Blue Hill at Stone Barns

B
One of the most talked about restaurants in America today is in the centre of a working organic farm just 30 miles north of mid-town Manhattan up the Hudson River in the Pocantico Hills. Its called Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The farm is one of the many owned by the Rockefeller family. The beautiful Norman style stone barns were originally built in the 1930’s by John D. Rockefeller Junior as part of a vision of an economically sustainable family estate, and have been painstakingly renovated under the direction of David Rockefeller and Peggy Dulany.

The object of the exercise is to create a multi-purpose educational centre, restaurant and café so people can become more connected to the food they eat and learn about the reality of nature and food production. 

Locals can come and bring their kids to wander around the farms, watch the sheep and the happy lazy Berkshire pigs ranging freely. Kids who presume eggs come out of cardboard cartons are enchanted to watch the Rhode Island hens, Cornish White Chickens, Bourbon Red and Bronze turkeys scratching and foraging. They can peek into see where the eggs are laid in the nesting boxes at the back of the ‘egg mobile’ which moves around the fields after the sheep, to ensure that the poultry have a continuous supply of grass.

There’s also a herd of Finn Dorset sheep, rabbits and honey bees.

The educational centre runs regular classes in the vegetable garden and greenhouse. Locals can watch the sheep being shorn of their woolly winter coats and learn about spinning and curing the fleeces for sheepskin rugs.

The similarities between Stone Barns and the Ballymaloe Cookery School also set in the centre of an organic farm with pigs, Jersey cows, hens, geese, ducks and bees was uncanny.

I’d been looking forward to visiting ever since I met Adam Kaye in a chance encounter a few years ago. Dan Barber and his wife run the restaurant and café with a huge team of passionate young people. Can you imagine what a joy it is for a chef to have a restaurant in the middle of a farm with all that wonderful seasonal produce at his doorstep to cook with. Irene Hamburger showed me around the farm as the last of the snow was melting after the St Patrick’s weekend blizzards, and then Dan cooked me a Taste Menu which celebrates the season at Stone Barns. The restaurant is in the converted dairy. First we had two little tiny raw fresh carrots and two equally weeny bok choy to nibble on. This was followed by a plate of charcuterie, then came some sesame cardoon lollipops.

Dan is an enthusiastic proponent of sous-vide cooking, so the hake and coddled egg and the Berkshire pork that followed had been cooked in this way. Fans of this type of cooking which was invented in France about 30 years ago say that all the flavour is sealed inside the plastic bag in which it is cooked, usually immersed in lukewarm water. The texture stays soft and tender, the colour scarcely changes and despite all of that I don’t love the result.

I can see how sous vide is certainly convenient for chefs and many top chefs are now experimenting with it, but I find the texture very strange, fish feels and to my palate tastes on the wrong side of underdone, pork, duck and chicken the same. I’ve decided I miss the texture and the caramelisation of the juices that happens when food is grilled or roasted.

The Troisgros Brothers in Roanne in France have used this method to cook foie since the 1970’s and many other three-star chefs have used sous-vide very successfully in their kitchens, and it is widely used in industrial food production. Dan’s food was very interesting but I was somehow expecting something much simpler.

When I walked into the beautiful dining room I was delighted and amazed to find the original Shanagarry Pottery on the tables, it looked so beautiful on the linen runners on the oak and walnut tables. Irene told me they searched long and hard for something handmade, yet simple and sophisticated, so they chose the elegant original black and white and stone pottery designed by Philip Pearce in the 1960’s.

Stone Barn is just a 40 minute train ride from Grand Central Station in New York on the Metro North Hudson Line to Tarrytown, well worth a detour. For more information www.stonebarns.center.org  

Blue Hill at Stone Barns 630 Bedford Road Pocantico Hills, New York 10591
Telephone 001 914 366 9600 Fax 001 914 366 7020

Berries and Semolina Pudding

– 8 portions
Dan Barber – blue hill at stone barns

1 quart whole milk
1/2 orange – zest
1/2 lemon – zest
1 vanilla bean – split and pulp removed
1 cup semolina
5 farm fresh eggs - separated
1/4 lb butter
6 oz sugar
4 cups strawberries – quartered or any other seasonal berry found at the
farmers market

preheat oven to 325

1. in a medium saucepan and over low heat, combine milk, orange and lemon zest, and vanilla bean pulp, and bring to a boil
2. gradually whisk in semolina until mixture thickens
3. add yolks and butter. once butter has melted and is completely incorporated, remove from heat. transfer batter to a large mixing bowl
4. in a separate bowl, combine sugar and egg whites. whisk until soft peaks are formed
5. fold egg whites into semolina batter
6. butter a 9” x 13” bcking pan and dust with semolina. add pudding
7. bake for 30 minutes at 325
8. remove pudding from oven and cool until ready to serve
9. to serve: cut pudding into 8 portions and top with seasonal berries

Summer Salad

Dan Barber – blue hill at stone barns
6 farm fresh almond soft-fried eggs (recipe to follow) (or lightly poached)
3 cups mixed micro or baby greens – arugula, beets shoots, kale, whatever you can find at your farmers market

1 cup mixed herbs – parsley, tarragon, chervil, thyme, mint, cilantro, chives – again, whatever you can find at your farmers market
1/2 cup shelled and roasted pistachios
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup lemon vinaigrette (recipe to follow)
salt and peper
pepper

1. in a large bowl, toss together the baby fennel, pistachios, greens and herbs. add lemonette to taste and season with salt and pepper
2. to serve: divide salad into individual bowls and top with poached egg
lemon vinaigrette
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup lemon oil (recipe below)
1/2 t dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1. in a medium bowl combine mustard and lemon juice. slowly whisk in lemon oil and olive oil.
season to taste.

lemon oil
1 qts canola oil
4 pc lemon zest
1/4 bunch lemon thyme
1/4 stick lemongrass
in a medium saucepan combine all ingredients. place over a very low heat for 1 hour. do not let
oil boil. remove from heat, cool and strain. refrigerate until ready to use.

Almond Soft-Fried Egg

6 large eggs
3/4 cup Panko style breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable/Peanut oil for frying

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, gently add the eggs and cook for 6 minutes. Immediately remove the eggs and immerse in a bowl of ice water until cold: carefully peel and set aside.
In the first of three medium bowls, combine the Panko, almonds, parmesan, salt and pepper. In the second bowl, whip the eggs until smooth; in the third bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper.
To coat the eggs; first roll the cold, soft cooked eggs in the flour, shaking to remove any excess.
Dip the eggs in the beaten egg mixture, then in the crumb mixture, rolling until completely coated.
Repeat with a second coating of beaten egg and crumb mixture. Using your hands, press the crumb mixture around the eggs to secure the coating. You can prepare the eggs to this stage and store refrigerated for up to 4 hours.
To cook the coated eggs; heat about 3 inches of oil to 350°F in a medium saucepan. Carefully add the eggs and cook, turning, until golden brown and heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately with greenhouse salad, fennel and apricots.

Pistou of Summer Vegetables

Serves 12
Ingredients
1/2 lb. Asparagus, cut into 1/2” pieces and blanched
1/2 lb. Fava beans, blanched and cleaned
1/4 lb. Peas, blanched
1 bunch Basil, cleaned and blanched
1 cup Olive oil
2 cups Vegetable stock
1 Shallot, finely diced
1/4 cup Chopped herbs

Procedures
1.Combine blanched vegetables. Place half of the vegetable in a blender with the blanched basil. Puree adding olive oil.
2. In a large saucepan, sweat shallots until translucent. Add blanched vegetables. Add puree of vegetables. Add vegetable stock until desired consistency. Season to taste.

Fettucine with Irish Asparagus

The season for fresh Irish asparagus is May and June so now is the time to make this deliciously rich recipe. Look out for it at your nearest Farmers Market or greengrocer. Don’t attempt to use out-of-season asparagus which has been flown around the globe.
Serves 4

225g (8oz) fettucine or fresh noodles
16 spears of fresh Irish asparagus, trimmed
250ml (8fl oz) cream
75g (3oz) butter, diced
150g (5oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

First cook the pasta: Bring 4.8 litres (8 pints) water to the boil, add 2 tablespoons dairy salt or sea salt and tip the pasta in all at once and stir well to ensure the strands are separate, then cover the pan just long enough to bring the water back to the boil. Cook until al dente (fresh pasta 1-2 minutes, dried pasta see instructions on packet, but test 2-3 minutes before suggested time).

Drain the pasta immediately. Don’t overdrain. Fresh pasta and all long pasta, should still be wet and slippery. 

Meanwhile cook the asparagus in very little water for 4-5 minutes or until almost cooked when the tip of a knife pierces the root end easily. Drain.

Next make the sauce: Heat the cream in a wide saucepan or sauté pan, add the butter and simmer over a medium heat for a minute or two until the cream and butter are incorporated and slightly thickened. Add the cheese and lots of freshly ground pepper. Taste and add salt. Toss in the drained pasta.
Slice the still warm asparagus at an angle, keep the tip intact. Scatter over the top of the pasta, toss gently and serve immediately in hot pasta bowls. 

Foolproof Food

Crunchy Rhubarb Crumble

Crumbles are comfort food, vary the fruit according to the season. Now is the time to use lovely fresh Irish rhubarb.
Serves 6-8

1½ lbs (675g) rhubarb, cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) lengths
1½ -2 ozs (45-55g) sugar

Crumble
4 ozs (110g) white flour, preferably unbleached
2 ozs (55g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
2 ozs (55g) chopped or slivered unpeeled almonds
2 pint (1.1L) capacity pie dish

Stew the rhubarb gently with the sugar in a covered casserole or stainless steel saucepan until about half cooked. 

Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Turn into a pie dish. Allow to cool slightly while you make the crumble. 

Rub the butter into the flour just until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs, add the sugar and almonds. Sprinkle this mixture over the apple in the pie dish. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 30-45 minutes or until the topping is cooked and golden. Serve with whipped cream and soft brown sugar.

Serve with cream or ice-cream.

Variation: Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble.

Stew two-thirds the amount of rhubarb with the sugar, stir in one-third sliced strawberries and proceed as above.

Hot Tips

Good Food Ireland Guide Book and map now available online and good bookshops-
Places to eat, stay or visit – www.goodfoodireland.ie  Tel 053 9158693 Email:reservations@goodfoodireland.ie  

Bewley’s launches exclusive Cup of Excellence coffees
Cup of Excellence coffees are some of the world’s finest and rarest coffees, which have at last arrived in Ireland, sourced and roasted exclusively by Bewleys in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador and Nicaragua – available in extremely limited quantities. Each country’s individual Cup of Excellence coffee is now being featured at Bewley’s Grafton St. in Dublin. 

New Gubbeen Cheese Oatcakes

From grass to cattle to milk to cheese & biscuits. Over the past 30 years cheesemakers, Tom and Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen Farm Dairy, Schull, West Cork, have created their award winning cheeses. Now they have combined their skills with those of fellow artisan, Baker Robert Ditty in Northern Ireland – they are putting together the finest rolled oats from Co Armagh with Gubbeen Cheese and have produced delicious Cheese Oatcakes – available nationwide or call Giana at 028-28231 –overnight delivery available - cheese@gubbeen.com  www.gubbeen.com  

Learn How to Grow your own Organic Vegetables

Beginners Guide to Growing Organic Vegetables with Rupert Hugh Hones at Ballymaloe Cookery School on 8th & 14th May Tel 021-4646785 www.cookingisfun.ie 

The Greenbox, Ireland’s first ecotourism destination plans to host a series of events to celebrate International Biodiversity Day on May 22nd.

This year’s theme is biodiversity and climate change. To celebrate the day, the Greenbox ecotourism project, in conjunction with the Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim, is organizing a series of awareness-raising events. 

Seminar on climate change and biodiversity in the Organic Centre 
Guided peatland walk in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark 
Screening of the film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ (Academy Award winning documentary that has sparked a global debate about climate change) in Manorhamilton and a pub quiz. 
Contact: Ollie in the Greenbox office, Tel 071-9856898, info@greenbox.ie  or www.greenbox.ie

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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