EatWild.com. Founded some ten years ago, this is a site dedicated to present-day foods that are grown, cultivated and/or raised so it has the nutritional value (not to mention taste) you would find in foods grown and/or roaming wild. EatWild shares related articles, food-for-thought, and background information. And then there is their state-by-state directory: a coveted list of local organic farms who sell directly to consumers. It is here that I found the link to a local farm who delivers to my house: A Better Way Beef.
And so, in my kitchen this April, I have a box of various cuts of beef, lamb, pork, and chicken. All from a ranch not far from Houston. Where hills are rolling and fields in Spring are vibrant with the flaming red of Indian Paintbrush, and the delicate blue of Texas' state flower: the blue bonnet.
Less is more: lean meat
My son has this joke: say "milk" ten times. Then answer the question: what does a cow eat? Growing up in the Netherlands, my answer automatically and invariably is: grass. A Better Way Beef is grass-fed meat. Their cattle (and lamb) roam freely on grassy pastures rich in herbs and wildflowers. The ranch uses two local facilities to process their meat. Slaughtered humanely, under state inspection, the meat is dry-aged on site for two weeks. Dry-aging makes for lean, meaty meat. Think of dry-aging as ripening: instead of packaging the meat straight away, nature gets a chance to intensify the flavors of the slaughtered meat before it is sold.
I unpack my box. There is ground beef, a T-Bone, a sirloin steak, pork ribs, lamb ribs, ground lamb, lamb chops, and 4 quarter chicken. It's the latter I stare at the longest. One quarter chicken is the size of what I normally buy as a whole chicken. I pick up a humongous leg, and I know it will love me if I cook it ever so slow.
I do love meat, but I also know you don't have to eat large slabs of it to feel satisfied. Growing up, money was tight, and meat was a luxury item on our dinner table. My mother always insisted you don't need more than 100gr (3-4 oz) of meat per person, and you don't need it every day. Carnivores among you will gasp at the notion. My son one of them. Meat portions in my kitchen are not that mean, but they're not huge either. And not daily: meat meals are balanced against vegetarian and seafood. It is a nano-contribution to sustainable food: slow down demand, and demand good meat.
Allowed to come to room temperature 2 hours before, the steak is looking relaxed with its deep-dark red meat, soft to the touch, and with creamy white fat. The smell is good too: it is the smell of fresh, raw meat. I feel the meat, and love the promise of a velvety texture. I don't think it needs any acidity to tenderize. No vinegar, no wine. I season the steak with coarse sea salt grains, let it sit for 30 minutes as the grill heats up. It grills on high heat until I feel enough resistance when I poke it gently with my finger. It looks whitish, but then I remember: in dry aging, moisture slowly evaporates. It smells good, the resistance of the meat feels medium-rare, the fat looks cooked, so off it goes to rest for 20-30 minutes. When I slice it, my food heart jumps with joy: it is beautiful meat. Tender, velvety, and oh so full of meaty flavor.
A beautiful slab of pork ribs looks good: the meat is dark pink, the fat creamy white. I will try something other than the BBQ: I rub the ribs lightly with mustard, sprinkle with coarse salt, fennel seeds, and freshly ground black pepper, and place them on a bed of rough sliced red onion and halved garlic bulbs. Add a splash of white wine if you like. Fresh sage and thyme from my own herb bed share their aromatic love on top, and covered with heavy foil it goes into a moderate oven for about 2 hours. After that, the foil comes off and the ribs roast uncovered until crisp. The meat falls off the bone, infused with the aromatics around it. The sage and garlic (now crisp and roasted) go into a base of cream and stock. Rotini get to roll in it, and together with roasted sprouts this is one very good meal.
|juicy tender jerked chicken, try it with corn & poblano quinoa (recipe here)|
One chicken quarter fed the three of us generously. I marinated it overnight in a homemade Ancho-Chile BBQ sauce with added fresh orange juice for acidity. It "jerked" off-heat for almost 4 hours. What we ended up with, was a chicken that in taste and texture raised the bar high for any future chicken. Rich, firm, tasteful meat, you will never ever want to eat the bland meat of inflated bio-industry chicken ever again.
When meat smells good enough to eat raw, close your eyes and you can almost picture the animal running around in a meadow rich with grasses and wildflowers. The delicious raw meatiness of this ground lamb begged for fresh herbs, for natural sweetness, for a hint of spiciness. It longed for a gentle roll on the hot grill. This lamb also sought a tantalizing liaison with the vibrant colors and crisp flavors of fresh vegetables, and the fragrance of saffron in rice. The full recipe, including the colorful salad and saffron rice, is available here (The Food Lane Recipes).
As I write this, one humongous chicken leg is defrosting. This one I will ever so gently braise in coconut milk fragrant with lemon grass, lime leaf, fresh ginger, and red chili. Wanna come for dinner in my kitchen?
www.abetterwaybeef.com: a Texas ranch where cattle and lamb roam free, chickens chase grasshoppers, pigs roll in mud. Check for deliveries, orders are a minimum of 25lbs (meat comes portioned, wrapped, and ready for the freezer).
www.eatwild.com, getting wild nutrition from modern foods: a great website bursting with listings for local organic farms, free range meats, great reads and background information.
In My Kitchen is a foodblogger-sharing series initiated by Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial: www.figjamandlimecordial.com/in-my-kitchen
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