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Archive for Meat & Poultry

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!
     
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    *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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    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Cooking With Grapes

    Roast Chicken With Grapes

    Asian Chicken Salad

    Red Flame Grapes

    [1] Roast chicken with grapes, recipe below (photos #1 and #3 courtesy Good Eggs). [2] Asian chicken salad with grapes, showing how a pop of color from red or purple grapes would have given the dish more eye appeal (photo courtesy California Table Grape Commission). [3]Use red grapes to add color, green grapes to pop in darker dishes, or a mix.

     

    Grape season is here! An easy and nutritious snack, grapes are also popular in fruit and salads.

    But how about savory dishes? Versatile grapes fit easily into everything from roast duck to risotto.

    In addition to snacking, cheese, and fruit kabobs, consider:

  • Adding to chicken (we love grapes and duck), pork, seafood (great with scallops!)
  • Crostini (try goat cheese, ricotta or a blue cheese spread* topped with grapes
  • Garnish, with just about anything
  • Grain salad, wild rice, risotto
  • Grape salsa
  • Green salad (a classic is endive, toasted walnuts and grapes in a sherry vinaigrette)
  • Omelets, especially cheese omelets
  • Sandwiches, sliced onto everything from grilled cheese to chicken salad to bagels and cream cheese

  • Pickled as a garnish, side or snack (here’s how to pickle)
  • Sides (see recipe below)
  • More ways to use grapes
  •  
    For Dessert

  • Grape sorbet or granita (add fresh basil, mint or rosemary)(recipe)
  • Grape tartlets (so easy!)
  •  
    For Cocktails

  • Frozen Grape Margarita (recipe)
     
    RECIPE #1: BAKED CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS WITH GRAPES & SHALLOTS

    This recipe is courtesy of Good Eggs, a premium grocer in San Francisco, which says:

    This is probably the easiest centerpiece-worthy dish you’ll ever make. Without any effort on your part, you’ll fry potatoes, make a sauce, and cook chicken—all in the same pan.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 4 chicken drumsticks (substitute thighs or other parts)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups kalamata olives
  • 2 cups loose red grapes
  • 4 shallots, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼” thick medallions
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Salt and pepper each side of the chicken and set aside.

    2. ADD 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to the bottom of a deep rectangular roasting dish; swirl it to lightly coat the bottom of the dish. Arrange the potatoes in a layer, slightly overlapping just the edges. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt.

    3. TOSS the grapes, olives, shallots and rosemary in a bowl with a few pinches of salt. Pour over the potatoes and spread the grapes into a single layer.

    4. PLACE the chicken on top of the grapes, leaving a few inches of space between each piece of chicken.

    5. BAKE for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring the grape mixture occasionally. If anything starts to brown too much, cover the dish with foil. The chicken is done when you insert a knife and the juices run clear. Eat immediately—although this one is great the next day for lunch too …
     
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    *We use a terrific, super-thick and chunky blue cheese dressing from Kathryn’s Cottage. You can use another blue cheese dressing and mix it with regular or whipped cream cheese for the desired consistency, or make your own from scratch.

     

    RECIPE #2: PAN SAUCE WITH GRAPES

    Use this sauce with braised, pan-fried or roasted chicken, duck, fish, pork or scallops. Just deglaze the pan and add the grapes.
     
    Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (substitute basil, oregano, tarragon, thyme, sage, savory)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  •  
    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the cooked protein and add the grapes, wine and rosemary to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, scraping the skillet to incorporate the fond (the browned bits that stick to the pan). Boil until syrupy, 3 to 4 minutes.

    2. ADD the chicken broth and any juices that have drained from the meat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about half, another 3 to 4 minutes.

    3. REDUCE the heat to low and add the butter; swirl it in the pan until melted. It’s ready to serve, over or under the meat.
     
    RECIPE #3: ROASTED GRAPES AS A SIDE & DESSERT

    This tasty dish can be a side or topping with roasted or grilled fish, meat and poultry. Also use roasted grapes in fruit salad, as a dessert topping, or as the dessert itself, topped with a dab of mascarpone.

    You can also make an easy grape tart or tartlets.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, de-stemmed
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons rum†, regular or dark spiced
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • Optional: mascarpone
  •  

    Grilled With With Grapes

    Grapes & Thyme

    [4] Use roasted or pickled grapes as a garnish for fish (photo courtesy California Table Grape Commission). [5] It’s easy to roast grapes. Just try not to eat them all before serving time! Photo courtesy Alexandra Cooks; here’s how she uses them on crostini).

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 475°F a rack in the center of the oven and heat.

    2. TOSS the grape clusters with the honey, the olive oil, zest and salt. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and roast, turning halfway through, until they collapse and are somewhat caramelized, about 15 minutes.

    4. SERVE the roasted grapes warm for mains, warm or room temperature for desserts. , with a dollop of the sweetened mascarpone.
     
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    †You can use another spirit that complements the protein. For dessert, consider a complementary liqueur (orange, raspberry, etc.).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 25+ Substitutes For Hamburger Buns

    National Cheeseburger Day is September 18th, so have fun with it.

    Instead of your personal standard, branch out and make your CB special. You can do it by using a different:

  • Ground meat or blend
  • Cheese
  • Condiment(s)
  • Toppings
  • Stuffing
  •  
    For inspiration in these areas (you might call it foodporn), check out CheeseAndBurger.com.
     
    But today’s tip is the easiest of all: Think outside the bun.

    So many different types of bread—plain or toasted—are waiting to cradle your burger.

    SUBSTITUTES FOR HAMBURGER BUNS

    What should you use instead of a hamburger bun? The easiest answer:

    Walk down the bread isle of your market and see what speaks to you. You’ll find more than enough yummy choices to re-envision your burger.

  • Bagel burger (garlic or everything) or simit burger
  • Baguette burger (or other French bread)
  • Brioche burger
  • Burger on rye
  • Challah burger
  • Cornbread burger
  • Croissant burger (great with pretzel croissants)
  • English muffin burger
  • Ezekiel 4:9 burger or Genesis 1:29 burger (both breads have lots of whole grains and legumes)
  • Focaccia burger
  • French toast burger
  • Garlic bread burger
  • Indian bread burger (chapati, dosa, naan, paratha, roti)
  • Italian bread burger
  • Nut bread burger
  • Olive bread burger
  • Pizza crust burger (a great use for leftover pizza dough)
  • Potato bread burger
  • Pumpernickel burger (add sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing for a burger version of the Reuben sandwich)
  • Pupusa burger (pupusa is a stuffed corn tortilla)
  • Onion roll burger (or other specialty roll)
  • Rustic loaf burger
  • Sourdough burger
  • Toast burger (toast white, whole wheat, whatever you have)
  • Wrap burger
  •  
     
    IF YOU WANT TO USE A DIFFERENT CHEESE…

    We second that motion! But don’t make an obvious switch among American, Cheddar and Swiss slices. Consider:

  • Blue
  • Brie or Camembert (the difference)
  • Feta
  • Flavored Cheddar (we love a burger with Cabot Chipotle, Garlic, Horseradish and Jalapeño Cheddars)
  • Fontina
  • Gouda
  • Gruyère
  • Jack or Pepperjack
  • Jarlsberg
  • Havarti or other butterkäse
  • Washed rind (“stinky”) cheese:* Epoisses, Muenster d’Alsace,† Limburger, Pont l’Eveque, Stinking Bishop, Taleggio
  •  
    ________________
    *It’s a personal thing, but we love stinky cheeses, both in general and in the way they complement the grilled, beefy aroma and taste of the burger. The aroma is not necessarily representative of the cheese. But the cheese is specifically crafted to create those earthy scents.

    †Munster d’Alsace, also called Alsatian munster and French munster (optional spelling muenster), has nothing in common with bland American munster, except that they are both cheeses.
    ________________

     

    Baguette Cheeseburger

    McBaguette

    Focaccia Cheeseburger

    Cheeseburger On Sourdough Bread

    Pita Burger

    English Muffin Burger

    [1] A baguette cheeseburger (photo courtesy Ian Warf | Pinterest). [2] In France, McDonald’s serves the McBaguette (photo McDonalds). [3] Try a hard roll, and don’t be afraid to go rectangular instead of round (photo courtesy Telepizza.de). [4] We love a burger on toasted sourdough bread (photo courtesy Omaha Steaks) [5] Pita: a natural pocket for your burger (photo courtesy Droolworthy Daily). [6] A natural: the English muffin burger (photo courtesy Thomas Breads).

     
    BURGER COOKING TIPS

  • Use fresh meat: The more freshly ground the meat is, the more tender and flavorful the burger.
  • Keep the meat cold. Patties will stay as juicy as possible when they’re cooked cold. Putting the patties in the fridge also helps to keep the flavor-carrying fat from dripping out.
  • Stop flipping! Flip only once: Constant turning will toughen and dry out the meat, and if you flip too soon, the burger will stick. Cook two minutes per side for rare, three for medium-rare, four for medium, and five for well-done.
  • Don’t press down on the burger! When a burger is pressed with a spatula, the juice is pressed out, taking all that moistness and flavor with it.
  • Move a cheeseburger. To add cheese, move the burger to the cooler side of the grill, top with cheese and cover the grill for a minute to let the cheese melt.
  •  
    Thanks to Crawford Ker of Ker’s Winghouse for these tips.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Cook A Frozen Steak Without Thawing

    Frozen Steak

    Frozen Steak

    Strip Steak

    Splatter Screen

    [1] Remove the frozen steak from the freezer (photo courtesy Mart2Go). [2] Place it in a hot pan (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] In 20 minutes, plate and enjoy (photo courtesy Eddie Merlot’s). [4] We use a mesh spatter screen, but we just ordered this folding spatter screen from Norpro.

     

    Want a steak but you haven’t defrosted it yet?

    No problem. Your steak will be ready in less than 30 minutes with this technique developed by Dan Souza of Cook’s Illustrated (thanks to Good Eggs for sending their adaptation to us).

    Dan experimented by cutting strip steaks in half, freezing both halves, then defrosting one half before cooking.

    He cooked both the thawed and frozen halves exactly the same way, and found that the frozen steak lost less moisture, cooked more evenly, and tasted better than the thawed half!

    The steak needs to be frozen properly, since any extra moisture or ice will cause a flare-up when it hits the hot oil. Here’s Dan’s freezing technique:

    HOW TO FREEZE A STEAK

  • SET the steak(s) on a baking sheet lined with parchment and place in the freezer until frozen.
  • WRAP each fully-frozen steak in plastic and place it in a heavy-duty plastic bag.
  • SQUEEZE any air out of the bag. Place it in the back of the freezer, so it doesn’t get hit by warm air every time you open the door (which can create condensation on the meat).
  •  
    RECIPE: COOKING A FROZEN STEAK

  • 1 frozen steak (not thawed!)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cast iron pan
  • Optional: splatter screen, meat thermometer
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 275°F. Set a wire rack atop a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

    2. DRIZZLE 1/8″ oil into a cast iron pan—just enough to coat the bottom. Place the skillet over high heat. When the pan is smoking hot, gently lay the steak onto the pan and sear both sides until browned, 90-120 seconds per side. NOTE: Frozen steak splatters more.

    3. TRANSFER the steak onto the wire rack and place in the oven. Cook until the steak is the desired doneness: 18 to 20 minutes for a 1-inch-thick steak to be medium rare (an internal temperature of 125°F on a meat thermometer).

    4. COOK the veggies or prepare the salad while the steak cooks.

    5. REST the steak for at least 3 minutes before slicing. This allows the juices to settle in the meat, instead of pouring out when sliced.

    Here’s a video of Dan’s preparation.
     
     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF STEAK

    How many different types of steak have you had?

    Check out our meaty Glossary Of Beef Types.

     

     
      

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