The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat In Whole Living Magazine

  • October 17, 2011 9:27 am

Thanks Whole Living for including some easy advice from The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat on how to buy the best meat for the environment and your health in their November issue!

Recipe: Roasted Chicken Times Three

  • October 16, 2011 9:59 am

Hi there!  Glenny here with another post from my kitchen.

As I mentioned before, I plan on visiting Fleisher’s new shop in Park Slope as often as possible.  I certainly do not eat too much meat, but am very happy to indulge in the very good, well-raised stuff when I can.  This past week I stopped by for a whole chicken.  Roasting a chicken is extremely easy, and a great way to make a few meals in one evening.  You’re saving energy by only using your oven once, and you’re exercising some creativity in the kitchen – what to do with the leftovers?  Here is what I did, complete with a basic recipe for your autumnal roast chicken:

Roasted Chicken with Apples and Sage

3-4 lb whole chicken

4 apples, quartered and deseeded (I used Golden Delicious, but almost all will do)

1 apple, chopped into 1 inch cubes

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons chopped sage

2 tablespoons thyme

1 cup white wine (I used a full bodied chardonnay, but a pick your favorite – you’ll be drinking the rest!)

salt and pepper

Prep your chicken.  Season with salt and pepper and put in a roasting pan.  Spread quartered apples around the outside and sprinkle them with half of your herbs.  Mix the chopped apples with a little butter, salt and pepper and stuff in the cavity of the chicken.  Mix the remaining herbs and butter together and spread it both under and on top of the chicken skin.  Pour the wine around the bird, over your apples.

In a 425F oven, cook for 30 minutes, and then reduce temperature to 375F.  Continue cooking for about 40 minutes more or until a thermometer reads 160F and the juices run clear (opposed to red).  Let it sit for about 15 minutes before carving.  Serve with the roasted apples and their juices.

Delicious!  After enjoying this one evening, I still had a lot of chicken left and wasn’t too interested in having the same meal two nights in a row.  So, for lunch the next day it was roasted chicken sandwiches with feta, olives, and market tomatoes.  Followed by a wonderful soup for dinner.  I simply sauteed garlic, onions, carrots and butternut squash in a deep sauce pan.  Added chicken stock, tomatoes, kale, a few cups of farro and the leftover chicken.  Drizzled with homemade pesto, it celebrates lots of flavors; perfect for an October evening.  And the best news?  I’ll be eating that soup for days – this chicken has provided for many many meals.  Easy.

Farro soup, day two.

Fleisher’s Brooklyn Outpost Is Open!

  • October 9, 2011 11:20 am

Another weekend post from Glenny:

This past week Fleisher’s, of Hudson Valley butcher fame, opened their Park Slope outpost!  Bravo Jessica and Josh!  The neighborhood was hungry for well-raised high-quality meat, and I for one will be frequenting the shop.  The space is polished and inviting, bustling with Brooklynites excited about what’s for dinner.  The cases are bright and filled with various cuts of chicken, pork, lamb, and beef.  The smiling employees will be happy to instruct you on any chop, loin, rack or shoulder that is new to you.  And don’t forget to pick up some local cheeses, crackers, and jams to round out your meal.

When I stopped by the shop, I was heading to my family home in the Catskills, so I was interested in buying some lamb for the grill.  I figured it would pair nicely with the eggplant and sunchokes I found at my Greenmarket the morning before.  Besides, it might be getting colder, but I’m reluctant to ditch the grill yet.  Josh suggested the loin and rib chops.  Experiment with seasonings: parsley, garlic, cumin, lemon zest, rosemary, mint, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  On a hot grill, they only need to cook 5 to 6 minutes per side.  They were beautifully pinkish on the inside, full of deep lamb flavor.  I preferred the loin chops, which were a bit meatier and had a stronger, more serious gamy and grassy taste.

Lamb from Fleisher's. Gorgeous, no?

Not much is better than being able to escape the city for a few days, and I must admit, the highlights of the excursion were definitely the meal times.  Even if you don’t have access to a grill, I highly recommend paying Josh, Jess, and their fabulous crew a visit – you’ll leave with a bag full of something delicious (and sustainable) and will definitely learn a thing or two in the meantime.

What You Don’t Know: Saving Energy In The Kitchen

  • October 4, 2011 9:57 am

How often do you use your oven?  Probably a lot more now that the temperatures are dropping and a little warmth in your home is welcome.  (As I type there’s a celeriac roasting in mine.) And how often do you think about minimizing the energy output of your kitchen?  Hopefully more once you read this easy how-to list from The Conscious Kitchen, excerpted below.  Every little bit helps!

MINIMIZING STOVE AND OVEN ENERGY OUTPUT

Whatever kind of cooker you have – new or old – here are ways to minimize its impact:

-Make sure all elements are in good working order.

-Match your pot size to the burner size or you will waste heat/energy.

-Pots and pans come with lids for a reason.  Use them.

-If you use drip pans under your burners, keep them clean.  And don’t use aluminum foil liners for this purpose.  Good-quality reflector pans save energy and are made to last.

-Gas stove burner holes can get clogged.  If the flame is uneven or yellow, turn it off and carefully unclog it with a pin or an unfurled paper clip.

-Calibrate your oven (see below).

-Don’t preheat, even when baking.  And don’t repeatedly open the oven door to check cooking items.  Both waste heat.  If you have an oven with a glass door, peek through there.

-Like your refrigerator, the oven door has a seal.  Make sure it’s tight and not sagging, and that the door hinges are in good working order.

-Don’t overuse the self-cleaning feature (don’t use it more than once a month), or you’ll waste the energy you were hoping to save by having it.  Place a sheet pan in the oven to catch drips and grease so you won’t even need to clean.

-If you turn on the oven, fill it up.  Use that heat to bake/roast/broil more than one thing at a time.

-For more information, check out the following websites: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy: ACEEE.org; ConsumerEnergyCenter.org; HomeEnergy.org; EnergyStar.gov.

Calibrating an Oven

Ovens often run too hot or too cold.  To fix this, you can adjust your own cooking to match however your oven seems to go, you can get a thermometer, or you can “calibrate” it (fancy for fixing it).  This is easiest to do with a digital stove – follow the instructions in the manual.  For nondigital ovens and/or if you don’t have the manual, Google the instructions for your make and model.  The process can be overwhelming for the un-handy, so call in a repair person or a handy friend if needed.

Q&A: Coffee

  • September 29, 2011 9:57 am

THE QUESTION:

Dear Alexandra,

I have a quick, but perhaps complicated question about coffee for you.  Every morning I have at least a cup.  It hadn’t really occurred to me until recently that my coffee habit could have environmental repercussions.  So, what coffee should I be drinking?

Thanks,

Cynthia

THE ANSWER:

What a great question and oh so appropriate considering September 29th (today!) is National Coffee Day (as if every day isn’t national coffee day in my apartment). The answer is a little complicated and a bit controversial.  Chances are you live in the United States, very very far away from any coffee plantations. This presents a problem for the most hardcore locavores (cough) whose diet consists of only local foods.  For the rest of us who are reluctant to give up our morning mug, there are options, which I explain in The Conscious Kitchen.

I’d like to state for the record that while I am a hardcore locavore, I literally do not put a toe on the floor in the morning without my coffee. I know this sounds bad. If you’re tempted to judge me, I suggest you try writing three books in as many years with no nanny and a small person in the house! I did give coffee up for years–when I was pregnant and breastfeeding–so I know I can do it. I just prefer not to.

But enough about me! The excerpts:

“The key thing with coffee is to source it carefully, especially since by some estimates it is the second most widely traded global commodity after oil.  Think of the eco-repercussions of drinking the worst-farmed beans, 365 days a year.  When it comes to coffee, the best brew goes beyond just choosing organic or sustainable beans for personal and environmental health.”

“To ensure that the workers growing your coffee are being treated right, look for fair-trade certification (TransFairUSA.org) on your bag of beans.  This, they say, takes into account fair prices, labor conditions, direct trade, democratic and transparent organizations, community development, as well as environmental sustainability – the last of which is especially crucial for the rainforests, where a great deal of coffee is grown.  Fair Trade Certified products tend to come from small producers on small farms that belong to larger cooperatives.”

“Coffee traditionally grows in shade, under a natural canopy that’s home to many birds.  According to Sierra magazine, low-quality coffee can be grown more easily and cheaply in full sun, ‘but only with extensive use of pesticides.’  The Rainforest Alliance certification label covers both worker treatment and birds (Rainforest-Alliance.org).”

“Coffee and fair-trade fanatics can compare and contrast these certifications at length, but keep in mind that choosing either over conventional coffee is key.”

Most importantly, if you buy consciously, you’ll have a better tasting brew.  Canned conventional coffee is probably a nasty mix of downed twigs, dust, and floor sweepings according to Treehugger.com.

And remember to always bring your own mug, use reusable or unbleached filters, compost your grounds, and doctor it with organic/local milk and fair trade sugar.

Happy National Coffee Day everyone!  I think I’ll have two cups to celebrate. Cheers!


What You Don’t Know: Ground Meat

  • September 27, 2011 10:00 am

Another day, another ground meat recall. Ever wonder what the ^%$ is going on? What is it about ground meat that leads to the worst case scenarios?

I got an answer–and an education–when reporting The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat.

Here are two excerpts from the book to help educate anyone else who might be interested in this monumental waste of flesh.

“Don’t be fooled by meat labeled ‘freshly ground’ at the supermarket. Usually that’s a giant 20-pound chub (or tube) of coarse pre-ground beef they then regrind. That stuff is a gamble. There’s no telling what’s in it–bone chips and shit , at least. And it could also be made from a thousand different animals from ten different countries. Try tracing that.”

“…It doesn’t matter that there are USDA inspectors in every slaughterhouse. They’re not catching the outbreaks and it’s only getting worse. Contamination can come from anything–from feces on a hide to dirty hands to stomach bile that wasn’t properly washed off a carcass.  It takes time to slaughter and clean right. The giant operations rush to slaughter up to twenty-five thousand steers a day. When you see enormous numbers like 143 million pounds of beef recalled, it’s because that’s the “stop number”: that’s how much they grind before they clean or that’s how many pounds ago they tested for pathogens.”

All the more reason to know and trust your butcher or to grind your own meat.

Using Sour Milk

  • September 25, 2011 9:00 am

Another post from Glenny!

How often do you find milk going bad in your fridge?  For me, its often.  I love milk in my coffee, but I only ever use a splash.  Cereal?  I eat it occasionally, but certainly not enough to merit buying anything more than a quart.  Still, I’m always frustrated when I don’t have any in the apartment and have to dash out and hope for the best at my local market.  (I’ve been drinking Hudson Valley Fresh Whole Milk, and am often reluctant to buy other brands.)  So, I find souring milk all of the time.

The good news is that milk that is going off is still usable!  It has turned into buttermilk, which is a needed ingredient in all sorts of biscuits, breads, and other baked treats.  When you find milk that is past its expiration, don’t throw it out!  It’s time to bake!  Not that you should need an excuse.

My favorite recipe using buttermilk is the very simple, very rustic Irish Soda Bread.  Consisting of few ingredients, this bread is a breeze to make, and is ready for noshing within an hour.  No rising, no kneading, no yeast.  If served with an easy soup of fall vegetables, you’ll impress your very satisfied diners.  And, voila!  No more sour milk!

Full disclosure: this is not my Irish Soda Bread, but I wish it was.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

14 oz buttermilk (just under two cups)

Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Sieve the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in all of your milk.  Using your hand and a circular movement, gently mix the buttermilk into the dry ingredients.  The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.  When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface.

Gently form the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches deep.  Cut a deep cross on the loaf and prick in the four corners (the Irish say it is to “let the fairies out”).  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 400 F for another 30 minutes until it is cooked through.  If you’re in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: when cooked it should sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

If you’re feeling ambitious, try adding new ingredients like raisins, dried cherries, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, chocolate chips, olives, etc. etc. etc.

Found at the Market: Long Beans

  • September 17, 2011 9:37 am

Alexandra is out of town this weekend, so she requested that I post something food related for the weekend.  I happily obliged, excited to share a new discovery from last weekend’s farmers market.  Long beans!  They look bizarrely like some kind of aquatic tentacle, only barely resembling their well-known cousin, the string bean.  Intrigued by their funny shape and deep color, I had to buy some.

And am very glad I did – high in all sorts of vitamins and nutrients, these beans can be prepared just like green beans.  Used mainly in Asian dishes, they have a subtle beany flavor and a satisfying crunch.  Wanting to cling to summer a little longer, I used them in a colorful salad, spiked with a lemon and dill vinaigrette.  When served with grilled chicken and roasted tomatoes, it made for a lovely late summer meal.

-Glenny

SO LONG SUMMER SALAD

long beans, corn, olives, lemon, dill

Vinaigrette
3 lemons, juice and zest
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp chopped red onion
1 heaping tbsp mustard
lots and lots of dill
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together.  I used my immersion blender for faster emulsification, but a whisk will do just fine.

Salad
long beans
green beans
corn
kalamata olives
cheese*

After blanching the beans and chopping them into bite-size pieces, combine with cooked corn, chopped olives and cheese.  *I wanted to use feta, but didn’t have any at home, so instead went for the nutty, butterscotchy Roomano, a super aged gouda.  It worked very nicely with the salty olives and the citrusy dressing.  Pour vinaigrette over and mix thoroughly.  Garnish with more dill.

What You Don’t Know: Fat

  • September 7, 2011 10:32 am

When you’re cooking with meat, do you try to use every last morsel?  If the answer is no, you’ll be surprised by the rewards.  I try to waste nothing, whether I’m cooking with vegetables, fruits, grains, or meat.  I should say especially meat. I never forget that something has died for my dinner. Every last bit of that needs to be used. When I discovered, while reporting The Butcher’s Guide To Well Raised-Meat, how many ways fat could be used, I was delighted to also discover how easy it is to render, store, and eat.  Basically I’m talking about potatoes roasted in bacon fat. If you haven’t tried it, do.

Here’s an excerpt from The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat on many other kinds of fats and how to best use them. Do you use any of these? How? Let me know in comments.

Part of the nose-to-tail butchering is coming up with uses for fat, which makes us roughly 15 percent of an animal’s body weight.  Over the years we have gotten pretty creative – we have made beef tallow citronella candles (short-lived – they smelled like a barbecue gone horribly wrong) as well as lovely smelling tallow-based soaps.  But mostly we just make our fat into chunks of tallow, blocks of lard, and tubs of duck fat for our customers to (hopefully) cook with.  Here’s the skinny on what’s what in the world of fats:

Caul Fat is the fatty lining of a pig’s stomach, which looks like a sheet of diaphanous webbing.  It is used to wrap lean meats while roasting; this technique is called barding, and it imparts moisture into the meat as the fat melts.

Duck Fat Is there anything better than duck fat?  Use it to panfry potatoes, like they do in French bistros, or confit a couple of duck legs.  Duck (and goose, too) fat is great, but often hard to come by.

Lard, or rendered pork fat, is nearly 100 percent fat, as opposed to butter, which is about 80 percent fat and 20 percent water.  Though animal fats have gotten a bad reputation as heart-stoppers and artery-cloggers, lard is still well loved among bakers and intrepid cooks who prize its ability to produce flaky crusts and silky sauces.  Lard has a high smoke point, making it exceptional for frying things like chicken.  It’s also healthier than manufactured hydrogenated  fats like most vegetable shortenings.

Leaf Lard is the dry, hard, crumbly fat cap that surrounds the kidney of the pig.  This fat contains the fewest impurities, making it the gold standard for baking.  Mix this with butter (a 1:1 butter-to-fat ratio is good) for the best pie crusts you have ever made.

Tallow is rendered beef, veal, or lamb fat.  It is used mainly commercially to make animal feed, soap, and cosmetics, or for cooking.  McDonald’s managed to piss off a lot of vegetarians a while back by cooking their fries in tallow without informing the public – no wonder they were so addictive after a long night of drinking.  We use lamb fat in our chicken sausages to get that rich, decadent taste that you just can’t get from plain old chicken.  And we also know hunters who add lamb fat to their venison burgers for a more fatty, luscious taste.

HOW TO RENDER FAT

It’s simple to make high-quality lard or tallow that can be used for baking, cooking, or soap making.  Fats should be stored in the refrigerator, where they will last for three months or can be frozen for a  year.  We like to cut our lard into manageable 1/2-pound chunks and freeze it – it defrosts quickly, and does not have to be defrosted in the refrigerator.

-Buy pork fat, beef suet, or lamb fat from your butcher shop or farmer.  Make sure the fat is fresh, clean smelling, and not slimy.  Whatever you render, count on getting a 75 percent return.

-Cut the fat into 1-inch squares and then finely dice it (we run ours through the meat grinder).

-Place the diced fat into a heavy-bottomed pan set over low heat.  Melt the fat, without stirring, until it is literally a pool of oil.  Alternatively, you can melt the fat in a Crock-Pot.

-Let the fat cool until it is still in liquid form but not hot.

-Strain the fat through a cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer.

Q&A: Watery Egg Whites

  • August 18, 2011 9:52 am

THE QUESTION:

(This question came to me over Twitter, hence its brevity.)

What’s up with watery egg whites? I read real fresh eggs or old hen I only get eggs at the farm mrkt – think it’s the farm?

THE ANSWER

There is a lot of conflicting ideas out there about why some eggs have a watery or runny consistency.  Is it from a lack of protein in the hen’s feed?  Or maybe these eggs aren’t fresh?  After wading through a lot of online forums, which were not providing straight answers, I found BackyardChickens.com to be particularly informative. Keep in mind that I’m no chicken farmer!

I didn’t find a definitive answer for watery whites, but it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the freshness of the eggs or how the chicken was raised.  Here are six conclusions from BackyardChickens.com:

1. Occasional eggs with spreading (runny) whites are observed originating from apparently normal flocks.
2. The runny eggs tend to be laid by the same hens.
3. The existence of runny eggs has nothing to do with freshness; it can be observed in newly laid eggs.
4. The albumen height and Haugh unit rating is not different between runny and normal eggs.
5. There are differences in biochemical composition between normal and runny eggs.
6. There appears to be a genetic effect on the incidence of runny eggs, suggesting that selection might
reduce the incidence.

Now all of that makes me kind of dizzy, truth be told (Haugh unit??). I kind of understand what it all means, but not really. If I had an egg with watery whites or yolks or anything that gave me pause, I’d just ask my farmer. It’s really the best option, and one I take advantage of as much as possible. It can only be done when you know the person who grew your veggies, raised your chickens, and harvested your eggs. My farmers offer explanations and advice as only they’re equipped to do. And I find them all very reassuring. If these eggs came from a farmers’ market, march right on over to the farmer and ask him or her what’s up. I have a feeling you’ll be glad you did. If they didn’t come from a market, you might prefer buying eggs from someone you can talk to and query when you want to.

Any egg-o-philes out there have a different take on this question? Speak up!