Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato

This was delicious.  But first, let’s talk a little about grass fed beef, and how it differs from conventional beef.

Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato

 Conventionally fed cows are born and live on/in fields until they are weaned and old enough to be moved to a feedlot, where they generally live in pretty deplorable conditions and are fed a grain mixture designed to help the steers put on weight fast.  And they do.  Feedlot beef are generally slaughtered between 12-18 months of age.  And they have to be.  The grain mixture that feedlot beef are fed is not what their digestive tract has evolved to handle, and the grains begin fermenting in their gut, and acidify things far more than they’re capable of handling. The grains actually slowly poison cows by making it so the lining of their digestive tract allows bacteria through into the rest of their system, and they get blood infections.  As a result, feedlots generally feed prophylactic antibiotics to keep the cows from dying of sepsis prior to being slaughtered. So the steer are generally far less healthy overall.  Add in to that the type of fat that they put on while eating a high grain diet is Omega 6 fats, which are not great for you, and feedlot beef is overall a really pretty awful option.

Grass fed cows are born and live on/in fields until they are ready to be slaughtered.  Since they’re not being fed a mixture of grains designed to fatten them up(strange how cows have a tendency to get fat when they eat lots of grains, just like humans), it takes them much longer to get up to the desired weight. As a result, they live 2-4 years, and generally end up tougher, you know, because they are able to move around and use their muscles.  The grass-based diet allows the cows to gain weight slowly, and the fat ratio (O6:O3) is much healthier, both for the cow and for the people who eat it.  Anyway, how this affects the end product is fairly simple… the meat is tougher, leaner, a little gamier (think a combo of conventional beef and lamb) and the fat that it does have tends to be healthier.

When cooking a grassfed steak to medium-rare, it can be difficult to get a truly tender end-result.  Grassfed beef is great for long, low and slow cooking, but a quick and rare preparation will give you a tough shoe leather-esque meal, not good eats.  An effective way to still get a tender result with a perfect medium rare is to cook it in a water bath, sous vide. You can hold it at 135 degrees for 6 hours, during which time, enzymes in the meat begin to break it down and it tenderizes, giving you a result quite similar to a conventionally raised steak, without any of the terrible feedlot baggage.

Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato (serves 4)

Ingredients:
1-1.5lbs grassfed steak
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 strips bacon, chopped and cooked until level of desired crispiness is achieved.
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1 green onion, green part, chopped
sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
prepared horseradish

Instructions:
*Liberally season steak with pepper (not salt) and vacuum seal (you could also add thyme, rosemary, etc to this if you wanted to get fancy.
*About 6 hours before you want to eat, place in a water bath set to 135 degrees, and let it hang.
*About an hour before you want to eat, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, scrub your sweet potatoes, half, and place cut side down on a lightly greased baking sheet (I used some avocado oil)
*Bake your sweet potatoes until tender, this took mine 45 minutes.
*Prep your toppings and enjoy a glass of wine or an apertif in the mean time.
*When the sweet potatoes are tender, turn over and cut a line down the middle of them.  Split as much as possible and sprinkle inside with your crumbled bleu cheese. Return to oven until cheese has begun melting.
*Preheat a pan you don’t mind getting very hot over high heat.  I like using cast iron, but a stainless or carbon steel pan would probably work like a champ as well.
*Remove your bag from the water bath, remove the steaks, and dry off using paper towels.  Do not salt.
*Sear the steaks by placing in the (literally) smoking hot cast iron pan without any oil.  Leave be for 30 seconds or so. When the steaks are seared enough, they should release from the pan and be easy to pick up. When this has happened, flip, and allow to sear on the second side.  Remove to your cutting board.  No need to let them rest, the juice is already distributed where it should be.  Slice and salt liberally(remember, your beef hasn’t seen a bit of salt yet).
*To plate, place your potato half on a plate, top with remaining ingredients. Place your portion of steak on your plate, salt again (this is a great time to use finishing salt), add a bit of horseradish, and enjoy!

Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato

Grinding and mixing Venison

So that time that Craig shot the deer and then we had to figure out WTF to do with it?  Well most of it ended up as stew meat, and all of the odds and ends are going to be dog food. 10lbs made their way into a bin to get ground up and turned into hamburger, etc.  Now the thing about venison, is it has pretty much NO intramuscular fat.  The remainder of the fat is what contributes more than anything to the gaminess of the meat, and to me, that is not a desirable quality, so we trimmed what existed of it out, and put it in the dog food collection.  When people grind up venison, it is oftentimes “cut” by another animal’s meat or fat.  Either beef fat (which you can apparently get very cheaply) or pork fat.  Pork seems to be the most common, and has a far more neutral flavor than beef.  For this, I used high fat-content pork products, a pork belly, and a pork shoulder, totaling about 7.3 pounds of meat.  The venison weight came out to a hair over 10.5 pounds, which gave us a roughly 60/40 split between venison and fatty pork.  Anyway, I pulled out my handy dandy 5 gallon bowl and got to grinding!  And boy-o did that Kitchenaid not appreciate the 18lbs of meat that I ran through it!  But it ran like a champ.

ground pork
This is just pork

weighing out venison chunks
Weighing out the venison to verify the weight

ground venison and ground pork

When it was all ground, I carefully mixed it all up.  Not to one homogeneous mess, but just to get a semi-even spread of meat.  Then I threw a sheet of parchment on my scale and got to weighing out 1lb chunks.  Each chunk got wrapped in plastic wrap, then set on a sheet of freezer paper.  I have never used freezer paper before, but was instructed to grab some for wrapping up the deer, which we ended up vacuum sealing instead, so I had 2 huge rolls and a roll of freezer tape (apparently the adhesive stays sticky in freezing temps), and I figured I’d give it a shot.  True story, I’m not great with freezer paper, but I think after 18 packages, I finally have my technique figured out.  I just have to eat the first few that I wrapped before I eat the others.  They’re kind of a mess.

18lbs of ground venison

The only trick with the meat will be to either cook it fully (like in sloppy joes), or wait til at least a month in the deep freeze is up to help ensure that whatever parasites that may be present in the meat are dead. :shudder:

Life changing chicken wings

I made some killer chicken wings the other day.  I tend to shy away from recipes where one must deep fry anything, as I don’t like going through that much oil, and they make the house stink, and I inevitably burn myself.  But I happened upon an article about the crispiest buffalo wings, and I have been craving them obsessively for weeks, and Craig (the supersmeller) was out of town, so I folded.  On my trip to the store for dog food ingredients, I grabbed a package of wings, and guiltily got to it when I made it home.  Most deep-fry capable oil isn’t so great for you.  In this case, I found a super old bottle of peanut oil in the back of the cupboard and used that.  A fairly affordable option would be to try sunflower seed oil (trader joes has quarts of it for like $5).  Apparently people in Buffalo commonly use Crisco.  That’s not my jam, plus Crisco is expensive.

homemade chicken wings

Anyway, let’s get down to what makes this recipe great.  Frying the wings twice.  This is far less fussy than you’d imagine.  The first fry, a lower temp, 250 degree ordeal cooks the wings and begins gelatinizing the collagen in the skin.  Letting them cool down after frying at 250 allows you to cook them at 400 later without overcooking the meat so much.  Frying at 400 dries and crisps the gelatinized skin, and also creates some incredibly crunchy bubbles in the skin, that get extra crunchy.

The ingredients:
chicken wings
high-heat oil
frank’s red hot
butter
maybe some bleu cheese or ranch dressing?
napkins!

So here’s the procedure:
*If you got preprepared wings, pat yourself on the back and sit back while the rest of us get our stuff together.
*If you didn’t buy preprepared wings, you’ll need to separate them at the joints.  This will give you a drumette, a flat, and a wing tip.  The wing tip doesn’t get used.  I stuck mine in the fridge for a batch of stock.
*Heat oil up to 250 in your pan of choice.  Either a cast iron skillet or dutch oven is probably best for this.
*When oil has reached 250-275, start adding your wings.  Chances are, you’ll need to adjust your burner to generate enough heat to hold the oil at that temp.
*Add wings until you can’t fit any more.
*Cook at 250 for 20 minutes.  Alternately, you can get them up to temp on the stove, then stick the whole shebang into a 250-275 degree oven.
*Remove wings from oil and allow to cool.  I stuck mine on a cooling rack over a sheet pan, this also helped drain extraneous oil off of them.
*Heat oil up to 400 degrees
*Add a few wings at a time and fry until browned and crispy, maybe a few minutes?  Remove to either a rack, or a paper towel lined baking sheet or plate.
*Prepare your sauce – Mix equal parts Frank’s Red Hot and butter.  Microwave.
*When your wings are done, throw a few in a big bowl with your sauce and shake/shimmy/stir to coat.
*Set aside on your plate
*prepare some sort of dipping sauce, if you so desire.
*nom like crazy.
*send a poorly lit and slightly blurry photo of your incredible dinner to your husband to incite jealousy.

The house stunk after this.  Like fried chicken, which is good I suppose.  Better than stinking like fried fish.  I do think that the chicken smell has dissipated, although I can’t be sure, considering I replaced it with the foul odor of dehydrated grassfed cow liver.  But that’s another post.

Pinto Beans w/ ham and roasted cauliflower

For Christmas last year, Craig’s best friend got us the equally strange and neat gift of sliced and vacuum packed country ham.  If you haven’t had country  ham, it’s the funkier, dryer, rawer cousin of a standard ham.  This makes it the perfect addition to beans, almost as good as a ham hock!  So when we first got the ham, I made a pot of beans, and it was the best pot of beans I’ve ever cooked.  The remainder of the slices were filed away in the freezer, awaiting the perfect preparation.  And you know what?  It’s beans!  They’re just so stinkin’ good! I solemnly pulled the last few slices out of the freezer the other day, knowing that I’d be making some delicious beans. I am aware the photo isn’t great.  Couldn’t be bothered to use a real camera or flash.  Also, beans don’t photograph well. Here’s how it went.

Ingredients:
2 cups dried pinto beans
1.5 T salt
1 large onion
1 rib celery
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic
red pepper flakes
3 slices ham (or other smoked magnificence)
1 parmesan rind

Monday night:
*Soak 2 cups of beans with 8 cups water and 1.5 T salt overnight in crock pot sleeve

Tuesday morning:
*Drain and rinse beans, put crock into the crock pot, and turn to high (only do this if your crock pot is the old-style that can’t boil.  If yours can boil, turn it to low).
*Chop and saute a large yellow onion until the edges start turning brown.
*Chop up the celery and carrot and toss the onion, carrot, and celery into the crock pot with the beans.
*I rinsed my cast iron pan out and scraped up all the extraneous onion goodness, then dumped that in with the beans
*Press, mince, or grate your garlic and toss that in also.  Follow up with a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes, or heat-source of your choice (roasted hatch chiles would have been incredible here!)
*Nestle your hunks of ham in the beans
*I had a parmesan rind in the freezer and figured I’d throw that in as well.  I don’t know if it made an appreciable difference, but the beans were delicious.
*Add enough water to cover your beans just a little bit
*Go to work

Tuesday evening:
*Taste the beans.  Ensure they are soft and creamy versus crunchy or grainy
*Pull the weird stuff out.  This includes bone, parm rind, fat hunks, etc.
*Break apart the pieces of ham and return them to the beans
*Stir, dish into a bowl, add some hot sauce (Crystal is the best) and enjoy.  I added some roasted cauliflower. Splitting a bottle of local seasonal beer with your special someone is also a nice touch.

Leftovers reimagined for dinner – Roasted brussels sprouts, beets, and a fried egg!

It only gets more autumnal if you add in some roasted squash.  On nights that I just can’t put together my brain enough to plan any type of meal, and we have leftovers from the last few days sitting in the fridge, I love to microwave a big pile of them, then top with a super runny fried egg.  The yolk gets all runny and makes a delicious sauce for the veggies. Added benefit – 10 minutes to prepare, including the time it took to heat up the pan.  Also, meat free, tons of fiber, and high in antioxidants!

roasted beets and brussels sprouts with a fried egg

Extra bonus surprise – red-tinted pee!

Vagina Shaped Pasta

Yes, I made it.  And surprisingly enough, it was on accident.  I made a batch of beet pasta over the weekend, and filled it with herbed chevre.  A couple days prior, I had run across a post discussing various shapes of filled pasta (past the standard tortellini and ravioli) and found something called tortelli.  Intrigued, I looked into it further and found a blog post with a video showing how to make it.   The author’s tortelli looked like a beautiful little braid and I wanted to make some of those.  I did not make the obvious connection between the pinkish color of beet pasta and the shape, however.

beet tortelli vagina pasta

So I made one.  And I was immediately struck by it’s similarity to a certain part of a woman’s anatomy.

I switched over to ravioli and tortellini for the remainder of the pasta.

chevre filled beet pasta

Everything went into the freezer til we were ready to eat.  I boiled off the pasta for dinner last night, to find that when the color of the beet lightens up in the pasta water, the whole vagina look becomes much more evident.

vagina shaped pasta
Maybe I’ll have better luck with standard-colored pasta and some practice.