Dish of the Week
Serendipity Farm Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad with Crispy Lamb Neck Croquettes
This is the perfect Early Winter dish that delivers all the satisfying meaty flavors we long for as the nights turn cold. The persimmons and pomegranates come from Bruce and Vicki Pate, who graciously opened their farm in Geyserville to us last week. If you think a single leafless persimmon tree with its gloriously colored fruit is Christmas beautiful this time of year, imagine an orchard full of them.
Admittedly, the lamb aspect of this dish would be a bit tricky for the home chef unless you have access to whole animals or are a member of a meat buying club. The beauty of nose to tail cooking goes beyond honoring an animal (and value for money); in great part it's rediscovering cuts like this. The first thing Chef did after breaking down the animal was to get a great stock going with roasted bones and cuts like the neck and shoulder. His braising liquid for lamb consists of white wine, fennel, tomato, rosemary and loads of fresh parsley. After a few hours in this braise, the succulent meat all but falls off the bone.
Neck meat cooked this way has marvelous flavor, redolent of the braising liquid and the free range life of the animal. Our two lambs this week were raised at Lou and Susan Preston's biodynamic Family Farm on West Dry Creek where they played an important role fertilizing the soil as they grazed the fields and vineyards. To make the croquettes, the meat from the bones was rolled in saran wrap and refrigerated just long enough to hold its shape. Just prior to cooking, Ryan brushed the chilled 2” croquettes with Dijon mustard and rolled them in lightly seasoned Japanese breadcrumbs.
Because the meat is fully cooked before hitting the pan, the croquettes only need a few minutes in grape seed oil over high heat, just long enough for the breadcrumbs to turn golden and crunchy.
Ripe but firm persimmons have an unusual flavor that isn’t sweet so much as fragrant, with a silken honeydew quality that pairs beautifully with the richness of the lamb. Use non-astringent varieties for taste and ease of cutting. I think Serendipity Farm’s persimmons were Jiros, but Chef was going with Fuyus, which are everywhere this time of year. Chef shaved the persimmon into semi-translucent overlapping slices which he used as a canvas for a composition of baby roasted artichokes, pickled red pearl onions, red and yellow endive and one of his current favorites ~ exquisite tiny radishes. A sprinkling of red pomegranate pips completed the dish. Pomegranates are lovely this time of year but always a bit fiddly. Ryan showed me a quick way to extract the pips from their membranes: slice them in half and, using the wider end of a big kitchen knife, whack away, holding the cut side over the plate. Depending on how your day went, you can have a nice therapeutic moment as pips rain down like a shower of rubies.
In the Gallery
We always try to fill the Gallery with unique smaller gifts at Christmas time, and this year is no exception. Besides a (rapidly diminishing) table of ornaments, we have cotton tea towels from Portugal, hand-loomed scarves from India and Ethiopia, Alpaca throws from Peru, votive holders made from cinnamon bark and a small but highly eclectic selection of books and hard-to-source cocktail bitters.
One of our favorite items back in the Studio after a long, post-tsunami wait are the exquisite hand-blown blue and yellow whiskey/cordial/ you-name-it glasses from Sugahara.
Out of time to shop? Not sure what to get for that certain someone you don't know all that well (or perhaps know all too well)... The ever popular Barndiva Gift Certificate may be the the most thoughtful gift you give all season. If you can't make it into the Gallery, call (707.431.7404) and we will be happy to take your information and send the the gift certificate anywhere you want. They can also be purchased at the bar, where you can have a glass of wine or a cocktail while you contemplate how clever you are ~ really, how much easier can we make this?
The Countdown for 2011 has begun...
We are always fully booked for our fabulous New Year's Eve soirée, with the rush for tables coming right about now. Last I looked, we were almost out of space ~ so book now if you are thinking of joining us for a "classic" six-course menu culled from what Chef feels are the best dishes he has cooked all year. Don't say you weren't warned! If you already have plans for NYE but would like to join us for a glass of bubbly or taste one or two of the dishes on the NYE menu, we will serving them à la carte from noon to seven. Seating for NYE (dressing up not required, but encouraged) starts at 8:30. Take a look!
Barndiva wishes all of you a joyous holiday season. We thank you for your continued support without which we could not and would not find the vision and resolve to do what we do. Make a joyful sound, friends, for truly we have no time to waste.
Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah from all of us at BARNDIVA
All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski (unless otherwise noted).