Recipes from Jackrabbit Hill…Sierra Foothills Cooking in a Small Vineyard Setting
Trent and Karen Pridemore were several years away from retirement and starting a search for a slower pace of life in a rural setting. Their short list included cultural programs, a reasonable driving time to Sacramento and the Bay Area, a change of seasons, fly fishing and room for a wooden barn, small vineyard, perennial gardens and a fresh vegetable plot.
Trent was on a fly fishing adventure in Siberia’s Kamchatka peninsula. Karen had taken a girl friend to the Pridemore’s vacation home in Carnelian Bay, Lake Tahoe. On a crisp day on their way back to Pleasanton, the ladies detoured down Highway 20 to the historic Gold Rush towns of Grass Valley and Nevada City. A week later Trent and Karen had tickets for the Draft Horse Classic at Nevada County’s beautiful tree studded fairgrounds, a room at Emma Nevada’s B & B and dinner reservations at New Moon restaurant. Three weeks later they made an offer on a rural home in horse country that came with six acres.
Their recipes reflect a life style that evolved as they developed their property and immersed themselves in a new community where “fresh”, “local”, organic” and “green” were part of the culture. They brought with them the best from their experience in the Bay Area restaurant scene and its food resources. Trent is a self taught cook and the main chef at home. He has taken classes from Jeremiah Tower, the Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Chef West, Institute of Culinary Arts, Los Dos in Merida, International Kitchen in Barcelona and Portugal and Ramekins in Sonoma. He writes for several magazines and does columns for California Fly Fisher called “The Foraging Angler” and “Camp Fare”, as well as doing cooking demonstrations and guest barbecue appearances.
Two years living overseas in the Philippines with side trips to Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Cong and Japan exposed then to Asia food cultures. Their House Girl, Pressy, took them on adventures to open air markets and taught them Filipino/Chinese cooking. Travel led them on food safaris to England, Holland, France, Austria, Italy, Spain and Portugal, and more recently South America and the Yucatan. Trent has camped and cooked on the beaches of Baja using the freshest of fish, shrimp and abalone.
Their food and recipes are built around fresh ingredients. Grass fed beef, lamb and goat comes from Penn Valley, Heirloom pork from a ranch near Lincoln, bison from Clear Lake, rabbit from North San Juan, ducks from the Sierra Buttes, salmon and other salt water fish from a treasured fish broker, an occasional trout from the Sierra and organic produce from Farmer’s Markets and their garden. All reflect Trent’s cooking credo: The better your ingredients, the simpler your preparation.” In spring, summer and early fall much food preparation and dinning is outside where a Bull Texan gas grill, Big Green Egg and a Webber kettle are at their disposal. Outside, cooking is on a special Dacor range built for propane. Their outdoor grills are never put away.
Trent and Karen found that meals emphasizing domestic game, grass fed livestock, fresh fish and organic produce would dramatically reduce cholesterol and caloric intake. Both had demanding careers in the health professions. Time was of the essence in preparing high quality, interesting healthy meals that were both “Quality Time” and “Relaxation” together. Jackrabbit Hill’s recipes remain simple with short ingredient lists. It’s a hop out the back door kitchen door to a pottage for herbs and a few steps further out the front to the barn and a deer proof vegetable garden decorated with edible flowers.
Trent planted his vineyard with the Primitivo varietal. Help came from neighbor Gus Young of Young’s Vineyard’s and fellow members of Sierra Vintners and Grape Growers Association. Being an insider in vineyard culture gives him perks and knowledge of the many varietals that are grown in the Sierra Foothills appellations. Highlights each year are the SVGGA Annual Picnic and Bocce Ball Tournament, Nevada County’s “Wine Trail, Indian Spring’s “Bella Notte” concert at Empire Mine and Gold Country Fly Fishermen’s “Annual BBQ and Pot Luck”. The Pridemore’s host SVGGA’s “Burgers and Red” event each fall at harvest time as a break from the rigors of picking and crush.
Come enter their kitchen where favorite recipes include Trent’s Coniglio Con Tres Funghi which features fresh rabbit that is browned in olive oil, then added with a dollop of veal demiglace, to a beef broth/wine/vegetable/mushroom reduction. It simmers and wafts earthy smells into the kitchen while chilled polenta triangles are grilled. A companion salad features fresh mizuna and baby argula with persimmons, pepitas and a pomegranate vinaigrette.
A summer favorite is one of the easiest to prepare. Fresh salmon is sautéed with home ground chipotle flakes and butter. Trent likes to plate the fish on top of deveined red chard that is stir fried with pancetta and mushrooms. Companion dishes are Saffron Bomba Rice and chilled watermelon balls.
Sierra Foothill’s cooking encompasses a district that ranges from Orville in the north to Calaveras County in the south. Just follow Highway 49 through Gold County for treasured wineries, interesting food resources, living history and special restaurants-all of which are incorporated into Recipes from Jackrabbit Hill.