Friday, July 06, 2007

Eat Local Meat

Our Supply of Cow Slowly Dwindles as We Make Room for Our Lamb

Well, my wife, who it turns out does not like to be referred to as the Condiment Queen (who woulda thunk?) declared the sirloin steaks we had last night the best she's ever had. I'll say this for our local cow. It's good. Belying the grass-fed rap, it's quite tender. That may because Farmer Vicki fed the cow a good deal of vegetable scraps. She says it's the pumpkins that make the meat so sweet. Also, the knock on frozen meat is that it won't crust up nice. Not true. Now, I make sure to well pat dry the meat before throwing it on the grill, but crust has never been an issue. Of the two steaks last night, one got restaurant style grill marks. The other one, meant to be more well done for the kids, got a near Luger finish. In retrospect, I wish I would have got that crust on both pieces. When the sirloin steak came off the grill last night, there was just this incredible pure beef aroma. I bet if I was older it would make me nostalgic.

Not on purpose, but we have been working our way around the sirloin end of the cow. We had the football shaped roast, then last week we had the bottom sirloin roast, which looked like an open book. Last night were steaks cut about 3/4th of an inch. All have been done on the grill, with the last two being done with direct heat. When I made the bottom roast, I starting asking my wife about the condiment. "Green sauce, salsa fresca..." She stopped me. "No sauce. I want to taste the meat." Truth be told, the heavy beefiness of the bottom roast needed something to cut it, I ended up improvising with pickled jalepenos. Last night's steak however truly needed nothing more than Bruce Cook's Dalmatian rub (salt and pepper). We had it over a salad of farm fresh vegetables. We are spoiled in our eating.

If I could raise one complaint, I would say the cow was not very expertly butchered. Before the cow was processed (farm talk is so matter of fact), I spent tons of time researching how I wanted it cut. The problem, however, was when the time came, my butcher was not so much a butcher as a man with a very good band saw. The locker (more farm talk) had a standard way of cutting, and to the dismay of all my research had no idea what NAMP was. I managed to talk them into various cuts and such, but at the end of the day, things like the hanger steak disappeared. What arrived was a lot (a lot) of ground beef. The locker especially did not use the chuck and neck very well. With this sirloin we have been eating, they cut it latitudinally (horizontally from the back, did I say that right?). It leaves the bones out, but some of the sirloin cuts have large swaths of inedible cartilage running through them. I mean right smack in the middle. It's all a small price to pay for affordable local meat.

As to all that burger, the last package we opened went into making Middle Eastern style kefta. The meat was mixed with chopped onions, curry powder, red pepper, parsley and garlic. My burger is pretty fatty, the result again of the artless processing. Still, with burger, especially kefta, this fat's a good (great) thing. I cooked these kebabs all the way through yet they remained incredibly juicy.

Joining our remaining cow in the freezer will soon be 1/2 lamb purchased from the Wettsteins. Again, by getting the meat in its primal state, one saves a bunch of money. In this processing, the locker seemed confused as to what was the rack of lamb, the loin or rib. I think my rack is gonna be a bit of both. As with the cow, the fun comes in the unwrapping. Also, the processor found it odd that I even wanted the breast. It took three tries to find out how big was a lamb brisket. After much query, I just punted and said anything left over, grind. 1/2 lamb is significantly smaller than 1/2 cow, so I do not fear 200 lbs of burger.

My wife is not so keen on the suckling pig made available to us, but I have a few days still to work on her.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What's Local at Taste of Chicago


I'm not a Taste of Chicago snob. I enjoy a yearly visit, AND I had dreams that a Robert Randolph seat would open. The latter did not happen, but I was surprised to find a place expressly offering local produce.

Lagnaippe, the only stand at Taste of Chicago that features LTHForum in their signage, offered a crawfish boil with "Illinois corn" and a jambalaya with "local produce". Although I was pretty full on Harry Carey's fresh fried Idaho potatoes, I had to try the local item. So my wife and I split the eight ticket jambalaya.

Monica Eng rated it eh. Local be damned, it was well beyond forget it. For one thing, I was hard pressed to find any produce, local or not in this red mess. For another, it was overloaded with powdered sage, the same flavor that can over dominate some soul food. I mean this was really bad. I guess I don't instantly like everything local.

One of my Taste of Chicago fantasies remains a Nicholl's Farm stand at the fest.