I haven’t been blogging that much since we closed on our very own home! I have yet to set up a surface where I can photograph yet. It’s been so wonderful building a home together: picking paint colors, scouring Craigslist for vintage pieces and antiques, and planning our new kitchen. We have a lot to be grateful for. We were able to pull together a down payment all by ourselves, which is a feat when one of us is a teacher and the other (me) a freelancer that no one seems to want to pay. For some reason, I thought writing about local food would be more practical than farming or being an artist ( I know, how naive). But I’m so proud of us.
Our home is a fixer upper, an elegant 1926 bungalow only 30 minutes by train to Penn Station. My husband was a carpenter in his last career and our house has solid bones and gorgeous original detailing, so I think we can make it lovely without too much work. It came without a working stove or fridge, but it’s already gorgeous (to us) and we can’t get over the fact that we own a home together. It’s been very romantic and we feel so grateful to be homeowners.
If any entrepreneurs or freelancers need advice on the mortgage process please feel free to contact me. I would love to give advice and/or a pep talk. Credit is pretty tight right now and when you are self-employed or have your own small business it is easy to be discouraged by bankers. One important thing is to make sure your clients pay you on time so they don’t mess up your record keeping, especially around the turn of the year. It can be hard to get clients to pay you on-time but it is important to think of this if you are looking to buy a home. If a client pays you after the new year, be mindful of how it will look to creditors. If you are paying a bill or a person on your project and your client doesn’t pay you until the next fiscal year, it will look like you didn’t make a profit that year, even if you have a lot of money in the bank and were expecting payment.
Cooking was by far the best way to save money for a down payment ourselves. We tried to communicate to our friends that we were saving and couldn’t afford nights out on the town. Most of them were very understanding and cooked for us, and we then cooked for them. We ate meats from my family’s farm and vegetables from our CSA. It was incredible how much we were able to save this way. We made soup twice a week, and I became a pro at sauteing onions, leeks or shallots, then adding chicken stock and a vegetable from our CSA either cubed or roasted, before combining in an immersion blender. It became our routine. It was delicious and never monotonous because we had new vegetables each week.
Roasting a chicken over the weekend was part of this cost saving plan, and bone broth always helps to settle my nervous stomach, which was thrown through the ringer during the whole house buying process. Our chickens this year were mostly young cockerels; we had a lot of heritage breeds like the white australorp, jersey giant, Delaware (a slow food arc of taste designee) and the barred rock. Most of these are egg laying breeds, but the young roosters or cockerels were surprisingly good, with delicious crispy skin and a deeply flavored, juicy meat when roasted well. There’s a healthy debate in my family about the best way to roast these cockerels, and we noticed that once the temperature began to dip they were using up their fat reserves, so we had to cook them differently. It’s so important to be an intuitive cook when you are dealing with nature and what is happening on the farm because of the seasonal changes. I was listening to NPR the other day and the barefoot contessa was saying that cooking should be like driving. You learn to drive so that you can handle all sorts of conditions. Cooking should be like this too, so if you get a steak or chop that is unevenly chopped from your butcher you know what to do. When you are cooking off your farm this is even more true.. Nothing on a small farm is standardized, which is what makes every season so special.
My husband’s Irish family reads aloud to each other in the evenings, or during tea breaks. It’s delightful; sometimes it’s poetry but more often than not it is an editorial or an article they want to share with each other. It’s a tradition we have brought to our new home and the other night he read to me the Michael Pollan interview in New York Magazine, where Pollan talks about how the practice of cooking is so important and why he isn’t a big devotee of restaurant culture. He is a man after my own heart.
“I really like simpler food, and I really like restaurants that leave you alone. What satisfies me is simple food really well prepared—and prepared with conviction. I’m a little tired of restaurant culture, and I really like to cook. And, this sounds weird, but I sort of feel we’re being deprived of the pleasure of cooking.”
I feel as if I cooked my way into our beautiful new home.
Roasted Spring Lake Farm Cockerel
- One cockerel, defeathered. I like to leave it in the fridge chilled for a day or two. You can also freeze it after you have chilled it and enjoy it all year, which is great because the quality of the cockerels decreases with age and over the cold winter. (which is what we had last night).
- salt and pepper (if desired)
- olive oil or shmaltz
- Preheat the oven to 450
- Place bird on a roasting pan. You can season with salt and pepper, and olive oil or even schmaltz if you have it
- Roast for about 15 minutes
- Decrease the temperature to 350 and roast for another hour and 15 minutes or so
- I like to add a bit of water halfway through to capture some of the delicious drippings to serve with the bird
- Don’t forget the delicious skin