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Farmers Market Season; Me: Up to Now; Oyster Bisque

The Poulsbo Farmer’s Market opens tomorrow and I am really looking forward to it! It will be fun to see who is there and what they have and what I can use for a catered dinner we are doing next week. Port Orchard will open on the 24th and that is the other one I get to more often than any of the others. I mainly hit Poulsbo when I can simply because there are more farmers and at PO there are more crafters and plants people. PO has the bbq guy though, and that is worth it’s weight in diamonds. THE best bbq this side of Mississippi! Poulsbo has CJ’s breakfast burritoes and I love those darn things so much that I can’t believe I just went 6 months without one! I want to try to hit more markets, more often this year, though we shall see. Saturdays can be busy at the cafe with catering and special orders and the season for that has started (thank goodness!!) we have a seated dinner for 20 upstairs on the 17th, the Spring Party and radio show at the cafe on the 24th, an off site catered Kentucky Derby party and a charity wine tasting both on May 1. That Kentucky Derby party is a really cool job that we love. The ladies who put it on came to me 3 years ago with a menu that they wanted and we have adapted the recipes to do them ‘our’ way, and they have loved them every year! From oven-smoked pork butt, sweet potato casserole and cheese grits, to spoon bread and caramel nut tarts, I look forward to cooking this party for them every Spring.

Yesterday Mark and I went out to the Hama Hama Oyster Farm just outside of Lilliwaup (the other side of the canal) and spent some time with Lissa, who is part of the new generation that is running the farm. This place is super special to both Mark and me. We have childhood memories all around this place and we have been eating their oysters practically all our lives. I met Lissa James and her brother Adam a couple of months ago on that agri-tourism seminar farm tour that I told you about, and we started hatching a plan. Most of you know that Mark and I host an 8-day food and wine tour in Italy each October, and I have been wanting to do something like that, in day-trip form, around here. Hama Hama will be our first trip. We are going to take up to 30 people for a day trip in May, on the lowest tide of the year. There will be a farm tour, guided beach walk and fire pit. There will be live music, and Meg & Brad Gregory of Black Sheep Creamery will hopefully be there with samples of their fabulous sheep cheese and info on cheese making. We will learn how to pick oysters, shuck them, and do a cooking demo class all about oyster stew. We will also dig a few clams and learn about the other foragable edibles in the area, and then have a wine tasting with Hoodsport Winery and their new ‘Orca’ line of wines. We will have a wonderful meal with a bounty of seafood: oysters on the half shell, bbq’d, pan fried, pickled and in the stews; steamed clams; canal shrimp; sea beans from the estuary at the farm; Mark’s crusty Italian bread, 2 or 3 different styles of salads and side dishes; wine; and oh yes, we are hoping to get the folks from Olympic Mountain Ice Cream out there with their gremolata for the oysters, and their ice cream for dessert along with some wonderful creation of Mark’s. Oh yea, baby, this is going to be amazingly fantastic! We have invited a few eagles and other wildlife to make their appearances and with the lowest tide of the year we just might find a lost civilization out there. I CANNOT WAIT for this to take off! Lissa and I are still finalizing a few things before we begin to sell tickets so watch the web site and here for that announcement in the next week or so.

This is my final installment in the story of how I got here, and the things that helped to shape my life as it is now, in relation to all things food. I started the story 3 posts ago and in this fourth post I will bring us to present day. All of the things I have written about (and more) played roles in building up my value system. Of course, my parents played (play) the biggest role of all, from forming my food tastes and values, to supporting me endlessly in my endeavors. I remember our family going in search of the divey-est dives with the most phenomenal food that we could find…breakfast joints, Chinese food, teriyaki steak and eggs… of course we got the occasional bucket of chicken or take out pizza, and Lord knows when my parents were both working hard and raising two young daughters frozen meals were relied on more than a few times. But those are not my key memories; the huge family gatherings with everyone cooking and bringing great food to the table are. The ‘try at least one bite of everything and then you can go’ rule was way better than at my friends’ homes where they had to clean their plates no matter what. As we got older and our lives could have easily grown apart from family meals, my parents made us merge, at least a couple of nights a week family dinners were still a priority and telling one thing we learned that day was more often fun than it was a chore.

It is a natural transition for us to go from living our values, to living our values through our business, and yet so often we find others to be surprised that we do this. Why wouldn’t we? I know this wasn’t the original plan: I was so sure of my law enforcement career plans that when they got derailed I thought there was no meaning left in my BA, or anything else that I had done. I tried other paths, including the time I became a certified Nutritional Herbalist and Reiki master, and I learned many more things that help me in my business today, though I certainly never thought that could tie in. I still love those parts of my life, and I do not mourn the loss of those dreams like I thought I was going to. Rather I am grateful to have had them and for having them help get me to where I am today. Looking back it is so easy to see the path and how it all ties in… which was unimaginable during those parts of the journey. That knowledge helps me sit more easily within the journey I am on now. I may not know where we will end up, though it doesn’t really matter because I just keep getting happier and more satisfied with my life.

What do you want to be when you grow up? I can tell you from experience that the best way to be happy doing it, no matter what you do, is to live your values all the time. It’s the only way to fly!

The recipe today is my grandmother Marylee’s Oyster bisque. It is a simple dish and I have created other styles of stew based on this recipe.

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped (her recipe says to julienne them, I do not)
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, chopped
6 ‘tender’ celery stalks (I use the innermost part of the stalk, leafy parts and all), chopped
5 TBS unsalted butter
Salt & Pepper to taste

1/4 cup flour
6 cups hot fish stock and/or chicken stock (I use mostly clam broth and add some chicken stock)
2 cups dry white wine or vermouth
1 large bay leaf

32 fresh oysters, drained
4 more TBS butter
10 drops worcestershire sauce
Salt & Pepper

2 cups sour cream whisked w/3 egg yolks
fresh herbs, chopped fine (I use flat leaf parsley and chives)

In a covered 3-quart saucepan, cook the vegetables slowly in the butter until tender, though not browned-about 10-15 minutes. Season to taste.

Sprinkle the flour over the veg and cook, stirring gently, for about 3 minutes. Dribble in 2 cups of hot stock and whisk or stir to make a perfectly smooth mixture with the flour; gradually stir in 4 more cups of stock and the wine. Add the bay leaf, bring to a simmer and simmer slowly for 10 minutes. adjust seasoning as needed.

Meanwhile melt the next 4 TBS butter to bubbling in a frying pan and add the oysters. Let cook for one minute, turn them and cook one more miute, or until they are plump and swell slightly. Drop in the worcestershire, S&P, and pour it all into the soup base. Be sure to swirl some of the soup into the pan to get all the oystery goodness out and into the pot.

Whisk the eggs and sour cream together in a heat-proof bowl and by driblets whisk in 2 cups of the hot soup liquid into the sour cream to temper it. Fold the mixture back into the soup pot and stir over moderate heat until the liquid has thickened slightly. Do not bring this to a simmer.

Adjust seasonings and serve at once with a sprinkling of the fresh herbs. Voila!