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Archive for Meat & Poultry

GIFT OF THE DAY: Bacon Curing Kit

What can you get for the bacon lover?

There’s the Bacon Of The Month Club, but that’s $400.

There’s always an assortment of the finest artisanal bacon brands from small producers who craft premium bacon the old-fashioned way: hand-rubbed spices, slow curing methods and real wood smoke.

They can be double or triple the price of supermarket bacon, so it’s a gift most people wouldn’t buy for themselves. Check out some of the best brands, below.

But this year, we’re recommending a DIY Bacon Curing Kit from Urban Accents. Just add a pork belly from the nearest butcher shop, and the recipient can have homemade bacon in just seven days. This DIY kit has everything you need!

Just pick up a five-pound pork belly from your favorite meat counter and put the meat, curing salt, maple sage seasoning (if you like) into the curing bag. Refrigerate for seven days and you’ll be cooking up your own homemade bacon.

The kit is $17.15 at Urban Accents.

A five-pound pork belly is needed to make the bacon. Depending on your area, you can pay about $3.00 to $6.00 a pound. Heritage breeds are pricier.

WHAT ARE THE BEST BACON BRANDS?

According to a review in Food & Wine, you should try, in this order:

  • Vande Rose Farms Artisan Dry Cured Applewood Smoked: well-marbled heritage breed from the Duroc pig.
  • Trader Joe’s Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon.
  •  

    Bacon Making Kit

    Raw Pork Belly

    [1] Make five pounds of bacon with this DIY kit (photo courtesy Urban Accents). [2] Pork belly not included (photo courtesy Slap Yo Daddy BBQ).

  • D’Artagnan Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon. The company uses heritage breeds, such as Berkshire, Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace and Tamworth.
  • Tender Belly Dry Cured Maple Bacon: Made with Hampshire pork belly, known for its ideal meat-to-fat ratio, slow-smoked over cherrywood.
  • Applegate Farms Hickory Smoked Uncured Sunday Bacon: nitrate- and nitrite-free.
  •  
    Read the full review for more recommendations.

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: ButcherBox Grass-Fed Beef

    Butcher Box

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    Butcher Block Steak

    [1] A monthly (or one-time) box arrives, frozen and portion-wrapped. [2] The Steak and Chops Box. The boxes differ somewhat each month depending on what’s best. [3] You have to cook your own meat, but the result is worth it (all photos courtesy ButcherBox).

     

    What do you give loved ones who want to switch to all-natural and organic foods?

    To those who want to start the new year on the Paleo Diet?

    How about parents who only want to feed their children hormone-free, antibiotic-free meats?
     
    WHY GRASS-FED BEEF?

    Founder Mike Salguero, a follower of the Paleo Diet*, was first introduced to 100% grass-fed beef through a local farmer who sold quarter- and half-shares of cattle. Mike was instantly hooked, preferring the more natural taste of grass-fed beef and the many health advantages of grass-fed beef over conventional grain-fed beef.

    He asked himself: “Why isn’t everyone eating this?”

    The reason, he found, is that not everyone has access to grass-fed beef. Even if their market carries it, it is often limited to ground beef. Just 1% of the total beef consumed in the United States is 100% grass-fed.

    Mike set out to make 100%† grass-fed beef accessible to those who want it. He sought the best farmers; he and the team tasted every month’s supply before buying it.

    He added organic and free-range chicken and humanely raised heritage pork to the product mix, and made it simple to order and receive meat for the month.

    Butcher Box works on a subscription basis: Sign up for the number of months you want. You can cancel at any time, change your box contents, set your schedule (every month, every other, every three months) and so on.

    FOR GIFTS: You can send gift subscriptions or single boxes.
     
    WHAT YOU GET

    The team goes to great length to ensure that you’re wowed with each box you receive. Every cut from every farmer is tasted before ButcherBox buys it. If they don’t love it, you won’t get it.

    ButcherBox won a blind taste test on the Today Show, and gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from own taste test as well.

    ButcherBox offers four different monthly boxes, a balanced assortment of steaks, roasts, and easy-to-cook items like ground beef and tips. It arrives when you specify, portion-wrapped and frozen.

    Each monthly box contains a balanced selection of 3-5 premium cuts, from ribeye to flat iron to short ribs. In addition to the rotating monthly choices, each box includes a premium blend of ground beef.

    Based on the month’s contents, you can choose in advance to add on other options each month: New York strip steak, bacon, roasts, and so on. Its easy to customize your box to your household’s preferences.

    The basic boxes are:

  • All Beef Box
  • Beef & Chicken Box
  • Beef & Pork Box
  • Mixed Box (all 3 meats)
  •  
    All boxes come with curated recipes that you can use to cook the month’s cuts.
     
    WHAT IT COSTS

  • The ButcherBox you select is $129/month. It includes 7-10 pounds of meat—enough for at least 20 individual portions at a 5- to 8-ounce portion size.
  • The meats are less expensive than in stores, and shipping is included to the contiguous 48 states.
  • For individual gift boxes, prices start at $79.
  • The meats are flash frozen and portion-packaged.
  • DELIVERY

    The box is filled with dry ice that’s carefully calculated to keep the contents frozen on your doorstep for up to 24 hours after arrival.

    You receive a tracking number the night your box ships.
     
    CAN’T WAIT TO START YOUR OWN SUBSCRIPTION OR TO SEND BUTCHERBOX AS A GIFT?

    Head to GetButcherBox.com and start to drool!
     
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    *The Paleo Diet emphasizes whole foods and proteins from grass-fed animals, whose meat is considered more flavorful. It is usually lower in fat and calories.

    †Some cattle are 100% grass fed; others are fed with grass until six months before harvesting, when they are switched to grain to fatten them up.

     
      

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    RECIPE: One-Pan Chicken Dinner For Fall & Winter

    Chicken & Fall Vegetables

    Delicata Squash

    [1] Winner, winner: quick and easy chicken dinner. [2] Delicata squash has an edible rind and a built-in scalloped edge (both photos courtesy Good Eggs).

     

    Winner, winner chicken dinner!

    This phrase is typically credited with originating on the Vegas Strip. Back in the 1950s, every casino had a $1.79 three-piece chicken dinner, which included a potato and a vegetable. At that time, a standard bet was $2. So if you won a hand, you’d have enough money to buy yourself a nice chicken dinner.

    At the time, as in many places today, this simple chicken dinner was the cheapest dinner around. So you didn’t win the roast beef dinner.

    But hey, don’t disparage a good plate of chicken and veggies. It’s one of America’s favorite meals.

    This one is a winner because you make it all in one pan, as in: Winner, winner, chicken dinner with a side of delicata squash and brussels sprouts.

    If you haven’t had delicata squash, it’s a great opportunity to try it. It may become a favorite.

  • Its orange flesh has a sweet and nutty flavor like acorn squash, but the skin is edible: no peeling required! That’s why it’s called delicata, Italian for delicate*.
  • It creates flower-like slices with great eye appeal for no extra effort.
  • Slices can be served atop green salads, with cottage cheese and/or Greek yogurt, topped with grains, potatoes, or other vegetables. It’s a winner.
  • You can roast it like any other winter squash.
  •  
    Thanks to Good Eggs, which delivers fine provisions in the Bay Area, for the recipe.

    RECIPE: ONE-PAN CHICKEN THIGHS WITH FALL VEGETABLES

    You can have this on the table in 35 minutes. If you don’t like brussels sprouts, exchange it for something else.

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 handful sage leaves, chopped roughly
  • 1 pinch chile flakes
  • ½ pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1 delicata squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out and cut into ½ half moons
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SEASON the chicken thighs on both sides and set aside.

    2. HEAT a large (10-inch) cast iron pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the chicken thighs skin side down and cook until the skin starts to turn golden brown, about 6 minutes. Remove the thighs and set aside.

    3. ADD a tablespoon of olive oil to the same pan. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, sage and chile flakes. Cook until the garlic starts to color, about 4 minutes. Add the brussels sprouts and squash and cook for about 5 minutes. When the vegetables start to soften…

    4. NESTLE the chicken skin-side-down in the vegetables. Turn the heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook until the thighs are cooked through and the vegetables are tender and caramelized, about 25 to 30 minutes.
     
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    *In fact, the delicate skin is why no American over 20 years of age grew up with delicata squash. The thin rind is susceptible to mildew which rots the crop. Thus, delicata squash all but disappeared after the Great Depression. Thankfully, a group at Cornell University’s Department of Plant Breeding took it under their wing around 2000, and bred a variety that was resistant to most squash diseases.

    †A handful is one of those imprecise measures that says: Use how much you want. More or less of the ingredient is not critical to the recipe’s outcome.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Before You Buy A Turkey, Ask These Questions

    Roast Thanksgiving Turkey

    Fresh Brined Turkey

    Live Wild Turkey

    [1] Which is your turkey: Frozen? Heirloom? Heritage? Brined (photo courtesy Reynolds Kitchens | Facebook)? [2] A fresh free-range brined turkey (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma). [3] What the Pilgrims ate: Wild turkeys are streamlined birds that look like marathon runners compared to turkeys bread to have more meat (photo by Larry Price | National Wild Turkey Federation).

     

    If you just grab the nearest Butterball from the freezer case, you have a plan. It’s a fine plan: We actually chose the Butterball in a blind tasting of heirloom, heritage and organic turkeys.

    But with more and more people interested in the fresh turkey experience, there are other options to consider.

    Whole Foods sent us this turkey advisory from master butcher Theo Weening, Whole Foods Market’s global meat buyer. He suggests that you ask these questions when searching for your perfect bird.

    1. How Fresh Is Fresh?

    The fresher the turkey, the faster it cooks. If you’re paying for a fresh turkey, the question to ask is: Exactly how fresh is this “fresh” turkey?

    Fresh turkeys are processed and stored just above the freezing point to keep them juicy and tender…but for how long? Many conventional grocers advertise “fresh” turkeys that are actually harvested nine months or more before Thanksgiving!

    Whole Foods and other quality vendors sell turkeys are processed just before the holiday season, to give you the freshest and best-tasting turkey possible.

    2. Antibiotic-Free & Organic Turkeys

    The question here is: Where and how was this turkey raised?

    The best birds are raised with the highest standards, and a great butcher will steer you to a turkey that meets the highest quality breeding stock and practices: no antibiotics, no animal by-products in the feed, no added growth hormones, animal welfare standards, and audits by third-parties like the Global Animal Partnership.

    While you can find all these qualities in non-organic birds, organic-certified* turkeys continue to grow in popularity each year, and WFM butchers agree that they are some of the most flavorful birds around. They’re raised on organic pastures with outdoor access and fed non-GMO, organic feed. They are available from 10 to 20 pounds, sometimes a bit larger.

    3. Heritage and Heirloom Birds

    Most Thanksgiving turkeys are bred to have huge breasts with lots of white meat. In fact, large commercial producers have bred the breast so large that the top-heavy turkeys can no longer fly†. More and more people we know are choosing to make Thanksgiving more “authentic” with an old-style bird.

    Heritage turkeys are bred for flavor. Raised slowly and traditionally, they are rich and succulent birds with a more robust turkey flavor.

    Unlike supermarket birds, they are not bred to have a huge double breast that delivers a preponderance of white meat. Rather, these breeds are the closest you’ll get to what the Pilgrims ate, which makes them a new experience for most people.

    Heirloom turkeys are breeds that date back to the early 1920s-1930s, heirloom turkeys strike a balance between the wild turkey of the heritage breeds and the milder flavor of Butterball and other modern breeds adjusted to the preferences of many Americans. Heirlooms have offer more white meat than heritage turkeys. They can be up to 28 pounds.

    4. Brined Birds

    Fans of brining will tell you that the technique produces a more tender and flavorful turkey. The technique requires soaking the bird in a saltwater solution for 4 to 24 hours before roasting. You can buy them pre-brined.

    Note: Kosher turkeys have already been salted, so brining will create an overly salty bird.

    If you want to try it but not for the first time on the most important turkey day of the year, mark a date on your calendar; New Year’s Day, perhaps? A roast turkey is great football food.
     
     
    MORE TURKEY TIPS

    1. Order Ahead.

    Some of in-demand turkeys can sell out before Thanksgiving. Now’s the time to call or visit the butcher to reserve exactly the type and size you want.

     

    2. Consider A Fully Cooked Turkey.

    If you don’t have time to cook your turkey, don’t have space in the oven, want to minimize stress, etc., let someone else do the work for you. You can order a cooked turkey prepared for reheating.

    You’ll know the turkey has been professionally cooked—no mistakes—and can focus your time on the more memorable sides.

     
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    *USDA organic certification requires time and expense devoted to paperwork and steps required by the auditors that don’t improve the flavor of the turkeys. There are family farmers who produce all-natural, top-quality poultry but elect not to invest their resources in organic certification.

    †These big-breasted turkeys are also too top-heavy to mate. The females must be artificially inseminated.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: ‘Nduja, Spreadable Hot Salami

    Nduja Spread On Bread

    Nduja Bruschetta

    Spaghetti With Ndjuja

    Artisan Nduja

    Nduja Jar

    [1] ‘Nduja is traditionally used as a bread spread (photo courtesy Real Food Toronto). [2] For a fancier presentation, turn it into bruschetta (photo courtesy Great British Chefs). [3] It melts into pasta sauce or on a pizza; or you can sprinkle it as a garnish (a cloud of ricotta tempers the heat; photo courtesy Bestia | LA). [4] Artisan ‘nduja looks like this (photo courtesy ‘Nduja Artisans). [5] You may find ‘nduja sold in jars (photo courtesy Just So Italian.

     

    ‘Nduja (pronounced in-doo-ya), is a spicy—some say fiery—pork spread from the Calabria region of Italy. Think of it as spreadable hot soppressata or pepperoni with the texture of pâté-like texture.

    It is typically made with pork shoulder, belly and jowl, as well as tripe, roasted chiles and spices. It is loosely based on the French andouille sausage, developed in the 13th century by the Angevins, from the area of Anjou in western France.

    It is typically made with parts of the pig such as the shoulder, belly and jowl, as well as roasted hot peppers and a mixture of spices. Nduja has a characteristic fiery taste. It is a Calabrian variation of salami, loosely based on the French andouille introduced in the 13th century by the Angevins.

    Finally, North American producers of Italian-style salume like La Quercia began to make it. ‘Nduja Artisans in Chicago, which sells online, is the latest American producer we know of.

    Over the last couple of years, creative chefs discovered it and found ways to use it. While ‘nduja still has limited distribution nationwide, you can find it in Italian specialty stores including Eataly, in some Whole Foods Markets, and of course, online.

    You can use ‘nduja in any meal of the day. We hope it turns into a foodie trend sooner rather than later.
     
    ‘NDUJA HISTORY

    Most historians believe that ‘nduja was created as a poor man’s version of andouille sausage, which arrived in the area at the time Napoleon conquered Naples in 1806.

    The folks in the town of Spilinga, in western Calabria (the toe of the boot of southern Italy), made a version with pork fat, ground lung, kidneys, scraps from the head, other trimmings and some skin, and spiced it with fiery local chilies.

    The ground meat was stuffed into a casing (pig intestine) and then smoked, yielding a very robust-flavored salume. Some ’nduja is aged, for even more flavor.

    What About The Name?

    It looks and sounds unusual (when we first saw it in print, we thought it was an African food).

    It’s actually derived from the French word, andouille (on-DWEE), which means sausage.
     
    WAYS TO SERVE ‘NDUJA

    ‘Nduja has been served traditionally with slices of bread or with hearty cheeses. It can spice up just about anything. Because of its high fat content, it melts into sauces and pizzas.

    Consider it:

  • As bruschetta topping.
  • Spread on crostini or crackers (the difference between bruschetta and crostini).
  • On toast, with the ‘nduja at room temperature or warmed.
  • With an antipasto.
  • In pasta sauce or as a garnish—start with adding some to marinara sauce (it will melt in), or sprinkled ‘nduja atop pasta or pizza. Use the enhanced sauce for linguine and clams and other favorite recipes.
  • With Italian cheeses that can stand up to the heat: aged grana padano, crescenza, fontina, montasio, pecorino crotonese, provolone picante, taleggio, etc. See if you can find Pecorino Crotonese.
  • As a sandwich or burger condiment; or as the main filling in a sandwich (add some giardiniera, lettuce and tomato).
  • As a garnish for hearty soups.
  • In a spicy, meaty vinaigrette: Melt 3 tablespoons ‘nduja with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk into vinegar, 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 flavored oil. Let cool or use warm.
  • As a flavorful pan fat (augmented with oil as needed), whether to fry eggs or crab cakes, flavor brussels sprouts, sear meat.
  • Rubbed under the skin of a chicken before roasting.
  • With grilled, roasted or seared meat or fish (warm the ‘nduja and brush it on just before serving.
  • As a spicy accent to mild foods: burrata, polenta, ricotta, scrambled eggs, etc. Replace the ham in Eggs Benedict with a layer of ’nduja.
  • Anywhere your creativity takes you. How about your version of ‘nduja surf and turf? One Bay Area restaurant, Incanto, uses it in chocolate ice cream (we haven’t seen the recipe, but we immediately thought of a savory ice cream, something like frozen mole sauce).
  •  
    Check out these recipes from Great British Chefs: ‘nduja with clams and squid ink, with grilled salmon, Eggs In Purgatory, even ‘nduja fritters!

    Wrapped in plastic, ‘nduja lasts for months in the fridge. In our home, it need only last for a week.
     
    THE ‘NDUJA FESTIVAL

    Outside of Calabria, ‘nduja is perhaps the best-known food. Calabrians are so proud of it that they’ve been holding an annual ‘Nduja Festival since 1975. It takes place in Spilinga, on August 8th.

    Attendees can taste ‘nduja in numerous ways, surrounded by folk music and traditional entertainments around Monte Poro (Spilinga).

    If you decide that ‘nduja is your new favorite food, you may want to book a trip!
     
    ________________
    *There are different regional styles of soppressata. Here are the different varieties.

    †Salume has been Americanized to salami, the term for spiced ground meat, usually pork, stuffed into a casing and cured.

     
      

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