People say nice things about companies all the time, and I’m always leery of endorsements. After all, companies are just big, hulking, impersonal machines, right? While it’s probably easy or convenient to say that The Ancestral Table is solely the result of my own hard work over the years, the truth is that my cookbook wouldn’t have been possible without the support of many people, chief among them my friends at US Wellness Meats. I realize that sounds a little extreme, so hear me out.
Two years ago, I sent them an email asking if they were interested in partnering for some recipes. This was my first time putting myself (and this blog) out there like that, and I felt sheepish writing such an assuming email – after all, at the time I had only a few hundred Facebook “likes” and a regular readership of around 50 people. But the USWM team saw something they liked in my little site, and sent me a box of various meats to work with; they also added me as their April 2012 Featured Chef, and my website took off from there. I attribute the turning point of this blog – from something I was writing for mostly myself to what it is today – to their support in early 2012.
We follow some very simple guidelines when it comes to making meals. First, we really only cook one big meal a day, dinner. Breakfast is usually eggs/meat and berries or fruit, or in my case during the week, I’ll often eat canned or smoked fish and berries or fruit. Lunch is leftovers from previous dinners. On many weekends I’ll cook a bunch of dishes at once (usually for the blog) and we can also use those leftovers throughout the week. That’s it – super simple, and definitely cuts down having to spend long hours in the kitchen.
But to be fair, there are some drawbacks to the type of recipes I often post on this site: they require a sizable time commitment. Not everyone has time to braise a hunk of meat for several hours, or the inclination to thaw and marinate something overnight. I try to combine some of my involved recipes with other, faster recipes (my Maldivian Fish Curry recipe comes to mind). I’m also very thankful for other like-minded sites that come up with quick, delicious creations using both ingenuity and talent (see: The Clothes Make the Girl’s Turkey & Cranberry Meatballs and Nom Nom Paleo’s Paleo Sausage Egg “McMuffins”).
Along those same lines, I still appreciate the use of pre-made sauces when in a hurry, like tomato sauce and Thai curry pastes. So when Steve from Steve’s Paleo Goods offered to send me a sampling of their PaleoChef sauces and marinades, I was intrigued.
Today’s recipe is a combination of two recent events in our house. First, I recently bought a remote grill thermometer, and I was itching to try it out. The thermometer has has two probes: one that goes in the meat and one to gauge the overall grill temperature. It’s an easy way to keep an eye on both the grill temp and your food without having to open the grill lid. Plus, it has a wireless receiver so I can keep an eye on the temperatures from afar, perfect for some wintertime grilling.
Second, we recently came across a beautiful French Rack of Pork at our local market, which is a shoulder pork loin still attached to the ribs; basically, it’s a rack of center cut pork chops. As luck would have it, the rack was on sale; my guess is that it intimidated customers and the store was having a hard time selling it. Either way, we couldn’t turn down the price, so I dragged the big hunk of meat home and the rest is history.
I decided to smoke the rack on my gas grill, which would allow me to give it a flavorful crust without overcooking the tender meat inside. Just to be safe, I brined the pork overnight to keep it from drying out, which was also a good call. The end result was crisp on the outside, and ridiculously juicy and flavorful on the inside.
I love finding new ways to transform cheap cuts of meat into something spectacular. I think most people feel the same way, as my Eye of Round Roast recipe remains the most popular recipe on my blog. So when I read my friend Peter’s Tjälknöl recipe from earlier this year, I knew that I needed to try it. The method intrigued me: take a frozen chunk of lean beef and slow cook it until it reaches a certain temperature, then remove it and let it sit in a brine for a few hours. The Tjälknöl came out utterly delicious and not unlike roast beef, perfect for thinly slicing and enjoying cold.
I love the story behind the dish, which I pulled straight from Peter’s excellent blog, Striclty Paleo…ish:
“Ragnhild Nilsson, the wife of moose hunter Eskil Nilsson, asked her husband one evening to thaw a frozen moose steak in the oven on low temperature. He did…and forgot about it, and Ragnhild found it still laying in the oven the next day. She understood it would be rather tasteless eating it like that, so in an attempt to save it she placed it in a brine for a few hours. When they later ate it, they both found it to be not only delicious, but also extremely juicy and tender. A year or so later, she submitted the recipe for a national contest to find new regional signature dishes, and won! Tjälknöl was declared the new signature dish of Medelpad (a region of northern Sweden), and it spread nationwide.”
I took a few liberties with the original recipe as I converted it to US measurements, mostly because I’m constantly tweaking things in the kitchen.
As the temperatures fall this month, I expect many people to be hesitant about going outside to grill food. Personally, we keep the grill outside and ready all year long, but I realize that not everyone feels that way (especially my Midwestern readers, whose winters are a little more significant than ours). So I thought it would be a good time to work on a solid, foolproof pan-seared steak recipe.
To be honest, we as a family don’t eat steak much, due to its high price point. But it’s an excellent celebratory meal, or for when you’re looking for a simple, developed taste without having to spend much time preparing your meal. Generally, steaks are made from the most tender cuts of the animal and cooked quickly; their tenderness comes from a lack of tough fibers and connective tissue found in the muscles that are more worked. Applying a light spice rub on a steak is ideal, and right before cooking, so that you have contrasting tastes of the crust and delicate interior. The combination of cacao, peppers, and salt go especially well with steak.
Hey folks! Tonight at 7pm ET (4pm PT) I’ll be one of three home chefs participating in a live Google+ Hangout “Cookalong” with MasterChef Top 4 contestant Jessie Lysiak; be sure to tune in via the MasterChef Google+ page or FOX’s YouTube Channel to watch me in action! Thanks for the support!
Most of the time, I really appreciate a well-marinated chunk of meat. Or something that’s been swimming in a fragrant sauce for a while. But every once in I while I like to bring dishes back to their basics – and this week’s recipe fits the bill nicely. Picanha (pronounced “Pee-cone-ya”) is about as simple as it can get: skewered rump cap roasted over an open fire, flavored with only sea salt. It’s a staple dish of Brazilian barbecue (churrasco) and one of the more prominent dishes from the region.
A rump cap is hard to find in many American butcher shops, as it’s often incorporated into the cut we call rump roast. If you’re lucky enough to find it in North America, the rump cap is usually identified by a thick layer of fat on one side which flavors the meat as it grills. As an alternative, we used a couple top sirloins from US Wellness Meats, which had a nice layer of fat on one side, mimicking the rump cap perfectly.
This week’s recipe, like last week’s Couve a Mineira, is part of a team-up recipe with my friend Alex Boake. Be sure to check out her illustrated version of this recipe!
Greater Baltimore area residents: I’m speaking about food and nutrition at CrossFit Glen Burnie on Saturday, July 13th. More info is here.
Like most red-blooded American men, I have a special place in my heart for barbecue ribs. That’s probably pretty obvious, since I have no less than TEN ribs recipes on my site (my favorites are here and here) – that’s nearly 5% of all my recipes!
My taste in ribs has changed over the years, as well as my cooking method; originally I braised my ribs in apple juice and onions for a couple hours, then crisped them over a grill. While I still like ribs that way from time to time, I’ve come to better appreciate smoked ribs – those cooked over low temperatures for extended periods, gently nudged to perfection by wafting curls of smoking cinders.
The trouble is, despite all of my outdoor cooking adventures, I keep pushing off the idea of buying a charcoal grill or a smoker, the usual staples of tasty smoked ribs – my backyard patio only has so much real estate, and I don’t think Mrs. Domestic Man would appreciate more contraptions back there. So I’ve been diligently plugging away at making an easy, foolproof method for smoking ribs on a gas grill, and I’m ready to share the meats of my labor.
To demonstrate, I decided to use spare ribs, which is a cheaper cut of ribs, but they taste just fine to me when cooked properly. I also used a drip pan full of hard cider to flavor and moisten the ribs as they smoked (regular apple cider or water would do fine as well).
While spending a few days in Austin last month, I basically dove head-first into Texas barbecue: the pickles, the vinegar-based cole slaw, and man, the brisket! I loved how a dry, blackened crust over their barbecued meats isn’t a bad thing, and how sauce is added according to individual taste, after plating. Even better, the barbecued meats are sold by the quarter pound, so each person gets to choose how much they want to eat. If that’s not the most American way of eating ever, I don’t know what is! These are all concepts that are relatively uncommon in our neck of the woods here in Maryland, so I decided to try my hand at some Texas-style barbecued beef the other day.
When choosing a meat to try, I decided to go the easy route with some boneless short ribs: they are a great size, and fatty enough that I was sure I didn’t need to worry about them drying out while cooking. Turns out I made a great choice – the short ribs were perfectly moist and tasty, and a great change of pace from our typical method of cooking short ribs (braising).
NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
While meatballs have been around forever, the first written documentation of meatballs in Sweden appeared in the 18th century. Meatballs were likely an uncommon food in Sweden until the widespread use of meat-grinders; they later became standard Smörgåsbord (the original buffet!) fare. Scandinavian immigrants brought their meatballs to the United States, particularly the Midwest, during the 1920s. Swedish meatballs are unique in that they are pretty small and often served with a cream-based gravy.
Most Swedish meatballs are made using breadcrumbs (even IKEA’s!) so I set off to make a gluten-free version of the classic dish. It was surprisingly easy, with almond meal, cream, and egg yolk making a pretty hefty binder. I also found that in making the gravy, regular white rice flour (not sweet rice flour) created the best consistency.
NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
Rendang is a dry curry originating among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, and later spreading throughout Indonesia and Malaysia. It’s one of the most recognizable Southeast Asian dishes, with its distinct…well, ugliness and signature intensity. This “dry” method consists of simmering down coconut milk for several hours to intensify the flavors (and also preserve the meat, which was probably how the dish was started). The end result is a taste so significant that it can be downright overwhelming.
Rendang is usually made with beef, but it can sometimes be found using mutton or water buffalo. For this dish, I used a combination of TX Bar Organics’ delicious and lean stew meat, and a pound of fattier chuck roast. This allowed me to use the chuck roast’s rendered fat to brown the beef during the last stage of cooking.