Friday, December 25, 2009

thank you mr. meat man, the duck was great.


Followed his recipe to a T and served with roasted carrots with honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg and homemade cranberry sauce.
And the rest of the wine.
Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

duck shopping.

"You came here for duck breast?" The butcher's eyes twinkled from behind the counter at Puritan Poultry.

"Yep!" I said confidently. This is the response I always hope for when standing at the meat counter. Up until this point, I had only received it when inquiring about different types of intestines or insisting on grinding my own meats. "Got any tips for me?"

Grinning, he ushered me and my wrapped pair of duck breasts to the end of the market stall and told me precisely how to prepare my Christmas eve feast.

I'll be following his animated step-by-step instructions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a heavy-bottomed non-stick pan on stovetop over high heat.

While oven and pan are warming, score the skin of the breasts in a cross-hatched pattern, taking care to not cut score the fat. (He illustrates the pattern on the back of a ticket.)

Season with salt, pepper, and a bit of oil.

When the pan is good and hot, place breasts on bottom, skin side down. (Him: "Tsssss!" with explosive hand movement.)

Sear for 3-4 minutes or until the skin starts to curl up around the edges.

Turn and immediately slide pan into oven.

Cook for 10 minutes for medium rare and remove from pan to rest.

While breasts are in the oven, thinly slice onions or shallots, garlic, and rosemary.

As duck is resting, cook above in pan until soft.

Then, add 1/2 cup of red wine to pan (Him: "You have red wine, right?" Me: "Obviously.")

Reduce wine, then at the last second, add a tablespoon of butter (Him: "Shhh...")

And you're ready to go. (He smacks his lips. "Voila!")

Serve with your choice of sides. (Him: "Ratatouille, perhaps? You know that just means roasted vegetables.")

And, the rest of the wine.

Obviously.

That's my plan for tonight. Wish me luck. And a Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

things I love:

This week, just to show my cynical side, I'm going to begin with something I don't love-- lab grown meat.

(source)

Although this article raves of the wonders of this product that is being developed in the Netherlands, touting that it tastes like a "soggy form of pork" and is PETA-approved (two things I look for when shopping for meats), I think I'll skip it. Have I mentioned that I also love sarcasm?

Now here's a trend that I can get behind. Last week, the New York Times ran an article about Urban Hunting. Though somewhat disturbed by inevitable mental imagery of shotguns aimed at briefcased businessmen, cheery children with balloons, or maybe an occasional well-fed squirrel, this actually refers to groups who are taking the localvore craze a step further. A handful of ingenious folk are teaching hunting, butchery, and cookery classes to city folk in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Anyone want to start an LA chapter? Though surely not for the faint of heart, the article points out some pretty noteworthy benefits:

Provides food that is as local as you can get--
“If you can shoot a deer in your own backyard, butcher it there, that’s zero food miles,” says hunting teacher Jackson Landers.
Meats are wonderfully far from factory-farmed--
“There’s nothing more organic and free range than meat you hunt for yourself and your family,” says Anthony Licata, editor of Field & Stream magazine.
May be an economical option for budget-crunchers--
Mr. Landers, who tries to take Virginia’s full limit of six deer a year, agreed. For the cost of the necessary licenses, $36.50, he said he can stock his freezer with nearly free protein.

And as anyone who has lived in an area that is populated with deer knows, promoting hunting cuts back on the nasty possibility of deer-related car accidents, which is just a total waste of a poor animal's life, an insurance claim, and many-a-tasty steak.

For your meat-loving friends and family, can I recommend doing some Christmas shopping with Sweet Meats?

They have some clever new products-- DIY plush toys, charms, aprons... Always crafty, thoughtful, and the perfect mix of savory and sweet.

Speaking of Christmas, there are a plethora of bacon candies and treats on the market this year. A stocking stuffer's delight!
Here are some links to get you started:
Bacon Chocolate
Bacon Jelly Beans
Bacon Gumballs
Bacon Coffee
Bacon Beer

Monday, November 30, 2009

1810 Argentinean Restaurant

You'll seldom encounter a restaurant review here because I rarely eat out. When I do, I tear apart the menu, ordering completely uninspired items, plain and flavorless so as to not aggravate my allergies. As a creative person, I really respect chefs and their choices about how to prepare a meal, so I would rather cook myself than order and criticize a dish because I was not able to enjoy it how it was intended to be eaten.

This weekend, my in-laws were insistent upon taking us out for a "nice birthday meal," the four of us each having celebrated our birthdays in the past few weeks. My nerves started to build, not wanting to offend them by turning down dinner or pre-eating and shoving food around my plate at a restaurant. Then I remembered a new place the man and I passed by in Pasadena last week, 1810.

In the space formerly occupied by Gaucho Grill, 1810 opened in January and introduced an inspired and quaint eatery to the series of chain restaurants that line Colorado Boulevard. Greeted by a friendly hostess, we entered the brick walled and candlelit dining room, finding it to be sparse but cozy. My husband and I immediately began to reminisce about our Argentinean adventure. The waitress overheard and told us the owners are originally from Buenos Aires, so we poured over the menu, anticipating an authentic experience.

And the meal did not disappoint. Against my better judgment, I ordered the "wine special" from the limited menu, a Malbec and empanada for $7 and was pleasantly surprised. The empanada (from a selection of four--ham and cheese, chicken, beef, or spinach and cheese) was flaky and flavorful and the wine warm and fruity, perking me up and easing my eating-out phobias.

The main course selections were simple and highlighted quality ingredients. What caught our attention immediately was the Parrillada Mixta, or mixed grill. Would it compare to our experience in Buenos Aires? Much to our excitement, the meats were brought to the table on a little grill. The quantity was not overwhelming, but the quality of the meats was impressive. A good value, the mixed grill easily fed 2-3 guests with a crispy half chicken, beef, blood sausage, and a few mystery meats that were a welcome surprise. If you're looking for a good steak, ordering from the grill menu is the way to go. The 10-ounce Churrasco was perfectly seasoned and cooked to order, served with side dishes of garlicky mashed potatoes, rice, salad, or vegetables. The menu is rounded out with several "kitchen" dishes, chicken and fish with sauces and pastas, but being the carnivores we are, we didn't bother with those.

1810's cuisine is refreshing for both seekers of a special experience and simple food lovers like myself. And save room for dessert, or at least a bite or two of flan con dulce de leche to share with your table.

1810 Argentinean Restaurant
121 W Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91105-1924
(626) 795-5658

my first turkey: part two.


Not the drool-inducing photograph I was going for, but regardless of the somewhat mediocre outcome, I must document my first Thanksgiving turkey.

After getting lost in the completely over-saturated internet recipe world, I was really feeling the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen anxiety. There are so many opinions about how to best prep your bird (wet brines, dry rubs, aromatics, injectors) and how to cook it (roasting in a bag or out, grilling, deep frying), I was ready to throw the dang bird out with the brine.

What's a first-time turkey cooker to do?

I sifted through recipes, articles, and blogs and finally decided to try the suggestion to Judy bird my Willie bird. I had planned on using a brine, but never got around to cleaning out my bucket. Besides, who can really fit a bucket into their fridge when it is already bursting with feast fixings, pie prep, and perfectly paired craft beers?

Unfortunately, as a result of my second-guessing I started a day too late. On Tuesday, I hastily made a fragrant rub of kosher salt (3 1/2 tablespoons for my 17 1/2 pound bird), lemon zest, and fresh thyme. The turkey was then coated, bagged, and shoved back in the fridge. Since I didn't have the recommended 72 hours for the rub, I cut out the drying time and just took the turkey out of the bag on Thursday morning, drying it as much as possible I could with paper towels. After a second rub of brown sugar and more thyme, I crossed my fingers and shoved it in the oven. 400 for 30 minutes, then down to 325.

I don't know if the rub affected the cooking time, but it cooked far faster than anticipated. The temperature read at 180 after 2 hours. Overdone. But not tragic. With major help from the ladies (and thanks to the man for keeping my wine glass full), the turkey was tucked into a foil tent while the sides were finished and "dinner" was on the table at 1.

The turkey wasn't half bad. The skin was crisp and flavorful even though the meat was touch dry, and a dollop of homemade cranberry-orange sauce covers many mistakes. I won't digress too far into my dietary restrictions, but a huge perk of holiday hosting is that I am able to indulge my inner control freak and prepare dishes that I can eat. For the first time in who knows how long, I had a colorful, well-balanced Thanksgiving dinner; feasting on turkey, cranberries, brown rice and raisin couscous, a yummy salad topped with my birthday pomegranates, and apple crisp for dessert.

I know, all that really matters was the time with family. Everyone was happily well-fed, no one died, there were leftovers for days, and the plumbing in our building didn't cause our loft to be covered in hot pink sludge until much later that evening.

And I did not have a nervous breakdown.

Monday, November 23, 2009

my first turkey: part one.

My emotions range from excitement to complete terror at the idea of cooking my first Thanksgiving turkey.

I know what you're thinking.
"You say you're a meat lady and have never cooked a turkey??? Just cook the damn bird already!"
This will actually only be my second Thanksgiving back on meat and last year, we were traveling. So no more excuses. This year, I'm gonna do it.
Otherwise, the weight of the 18-pound bird will forever be on my shoulders. And in my refrigerator.

I suppose it is a right of passage; cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the in-laws and expecting sister-and brother-in law.

On Saturday, in lieu of my birthday trip to Catalina to see (and hopefully eat) buffalo, the man and I did a bit of turkey homework. At first, I was discouraged because we didn't have the opportunity to plan ahead and order a special heritage bird, but we found we could get something nice and tasty. Our butcher friends at the 3rd and Fairfax Farmers' Market helped us out and we purchased an all-natural* free-range Willie Bird from Puritan Poultry.

My only real objective is that the bird not kill anyone.
But preferably, it will be perfectly seasoned, moist, have a lovely brown crispy skin, and supply us with piles of leftovers to feast on for days.

I'm not completely settled on my prep and cooking methods. All I know is that the dressing will not be stuffed into the bird. Our guests will be told that it is purely to keep the meat juicy, but my real reason will be to keep the bread and meat separate so that I can enjoy it free of wheat-worries. I'm also thinking that a brine will be happening, if I can find a suitable bucket. The brine "recipes" I've found are widely varied, so I think I'll be going with water-kosher salt-brown sugar-apple cider-and whatever herbs I have on hand, perhaps followed by a light dry rub.

We even spent the last $25 Bed Bath & Beyond gift card from our wedding on an inexpensive roasting pan.

I'm ready.

Wish me luck!

*Why not organic? Honestly, we were told that these were the best. Willie Bird does raise and sell organic birds, but not at our source. And really, it would have been pushing it price-wise.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

something I love:

This item perfectly sums up "things I love" for the week.


Just look at that man and his slab of pork! So wonderful. Not creepy at all.

Maynard Davies' Adventures of a Bacon Curer arrived in my mailbox yesterday . A super thoughtful birthday gift from my parents, this book is not only "the cult book of the year" (what year? Probably every year.) , but was the alleged inspiration for newer titles such as Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon.

I haven't had the chance to crack it open past the table of contents yet, but the chapter list has already got me drooling. Titles such as "Turning Pigs into Bacon" and "Goodbye Daisy" are sure to challenge and inspire.

Monday, November 16, 2009

so you're going to eat red meat...


(source)

I know, red meat consumption has taken a lot of flack recently, what with all of the food documentaries, pop authors putting in their two cents, and the general fatness of our country. If you've read my blog at all, you know that my vote is for eating smaller amounts of the best quality meats you can afford. (Please don't mistake this with the "best cuts" of meat; I recommend a cheaper cut of grass fed beef over a filet from the supermarket any day.) For this purpose, "best quality" refers to organic, grass-fed beef.

Here's a cheat sheet for the benefits of grass-fed.

And here are my shopping picks. Just my opinion, of course.

Best choices:
Farmers' markets. Unless you decide to pick up your life and raise your own herd of cattle, this is the closest you'll get to the source. Small farms sell all sorts of fantastic cuts of local, organic, grass-fed beef and are more than willing to share with you exactly how their animals are raised and what the health benefits of their particular methods are. This option requires planning ahead, as jetting to a market on the way home from work usually isn't realistic. Also, be prepared to pay for what you're getting.
Check out localharvest to find a market in your area. You can search by zip code or product.

Online ordering. So you don't live in an area with excellent farmers' markets? Gosh, move to Los Angeles already! Or explore online ordering options. There are heaps of websites that ship top quality meats-- and we're not just talking beef. Bet you'll never be asked to host Thanksgiving again if you serve kangaroo or rattlesnake. Again, doesn't really work for last minute meal planning, but can save time in the long run.
Eatwild is a good place to start. Farms are listed by state and most give great product and shipping details.

Pretty good options:
Your local butcher. Butchers are just wonderful people. Don't you agree? Those white jackets and sharp knives... don't get me started! Butchers are are ideal because they do their meat processing on-site, greatly reducing contamination risks. But do your homework-- not all butchers sell the best quality meats. If they don't sell grass fed, ask why! They are often willing to go the extra mile to make your meat fantasies come true.
Try searching on forums such as yelp, chowhound, and citysearch for local butchers and reviews.

Whole Foods. Afraid of the whole paycheck stereotype? Although their price tags can be daunting, sales are frequent and make purchases more reasonable. Whole Foods carries a range of meats, from "natural" to organic-local-free-range-grass-fed, so watch your labels. Stock up when your favorites go on sale and fill your freezer! Like stand-alone butchers, they grind their meats on-site, and often make their own sausages and dry age beef in-house, so quality is consistent and dependable.

Okay, but you could try harder:
Trader Joe's. Why isn't this higher on my list, you ask? Well, not just because of that darned ground beef recall last week... Okay, maybe because of that a little bit. Trader Joe's (or any local supermarket, these days) sells a decent range of organic meat and occasionally has grass-fed options, but their meats typically come from central processing facilities that are often to blame for large scale contaminations. Just be wary, and cook ground meat thoroughly. Or, buy cuts of beef and grind it yourself! Invite your friends and have a meat grinding party.

Where do you buy your meats? Any tips?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

limerick 1.1

too fond once of cookies pies & cake
sweets baked often daily- stomachache
but now for a treat
i'll feast on some meat
so watch out cow pig lamb rattlesnake.

Monday, November 9, 2009

a poem:

"so you want to buy my cupcakes."

so you want to buy my cupcakes
that i made a few weeks past
twenty bacon maple cupcakes
lazy baking just won’t last

made them for a party
then got kicked out of the bar
chef didn’t like my bacons
so they ate them by the car

now you want to buy my cupcakes
and how much do i charge?
sugar salt sprinkled bacon cupcakes
the fee? oh, it is large!

six dollars for the bacon
for best maple, maybe twelve
got eggs vanilla flour
could use them from my shelf

but you want to buy my cupcakes?
to sell them at your store?
free meat for life, and then we’ll deal
three steaks a day, or four!

(you know you missed my poems.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

sometimes, it's the little things...

...or, the not so little things that bring me joy.

Like this, a four-pound pork roast looking so much at home on my counter. At $1.98 a pound from the happy butcher man at Marconda's, I couldn't resist.
I hacked it up into twelve beautiful 1/3 pound steaks; now they wait patiently, Ziplocked, labeled, and neatly tucked away in the freezer.
In case you're doing the math, that's six (substantial!) meaty meals for two for $7.92.
Plus tax, of course.
But I'll let you add that on yourself.

Friday, October 30, 2009

gold vs. grimes, represent!


Last night, much fun was had at the Los Angeles Public Library for this week's edition of their ALOUD series. The Taper auditorium hosted this "bi-cultural binge." Moderated by Good Food's Evan Kleiman, a classic East Coast/West Coast battle ensued between LA Weekly restaurant critic Jonathan Gold and former New York Times restaurant critic (and current obit writer!) William Grimes.

As more of an adventurous home cook than restaurant junkie, I was thoroughly engaged and entertained by the panelists' vast knowledge of food and restaurant history in their cities. Conversation spanned nearly two hundred years, from the 1837 opening of Delmonico's in New York City to current foodie trends-- food trucks and nose to tail eating.

Gold and Grimes bantered to clear up misconceptions of their respective "scenes." Kleiman proposed LA food spotlights health while New Yorkers are pleasure-seekers. Both of the guys thought instead the food cultures were more of a result of geography and physical space. Los Angeles home owners are more likely to entertain in-house using local ingredients, while shoe-box dwelling New Yorkers store books in their ovens and eat out three meals a day. Both coasts came together to shape moden food movements, from the DIY/punk rock mentality to the internationalization of chefs and resurgence of public markets.

As the crowd thinned out, probably headed to Cafe Pinot to sample their special prix fixe menu, Grimes was kind enough to give the man some insight into NYC's craft beers while I picked Gold's brain for butcher recommendations.

Check out the William Grimes' new book Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York and Jonathan Gold's Counter Intelligence.

And a special thanks to tryharder for giving us your place on the list.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Things I Love Thursdays.

Here it comes, this week's edition of "Things I Love Thursdays!"

On the radar this week are fellow recreational butchers, courtesy of the New York Times. Great article, even though it uses every conceivable butchery anecdote, leaving me to feel a bit like a can of potted meat.

Legendary food writer Jonathan Gold shared his words of wisdom and caution for us aspiring food writers at class on Tuesday. He is quite the inspiration-- had the class hanging on his every word! Just as candidly eloquent (if that makes sense) in person as he is in his columns. Too bad his event at LAPL is full for tonight. Any suggestions on how a lady might sneak in?

My new issue of Meat Paper magazine came in the mail this week! Such a lovely magazine. Gorgeous and full of flavor. In this issue, they set out to determine whether a T-Rex tasted like chicken. The diagram is priceless. Truly the best way to stay on top the trends in the meat world.

KCET (or your local PBS, I'd imagine) has been airing loads of episodes of Julia and Jacques cooking at home. I caught an episode this week about pork and watched Jacques break down an entire rack. His methods and instruction were so simple and straightforward I could imagine someone actually doing it at home for themselves. All the while, Julia towered over him making fabulous yummy sounds and smacking her lips. Now that's classic TV.


And because we really just like cook dinner at home, drink wine, and watch bad TV, I made an somewhat elaborate birthday dinner for the man that I have to share.

We love, love lamb, and these chops were pretty killer. They come with a silly story, too. I usually buy my lamb either from my favorite local butchers, Marconda's Meats or Huntington Meats at the Farmer's Market at 3rd and Fairfax or from Whole Foods, but the giant Ralph's near my house now carries quite a selection. I didn't give it a second glance when it first appeared, as grocery story lamb makes me think of the suspicious meats I remember as a child-- an oozing slab of a mystery cut shrink-wrapped with a little packet of mint-flavored jelly.
Not wanting to be too pretentious, I thought I'd check out Ralph's supply. I then ran into roadblock number two. All of the packages of chops were labeled "Wine and Mustard Marinade." Hm. I kept walking. That didn't seem right.
One more try. Aah. They weren't actually marinated, just topped with a poorly designed, misleading recipe card. So four pretty little lamb chops came home with me and did not get marinated in mustard.
Instead, they were quickly seared in my trusty cast iron and topped with the birthday boy's favorite mint sauce, a zippy seasoned-to-taste puree of fresh mint, olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.
Delicious. Sweet, spicy, savory and just special enough for a birthday.

Have a protein-packed day!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

beer, bikes, birthday, and bacon maple cupcakes.

Call me cliche for jumping on the bacon bandwagon, but would you turn one of these down?

Yeah, didn't think so.

The man had the brilliant idea to celebrate his 30th in style (and by style, I mean of the trendy hipster-type), with a biking beer tour of downtown LA. Admist the DineLA and Beer Week festivities, he's hosting his own mini-tour, starting at Wurstkuche and ending at Bottle Rock, where I will be serving the ridiculously decedent cupcakes, modified from this recipe from Bacon Today and Vanilla Garlic. And yes, there is bacon, bacon grease, and maple syrup throughout, not just on the top.
Isn't meat fun?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

things i love thursdays!

This week has been somewhat "meat lite" for two reasons-- an unexplained shortage of my favorite 365 brand nitrate-free bacon at Whole Foods and a new found focus on writing about my recreational meat activities! I'm so glad Pat Saperstein from eatingla posted about this UCLA writing workshop, taught by Patric Kuh, food critic for Los Angeles Magazine. Thankfully, the man was very supportive of my impulsive decision to sign up. So far, it has been super fun and inspiring.

I do have a few things to share.

First, I would like to give thanks to the artisan butchers of America. I know that all is not sunshine and happy cows in the meat industry here, but at least I can feel pretty sure that the USDA has some regulations on things like this.
Fiji meat man. Now, I've never been to Fiji so I don't want to judge. I thought their cuisine was primarily made up of fish and seafood? On second thought, maybe that explains their excitement for the pig heads and sausages.

Next, let's talk about some bizarre livestock breedings. Have you seen the tiny potbelly pigs?

(source)

Kind of cute, in an alien sort of way. Apparently they are the hot new celebrity pet. Paris Hilton ordered one this week, just to tick off those pesky PETA people. They're supposed to be cleaner and more intelligent than dogs (Paris better watch out-- wouldn't want her to be outsmarted), but I can't imagine carrying them around in a designer pet carrier. Would it be inappropriate to mention the possibilities of bacon sliders?

They've been messing with cows, too. This is a Piedmontese cow:

(source)
This oddly sad looking creature is the result of a breeding phenomenon that began with an Italian cow that has "double muscling." What does that mean, you ask? Well. According to earthy.com, "this low fat beef is...lower in calories, higher in protein and contains a higher percentage of desirable Omega 3 Fatty Acids..beef from both full-blooded Piedmontese and Piedmontese-cross cattle consistently has these qualities of leanness and tenderness because it is due to their unique genetic makeup rather than an effect resulting from their feeding or environment." The article also mentioned that these cows were bred specially to retain their positive traits and remove the negative. I'm a bit unclear of what the negative traits were, but since they're mostly bred in Michigan, perhaps I'll ask my parents to look into it. They might want to pick up a few. Might be nice to have some cows to visit next time I make the trip to the homeland.


That's all for this week! Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

things i love!

It's Thursday and I haven't posted anything this week, so here's another shot of "Things I love Thursdays!" Come on, it's fun, right?

Here's my first pick. It's an absolute requirement to wake up early enough every morning to make myself some kind of meaty goodness for breakfast (and often, mid-morning snack!), but I can never seem to make time to eat it before leaving for work. Here's my perfect solution:


(source)


The don't forget me lunch bag! So cute and practical with a clever red silk ribbon. Of course, I use it for breakfast instead of lunch. And I don't forget it. It came home with me at felt club last Christmas and has been a good friend ever since. What do I do for lunch, you ask? Well, I currently happen to be lucky enough to walk home for lunch so I can fry up some fresh bacon, along with some berries and a mug of peppermint tea. I'll always be a scavenger at heart.

Here's another thing I love, a weekly dose of internet irony! I found it curious that these two articles circulated in the same week--

Woman's Shattered Life Shows Beef Inspection Flaws

Or, would you rather suffer from E. coli as a result of eating this:


(source)
Father's Office burger*


or this:



McDonald's Side Salad


Don't get me wrong, I'm not completely soulless. Every now and then, I do partake in a sketchy ground beef patty or take a chance by not re-washing pre-washed greens (though I find them to be pretty ridiculous in general-- how hard is it to rinse and chop your own lettuce?), and I do so in full awareness that these products come with their fair share of risks. It is so unfortunate that a woman's life was ruined by enjoying a hamburger, but as you can see, anything you eat comes with some sort of risk unless you grow or raise it yourself; that's just the price we pay for convenience. Perhaps these articles will encourage us to be more educated consumers and not just become radical scare tactics...

And speaking of health food, another interest of the week was inspired by this post on svelte gourmand.


(source)

Yes, that's right, lard! I'm itching to try cooking something with it. I love the idea of cooking Brussels sprouts in lard, as Joshua Ozersky (author of The Hamburger) suggests in this interview. Perhaps I will get some good stuff next time I visit my friendly local butcher, or perhaps I will try this technique for rendering lard, although since I don't technically have a kitchen window, I run the risk of my home permanently smelling of pig fat.
*I am aware that this is an unfair comparison, since I am fairly certain Father's Office uses only the highest quality meats and grinds their beef in-house, but doesn't that burger prove the point better than a frozen beef patty?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

things i love thursdays!

I am currently inspired to do a fun little weekly selection of meat-related things I like. It will probably most often serve as a reminder to myself of exciting dishes to try or products to buy, but who knows? Maybe you will be inspired (or perhaps amused) as well.



First up-- Candied Salted Bacon

(source: the kitchn)

Now I know it has been done, but I just thought this recipe looked particularly tasty. Perhaps because of the nice story about making it in your kitchen at 2am with or without pants on or maybe because of the lack of "process" pictures these recipes usually include (the bacon caked with brown sugar makes me feel too guilty about even thinking of trying this!), but regardless, it looks super tasty and satisfying in a not too sweet or salty kind of way.

Next up, Juice Box-Sized Stock.

I like to make my own stock whenever possible, but sometimes time just doesn't allow for it. The best option for store-bought stock is Pacific Organic Free-Range Chicken Stock (also available in low-sodium). It is organic, doesn't have any crap that I won't eat in it, and comes in the cutest 8 ounce packages. What more could you want?

...How about a Grill Pan?
I know, this is a poor excuse for an actual grill, but we live in a loft and our HOA sends mean letters for creative things like open flames on narrow windowsills...Our bulky cast iron grill pan does the trick most of the time. Currently, we have a Martha Stewart model from a few years ago (I know!! But it was 1/2 off, okay??), but I'm certain it would be ashamed to show its face around this pretty (and pricey) Le Creuset.



And lastly, Butchery as Theater!



Anyone want to sponsor a lady's trip to SF for this?

In a rare U.S. appearance, Dario Cecchini, Italy's master butcher made famous in Bill Buford's Heat and portrayed in Douglas Gayeton’s new book Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town, will give a demonstration on artisan butchery. You are invited to experience Dario up close breaking down a steer and a pig with mastery and flair at the Cowell Theater. Following his 250-year-old family tradition, Dario will share his exceptional skills with chefs, butchers of all levels, and other sustainable food industry professionals who wish to find a deeper understanding of and relationship with meat.

-meatpaper

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

more about dad than meat.

Yesterday's post got me thinking about all of the interesting things my dad did while I was growing up. At the time, I had difficulty understanding the way that he interacted and communicated with me. When I would get involved with whatever "making stuff" project of the moment, I would proudly show him what I was working on and usually get a raised eyebrow and "uh huh" sound. I didn't understand at the time that he instead showed his support by his actions rather than his words, which has probably shaped my expectations in my current relationships!

Many of the running jokes in our family revolve around my dad's (and later, my dad and I's) culinary adventures. When he worked for Hart Plaza in Detroit, he would bring home rescued crates of leftover ethnic festival foods that us lower-middle-class Midwestern folk would never have been exposed to otherwise in the early 80s... Along with that came Eastern Market trips, leading to the infamous vat of green, lumpy brussels sprout soup, which was mildly traumatizing for 4-year old me! And to this day, I get a little queasy at the thought of yellow curry powder because of curried eggs I remember mysteriously eating behind the door of our front porch. As unsure as I was of those meals as a kid, I am forever grateful for his ingenuity.

One morning after I had a friend sleep over, he decided to make us breakfast. We had a new food processor and he thought he'd make us hash browns, but due to some unexpected oxidation, they turned the strangest shade of purpley-grey. I thought they tasted fine, but my picky, Taco Bell-preferring friend flipped out and he took us to a smokey Coney Island instead.

Another Eastern Market expedition resulted in a five pound box of quickly wilting basil. Two days (and two blenders) later, we had dozens of jars of pesto and a house that reeked of yummy garlic. During school that year, I faced much ridicule for my green pizzas, but my Dorito and bologna sandwich-eating lunch buddies didn't know what they were missing.

Around that time, I visited my grandparents with my my aunt, uncle, and cousins and Dad had a request... He handed me a large tin to carry with me; it was to be my contribution to the group. I passed it along to my (very vocal) aunt who eagerly cracked it open, as my family usually brought giant bags of pistachios or Mom's gingersnaps to family gatherings. Much to her (and my) surprise, he had sent me with the stinkiest hunk of cheese she'd ever smelled! The lid went back on, the tin tucked away on top of the refrigerator, and back home it came with me a few days later.

When I was a little older, I took up more of an interest in his kitchen experiments. Together, we came up with amazing concoctions... Some of which are just simple and tasty, like our special orzo salad (which can be made with rice! so I can still eat it!), lavash roll-ups (these always included lots of meat and cheese samplings at the deli counter), the genius combination of salami and peanut butter, and the ultimate classic-- corn dog bread.

Cheers to my cool, supportive dad. Thanks for the phone call from New Orleans last week to tell me about alligator gumbo and the carnivorous joys of all-you-can-eat buffets. I'll visit again soon. We'll have pork chops and martinis.

Monday, September 14, 2009

zingerman's + bacon, or, another reason to miss michigan in the fall.

Came across this post on Serious Eats this morning and was immediately nostalgic. When I was growing up, my dad worked in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His job involved lots of driving, so he happened upon all sorts of amazing spots before they were discovered by most... Antique stores, ethnic restaurants, music shops. And whatever creative tangent I found myself on, he would scavenge up supplies for me. He constructed photography darkrooms, bargained for vintage guitars, rebuildt garbage-picked lamps.. I can't imagine the possibilities had I began my meat pursuits while still living near him in Michigan!

That said, Zingerman's was, of course, a staple (splurge!) restaurant of my childhood. I remember their giant cookies, tasting aged balsamic with plastic straws, and splitting chicken salad sandwiches on dried fruit bread with my mom. They have since become quite an empire and have released several foodie books, including Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating and Zingerman's Guide to Giving Great Service. Their newest release really grabbed my attention.


Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon

I don't have any bacon-specific memories of Zingerman's, but I think some will have to be made during my next visit to the homeland.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

another reason the health care reform is a bit off base.



And now, please take a moment of silence for your heart.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Niman's fighting back.

Look what's on the cover of Time Magazine this week!

Beef. Mmmm...
While browsing the magazines today, this pile of meat caught my eye. I assumed that the article wouldn't present me with any new information, but I was happy that such a major magazine was hopefully going to hit mainsteam Americans over the head with information about what's really in their cheap meats.
Surprised was I to find (along with some lovely charts and graphs) that the article was mostly about Bill Niman and his new business ventures! Bill and Nicolette Hahn Niman are part of a movement to raise happy cows that roam freely on happy grass that 1% of happy, healthy and (possibly) wealthy Americans eat.
How lovely of them. And I'll surely seek our their meats. But that might not be as easy as one may think, if one is a newcomer to organic meat purchasing.
Many apologies, I don't want to be negative. I just have a concern about the article.
The Time Magazine article is not referring to the Niman Ranch animals and meats that you can buy (somewhat) cheaply and in bulk from your local Costco. This is Bill and Nicolette's new venture since leaving Niman Ranch in 2007. Niman Ranch products are better choices than most suppliers as they support small farmers are "natural," but they are not organic. Niman Ranch isn't trying to trick you, they say so right here.
Please, read the whole article... I'm all for educating the general public about how to better take care of themselves, our animals, and the land, but please take the initiative and do some research for yourself. Because isn't that the point? Don't just blindly buy what's being sold to you!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Marije Vogelzang, Eating Designer.

Please watch:






Will you please be my friend? I will put birds on my head and help you cover sculpture with ham or personify loaves of bread.

Friday, August 21, 2009

lady (butchers) who lunch

I've been on Project: Weight Gain for a while now. It really isn't going that well, but in the last few weeks, I've been asked by my nutritionist to keep track of my eating and calories. In beginning, it was novel, but I'm getting bored with it. And possibly obsessive.

Maybe I should combine Project: Weight Gain with Project: Food Stylist!

Here's what the project would look like in regards to today's lunch:

-organic boneless skinless chicken breast (180 calories) sauteed in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil (60 calories), lemon juice, basil, oregano, and one clove of garlic (20 calories)
-1/4 red bell pepper (10 calories)
-organic green leaf lettuce with onion and white wine vinegar (20 calories)
-organic brown rice cake* (70 calories)
-1/3 cup organic frozen strawberries and blackberries with fresh mint from my windowsill mint plant that I've somehow managed to keep alive (25 calories)
Total: 385 calories (I've been trying to eat every three hours, so that's about what I can handle per "meal.")
Totally boring? Probably. But maybe I can improve my food photography and my diet simultaneously?
*I am lazy and don't often have the patience to cook a pot of brown rice, so I've become quite dependant on Lundberg brown rice cakes. Excellent and super convenient for you gluten-free people out there.

new aspirations

Food styling. Obsessed.

Finally (well, it seems like I waited longer than the masses, considering I went on a big J. Child tangent several years ago... loved My Life in France and was later inspired by the Julie & Julia book and Julie Powell's blog) saw Julie and Julia on Wednesday.

Loved the food and an totally inspired to learn to bone a duck. The man actually got really sad though, sad that I couldn't enjoy food like I once did (I think his favorite food scene was Julie making the bruscetta at the beginning of the movie, or perhaps when Julie and Eric ate that chocolate cake!). This, in turn, made me sad! I guess I really started this blog to learn to make food that I can enjoy, that we can both enjoy together, and I've felt pretty satisfied with my food experiences lately. I was pretty discouraged to realize that he has been so affected and saddened by my food choices. Don't get me wrong! He's been extremely supportive of my endeavors, from finding me piles of meat in Argentina to eating several burgers a day and to taking a SF adventure to butchery class, but sometimes nothing can compare to a grilled cheese sandwich, beer, and pint of Haagan Daz peanut butter chocolate ice cream with the one you love. Ah well. I digress. It was, after all, a Nora Ephron movie, so don't expect the food to be seperated from the relationships!

All that to say, big props to Susan Spungen , the food stylist for Julie & Julia. Awesome. Need and intern?

Here are some images from the film to inspire.

French Onion Soup

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

they had me at "slab of steak"

I think I've found my new favorite site. From health and wellness magazine writers comes the lovely new blog Svelte Gourmand. Their philosophy is "Eat Well. Live Well" and the posts focus on healthy living (obviously) and enjoying good food (no diet crap) but in reasonable amounts. Very inspired site with pretty, pretty photography, much of which of wine, steak, strawberries, and coffee. Perfect. Perhaps they need a contributing writer! Ha.

Check out Slashfood's interview with the founders here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

book giveaway submissions and winner!

Here are the finalists for the first annual Lady Butcher book giveaway...

First submission is from the multi-talented spunkster Diana, who wrote me some wonderfully personalized haiku:

bacon, check
hamburger, one, two
on the mic

what is that?
jewels of pretty veg
top my meat

blogging food
eat, blog, eat, doodle
wine cheers too

gluten free
isn't hard to be
fruit and meat

And speaking of guns, here's a video from the tryharder wonder machine.
Tryharder also gave me a mystery bag for inspiration.



Contents of mystery bag:

swiss chard
heirloom tomatoes
pluots
bag of mystery spices (coriander, mustard seeds, anise, cloves, bay leaves, red peppers, some other stuff)

with which I made this oddly shiny mystery meal:


Pork steak (I wanted this veal osso bucco I had spotted over the weekend, but settled for pork steaks that the butcher recommended) with pluot and balsamic reduction over swiss chard steamed in white wine and garlic, roasted heirloom tomatoes with olive oil and fresh thyme, and sauteed red skin potatoes with mystery spices.
We also had some strawberries with fresh mint in a little yellow bowl on the side. Unfortunately, the man said he was craving pizza about an hour after said meal. Can't win 'em all. I thought it was lovely though, and I am inspired!

And now for the winner: (drumroll, please)

A meat drawering from Robin of One Sheep Hill. Isn't she a lovely drawer??? I really enjoy that it looks like it was done on butcher paper. Thanks, Robin, for the inspiration and continued meat support!

And did I mention her husband taught me how to shoot a gun?

Please step forward to pick up your prize.

staying cool with the kitchn!

Looking for tips to stay cool while cooking this summer? Apartment Therapy's site The Kitchn has some great tips, including some insight from a Lady Butcher...
Check it out here!
Thanks guys, for the post and link! It is sure to brighten my slightly dreary summer day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

lady meat-book giveaway!

Guess what? I've decided to do a little contest. Remember this wonderful book that I recommended back in February?


Amazed was I to find this lovely little book! My super-thoughtful man gifted it to me for Valentine's. A neat read, actually. Amidst the cutesy details I found a wealth of meaty goodness, written by ladies but tasty to all!
Anyway, turns out great minds think alike. The folks were in town last week and brought my man an incredibly decadent piece of lemon cake from Sweet Lady Jane, and since I couldn't partake in that sweet treat, they again came across this book and thought of me.
I suppose I could have a kitchen and dining room copy, but I'd rather have a little contest to spread the love.
Here's my thought. Surely not many people are following my little journey, but those who are might have noticed that I've been low on inspiration as of late.
So.
Comment and inspire me.
Write me a haiku, send me a recipe to try, get me an apprenticeship to write about (ha!), and I'll try to be unbiased and pick a winner.
Let's say, by 12pm (West Coast Time!) on Friday.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

still cooking the goods...

Yes, I still have meat left from butchery class.
Here are a few fun meal shots. Yum!


Yet another tasty lamb burger!


Lamb steak with garlic and onion rub.


And with added mint sauce.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

remember this?

Oh boy. Remember these pictures from the London Science Centre?





Turns out there's some activity on the meat-for-energy front! Check out this article about Tesco's new ideas about converting meat to electricity. Warning: not safe for vegetarians... but better for the environment than wasting meat meant for eating, right?
On another note, Tesco really seems to be doing some cutting-edge (for a grocery store) things so I'd hate for squeamishness about this particular issue to take away from the good. Although they are a UK chain, they have opened a string of markets in California, Nevada, and Arizona (Fresh & Easy, anyone?) in borderline/low-income areas that sell inexpensive produce and "whole" foods for those of us on a tight budget. What they sell isn't always "organic," but is sure a heck-of-a-lot better and more well-intentioned than other chains that love the low-income neighborhoods.
Just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

further reading:

From time to time, I will continue to update this when I find something that peaks my interest, and it looks like today is the day!

So, if there are still any meat-readers, specifically, hamburger readers, out there, here are my picks--




"...this fast-paced and entertaining book unfolds the immense significance of the hamburger as an American icon...This is the story of their sizzle and their symbolism, where they came from and how they conquered the world."


"Perman casts an affectionate and admiring eye at In-N-Out Burger, the family-owned, Southern California chain that has become a cultural institution without franchising, going public, changing its menu or precooking its burgers..."
Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

rocker meats

Check out this great NYTimes article on the resurgence of butchery. Compares butchers to indie rockers. Hmmm, when I think of indie rockers, I think of squeamish skinny vegan boys, but this is good article none the less.
And, Avedano's gets a shout-out! Woot!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

cooking the goods.



What better occasion than a 4th of July barbeque to grind and grill up a round of my butchered lamb meat?! Now those were some satisfying burgers, especially since I got to share them with those who have supported my meat adventures!

I also discovered that I'm a pretty good shot, so you never know, maybe I'll make a hunting trip sometime in the future.


(The man agreed that a BB gun is the best use for a can of Bud Light.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

butchery class.

Just a few short months ago, I proposed the idea of "Lady Butcher" to a friend. I had been post-vegetarian for about a year-- struggling to find pleasure in food again and wanting to be being a "good steward" of my money, meat resources, and even my desire to eat healthful and tasty foods. I thought I could go on a meat journey and document my findings, perhaps in the form of a reality television show. Unfortunately, it turns out that even though I live in Los Angeles, a reality television opportunity was not dropped in my lap. Hence, I started a blog. I didn't know what would come of it, but looking back, I am pretty excited for what I've learned and that I have already had the chance to go behind the scenes of a super neat, artisan, lady-owned butcher shop!

Thank you for following my story!

Here are some photographs and highlights. (I didn't take that many pictures because I was pretty focused and aware of sharp objects.)
We had the opportunity to learn about two animals, pig and lamb. First up was the pig. Suckling pig, to be exact. What is a suckling pig, you say? This refers to a very young animal that has never been fed solid food and has not developed its muscles fully, resulting in very tender meats. For us in the butcher class, this also meant that the animal was small enough to arrive at the shop relatively intact, i.e., head and trotters still attached. Basically, full-on shock value.



The class was structured in a way that all of the participants had the opportunity to make several cuts on each animal. I had been feeling a little nervous, so I was very happy that I was not making the first cut of the day.

The first cut was the head.

Next, the trotters.

Then, my turn, removing the kidneys (the only organs left in by the slaughterhouse. Sidenote: slaughterhouses remove and clean out the animals before they arrive at a butcher shop, resulting in a much less gruesome process than I imagined. Butchers actually have to purchase many of those parts back from slaughterhouses if they want to use and/or sell them!), doing some cleaning touch-ups, and making the first cut to divide the beast into sections. We used three tools, a flexible boning knife, a hand saw, and a cleaver with a mallet. There didn't seem to be specific tools for specific tasks, we were instructed to use what felt comfortable and appropriate.



After lunch, my queasiness had dissipated. I thought, gosh, the lamb wouldn't be too difficult as it looked much more like a piece of meat than a furry creature... but I had to go first this time around!

I was the only female in the class and had stayed pretty silent throughout the process, so I wasn't totally prepared for what I was asked to do, but I'm super happy I got to do it! While the lamb was hanging from the hook, I split and tore off the flanks and skirts, cleaned out the inside, and then...


Made that cut. First, I made an incision straight through, then sliced from the spine out on both sides. Next, I was told to wrap my leg and my arms around the lamb and snap the spine where I had made the cut. Wow! That was intense! Then, I supported the weight on my leg and cut behind the spine, caught it when it dropped, and hoisted it up on the table. Whew!

I felt pretty bad ass. I can't come up with a more appropriate word.

When the cuts were being portioned for us to take home, I happily said that I had a meat grinder and, why yes, I do make sausages! And I would take the fun bits for stock-making. Perhaps the other dudes in my class thought they were making out because they got to fight over the pig head, but for the man and I, the ground meat and stocks will be far more useful. I got some nice steaks too (and those were fun to cut down!) and a package labeled "pig shoulder."

Honestly, I think that was the biggest thing that I learned was that it all was very intuitive. The parts of the animal dictated how the cuts were to be made and the butchers worked instinctively. Not to get too philosophical, but this wasn't surprising. I carry no judgement for the decisions people make about their eating habits and choices, but we seem to be carnivorous beasts at heart and this opportunity reinforced that notion for me. So thank you, Avedano's (and to the ladies at Sweet Meats for telling me about them!) for a highly fulfilling experience.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Butchery previews.

Just a preview of the fun that is to come...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

cheap steaks and thoughts on butchery.

Just a quick little tip from the LA Times on cheap cuts of beef... Nothing too profound, but there are some good tips. And I must say, I had a fabulous top sirloin steak a few nights ago. (Yes, the one that made me stinky for ballet...) The advice for cooking and slicing it properly made a huge difference in the texture of the meat.
But what else is new in this lady's meat land? I've been trying to prepare myself mentally for my butchery class coming up on Sunday. The man and I are hopping in the Green Dragon on Saturday morning and heading up to SF for quick trip to return promptly after the class with our giant red camping cooler filled with fresh cuts of pork and lamb. I have to admit I'm not sure what I've gotten myself in to!
From the start of my meat journey, I have confidently stated that perhaps every one who eats meat regularly should, at some point, have the experience of seeing the animal in pre-vacuum wrapped state to understand and accept what we eat and demand humane treatment of animals and quality products. Now that I'm actually going to experience it, (or at least part of it, won't be going to a slaughterhouse this time around!) I'm a little squeamish. I keep replaying the guy on the phone telling me that it probably goes without saying, but remember to wear something that you don't mind getting.... He tapered off. Does he say "bloody"? Would that be offensive? Disrespectful? I got the picture. Still don't know what I'll be wearing though. Debating on a clean white t-shirt for an interesting splatter-paint fashion statement, but don't think I'll follow through with it. Suggestions?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

what's that smell?!

Last night, I was doing my usual post-work rushing around-- walk the dog, make dinner for the man and I, and pick up a friend to go to our 7:30 ballet class. As I was running out the door, I realized that my sweatshirt reeked of the tasty steak I made for dinner. I am already pretty self-conscious in ballet class, but now I had to embarrassingly wonder what my teeny-tiny, limber teacher would think when she grabbed my not-so-petite arms and waist to try to twirl me across the floor... Would she notice the smell and be offended or even grossed out?

If I had only known about this yesterday, I would've been considerably less self-conscious about any lingering meat smells. For only $3.99, you too could smell like a (Burger King) flame-grilled hamburger. What could be sexier?!


(source)

Here's the tagling:
Most [celebrity] fragrances offer a ‘delicate’, ‘playful’ or ‘captivating’ overtone. But not Flame. The new fragrance from Burger King bucks the trend with that hint of flame-grilled beef. And reputedly it's also a surprising scent of seduction!
What do you think? Would you try it? I think if my man wore this, I would be disappointed...
Me: "Ooh, did you make dinner?"
Him: "No, it just smells like I did!"

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

burgers+diagrams or "don't mess with my meat!"

I haven't been very up on my Diagram Wednesdays, but here's one that is definitely worth sharing--

(source)

So true, so true.

It actually brings up my next point. There has been quite a bit of buzz about the best burgers in LA. Last week, there was an article in the Downtown News as well as a (now expired) circulating coupon for a free burger from Blu Cafe, their pick for best downtown burger. Needless to say, the man and I had to go check it out.

The cafe was pretty swanky and had an exciting menu, as well as reasonably priced beer and wine and an in-house baker who makes lovely cakes. Here's a shot of our lovely free burger--



Looks tasty, huh? Yeah, I heard it was. The only criticism from the man was that the piece of cheese didn't cover the whole (half pound!) meat patty. Unfortunately, the (super friendly) waiter was not very knowledgable about what the burger may contain except that it was "seasoned." If you've read my little backstory or have eaten with me in the past few years, you know that I didn't feel comfortable eating the mystery burger. So all that is to say, I agree with the above diagram. I would much rather make a tasty burger at home. Saves a buck and is worth the effort to feel comfortable and satisfied with my burger!

fashionable meats!

Thought I should share some meat fashions that were passed along to me this week:

Meat Fabric! (Please let me know if anyone figures out where to purchase this! I see a lovely summer sundress...)

and Meat Dress! (Probably a bit perishable for summertime wear.)

Thank you and you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

burger cake!

This is probably the most beautiful cake every made, and it was allegedly purchased from Ralph's.


Photo by Kim Garcia for a friend's birthday.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

liquid smoke and indoor grilling

Being a loft-dwelling stovetop grillpan griller, I'm always up for suggestions on how to make my grilled meats taste a bit more authentic. I suppose someone out there may be willing to let me use their grill in exchange for some buffalo ribs, but for everyday use, I was recently advised to check out adding a touch of liquid smoke to my dishes. Of course, my immediate response was "YUCK!" Why would I want to add artificial flavoring to something that I'm preparing myself? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of making sauces from scratch?

But liquid smoke is actually completely natural and made through a pretty interesting process. It is exactly what it sounds like - distilled smoke (usually from mesquite or hickory wood) - and is often aged in oak barrels like wine or beer. Sounds fun!




(source)

Thanks for the heads-up.