Liminality & Thanksgiving Recipes October 26th, 2023 I have written endlessly about the liminal spaces in my life when the ambiguity …
As you are probably aware, brining helps create a more succulent meat. I am a big fan of the dry brine when it comes to cooking a turkey or even a chicken. The dry brine is easier and less messy than wet, and it delivers moist meat and a crispy and flavorful skin, which I happen to be a fan of. Adding herbs and spices to a dry brine (salt) adds flavor, texture, and a joie de vivre by creating an aromatic and flavorful experience customized to your palate. The salt on the skin draws moisture from the turkey and then comingles with the herbs, spices and salt and gets re-absorbed back into the turkey, creating flavorful, succulent and juicy meat. The salt and air dries out the skin which allows it to become extra crispy when roasted, and the herbs and spices add extra flavor as they cook and get embedded into the chicken skin by means of chicken fat. If you are lucky enough to get a jar of my Chipotle Cranberry Mezcal Herbal Brine in time for Thanksgiving, you will need to know how to use it. And if you didn’t get one (which is likely because I made limited quantities this fall), you can still make one using the same formula.
Unbeknownst to most people, an herb garden on the verge of disappearing into a cold winter offers some of the most potent flavors imaginable for making culinary magic. The same herb garden that appears to be dying an unceremonious death is alive and rich with potency. The metaphor is strong: life cycles carry the essence of transformation and change, and change offers something new; in this case new flavors, aromas and textures that we might not expect. My herb gardens tend to be wild, not surprising I suspect. Most try and control gardens, I go with the flow my Missouri garden is pretty wild. Part of this wildness is because, I’m lazy, in the way that I don’t like to exude effort that’s not needed, and in my Blue Eye abode I have had to grow many herbs in subpar conditions: too much shade, too little water, soil that is too acidic or in spots Inca (my dog) wont pee. This is real and herbs thrive in realness, which is likely why I have always been drawn to them. I have found great beauty (and flavor) in my wild herb garden here in Missouri.
I have been toying with the idea of getting a physical space again for Ger-Nis Culinary & Herb Center, this time in Kansas City. I’m needing a commercial kitchen for making my herbal salts and other herbal products for Herbal-Roots, and it’d be nice to have another dedicated food photography studio and with that I’d likely have some in-person cooking classes and food events focused on fresh herbs and my usual- local, organic, sustainable, fairly traded food ingredients and artisans. During a chat with one of my business advisors highlighting some of the most popular culinary classes we offered back at Ger- Nis Culinary & Herb Center in Brooklyn one class stood out: part of our Fill Your Freezer series: Fresh Sausage Making. This was a class that I personally taught and a wave of nostalgia later I made a bunch of sausages and in the process updated many of my older recipes with more fresh herbs and spices as well as a few new tricks and techniques. I also created a few new recipes.
In my long herbal life thus far the question I have been asked most about herbs exposes a deep fresh herb hesitation: “How do I use them all up?” My answer has always sounded as smart-assy as I am, despite the sincerity. “You just do. You just use them up.” Transcend the conservatism. Learn at least a little about the flavor and potencies of the herbs you like, play and take risks. That’s how we grow as cooks and eaters. I have always had my work cut out for me in trying to encourage fresh herb usage in American kitchens. My herbal salts, which are all packed full of fresh herbs, are just one way to increase excitement about herbs.
I have to go back pretty far to recall how my herbal salts first materialized. While surely some form of fresh herbal salt has existed in my culinary repertoire for a long time, I know the first shelf-stable, oven-dried version started in Brooklyn while running Ger-Nis Culinary & Herb Center: one of the few Brooklyn-based businesses I started in my early 30’s. My herbal salts transformed and matured as I traveled the globe. I became a better, more skillful cook and ingredient finder as I traveled to each new place, my herbal salts reflected this growth and found more creative fuel for my artistry, more passion and more personal happiness in creating. The herb salts just kind of metamorphized, despite the irony to of me being a salt-hesitant cook, into what they are today, as I fed my mind, passion and artistry and I hardly even noticed it was happening. It’s been an incredible journey refining this herbal salt thing inside me, cultivating joy while doing it, all from the unlikely position of southern Missouri. But it is indeed here, in my Blue Eye, MO, kitchen that these herbal salts have culminated.
Thanksgiving and the act of giving thanks, the acknowledgement that there is something to be grateful for is something I think we all need to do more often. On Thanksgiving many Americans put forth great effort to make elaborate or in the very least home cooked (from the heart) meals. This effort, that they put forth annually, gives me faith in people and in love because loving people is about showing up and putting in effort.
Fall is not my favorite season. It’s full of mystery, significant change and its sense of loss tends to rile and agitate me. So, as we descend into fall, I always feel trepidation and fear in my blood. As a human being, the fear of the unknown is omnipresent. Habitually I have always tried to control that which is unrevealed, to fight my way through what I don’t know. Lately I wonder if I should stop fighting it and just fall back into myself, hold on and let it pass through me? Letting that which is mysterious reveal itself, in its own time, as nature intended. I think this is what autumn is about. It feels natural. I think human beings, like wild deer know when to be still and when to move. Humans, I think, mostly must learn to listen better, to hear what’s happening inside us.
Chicories—which include three kinds of radicchios (Chioggia, Castelfranco and Treviso), escarole, curly endive and frisée—are members of the lettuce family. They are heartier and more assertive than lettuce, which is probably why I enjoy them. They are kind of like the New Yorkers of the lettuce world, in that they are loud and can be rambunctious. But unbeknownst to many chicories are tameable, and easily transformed into hearty salads, robust soups and braises and satisfying grain dishes that are perfect for the colder months. Rosemary, believe it or not is one of the most compatible herbs for winter chicories.