Tag Archives: the spotted trotter

New age versus old school

So I am at the farmer’s market this morning, as I always am on Saturdays. I am absolutely astonished this time of year seeing people in supermarkets buying produce, especially tomatoes. Why, or why?

I have an established routine. First, I get my warm doughnut at Old World Doughnut Emporium. Then I make the rounds of the entire market to see what looks good and who is selling it the cheapest. Then I head over to West Wind Farms for my sausage. Sometimes I buy other things. Their chicken wings are the best. But always sausage. Today it was Sweet Italian and Hot Sage. And there is Ralph, the farmer, fiddling with something attached to his phone. Normally, to pay I just sign my name in a receipt book. Today, they want to run my credit card on his phone! There he is, in the white shirt, running an order. You swipe the card on a little thingie attached to the phone. You sign with your finger. That my signature resembled that of a 5-year-old seemed not to matter. West Winds was pretty high tech already. They have a knock-out website, from which they conduct e-commerce. You can follow them on Facebook.

My next stop is my egg guy, James Gardner. James is decidedly old school. West Wind has a fancy truck and a beautiful banner featuring their cows. James has a hand-painted sign, Gardner Grove. There is no e-commerce. James doesn’t even have a website. But I like his eggs and he gives me 25 cents off if I return the carton from the last batch. One Saturday last winter, on a 12-degree morning, I was at winter market and I asked him why he was there on such a frigid morning. “The chickens keep laying,” he said matter of factly. James sells other things, produce and organic meat. But, to me, he’s the egg guy.

A couple of nights ago I made supper and it occurred to me that everything on the plate was from the farmer’s market and that each component featured only two or three ingredients each. You don’t need much embellishment when you’re starting with perfection.

So here’s what we had and here’s how it was prepared. Fried chicken from West Wind Farms: Dredged in flour mixed with dried ranch dressing mix. Fried in lard from my lard guy in Atlanta. Okra: Mark’s family recipe is soak it in milk and cover it with cornmeal. Salt and pepper. Fried in the same lard I did the chicken in. You do not want to waste good lard. Fried cabbage: Cut into ribbons and sauteed with butter, salt and pepper.

Please do not get on me about frying everything. It is the summer, people. And the most fortunate of us are living in the South. All of you who want to broil fish and serve it with quinoa need to just get over it.




Filed under chicken, eggs, sides, veggies

Support our artisan food producers

I am not a rich woman, but I have learned something this year. I will pay extra money for excellence. It started with  West Wind Farms at the Franklin Farmer’s Market. I discovered Ralph Cole’s hot sage sausage. I am sorry, Jimmy Dean (rest in peace, of course), but you will have to move to the end of the line. Ralph’s sausage is expensive – eight dollars for four large links – but once you taste it you will never go back.

Tonight, I was reminded once again why it is important to support artisan producers who know how their animals were raised and treat them with the utmost respect. I speak of Kevin Ouzts’ ambrosial spiced lamb and pork crepinettes. I first ran into Kevin amid the most profound sadness. I had just been to visit Terrell for the last time and decided to stop at the Peachtree Road Farmer’s Market on my way home. Kevin owns The Spotted Trotter and sold me some of the divine crepinettes, this dense delicious sausage wrapped in caul fat. They made me very happy and I needed that.

So, through a friend, I arranged to have some more crepinettes delivered to Brentwood. We had them tonight for supper. I can honestly tell you that one bite of them is worth ten pounds of Jimmy Dean.

So here’s the thing. Times are tough. It’s tempting to go to that big box place with the extremely unhappy greeters and buy meat that was raised in pens and never saw a blade of grass. But while we are struggling, our artisan producers – those people who live on a shoestring and make nary a dime off of what they produce – are dedicated to raising animals humanely and producing ethereal products that honor them.

Go to a farmer’s market this weekend and give them a try. You will also feel honored. And Kevin, you get your USDA certification or whatever the hell certificate you need to ship across state lines. I need that sausage. And Ralph, thank goodness you live within Tennessee state lines because I cannot do without you, my man.

Vote with your pocketbook, however meager it may be, for excellence. There’s so little out there these days.

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Filed under beef, lamb, pork

Lard at last

It only took 689 miles and three hand-offs, but my lard has finally arrived. I am just so happy.

And I think I can now reveal the origin of my lard since it was purchased in the same state it was produced in and then transported across state lines. How would the seller know what was to become of his lard once it was removed from the premises?

The lard’s journey actually began in Orange Park, Florida, with my BBQ buddy Clif Welch, who will pretty much travel any distance for something good to eat. He was in search of pork belly, I believe, and Kevin Ouzts of The Spotted Trotter in Atlanta had some with Clif’s name on it. And Kevin had my lard. So Clif stops in Atlanta, picks up his pork belly and my lard and heads to the Jack Daniels Invitational in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

My lard is then handed over to John and Kathy Swift of Wild Bunch Butt Burners, who agreed to stash it a few days until the contest is over. At the end of the contest, John and Kathy transfer the lard to Rosemary and Charlie Burdeshaw, a couple of pals of mine who are fellow BBQ judges and who live in Nashville. BBQ is such a small world and, you know, I’m so happy that’s the case right now.

This morning, I pick up the lard and a few other goodies Kevin stashed in the bag from Rosemary. And, bless her heart, she never once questions why I would go to such lengths to get my hands on lard. She just cheerfully hands it over.

So Clif just sent me this e-mail:

Question: What are you going to use the lard for?  I got two blocks.  Didn’t that used to go in corn bread and biscuits before Crisco and, later, cooking oil? How about a blog post on cooking with lard?

OK, Clif, here you go. First of all, back in the day lard was used to fry everything. It was also used to make pie crusts and biscuits and it was melted in the bottom of a cast iron skillet so that when you poured in the cornbread batter it would pop and sizzle. That created a sublime crust when the cornbread baked.

Lard lost favor when people became more health conscious and started using vegetable oil. But what is it I keep telling you people? Fat equals flavor? And isn’t it worth it to go for the gusto every once in awhile and vote in favor of flavor? Yes, it is.

So here is how I am going to use the lard. First of all, I am going to fry some chicken in it. Fried chicken, in my opinion, is the highest and best use of lard. I am also going to make French fries, using the double fry method. Here’s the recipe from Food Network I am going to use, except substituting lard for the peanut oil, of course. Then I am going to make a pie crust, since I got three blocks of lard and you, Clif, only got two. Ha!

And I am also going to try an experiment. I have always been wary of the lard you can buy in supermarkets because I’ve heard it easily goes rancid. But I am going to buy some and do a side-by-side comparison, probably with the French fries because potatoes are cheap and so am I.

My Southern food muse and friend, Terrell, told me repeatedly (because I asked repeatedly) that the supermarket lard was fine. I didn’t get a chance to do this experiment before he died because I didn’t meet Kevin Ouzts until right before Terrell died. But you know what? I am quite sure that if Terrell turns out to be right about this I will most definitely hear “told you so” loud and clear.

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Filed under pork, Uncategorized

Caul fat

That’s a tasty title, isn’t it? But it’s been a week and I’ll explain in a minute.

So, CRC started giving away furniture this week to flood victims. The word got out. Since the CRC phone is sitting on my home office desk for the time being, I could not get away from work. It rang more than 200 times in two days. I am not kidding you. Last night, I was down to my last nerve and we couldn’t figure out how to turn the dang thing off. So Mark came up with the brilliant idea of putting the phone in the filing cabinet. Yes, you can still hear it, but it’s muffled at least.

I decide to break open the coveted package of spicy lamb and pork sausage I got last weekend from The Spotted Trotter in Atlanta. Just a treat to end a stressful week. Maybe I’m a little fragile, but it didn’t occur to me until the sausage was in the pan that it was wrapped in caul fat and I had never in my life cooked anything with caul fat.  I could have looked it up on the Internet, but that would be like a man asking someone for driving directions, wouldn’t it.

So I am winging it! Put the sausage in a smoking hot cast iron skillet and let her rip. Oh, my god! Caul fat is, well, fatty! Caul fat, by the way, is a fatty membrane that surrounds some animal organs. It’s used to wrap lean meats to help them stay moist during cooking. I have seen it numerous times on various cooking shows, but was I really paying attention? Apparently not.

The naked eye cannot detect this from the photo, but lightning hot shards of flying fat are coming off these sausages. Mark is oblivious and the cats have run off and taken refuge in the den. I am alone with the caul fat and it is kicking my behind. I feel like I need a shield or a welder’s mask. The stress of the phone is long behind me now. I am immersed in the stress of caul fat.

With the longest pair of tongs I own, I carefully flip the sausages over and then stand them up on their sides so the entire sausage browns. Grease has spread beyond the stove, across the floor and over to the counter. I am defying death and I am proud of myself.

They were delicious. I mean really, really delicious. The caul fat disappeared into the meat, which remained incredibly moist. I am now a fan of the caul fat. And, oddly enough, I am now de-stressed. I hear the muffled tones of the phone in the filing cabinet, ringing yet again at 8:02 p.m. I can barely hear it. No, I cannot hear it at all.


Filed under lamb, pork

Pork belly

I am feeling a little embarrassed. It has taken me a very long time to eat pork belly and to figure out what it really is. So here’s the story.

I am at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market in Atlanta Saturday morning. I happen upon Kevin Ouzts, the owner and executive chef of The Spotted Trotter, a charcuterie.  You know I’m all about the sausage. He offers me some fried hog jowl. It is sumptuous and makes me want to take home some of his other products, particularly the sorghum cured pork belly. I have become almost nauseous over the number of times I’ve heard fancy chefs talk about pork belly and I wanted to finally try it. I don’t know how to cook it. I ask the nice lady helping Kevin and she asks if I’ve ever fried bacon. Well, of course, she doesn’t know me. I am practically  made of bacon.

I take my package of pork belly and head to Brentwood. When I get home I proudly display it to Mark and he says, “What are you doing with a package of streak o’ lean?” And it finally dawns on me. The pork belly that various chefs have been adding to their trendy menus is just streak o’ lean! It’s not even fancy!

For those of you who don’t know, streak o’ lean is just a piece of pork off the belly that has a thin layer of meat between too goodly layers of fat. Most Southern cooks use it to season beans. I do not want to take anything away from the chefs who are braising it and infusing it with all manner of good things. But I took the advice of that nice young lady in Atlanta and I sliced it like bacon and fried it.

Oh, my goodness. It was like bacon on steroids. The fat was deliciously crisp and chewy at the same time and the lean meat just melted in my mouth. You could definitely taste the sweet undertones of the sorghum. I am now officially in love with this stuff, whatever you want to call it.

I also want to say that Kevin Ouzts is a genius and I am contemplating moving to Atlanta and setting up housekeeping in the parking lot of the Peachtree Road Farmers Market so I can be up and at it bright and early Saturday mornings to be first in line at The Spotted Trotters stand.

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Filed under pork, Uncategorized