Kristin Kimball, a travel writer turned Luddite farmer, shares lessons from her kitchen.
Kristin Kimball and her husband, Mark, started Essex Farm in Essex, New York, with a seemingly impossible goal: to provide 100 local residents with every one of their ingredient needs. After a grueling first year, the Kimballs were producing beef, pork, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese, vegetables, herbs, fruit, grains, flour, dried beans, lard and maple syrup. And they did it all the old-fashioned wayusing horse-drawn plows, for instancewith no outside help. In her new book, The Dirty Life, Kristin tells the story of launching the farm in 2003 and describes the meals she has since learned to make for the Essex crew. Her excellent tale inspired F&W's Grace Parisi to create the fast recipes here.
During its first year, Essex Farm harvested 10,000 pounds of potatoes in just one day; Kimball turned some of them into potato-leek soup. If you have a blender and good chicken broth, she swears it's one of the easiest soups to make. This version has a fabulous topping of supercrispy sourdough and pancetta crumbs mixed with sage and rosemary.
"I have a hard time getting excited by beef," Kimball confesses. "Steak bores me, and roasts can come out dry. We do a lot of ground meat, and I get tired of coming up with new ideas for it." This luscious potpiewith its buttery cheddar crust and filling mixed with parsnips, carrots and peaswould be a perfect addition to her repertoire.
The Essex crew starts work at 5 a.m., pausing at 7 a.m. for big, satisfying breakfasts, often made with the farm's own eggs. The breakfast recipe here is ideal for a group, combining scrambled eggs, sausage, cheese and potatoes in one big skillet.
"Pork chops are a perennial favorite with our 140 members," Kimball says. "We have to limit the amount we give out, or they'd be gone too quickly." The pork is especially good glazed with maple syrup tapped from the farm's own trees. "We use maple syrup a lot, since we don't have sugar. We probably go through 15 gallons in a year."