I plan to do with them, whether simply smearing on some hearty brown bread or floating little knobs in a fresh puree of tomato soup. Find a wonderful array of Laura Chenel cheeses at Sonoma Market.
We all have guilty pleasure and as guilty pleasures go, I guess mine could be worse. It’s merely the wonderfully fluorescent, green, instant pistachio pudding that comes in the little box from Jello. I don’t recall how I became hooked on the stuff, but know I have been secretly enjoying it for many years. I have never looked at the ingredients for fear they might scare me away; I have never tried any of the other flavors of Jello pudding, my heart belongs to the pistachio. I love the little bits of nut and how elegant it appears when allowed to set up in a fancy glass, you must use whole milk and never believe them when they say a box makes four servings. I would venture to guess that homemade pistachio pudding could possibly be more delicious and better for you, but who wants to find out?
On The Menu
Sheana Davis, chef and owner of the fabulous, foodie-filled shop, The Epicurean Connection, leads her popular “Home Cheesemaking Classes” at the Sonoma Valley Inn once monthly. The upcoming dates are October 14, November 11, and December 2, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Students learn to make a selection of simple, fresh cheeses during these small, fun classes. Call 935.7960 to reserve your space or for more information.
Mike [the bejkr] creates some of the most lovely, handcrafted breads in the Valley, selling them at both Sonoma farmers markets. Bread baking is truly an art that I have always wished to master, so I am hoping to attend one of his upcoming classes being held at the Sonoma Community Center. On Saturday, November 17, he teaches students how to bake “Holiday Breads,” on Saturday, January 12, it’s “Green Tea Brioche,” and Saturday, February 9, “Intro to Bread Baking.” For details or to reserve your space visit Sonomacommunitycenter.org.
Frisée Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs
Makes 4 servings as an appetizer or first course
- 1/2 pound frisée
- 6 ounces slab bacon
- 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
- 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
Tear frisée into bite-size pieces and put in a large bowl. If using slab bacon, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut bacon slices crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks (lardons). In a heavy skillet cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden. Remove skillet from heat.
Have ready another skillet with 1 inch warm water. Half-fill a 4-quart saucepan with water and stir in white vinegar. Bring liquid to a bare simmer. Break each egg into a teacup. Slide 1 egg into simmering liquid and immediately push white around yolk with a slotted spoon, moving egg gently. (Egg will become oval, with yolk completely covered by white.) Add remaining 3 eggs in same manner. Simmer eggs about 1 1/2 minutes for runny yolks to about 3 minutes for firm yolks. (Serving this salad with runny—not fully cooked—yolks may be of concern if there is a problem with salmonella in your area.) Immediately transfer eggs to skillet of warm water.
Reheat bacon in its skillet over moderate heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add red-wine vinegar and boil 5 seconds. Immediately pour hot dressing over frisée and toss with salt and pepper to taste. Divide salad among 4 plates and top with drained poached eggs. Season eggs with salt and pepper and serve salad immediately.
Kristin Jorgensen is one of Sonoma’s most passionate, food obsessed residents. In this weekly column, she covers all the delicious happenings, foodie events and restaurants in Sonoma, the rest of Wine Country and beyond. Email her with comments, questions, or your food related events at firstname.lastname@example.org.