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Archive for June 11, 2012

PRODUCT: Tea For Kids, Caffeine-Free & Disney-Pixarized

If you have younger children or simply like Disney and Pixar films, you may be anticipating* the new film, “Brave.” It’s the story of a courageous Scottish lass, Merida, who confronts tradition and, in the poetic words of Disney, “challenges destiny to change her fate.”

Among other merchandising, the healthiest has got to be the “Brave” herb tea from Republic of Tea. It’s a message to kids (and parents) that herb tea is a good beverage choice.

A base of caffeine-free, healthy rooibos tea is layered with the flavors of sweet orange and caramel. It can be enjoyed hot, with or without a splash of milk, or iced.

The limited edition, collectible tin of 36 tea bags is $9.50 at RepublicOfTea.com.

 

The limited edition of tea. Photo courtesy Republic Of Tea.

 

*Brave opens June 22, 2012, in Disney Digital 3D, in select theaters.

  

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COOKING VIDEO: Make Barbecue Sauce From Scratch

 

There’s so much over-sugared barbecue sauce for sale; we wonder why people don’t make their own. It’s easy and more nutritious—and it costs less, too. You eliminate the high fructose corn syrup and can moderate the level of sweetener you do use (agave, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup).

Your homemade sauce uses other superior ingredients, as well: sautéed fresh onions and garlic instead of onion and garlic powders, and crushed tomatoes instead of ketchup.

This video shows just one basic recipe; but if you like the results, you can make hundreds of variations, incorporating your favorite flavors—mustard, vinegar, horseradish, the works.

For expert guidance, pick up a copy of Steve Raichlen’s Barbecue! Bible: Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters, and Glazes.

But start with the simple recipe below. You can make it today with ingredients you already have in the kitchen.

   

   

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TIP OF THE DAY & BOOK: The Art Of Beef Cutting

If you love beef, you can save money (and
perhaps discover a new hobby) by butchering primal cuts. Photo courtesy Wiley.

 

Our tip of the day is to beef lovers: savor the rib-eye cap (more about that below). You’ll learn about it in this new book on butchering beef at home. Of all members of THE NIBBLE team, we weren’t surprised when chef Johnny Gnall raised his hand at the opportunity to interview expert butcher Kari Underly and read her new book. Here is his review, along with his thumbs up for giving the book as a Father’s Day gift to a beef-besotted dad. If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.

Kari Underly has been cutting meat for over 30 years. Even with a grandmother, a grandfather, and a father who all worked as butchers, this is a significant accomplishment in a mostly male-dominated field.

But Underly is the proof in the proverbial pudding (blood pudding, perhaps?) that there is no room for sexism around the butcher block. She completed a three-year apprenticeship at age 21 to become a journeyman meat cutter (well, perhaps the title is sexist).

Since then, Underly has established herself time and again as an authority in all things meat, from marketing and merchandising to education; and now, publishing.

 

Her new book, The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professional’s Guide to Butchering and Merchandising, showcases just how extensive her knowledge and expertise are. The book includes, among other things, a step-by-step, photo-illustrated set of instructions for breaking down each primal cut in a side of beef.

What that means, in layman’s terms, is that you could, theoretically, start with an entire steer, and with patience, care, and “The Art of Beef Cutting,” break it all down and turn every bit of it into dinner.

In fact, some restaurant chefs do just that, butchering their own lamb, pig and steer. Certain parts of the book explore more advanced butchery, and the appendices are staggeringly thorough. It does, however, begin with the basics, including knife sharpening, tool selection and cutting technique. So it’s appropriate for butchery beginners, or home cooks with a curiosity they’d like to explore.

 

I had an opportunity to speak with Underly about her book, and about beef in general. There are a number of things she shared that a home cook can do to save time and money when buying and preparing beef; and, of course, when cooking it. But you have to start at the beginning, and that means choosing the right cut.

THE RIGHT CUTS

The two cuts that Underly came back to time and again for home cooks were top sirloin and chuck roast, extolling both their comparative value and their versatility.

  • Cuts from the chuck tend to be flavorful and well-marbled, and they’re great for braising, low and slow.
  • Sirloin is leaner, quite easy to cut, and arguably the most versatile cut on the cow; to quote Underly, “Go sirloin!”
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    Underly at work. She’ll inspire you to unleash your inner butcher. Image courtesy Vimeo.

     

    Beyond these two subprimals (short for subprimal cuts), the one other cut that got Underly really excited was the ribeye cap, which she calls the best steak in the whole carcass. You could almost hear her mouth watering as she described grilling rib-eye cap steaks; and if there’s anyone to trust on such a suggestion, it’s Kari Underly.

    Once you’ve chosen your cut of beef, “The Art of Beef Cutting” can assist you in prepping it for dinner and getting it cooked to its highest potential.

  • Trussing: The book explores trussing (tying roasts with butchers twine to achieve even and optimal cooking), which Underly counsels is mastered only by repetition. “Don’t worry about making it pretty,” she advises.
  • Marinating: The book also has a chapter on marinades, and it highlights the often overlooked distinction between different kinds of marinating: for flavor versus for tenderizing.
  • Methods: Undery suggests ideal cooking methods to use for certain cuts of beef, and even drops hints on how to get perfect browning on your beef.

    Essentially, “The Art of Beef Cutting” is a kitchen-ready sidekick for anyone interested in getting a bit more familiar with his or her beef. There is no question in my mind that the more love you give it, the more the food benefits. Extending your knowledge and expertise with butchery will allow you to love your food that much more. Not to mention the fact that buying larger cuts and breaking them down yourself saves you money, and allows you greater versatility with how you cut and serve your beef.

    Underly’s last piece of advice to home cooks looking to up their butchery quotient? “Be adventurous.” This may be the perfect time to pick up your cleaver and get to know your beef a bit better.

    But first, pick up a copy of the the book.

      

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    RESTAURANTS: How To Choose The Best Steakhouse

    Prime cut ribeye steak. Photo courtesy Allen Brothers.

     

    On Father’s Day, many families will be heading to steakhouses to treat Dad to a splendid meal. If you want the best steakhouse experience, what should you look for?

    We live in a city with many choices. So we turned to Chef Arturo McLeod of Benjamin Steakhouse, which has restaurants in New York City and White Plains, New York. With 35 years manning the grill—20 of those at the venerable Peter Luger Steakhouse—he shared eight items to look for if you want a premier steak experience.

    1. The Restaurant Serves Only USDA Prime Beef
    A great steakhouse only serves USDA Prime meat, a tiny percentage—2%—of the world’s beef production. USDA Prime Beef is the highest quality, and truly superior to the next cut down the scale, USDA Choice. Prime has more marbling, rendering it a more tender, flavorful cut of beef (see all of the beef grades). Only USDA Prime beef can be dry-aged, as the process requires meat with a large, evenly-distributed marbling content.

    2. The Beef Is Hand-Selected
    In a top restaurant, the chef visits the markets at the crack of dawn to hand select the best produce, meats and proteins. The chef of a steakhouse visits his meat purveyor on a daily basis and hand selects every cut of steak that he purchases. He picks out the superior meats and leaves the rest for someone else.

     

    3. The Beef Is Dry Aged In House
    The dry aging process is the key aspect of serving best-tasting steak: It’s what sets a good steak apart from a great steak, and a good steakhouse from a great one. The process involves hanging the loins of beef to dry at for several weeks under controlled temperatures and humidity. The process deepens the flavors and enhances tenderness. Only the more expensive cuts of meat can be dry-aged, as the process requires meat with a large, evenly distributed fat content. Every cut at Benjamin Steakhouse is aged for exactly 28 days, rendering a more juicy, tender and extremely flavorful piece of beef.

    4. The Grill Is Sizzling Hot
    When you’re not in the kitchen, it’s hard to determine this one. But top beef chefs get the grill as hot as possible to sear in the juices and deliver a superior plate of meat.

    5. A Great Chef & A Great Beverage Director
    Beyond a mastery of cooking juicy cuts of dry-aged beef, the chef pays equal attention to serving top-quality sides and desserts. The beverage director should ensure an ample supply of affordable bottles of very good wine and wines by the glass.

    6. You Receive Exceptional Service
    From the reservationist who answers the phone to a pleasant greeting when you arrive to the responsiveness of waiters and busboys, you should feel welcome and cared for. If the quality of the food is your first priority, service should be the second.

    7. You Like The Ambiance
    This is a matter of personal taste. Restaurant decor can range from a grand room with brass chandeliers, vaulted ceilings, plush leather banquettes and fireplace (like Benjamin Steakhouse) to something more contemporary. The atmosphere can be tranquil or lively. But whatever you choose, it should emphasize that you’re having a special dinner.

    8. There Is Consistency
    The restaurant maintains these high standards on a daily basis, year in and year out.

    TIP: If anything is not to your liking, don’t hesitate to speak with the manager. Even if it’s something that can’t be fixed on the spot (“too noisy,” for example), your constructive feedback can be used to make improvements. If they aren’t aware of it, they can’t change it.

    Check out our Beef Glossary.

      

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