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Archive for January 17, 2016

TIP OF THE DAY: Beef-Buying Tips (What To Ask The Butcher)

Grilled Bone In Strip Steak

Lookin’ good: a bone-in strip steak. Photo
courtesy Remington’s | Chicago.

 

We recently were taken to dinner at Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C., located on the lovely balcony of historic Grand Central Terminal in the heart of Manhattan.

We wondered if Executive Chef Cenobio Canalizo would give us some advice on the most important considerations when buying steaks and roasts to cook at home. It’s a big expense, and we want to spend our money wisely.

He kindly provided us with these…
 
6 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR BUTCHER WHEN BUYING FINE BEEF

1. Is it wet aged or dry aged?

Dry-aged beef has a roasted, nutty flavor, while wet-aged beef can taste slightly metallic. Wet-aged beef lacks the depth of flavor of dry-aged, but it can be more tender.

Chef Canalizo says most chefs will agree that dry-aged has the preferred flavor; it’s also more expensive.

 

In wet aging, the muscle (beef) rests in a plastic bag in a refrigerated room. With dry-aged, it hangs to age in the air. When you see the word “aged” followed by a given amount of time, and there is no reference to wet or dry, you can safely assume that it is wet-aged beef.
 
2. How long was the beef aged?

Chef Canalizo prefers 21 days of aging. Longer is not always better, he advises. Aging actually causes the meat to decay (a tenderizing process). With too much aging, beef can develop a moldy smell and taste.

All beef needs at least 3 weeks to start to tenderize. Naturally raised beef needs more than 6 weeks because the animals are more mature when they are processed. The reason most supermarket beef is tougher is because it is not sufficiently aged. (Aging = time = more expense.)
 
3. Is it corn-fed or grass-fed beef?

What a steer eats can have a major effect on the nutrient composition of the beef. Grass-fed beef usually contains less total fat than grain-fed beef. Thus, gram for gram, grass-fed beef contains fewer calories.

According to AuthorityNutrition.com, while grass-fed beef may contain slightly less total fat than grain-fed beef, equally valuable is that it contains a lot more Omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), another fatty acid. Both are very beneficial nutrients.

 

4. How much fat has been trimmed?

Chef Canalizo recommends leaving a quarter inch of fat on top of the steak for flavor.

Many people choose cuts with less fat and less marbling. Marbling is the intermingling or dispersion of fat within the lean, and is a prized feature (that’s why Kobe and Wagyu are the most prized beef in the world).

The fat adds flavor and helps to tenderize the meat. Also, much of it is “cooked out” before the beef is served.
 
5. How many ounces is it with the bone?

Chef Canalizo recommends 14 ounces (bone included) per guest. You should request cuts that are closest to the bone. The meat is sweeter and there’s more flavor.

 

Roast Beerf

Our mom’s special occasion go-to dish: a roast beef. She insisted on USDA Prime, and became friendly with a top butcher. Photo courtesy Niman Ranch.

 
6. What’s the grade/quality of the meat?

From top down, the grades of beef are USDA Prime, USDA Choice and USDA Select. Additional grades, not available for consumer purchase, are Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner. These latter grades are used in anything from canned chili to pet food.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a quality grade is a composite evaluation of factors that affect palatability of meat (tenderness, juiciness and flavor).

These factors include carcass maturity, firmness, texture and color of the lean, and the amount and distribution of marbling within the lean.

Beef is graded in two ways: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness and flavor; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass.

While only the quality grade is important to you as the buyer, you should note that in the yield grade, only 3% of all beef produced in the U.S. is USDA Prime. It’s sold only at top butcher shops and top steak restaurants like Michael Jordan’s.

If you’re not going for USDA Prime, be sure you’re getting USDA Choice, not USDA Select.

  

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RECIPE: Turnip Soup

Turnip Soup

Today is pretty chilly, so we’re making turnip soup. Photo and recipe courtesy Quinciple.

 

Turnips are part of the super-potent cruciferous vegetables* group, from which we try to eat daily. There’s more about the family below.

We’ve enjoyed mashed, purée, roasted and stir-fried turnips, and we’ve fried and baked them in the manner of sweet potato fries.

But until now, we never tried turnip soup, a comfort food that can be crowned with garnishes from apples and chives to crumbled bacon and shredded cheese.

Although the soup looks creamy, there’s no dairy. The rich color and texture come from the gold turnips.

If you can only find white turnips, you can add a some carrots for color, or just enjoy the pale soup. But gold turnip are noted for their “bonus” flavor, slightly sweet with a nutty nuance of almond.

The recipe is courtesy Quinciple, a subscription service that delivers the week’s best fresh produce.

 

RECIPE: GOLD BALL TURNIP SOUP WITH APPLES

Ingredients

  • 1 pound gold turnips, washed and peeled
  • 1/2 yellow onion, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Optional spice: 1/2 teaspoon cumin or dried chile pepper
  • Garnish: ½ apple, thinly sliced†
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons chopped basil, chives or parsley
  • Garnish: extra virgin olive oil, plain or flavored
  •  
    __________________________________
    *There’s more about the cruciferous family below.

    †Wait until ready to serve to slice the apples, so they don’t brown. Leave the skin on for a touch of color.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Cut the turnips and onion into ½” cubes. Toss with two tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.

    2. ROAST until the turnips are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Purée the roasted turnips and onions with the stock, and add enough water to achieve a smooth consistency.

    3. WARM the soup in a small pan. Taste and adjust the seasonings. To serve, garnish with apple slices, herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

     

    GOLD TURNIPS HISTORY

    There are several varieties of gold turnips, heirloom varieties from Europe that were first grown in France in the 1800s.

    In the U.S. they are marketed variously as Baby Gold, Boule D’or (the prized French variety, which translates to “golden ball”), Golden Ball and Golden Globe turnips.

    Gold turnips are a less durable than the common white and purple-white varieties, as they are not a good “cellar vegetable.” This means that they will not maintain their firmness and flavor if stored throughout the winter—a prized feature of turnips, rutabagas and other root vegetables in the days before refrigeration.

    Turnip were cultivated as far back as the Greek Hellenistic Period, 321 B.C.E. to 31 B.C.E. They grow from fall through spring, and can’t tolerate summer heat.
     
    HOW TO USE GOLD TURNIPS

    Gold turnips can replace common turnips in any recipe, and provide more flare due to their color. In fact, they can pretty much be used anywhere carrots are used, as well.

    In addition to cooked recipes, turnips (white and gold) can be eaten raw as crudités and in salads. They can be shredded into a slaw along with cabbage and carrots, and tossed with a Dijon vinaigrette. The leaves can also be eaten raw or cooked.

    Per SpecialtyProduce.com, the flavor is truly transformed and sweetened when they are slow roasted, braised or sautéed in butter.

    Good accents include:

  • Acids: lemon juice and vinegar
  • Apples
  • Bacon
  • Butter and/or cream
  • Cheeses such as Parmesan and Pecorino
  • Herbs: chives, garlic, parsley, tarragon and thyme
  •  

    Gold Turnips

    Purple Top Turnips

    Top: Gold turnips. Photo © Marie Iannotti | GardeningTheHudsonValley.com. Bottom: Common turnips are all white or white with purple tops. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

    THE CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES FAMILY

    The turnip is a cruciferous vegetable, a member of the Brassicaceae family of cancer-fighting superfoods. They are also called the brassicas, after their family name.

    “Cruciferous” derives from cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing.” It refers to the flowers of these vegetables, which consist of four petals in the shape of a cross.

    The family includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard greens, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi and turnips.

    Cruciferous vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. You can’t eat too many of them, but you can overcook them.

    Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and the rest of the family, cruciferous vegetables contain chemical compounds that, when exposed to heat for a sufficient amount of time, produce hydrogen sulfide (an unpleasant sulfur aroma).

    So take care not to overcook them.

      

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