Spring Staff Recommendations
To me, Spring means counting down the days to nettle pesto. Spring is also the time to put the baking steel on the grill and cook langoustines. I split them in half and just add a little salt and pepper. Total luxury. If I have the grill hot, I might throw on a couple of grass-fed Angus beef bavette steaks, lamb racks or Iberico pork lomo (striploin). There is no better steak than Bavette, in my opinion. I don’t get the inFATuation with wagyu. I like beef that tastes like beef. With the lamb rack, I like to cut them into 2-bone chops and stand them upright on the grill, to avoid powdering the bones. As for the lomo, I usually roast half on the grill, and slice and pound the other half into cutlets for another meal. My other favorite cut is one for all seasons: whole Shenandoah Valley Organic chicken. A whole chicken has so many possibilities. We cut the breasts into strips to fry and dip in honey mustard, render the fat, make soup with the bones, and who knows what my wife, Orsi, will do with the legs, but nothing goes to waste.
Nothing says Spring like lamb. On weekends, I love to roast a bone-in lamb leg seasoned very simply with rosemary and garlic. Another favorite Spring meal is chicken pot pie, made easier with organic free-range chicken thighs in user-friendly packaging that allows me to thaw what I want and freeze the rest. For busy weeknights, grilled sockeye salmon fillets are quick and easy to cook. I like to serve them on a bed of fresh lettuce. In Spring, that might mean tender, wild Miner’s lettuce, which comes available in March. Meyer lemons wrap up their season around April, so get them while you can. Their mild acidity is perfect for one of my favorite Springtime desserts: lemon upside-down cake.
Springtime cooking for me means super fresh, but also fast so that I can enjoy the intermittent sunshine. Magret duck breasts just need a quick sear and a little resting time. I’d pair them with a wild miner’s lettuce salad for a fresh bite that is of the season. For a heartier meal, I’d favor Iberico Pork tenderloin, cut into medallions with just simple seasonings or lemon sauce. Morel mushrooms start in the Spring and are a luxurious addition to just about any steak, my favorite being the grass-fed beef filet mignons.
Lamb is an obvious Spring choice. Just thinking about our grass-fed lamb paired with fresh peas makes me excited to see the back of Winter. I particularly love to cook lamb striploins, but Iberico pork presa is my favorite cut of meat, bar none. Presa, a shoulder eye steak, is ideal for Spring because it’s so versatile. You can pan sear it on the stove and roast it in the oven or grill it outside if the weather cooperates. Presa is very hard to mess up and always tastes amazing. Our Spanish Huelva sardine fillets are another versatile ingredient you can take in many different culinary directions. In the Spring, I would put sardines on toast topped with two other harbingers of the season: fava beans and wood sorrel.
I love to do an Easter feast with a Mediterranean bent. Whole octopus to start. I give it a long simmer in vinegared water, drain and cool it, then toss the tentacles on a charcoal grill. Lamb racks are the ultimate center-of-the-table show-stopper. I slow roast a frenched rack of lamb in the oven, then give it a reverse sear in a blazing hot oven or on the charcoal grill, if it’s already fired up. On the side, there might be fresh fava beans and fresh ramps. Shelling favas is a great way to get little hands involved in the kitchen. For the ultimate herald of Spring, I’d give favas a quick sauté with fresh ramps and whatever tender Spring herbs are handy. Also, in the Spring, I move away from braising cuts to more tender muscles that can be more simply seasoned, seared, and oven finished. Venison Denver leg offers great flexibility in that regard. Silver Fern Farm’s venison is so mild it will make a convert of anyone averse to gaminess. Because of the Denver leg’s butchery, it can easily be scaled for weeknight dinner or for a feast by cooking as many cuts as the occasion requires.
Light and easy, that’s the way I like to cook in the Spring. Flat iron steak is super simple. You can cook it completely in a skillet with no extra time in the oven. Its great on its own or paired with chimichurri. Lamb striploin is versatile, doesn’t need much advance planning, and goes well with fresh Spring vegetables. I like to keep ground Kurobuta pork or Wild Boar in the freezer as a dinner option because there are so many ways to use it. You can’t go wrong with either one in Asian recipes that use herbs like basil & mint to compliment the savory pork fat. Argentinian Red Shrimp have stunning flavor without any help from sauces or marinades. They really shine in a scampi dish or a noodle salad. We won’t be having large gatherings this Spring, but when we can safely party again, I’ll turn to Shenandoah Valley Organic chicken party wings when company’s coming, and I don’t feel like whipping up a large entrée. They’re so easy and delicious. The quality of SVO chicken always impresses my friends when they try it for the first time.
Who doesn’t want to feel like a Spring chicken? I like cooking a whole Shenandoah Valley Organic chicken. If I’m lucky, I’ll have fresh ramps on hand too. Much as I love to pickle the bulbs and turn ramp tops into pesto, nothing beats simply grilled ramps, dressed with good olive oil and fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice. That’s the taste of Spring. Fresh peas with mint are another Spring favorite, especially served alongside grilled lamb racks. Spring is all about freshness for me. A chilled coctel de camarones – made with our Argentinian Red Shrimp—fits that bill for me. So does Iberico pork tenderloin (solomillo) paired with fava beans, wild morels, and asparagus. That’s a goddamn Spring delight!
The approach of Spring means Easter is around the corner and Easter means lamb in our family. We usually roast a boneless leg, slathering the nooks and crannies with garlic, rosemary, and mustard, but sometimes we’ll marinate the boneless leg and grill it butterflied. My fondness for lamb extends to merguez, the spicy lamb sausage of North African origin. Merguez is one of the 12 varieties in our sausage sampler, and I love doing a mixed grill of just sausages. On weeknights, no matter the season, I’m all about easy-to-prep and quick-to-cook meals. As the days lengthen and the weather warms up, that often means fish. Spice-rubbed Icelandic cod loin makes a great taco filling. Atlantic Dover sole needs just a brief time in the oven with butter, lemon, and capers. And of course, Spring means the return of wild sockeye salmon, which I never tire of.
My favorite meats don’t change much from season to season. My favorite cut of steak is our grass-fed New York strip. Pekin duck breast is very steak-like too, and easy to cook. Even easier: using boneless skinless organic chicken thighs in a stir fry with rice. I also enjoy eating rice with boneless lamb strip loin, a very tender meat. Beeler’s bacon is the best! It’s so thick you can cook it until it’s really crisp, but it stays meaty.