By Robert Haas
Our California kids, Jason and Meghan, and our grandchildren Eli and Sebastian, and our Vermont kids, Rebecca and Tom, and our grandson Emmett, who live here, convened together here in Chester for the two weeks in advance of Labor Day. We were graced by some of the best weather of the summer, and Vermont is rarely so accommodating, or beautiful, as it is in late August:
With a minimum of nine and often with friends we were regularly numerous at the table. Cooking for a bunch for lunch and dinner (breakfasts are on one’s own) can become a chore, so it has been our family’s practice to schedule culinary tasks to all the family in rotation, as you can see from the chart that Jason did (right). It includes headings and teams assigned to set, cook, clear/wash, and play with Emmett. And Riley, as in "life of", which grants whoever has this assignment leave to relax before, during and after the meal without feeling guilty.
Diversity of cuisine and beverages is always a consideration. Fortunately, good suppliers are nearby and an abundance of produce from the garden is available. This time we did rack of Colorado lamb from the Village Butcher in Woodstock, roast local chicken, New York strip steaks from the Londonderry Butcher Block, and great Maine lobsters from Bill Austin's Lobster Pound, which we served with fresh local corn over pasta (recipe below). The stay was also studded with cookouts and wiener roasts, complete with campfires and s’mores.
Besides Arnold Palmers and Lemonades (and good Vermont well water), there were, of course many bottles of fermented beverages consumed, both as aperitifs and with meals. Samples of some of those are pictured:
What fun tasting and sampling such diversity of type, style and origin: artisanal Vermont ale from Otter Creek in Middlebury, cider from Harpoon in Windsor, Backacre in Weston and Whetstone Ciderworks in Marlboro. And, of course, we loved the beautifully mature Petrus 1970 and Blagny Rouge 1989 with our lamb and steaks. Tablas Creek’s Esprits, Côtes, and Patelins, red and white, brought a little California into the mix.
The bounty we were able to enjoy, most of it local and much of it sourced from people we know, is available thanks to the burgeoning local food movement. It would never have been possible even a few decades ago. It felt right enjoying the end-of-summer cornucopia with the large, extended family that isn't together all that often. May your summers end so deliciously, and with such good companionship. Should you want to feed them something special that isn't too much work, a recipe is below.
PASTA WITH LOBSTER AND FRESH CORN
12 oz. pasta
1 ½ cups lobster meat in bite size pieces
1 cup tender fresh corn kernels
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil or tarragon
6 oz. soft unsalted butter
3 tbsp. finely chopped shallots
3 tbsp. dry white wine
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- Boil water for pasta, preferably short pasta like penne
- Gently warm corn and lobster pieces in 1 tbsp. unsalted butter. Once the ingredients are warm, cover them and turn off the heat. Then make the beurre blanc:
- Cook the shallots, wine and vinegar very slowly in a small pan until the liquid is almost used up and shallots are soft.
- Remove from the heat for a few minutes, then whisk in the butter, 1 oz. at a time, just until incorporated, but never totally melted. The final sauce should have the texture of thick heavy cream.
- Cook pasta according to pkg. directions and drain into a deep bowl. Toss the beurre blanc, warm lobster and corn with the pasta and sprinkle on the chopped herbs.
- Serve immediately in warmed bowls.