Adams Fairacre Farm is a mini-chain of three farm stores, one each in Beacon, Poughkeepsie, and my own city of Kingston.
I've told you about Adams before this. The Bakery is so-so. You'll never find higher prices on national brands of packaged goods. The Deli is strictly Boar's Head and the prepared food has been known to upset tender stomachs.
And now we come to the produce. Ten or twelve varieties of apples from September through June. Amazing, ever-ripe stone fruit in the summer, strawberries as long as they're good. The tomatoes are a little less than spectacular, but the selection of potatoes is outrageous (because yes, a simple country kitchen has the need of Russets AND Yukon Golds, no matter what you might think.) Onions out the wazoo. Carrots at all sizes from teensy baby to Shwarzneggerian. Fresh herbs at, unbelievably, all seasons. Three different kinds of broccoli...leeks and parsnips for soups...bulk packages of dressed garlic and shallots...
The Dairy, Fish and Cheese sections are mighty, too, and the Wierd Packaged Goods contain the sort of things I used to find in Bloomingdales' Food Hall when all the best gourmet treats came bottled from France. Horseradish oil? Well, do you think I won't use it? Hand-milled polenta? Smoked paprika? Heaven!
We're now well into the winter, so the Meat Department interests me strangely; there are stews, soups and braises to be made, and smoked flavorings to starchy dishes, and protein-based sauces for stolid winter vegetables.
For the most part, these things are inexpensive; even if, like smoked bacon and German-style prosciutto (cured with juniper berries), they are luxury-priced, you only need a small amount of them to prepare a dish which will last several days.
And Adams has the very best homemade sausages: "value" priced Italian pork, sweet or hot, as well as chicken, turkey, and duck sausages, and fancy pork sausages (my favorite, a thin tube made with cheese and garlic) for the wicked, rich smack of which my kosher brother would envy me, if he could but taste this.
The Kingston store is well-stocked, but it's the Poughkeepsie location that keeps you guessing. P-kop is a cosmopolitan town, with a large Hispanic population, people of African ancestry from the Caribbean, the UK, and the American South, Japanese and Chinese and Thai and Taiwanese and Filipino people, gourmets just graduated from the Culinary, hardworking graduate students from Adelphi, partying froshes and scholarly upperclassmen from Vassar, farmers and the sons and daughters of farmers who know what good food and good cooking are. Everyone's got their own foodways, and everyone wants to save a dollar here and there.
So you will find fresh pigs' feet in the meat case here, and whole pig heads, in the springtime.
They have something called the Flintstone Steak, which is a whole rib of beef (about three feet long) with its massive lollipop of tender, marbled meat at the end.
You can find half a young lamb's head in this case, eye and half-tongue and all, looking angelic in a frozen way, and a whole beef femur over there, perfect for your dog's Christmas present, or your own if you like marrow bones.
There are ground meats: four or five grades of beef, plus lamb, veal, pork ground coarse for chili and packaged with a suggestive jalapeno pepper, or ground fine for a gossamer-light meatloaf.
Ruby-red lamb rimmed in creamy fat has an entire case for its own, and in this area lamb is valued for its wool-giving properties, too valuable to slaughter; nevertheless, the lamb is local and it is fine. (A bit too fine at $7.99 a pound for boneless stew meat.)
The meat case at Adams Fairacre has allowed me to do a good deal of comparative rib preparation.
I don't like pork ribs--never did; it's not a kosher thing--but lamb rib chops have been my favorite entree since shortly after I completed my first full set of teeth.
Of course the chops are unaffordable now, but a rack of lamb ribs--just the ribs, with their accompanying meat and fat--goes for $2.09 a pound, and lamb bones are light. A rack of eight ribs is dinner for me and Tracy and a rib left over for lunch the next day. I cut them apart quite easily, marinate them with lemon juice and olive oil, then dry and grill them in my cast-iron grill pan; they render cups of fat but are crisp, meaty and delicious if done right.
Beef ribs are even better, with garlic and soy sauce in the marinade; less fatty, chewier.
This week I bought a breast of veal; the same idea at an even lower price. How will it turn out? At $1.59 per pound, I can afford to experiment.
After a meat-shopping binge last week, I tried Emeril's Lamb and White Bean Casserole again, but this time rang even more changes on it. Now it's a big ole pot o' beans with veggies and a silky lamb sauce, appropriate for walking three miles to work in snowshoes...or exploring the great world in a chilly meat case in Poughkeepsie.
(Somewhat inspired by Emeril Lagasse)
1 pound dried Great Northern beans, rinsed well and picked over
2 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil
3 pounds lamb "neck bones" or "bone-in stew meat"
2 teaspoons garlic salt (Lowry's for preference)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped yellow onions
2 cups chopped shallot
1 cup chopped celery
4 cups "baby" carrots or cleaned and sliced carrots
Leaves from 1 sprig Rosemary
15 fat garlic cloves, smashed with the blad of a heavy knife but fairly intact
8 cups excellent, homemade vegetable stock OR water
Combine the beans and 8 cups cold water in a large saucepan or soup pot and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and remove from the heat. Let sit for 1 hour. Drain the beans in a colander and discard the soaking liquid. Set the beans aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Meanwhile, heat the bacon fat or olive oil in a large (8 quarts or more) Dutch oven. Season the lamb with the garlic salt and pepper and cook the lamb in batches until very brown on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a bowl and set aside. Add the onions, shallots, celery, carrots, Rosemary and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the vegetables are soft, 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock or water and return the meat to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.
Add the beans to the pot and continue cooking until the beans are tender but not mushy, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The cooking liquid should be slightly thickened, just enough to coat the beans and lamb. (If the sauce seems too thin, remove the meat and beans with a slotted spoon and cook until the liquid has reduced and is slightly thickened. Alternatively, if the cooking liquid has reduced too much, add a bit of water.)
Remove the bones from the beans. If you like, you can scrape off bits of meat to add to the beans, but it's not necessary. And even if you really love bones, these are rather nasty: full of cartilege and sloppily butchered, with sharp edges. (You might even have bits of bone in your beans, so warn guests). Best to thank them for their flavoring help, and then bid them farewell.
The beans keep, refrigerated,, or up to three days.