Wednesday, April 29, 2009
the new york times regarding cheaper cow cuts and discount bin meats
bbc news on why fat is good for you (if you're a rat)
and, just for fun, twilight... with cheeseburgers.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
"Italian food is not delicious for its fussiness or complexity, but for the opposite reason: it's simple... Simple cuisine does not mean spare, however. An Italian meal is like a play with many acts, except that if you don't watch it, you'll be stuffed to the gills before intermission. It took us a while to learn to pace ourselves... Whether it's in the country or in the town, frequented by tourists or office workers or garage workers or wedding guests, a sit-down restaurant in Italy aims for you to sit down and stay there. Steven and I immediately began to wonder if we would fit into the airplane seats we had booked for our return in two weeks. How is it possible that every citizen in Italy does not weigh three hundred pounds? They don't, I can tell you.
By observing our neighbors we learned to get through the marathon of lunch (followed by the saga of dinner) by accepting each course as a morsel... If a particular course was a favorite it was fine to take more, but in most cases, a few bites became the norm. Then slow chewing, and joy. Watching Italians eat (especially men, I have to say) is a form of tourism the books don't tell you about. They close their eyes, raise their eyebrows into accent marks, and make sounds of acute appreciation...
The point of eating one course at a time, rather than mixing them all on a single loaded plate, seems to be an opportunity to concentrate one's attention on each flavor, each perfect ingredient, one uncluttered recipe at a time. A consumer trained to such mindful ingestion would not darken the door of a sports bar serving deep-fried indigestibles. And consumption controls the market, or so the economists tell us..."
From Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
The New York Times ran an article yesterday regarding red and processed meat consumption and death rates among Americans. I am pretty sensitive to inflammatory articles such as this. I wish that the approach could have been focused on being a responsible and informed consumer; taking the time to learn about what one puts into their body. Here are the two snippets that make sense to me, though logic should kick in at some point:
To prevent premature deaths related to red and processed meats, Dr. Popkin suggested in an interview that people should eat a hamburger only once or twice a week instead of every day, a small steak once a week instead of every other day, and a hot dog every month and a half instead of once a week.
A question that arises from observational studies like this one is whether meat is in fact a hazard or whether other factors associated with meat-eating are the real culprits in raising death rates. The subjects in the study who ate the most red meat had other less-than-healthful habits. They were more likely to smoke, weigh more for their height, and consume more calories and more total fat and saturated fat. They also ate less fruits, vegetables and fiber; took fewer vitamin supplements; and were less physically active.
Healthful eating should not be a luxury; it is an important part of taking care of one's self, like getting moderate exercise, regular physical exams, or brushing your teeth! If this article assumes that the average red meat-eater blindly sucks down a cheeseburger a day, isn't there a good chance that he will see a headline stating that this routine is not the healthiest choice and switch to the fettuccine alfredo? This switch will reduce red meat consumption but increase his fat and calorie intake and remove any possibility of lettuce, tomato, or onion- perhaps the only vegetable he'll eat that day. Needless to say, this article also did not address the issue of meat quality (i.e. the health benefits of grass fed meats vs. corn fed, hormone and antibiotic-laden vs. natural) or red meat options other than beef (game meats like buffalo, venison, or elk), which play heavily into the cholesterol factor.
If we've learned anything by observing global diets, Europeans are far thinner and have less problems with chronic illness than Americans-- and they eat plenty of the good stuff. The solution does not always have to be to run away from sausage, bacon, or even cured deli-sliced meats. Sure, pre-packaged discount meat products usually contain nitrates, excessive saturated fats, and unbelievable sodium levels, but really, those facts are right on the label! Take the time to learn which brands produce additive-free products and watch for sales and coupons to make them fit your budget-- and then eat them in moderation, a concept that is foreign to many.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Last week, I got an excited text message from my man saying that he was enjoying curried goat for lunch. How exciting! You know I love anything with a beard, so I have to admit I was quite jealous of his adventurous meal. (He actually took a picture for me, but it looked like brown lump covered in goo. Since I am trying to encourage goat consumption, I won't include it in this post.)
A few weeks ago, the New York Times ran an article on the subject. Gosh, I am such a naive American! The article informed me that goat is the most widely consumed meat in the world, basically a staple of most major cuisines other than our own. Goat has been a part of the Middle Eastern diet for thousands of years as it falls under the Law, being a member of the "split hoof" category of animals.
Why don't we like it here? Are we adverse to the health benefits it provides-- being lower in fat than chicken and higher in protein than beef? Or are we judgemental towards the animal, regarding goat as a scavenger who snacks on tin cans, shoes, or itchy urban hill grass? Fortunately, our perception of the goat-diet is inaccurate, but even if it weren't, I may rather dine on something that ate a leather boot for lunch rather than corn feed that has been deemed inedible for humans and isn't much better for animals... But their ability to survive off of whatever they find on the land has made them resilient and prevalent in less controlled agricultural areas.
So, why do we have to venture to unknown Indian or uber-trendy urban eateries to find goat on the menu? Perhaps for now, we'll have to request it at our local butcher or ethnic market and try to make something at home. Here are some ideas from some of the major goat-eating regions:
Goat tacos (because everything tastes good in a taco)
But since I've never had goat, I am inclined to try a recipe that highlights the meat instead of hiding it under a heavy sauce or in a tortilla (come on, you'd think goat meat were an eggplant looking at some of these recipes!)
Saturday, April 25, 2009
The advertised participants were Jonathan Gold, LA Weekly's restaurant critic, Mark Peel of Campanile, Octavio Becerra of Palate Food & Wine, and Susan Feniger of Street. As most events do, it started about 40 minutes late, which left me curious about why there were five chairs on stage for quite some time. A surprise guest? Yes! Worth the wait. Happily, the last guest was Vinny Dotolo, co-founder of Animal and winner (along with Jon Shook) of Food & Wine's Best New Chef award.
First of all, I thought the selection of panelists was pretty exquisite. Mark Peel is legendary, having worked with Wolfgang Puck for years. He was very intelligent and well-spoken, coming from a background of agricultural economics and history. Octavio Becerra is an chef who knows the importance of butchering skills. For years, he has been an advocate of using all parts of an animal in cooking and is a food detective, seeking out the best in all of his meats and produce. Susan Feniger spoke from a health- and environmentally-conscious perspective. Her latest restaurant venture uses meat as a "condiment" instead of in the forefront of dishes. Dotolo filled the place of the young, edgy chef who brings a refreshing passion to his work, really believing that food and cooking is art, reflected on his menu in the phrase "changes and modifications politely declined."
Many apologies for the poor photo quality.
Gold, Peel, and Becerra
Feniger and Dotolo
One of the major conclusions was that the panelists and the attendants are not representative of our country (or the world, obviously), so even if we believe that animals deserve respect and that we deserve to eat the tastiest foods we can, not everyone shares these ideals, either because it is not a personal priority or because they simply cannot afford to invest in better quality products. Can the majority pay $16 for a humanely-raised, grass-fed, local, organic cheeseburger when the fast food joint across the street sells a moderately tasty (though heart-attack inducing, environment-destroying, and cut from an animal that has never seen the light of day) burger for 99-cents? Opinions and solutions differed between the panelists. The idealists stuck to the supply-and-demand principle, that if we spend money on higher quality products now, more will have to be produced, eventually bringing costs down. The others saw the reality that most people will never pay for higher quality meats and concluded that government regulation is the only option.
Needless to say, each panelist was on top of the current dynamics in the food world, so there was one point that left me confused. Gold's opening question hit on Padma Lakshmi's Carl's Jr. ad. I get it. She's sexy. She was raised as a vegetarian Hindu but now eats beef. She's a pop-culture foodie icon but devours fast food. Even though I was trying not to roll my eyes that this was the first point, I was excited because I thought the issue of women in the food/meat/butchering industry would be brought to the forefront. Unfortunately, it was kind of brushed over. When the floor opened for audience questions, the first question related to feminism and meat. What a let-down it was when there was an immediate and unanimous conclusion that sexuality and carnivousness were completely seperate. Why, then, are there twice as many female vegetarians than male? Why, when dining out, do women more often dine on salad or pasta while the man orders the big, juicy steak? Why, in most households, does the only time men cook involve a grill while the women make the casseroles, desserts, salads, and baked goods?
I don't want to dwell on the negative as I really enjoyed the discussion. It was totally a celebration of meat and the way that it should be consumed-- coming from animals that were well-fed and lived a healthy, low-stress life and savored in moderation in an environment that compliments the food. It should be an experience that is intentional and respected on every level. Taking an animal's life in order to sustain our own is never something that should be taken lightly. As Peel said, it is something that is "sacred and profound, flesh to flesh."
So, are we willing to be conscious omnivores, paying more for quality meats in hopes of improving our food experience and our country's sad agricultural state? If it can be as easy as lunching on grass-fed beef and family-raised pork hot dogs from the Let's Be Frank truck parked on Vine today, I should think so!
Friday, April 24, 2009
Please take a moment to watch this informative video on how to make the perfect burger yourself. Chef/restauranteur/cooking show host Hubert Keller shares some excellent tips that go beyond the basics (i.e. don't press your burger). Of course, freshly ground meat makes the best burger, but if you don't have a meat grinder, he does a neat little demo showing how to chop up a piece of steak and turn it into a patty. Then, he makes a sandwich of two patties stuffed with... well, just watch it! Guaranteed to make your tummy growl-- and hopefully inspire you to put a little more effort into your diet than making a visit to the drive-thru.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
And speaking of Jonathan Gold, he will be making an appearance this weekend at LA Weekly's LA Weekend in a panel discussion called Carnivore! Will I be there? Heck yeah! Stay tuned. I'm a bit confused because one site says that tickets cost $18, but the official site says some sort of sponsorship has made it free, so here's hoping for free!
The article entitled "The Other Recycling Business" brings light to the rendering industry. Don't know much about rendering? Neither did I. Apparently, about half of the cattle, hogs, and chickens that were slaughtered in the United States last year did not find their way to your plate, but instead were chopped up and drained of their juices to be made into all sorts of unsuspecting goods, including personal care products (think: shampoo, shaving cream, collagen bases, mouthwash), protein additives for animal feed, and biodiesel. Fat is quite the precious commodity, and the perspective of this article is quite fascinating, juxtaposing snippets about Wolfgang Puck's carnivore haven Cut Steakhouse with the story of Jim Andreoli, a pick-up truck driving Dirty Jobs contender. Take a look at what Andreoli envisions in this "diagram of the week."
Here is where the conflict lies. Renderers such as Andreoli are walking a fine line. One could make a case for only raising and slaughtering animals necessary for human consumption, but even if that was the case, we are still left with animal "waste" products-- bones, head, guts, etc. Instead of letting precious tons of products go to waste, he puts them to use. And to good use, even. Who can argue with turning Burger King's troughs of run-off grease into biofuel? PETA, that's who. Can't win them all. Well intentioned, I'm sure, but certainly lacking in logic. Andreoli really has a passion for what he does and believes that he can make great strides for the environment, and he loves a great piece of meat! What more can you want, really?
(source article - "The Other Recycling Business," Los Angeles Magazine, April 2009)
Monday, April 20, 2009
Didn't realize it would be 96-degrees out today, but I'm not one to back down from a challenge just because of a little bit of steaminess. So, I shoved a lemon, a few cloves of garlic, and a handful of herbs up the chicken's butt, coated him in olive oil, salt, and pepper and shoved him in the oven.
And, tah dah! Not so bad.
Tasted pretty excellent, too. Super tender and flavorful but not too heavy for such a hot day.
But here comes the problem. I had no idea how to carve it!
Gosh, what kind of aspiring meat artist am I? We gave up and tore into it, forks and fingers flying.
So. Here's the proper way to carve said bird.
How to carve turkey and chicken - two ways.
Next time, I will serve up lovely slices of chicken breast and perfect little drumsticks. Just you wait and see.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I would like to say that we followed the fabulous Alton Brown rib recipe, but again, we were lazy and hungry and opted to boil them for a few minutes and then toss them on our grill pan with some zippy barbeque sauce I whipped up. Pretty good! I'm sure they would have benefited from a bit more effort on our part, but they did the trick for today. The buffalo was pretty tasty -- impressively large ribs and very lean, but I think we'll try pork next. By the end of the summer, we hope to have them perfected.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Not totally sure how I feel about it. Would probably taste like alligator, which allegedly tastes like chicken. What I do know is that one of these dudes would make a heck of a lot of sausages!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Ha! Just kidding. Thought I'd try to make you feel guilty for a minute.
I am still on a kick of incorporating lamb into our diet regularly. It is so flavorful and versitile, and pretty good for you too! Lots of zinc and iron, and us ladies need lots of that.
During my post-Argentina butcher stock-up, I visited Marconda Meats and picked up some freshly ground lamb. Last night, I used some of it along with rice, red wine vinegar, tomato juice, garlic, onions, and fresh herbs to stuff some super tasty baked red peppers. Such a simple and satisfying meal! The man had to go out of town at the last minute today, which is disappointing because after i made his rib adventure public, he had announced that tonight he would be cooking dinner for us. Guess I'll have to wait until next week to see what he had planned. I thought it would be fun to revisit my single days and have guacamole and a cocktail for dinner, but I can't escape the memory of yesterday's meal.
So, here's some lamb-facts to curb my cravings.
- "lamb" refers to a sheep between one month and one year old; "mutton" is older than one year
- the younger and smaller the lamb, the more tender the meat will be
- lamb, though rich-tasting, is relatively low in fat and calories and high in nutrients and antioxidants
- most supermarket lamb is usda choice, but higher quality cuts and organic meats are available
- new zealanders eat the most lamb, about 40lbs per capita (source)
- and for the exceedingly ambitious, here's a fun tutorial of how to bone cuts of lamb
Check out a video here of her slaughering a pig. Pretty intense!
I'm very interested in checking out the rest of her video blogs...
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
2 whole slabs pork baby back ribs
8 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon jalapeno seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Place each slab of baby back ribs on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side down. Sprinkle each side generously with the dry rub. Pat the dry rub into the meat. Refrigerate the ribs for a minimum of 1 hour. In a microwavable container, combine all ingredients for the braising liquid. Microwave on high for 1 minute.
Place the ribs on a baking sheet. Open one end of the foil on each slab and pour half of the braising liquid into each foil packet. Tilt the baking sheet in order to equally distribute the braising liquid. Braise the ribs in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.
Transfer the braising liquid into a medium saucepot. Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce by half or until of a thick syrup consistency. Brush the glaze onto the ribs. Place under the broiler just until the glaze caramelizes lightly. Slice each slab into 2 rib bone portions. Place the remaining hot glaze into a bowl and toss the rib portions in the glaze.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I came across this (somewhat dated) article today that left me both inspired and confused. The article speaks of Stephanie Gerbier, a young woman who decided, against her parents' wishes, to pursue a career as a butcher. She faced heaps of cynicism and was subject to comments such as-
"You shouldn't leave your cute little butcher in the back; we'd like to see her out front."
I understand that butchering is a trade that requires a certain amount of physical strength and, well, emotional well-being, but I was surprised that it was only recently that women began to study it in France. I wonder if such desires have surfaced as part of an artisan resurgence, the backlash against processed foods, slave-labor clothing, and fill-in-the-blank wasteful lifestyles. Regardless, Gerbier has a real passion and talent for what she does and in 2007, won France's annual competition for apprentice butchers.
Perhaps I am being insensitive to the fact that being a working mother may not allow one to bake fresh bread every day, hem your husband's pants, and keep the floor sparkley clean with homemade non-toxic cleaners, but I hope that when I find myself in that position, I will still be aware of what my family is eating and conscious of how it affects our health and well-being! It is perplexing to me that a woman is still expected to keep her family fed and clothed, but heaven forbid she has a part in the raising/slaughtering/butchering of the animals.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Ha! That's not so bad, is it? Even if you don't want to think about it, when you eat any (well, any non-vegetarian) sausage, you are eating a combination of ground meats and spices stuffed into natural casings, meaning intestines. You're okay with that, right?
So the next question is, what kinds of casings are there? And are all casings created equal?
With all of the varieties of sausages, I'd imagine casings differ vastly.
Thus far, I've only used hog casings in my sausage experimentation, which I have found to be excellent for beginning to intermediate sausage makers. They are available at my trusty butcher shop for a pretty reasonable price (about 10lbs of meat will use about $10 of casings) and are pretty forgiving- nice and stretchy and not at all unpleasant to eat.
Lamb casings seem to be a good option for the slightly more advanced sausage stuffer. They are more delicate and narrower (think: breakfast sausages) but I hear they are incredibly tender and tasty. They also tend to cost twice as much and harder to find.
Beef casings are another option for sausages of the larger variety. They are thicker and smoother and have a snappy bite (think: bologna) and are ideal for your big, meaty sausages- chorizo, blood sausages, kielbasa, etc.
And vegetarian casings, well, give this a shot. Report back.
So, the good news is, nowadays, you can buy anything on the internet! Here's a great site that sells all sorts of casings- and they're cheap. They offer a great selection of hog, sheep, and beef casings in different diameters and dyes. I would imagine the procedure would be similar to ordering meat online, they would package it up nicely on dry ice, but casings hold up pretty well, so... here's the sketchy part.
"Salted casings have a very long shelf life when stored properly. Un-refrigerated, these salted casings quickly begin to give off a strong odor even though they are not spoiled. Put them back under refrigeration and this odor for the most part subsides."Hmm... I don't know how my doorman would feel about accepting a package of stinky animal parts. But for the price, it is worth a shot!
Saturday, April 11, 2009
I decided on a large batch hot Italian and a small experiment batch of chicken cranberry.
Hot Italian Sausage
5 lbs coarse ground pork
1 cup cold red wine
1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano
5 tsp salt
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
3 tsp cayenne
5 tbsp fennel seed
2 tsp crushed chili peppers
5 tbsp paprika
5 tsp brown sugar
(modified from source)
2 lbs finely ground organic chicken (I used dark meat for economic reasons)
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup cold white wine
1/4 of a white onion, grated
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp thyme
I'm pumped to have a freezer full of sausage again! The rest of the Italian is coming with us to weekend events in mini-sandwich form. I roasted some red peppers and they compliment it nicely.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Thursday, April 9, 2009
the worst...(and yes, i believe i was served one of these once. for sure, the worst meat i've even since my return to carnivorism)
and the, well...