Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fish is Delicious!

Last night while cooking, I didn't worry about keeping an eye on my dinner...but my dinner kept its eye on me! It was the easiest and coolest looking fish recipe I'd ever cooked.

I bought a red snapper from Central Market that carried a "Gulf Wild" tag. I looked up where my fish had come from and who caught it. How cool! Check out myGulfWild.com and track my fish: GSA1520665.

My only ingredients were olive oil, 2 lbs rock salt, and a 1 1/2 lb whole (scaled and cleaned) red snapper. Here's a great dinner recipe to wow yourself and your guest! (Serves 2)

1) Preheat the oven to 475°F

2) Grease with olive oil a baking pan in which the fish would look comfortable and not like it would flop out.

3) Lay the fish in it and evenly cover it with rock salt until the fish disappears.

4) Place in the oven to bake for 35 minutes, until the rock salt has turned the skin of the fish into a hard crust.

5) Scrape away as much salt as you can from the fish. I recommend moving it to a new dish at this point so you don't get lots of rock salt in your meal.

6) The skin should peel back easily as a loose shell, away from the flesh.The fish's bones lie on a plane flat and parallel to the dish. Take a spatula and lift a fillet of flesh off of the top portion of the fish (below the dorsal fin, lying on top of the bones) and then take the second fillet off the bottom of the fish (above the ventral fins, again lying on top of the bones). The top half of the fish can be your person's serving...since you're a good host and you give your guests the prettier sections. At this point, the fish's spine and bones can be lifted off and discarded. You should be left with the second half's two fillets and the underlying skin. Take the spatula and lift these fillets off of the skin, placing it on your dish.

7) I enjoyed mine covered with pineapple salsa and a side of red cabbage slaw. Have fun!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Easy Whole Chicken Dinner

Chicken and pork absorb and amplify flavors just as well as beef adds its own to any meal. Let's walk through a simple yet impressively delicious whole chicken preparation!
1) Let a whole chicken sit out at room temperature for about an hour. If it has been frozen (check! Many grocery stores slightly freeze their whole chickens) make sure it's totally thawed out before cooking. Ignore the slit I made, I got knife-happy and was on to the next step before I took the picture. Leave it sealed while it gets to room temp!

2)When working with raw meats, I like to have a bowl of soapy antibacterial water or a bowl of vinegar with a hand towel ready. A whole chicken requires a very hands-on process, so running to the faucet and soap over and over between steps will drive you crazy. Don't touch anything with raw chicken hands (the faucet, soap bottle, vegetables, knives, etc.) you don't plan on immediately sterilizing.
3) Preheat the oven to 425°F and cut up some vegetables for stuffing. I like to stuff a chicken's cavity with the top 8" of a celery bunch, half of an onion cut into four pieces, four smashed garlic cloves, and a lemon cut up into eighths. By the way, did you know that refrigerated onions don't make you cry?
 4) Put the chicken into a clean sink (or a good plastic cutting board with a moat to collect running juices) before opening its seal. Pull out the giblets from the cavity and discard if you're not making broth or gravy.
5) Place the chicken onto a working surface (I went ahead and put it in the roasting pan). Take fairly generous, equal amounts of salt and pepper and rub all over the outside and inside of the chicken. Remember to sanitize those salt and pepper containers if you touched them with chicken hands!
 ...Pretty awesome that I got that chicken to do a handstand for the camera!
 6) Now stuff the cavity randomly with all the vegetables. Have no mercy, it will fit! You can even make shallow slits in the skin and stuff rosemary sprigs, thyme, fennel, lemon peels...so that the skin holds it against the flesh.
 7) Take a twine, string, thread, dental floss...whatever ya got...and tie the chicken's legs together. I find it easiest to secure the twine to one leg and do a figure-8 motion around the 2 legs, finally tying it off when I think it's tight enough.
8) Place the chicken in the oven for 1 hour at 425°F, then turn the oven down to 375°F for another 30 minutes, baking for a total of 1.5 hours.
9) I snuck Barefoot Contessa's (Ina Garten's) Oven-Roasted Vegetables recipe in the oven with it for a total of 45 minutes at 425°F. Here's the recipe.
10) Remove the chicken from the oven and cut into the meat flush against the thigh or the breast, areas deep into the chicken, to make sure all juices run CLEAR and there is no pink juice. This indicates that it's been cooked thoroughly!

11) Serve and enjoy! This bird will last you a few meals, probably about 8. With the vegetables and everything, this came out to less than $2.50 a meal! To make broth with the carcass left over at the end of the week, put the carcass with all the leftover juices and stuffed vegetables in a pot and completely cover with water. Add a few more dashes of salt and pepper and boil for about 1.5-2 hours.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chipotle's Simple Story

“The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15, The Holy Bible).
Have you seen this Chipotle commercial, an animated feature with accompaniment by Willie Nelson?

Chipotle makes it look like Good vs. Bad is as identifiable as Domestic vs. Industrialized Farming. Stop right there! This is where we need to Think about how we know Good Guys from Bad Guys. First, is it ever fair to make such a blanket statement, to say that local organic farmers are inherently Good, while corporate farmers are inherently Bad? What if the line of Good and Bad were drawn down the heart of every farmer (not to mention everyone), measured out with every decision he or she makes? Let’s “give thought to our steps” here and process what we’ve just watched with "prudent" questioning.

  1. Is it bad to fence in a pig? Is it bad to build fences in general? Almost all breeds of livestock were bred by humans that desired for their animals to be dependent on them for protection and food. This keep them from wanting to run away, and the livestock animals we have now are not built for survival in the “wild.” They are genetically wired to be satisfied by the human care they are given, as well as produce milk, meat, and wool to a greater extent than their wild cousins do. That means their nutritional needs are more than what a wild environment can supply. Indeed, fenceless swine farming is widely in practice, far more so than free-ranging cattle. These pigs still roam free and are an absolute menace to the environment, human safety, and agriculture of the southeastern U.S.
  2. Is it wrong to build an enclosed, climate-controlled barn for dairy cattle? Visit a dairy. These cows have a sweet life. Remember, unlike humans, animals don’t believe they have a “right” to A/C anyway.
  3. Could the space they have be adequate for animal happiness and health, while minimizing the environmental impact and landmass impact of each additional pig? Land is precious here on this planet of 70% water.  See Is the Grass(-Finished Beef) AlwaysGreener? And also Capper, 2009
  4. Do pigs really grow in a crate and then fall 2 stories down to an assembly line? Um, no. See these Swine Welfare Research documents if you’re curious about the pork industry, and Hard to Swallow.
  5. Are they fed elephantine capsules and given an evil green witch’s brew? Um, no, but antibiotics are used to combat swine illness…see Pork.org’s rationale for antibiotic use and Vive la rĂ©sistance? (Antibiotics).
  6. Do they grow unnaturally large? Do they receive hormones? ARTIFICIAL* HORMONES ARE ILLEGAL IN RAISING PORK. (*artificial = any hormones introduced into an animal's body in addition to ones internally produced)
  7. Are they mechanically transformed into meat? Pork is always hand-butchered unless you are consuming a processed product that specifically lists in its ingredients “Mechanically Separated Pork. 
  8. Do they receive drugs? Does green slime get into our water supply? CAFOs and packing plants are stringently regulated and must abide by an oblivion of EPA rules. Free-range farms may allow animals to freely excrete in waterways with far less accountability. See EPA’s CAFO Regulations and the National Resource Conservation Service on livestock operations
  9. Does the final halcyon farm scene demonstrate the best relationship between farm animals and people, or can deep care and affection for animals exist in the industrialized scene? See Feedlot, Rediscovered
  10. I'm going back to the start...when the ancestors of domesticated pigs roamed free with Adam and Eve on the planet? Can we take 7 billion people with us “back to the start”? See…Capper, 2009  and Organic, Or Not?   
  11. We are asked to cultivate a better world, but better in what way?…reducing world hunger, reducing environmental impact, increasing the aestheticism of agriculture…? See (Re)Defining the Terms
  12. Um, What’s in it for Chipotle?
  13. What do you Think?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Easy Beef Dinner

Beef shouldn't be so intimidating to cook. It's inherently flavorful, unlike other meats, so it only requires a little salt, pepper, and heat. Here are some cooking tips for an easy, great beef meal:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Take a 2lb SIRLOIN ROAST out of the fridge and let it get to room temperature, giving it 2 - 4 hours to sit out. If it was frozen, let it thaw slowly in the fridge for 2 days. Fast thawing reduces flavor and tenderness.
    • Use paper towels to wipe away all the liquids and moisture until quite sticky to the touch. Drying beef like this will allow it to get a nice sharp sear to concentrate the flavors and seal in the juices.

    • With a few pinches of salt and pepper, evenly coat the roast. I grabbed some fresh rosemary leaves and rubbed them on as well. 

    • Since a roast is nice and lean, coat a roasting pan with a little olive oil and place the roast in it. 
    • Meanwhile, I had sliced up 2 scrubbed unpeeled sweet potatoes and mixed them with a few pinches of salt and pepper, about 1/4 cup olive oil, rosemary leaves, and 3 crushed and minced garlic cloves. I spread them out over a cookie sheet.
    • Both the roast and the sliced potatoes can go in the oven for 30 minutes.
    •  Remove the roast (and the potatoes, too!) from the oven and insert a meat thermometer to a point halfway through at the center of the roast. If it says around 135-140, then perfect! Let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool, distribute the flavors, and continue cooking.  It's cooked to about medium, but the surest way to find out is to start slicing after the resting period. Put it back in the oven for a few more minutes and keep checking on it until it's cooked how you like it. 
    • Slice and serve! I also steamed some broccoli...by the way, did you know if you cut a lemon askew from its center, you expose all the pockets of juice and get a more effective squeeze? I love lemon on broccoli! 

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    A Runner's Menu

    In the midst of marathon season, I thought I'd share this quick video featuring a Registered Dietitian and some of my favorite foods, such as:
    • Hearty cereals full of iron, fiber and complex carbs
    • Leafy greens full of vitamins and fiber
    • Potatoes (UNpeeled) and bananas (peeled :) ) for potassium
    • Yogurt, milk, salmon and lean BEEF for a full spectrum of essential amino acids to build muscle proteins, along with healthy fats for tissue construction and water retention -- not to mention all kinds of minerals and vitamins that, when contained in animal products are more bio-available (see Hunt, 2003)
    My brother and I love the amazing combo of protein-rich Surf & Turf! Plus...Omega 3 fats + Monounsaturated fats = healthy cell membranes!