It’s been a few weeks since we hugged out interns goodbye, signaling the end of summer and my cooking of weeknight suppers. The transition has been strange as I learn to cook for just myself each night. My eye for proportions is all askew, and I’m afraid I’m still having a hard time cooking for less than 25 people. Oh well, lots of leftovers…
I certainly learned a great deal this summer, and overcame many kitchen fears. As ironic as it may be to work at a livestock farm, I was incredibly insecure in early June when it came to cooking meat – especially large cuts. Armed with what I like to call The Meat Bible (The River Cottage Meat Book), I timidly turned its introductory pages, gearing myself up for memorizing difficult techniques and exact salt-to-water brine ratios. Yet what I read on page 28 gave me the most important lesson of all:
…knowing what good meat is, in the raw state, adds an extra dimension of pleasure to both your shopping and your cooking, because good meat is a pleasure to find, a pleasure to handle, and a pleasure to cook with. Get the good meat habit, and the sense of anticipation and excitement about what you are going to cook will always outweigh any anxiety that it might go horribly wrong. This is the confidence trick that means ninety-nine times out of one hundred that you will succeed triumphantly.
So I offer you a couple of principles to cooking grass-fed meat. This is by no means a full list – just some of the basics to help kickstart your adventures in grass-fed cooking. (And read all the way to the end, because I’m feeling gift-y and want to offer a comment contest!)
Grass-fed meats are leaner, and therefore need to be cooked more slowly, at lower temperatures. Shannon Hayes, author of The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook, has developed a chart (and handy refrigerator magnet) for internal temperatures of grass-fed meats. Check it out here.
Brine your chicken – it’s worth every extra minute it takes (and it doesn’t take that much longer). Brining produces a very moist and well-seasoned bird. This is also a good idea for your Thanksgiving turkey.
Sear beef or pork cuts quickly in a pan (or at a high oven temperature) before settling down into your long term roasting temperature. This allows for a crust to form on the outside, locking in flavor and resulting in a moist and delicious final product. Another key? Letting the meat rest for 10-20 minutes after it comes out of the oven so the moisture can redistribute itself throughout the meat.
To find a farm near you that produces grass fed and pastured meats, check out www.eatwild.com
So let’s get the good meat habit together! My challenge to you this week is to obtain a cut of meat that you have never or rarely worked with before. Cook it, and leave me a comment on this post about how you did it and what the outcome was. I’ll choose a winner next Monday at 12 noon and post the winner on Tuesday’s blog. Be excited about what you are cooking and it will help you succeed triumphantly…Happy cooking!