Category Archives: Montana

Winey Goat Soup

My friend Kim and I shared a 1/2 hog and a 1/4 beef from Montana City Meats.   I needed to clear out my freezer to make space in preparation for the bounty of meat that would be arriving.  I pulled out a package of goat stew meat from one of my favorite vendors at the Helena Farmer’s Market, John & Jodi Mann of Sheep Spring Farm and put it in the fridge to thaw.

Well, a week later, I still hadn’t done anything with the meat and was feeling a little desparate to get it cooked up before it went bad.  I looked into my fridge and assessed my situation.  First, I kicked myself for not having pulled out a container of frozen goat stock that I had made last year with a goat shoulder bone.  It would take forever to thaw! 

I looked around desparately for a substitute, not even allowing myself to consider the high sodium, no flavor stock from the grocery store. I locked eyes on a half bottle of wine.  I am a wine snob and refuse to drink a red wine any older than 2 days, even if it’s been vacuum sealed after being open.  Yeah, yeah-I’m a snob.  I decided to give it a whirl and see what would happen if I were to make a wine stock soup. 

I simply poured the wine into a medium saucepan, added some water, and literally went shopping in my fridge. I pulled out parsnips, carrots, celery, panang curry paste, and some fat cut from a tenderloin steak that for some reason I had saved and added all of this to the wine water.

I looked around in my pantry and came up with dried herbs from the garden, bay leaves, and my “ultimate find”-dried morel mushrooms harvested while on a Rock Creek fishing trip 2 years ago.

Winey goat soup ingredients.

I let the concoction simmer on the stove for several hours and in the end was quite pleased with my creation; all pulled together with what I had on hand.  A side note about the fat.  I believe it may have added some depth to the stock.  At the end of the cooking time, I simply pulled out what was remaining and threw it out…. Actually, I lie; I ate it.  And it was good.


Serves 4


  • 1/2 bottle red wine
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, crushed
  • 2 tsp panang curry paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1″ lengths, those then quartered
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled, cut into 1″ lengths, those then quartered
  • 2 medium celery stalks, cut crosswise in 1/4″ slices
  • 10 dried morel mushrooms
  • 1 lb goat stew meat


Pour wine and water into saucepan and stir to combine.  Bring to boil over high heat.  Turn heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the herbs, onion and garlic.  Simmer for another 5 minutes. 

Add the remaining ingredients, turn the heat to high and bring to a strong boil.  Turn heat to low or medium low and simmer gently for your desired cooking time (cook at least an hour but the longer it cooks, the more rich it will become).  Check it occasionally to determine if you need to add more water to keep it “soup” like.  Season with salt and pepper, serve hot.


Helena Farmers Market

Helena Farmer's Market

Helena Farmer's Market at the Lewis & Clark Fairgrounds

My friend Julian and I went to the Helena Farmers Market this morning.  It has moved from the summer location of Fuller Avenue to the Fairgrounds in the new grand stand building.  It will be held there for the next 5 weeks. 

The new space is great for this particular use.  The wall of windows on the southeast side of the building let the bright morning sun shine through into the market space.  I almost felt like I was back at Pike Place Market in Seattle.  Almost. 

There is still some fall produce being sold.  I bought some crisp, deep green spinach, fresh arugula, thick leeks for a crazy minimal price and a huge red onion from one vendor.  I found my favorite free range eggs from another Sheep Spring Farm

Farmer's Market purchases

My spinach, leeks, arugula, onion and free range eggs from the Helena Farmer's Market.

I got home loaded down with my “harvest” and got busy making breakfast.  When I sat down to eat, I realized that my meal was all local.  Now, the coffee beans obviously weren’t from here BUT they were roasted by Firetower Coffee here in town. 

There is some opinion that when you have an opportunity to either buy local or organic brought in from distant areas, your best option is to buy local.  The reasoning is that less fossil fuel is used to bring the goods to market, there’s a good chance that the producer is growing organic but cannot afford the certification nor the chemicals that would make it non-organic and that lastly you are supporting a local economy.  I also like the fact that you have the opportunity to actually talk to the producer and ask any pertinent questions about the goods.  I even ask if I can visit their farm/facility.  I always get a resounding “yes!” response.

Local Breakfast

My mostly locally sourced breakfast.

Thai Cooking Classes

Thai Class Setup

Ready for class. Ingredients and tools are set up in stations for each recipe.

My friend Heather asked if I would be interested in doing a Thai cooking class for her bridal shower.  The idea intrigued me, I love a good challenge and had been bandying around the idea of hosting cooking classes.  I said yes.

In the end, the bridal shower was themed “Thai the Knot”.  It was held in Butte, MT at a local church kitchen.  We had approximately 20 guests in attendance.  Fifteen of those participated in the “class” and the others sat back, chitchatted and observed the activity in the kitchen.  All total, they made a Vietnamese Meatball appetizer, Thai Cucumber salad, shrimp Panang curry, Tom Yum Goong (Thai shrimp soup), and for dessert a sticky rice pudding.

It was a fantastic way to celebrate a friend’s upcoming wedding.  In the end, we had a full Thai meal and everyone walked away with a better understanding of Thai cooking.  For me, the fun was in the details; I answered many a question about where particular ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves, Panang curry, and lemon grass could be found.  I was able to highlight their local market, Front Street Market, for some of those ingredients.

A few weeks later, my friend Amy asked if I would put on a Thai cooking class for her aunts, mom and sister who were coming to visit Helena for Amy’s birthday. I agreed and adjusted the menu for 8. We held it on our usual Thursday Martini night. In addition to Amy’s family, Erin and Cooper joined us. Erin helped with dishes, Cooper took photos.  It was an amazing evening; drinking, cooking and finally eating a wonderful meal with great people.

Van Dam Class Participants

Amy and family. Chai martinis in hand.

Prep for Cucumber Salad

Prepping for Thai cucumber salad


Erin's dishpan hands. Thanks Erin!

If you have any interest in hosting a cooking class put on by me, email me at There are many options for classes (Indian, Thai, Sushi, Mexican, American, etc) and for numbers of attendees. Classes will range from $30 to $50 per person depending on the class subject.