Can the ginger salmon recipe be used for baked salmon when no grill is
available? Also, are their any substitutes to the heavy cream for
lactose intolerant people?
You are exactly right about the baking/grilling and are right on track! You must have been paying attention in the Cooking Methods Lesson. : )
Ultimately our goal at Smart Kitchen is to teach “Improvisational Cooking” where you as chef can sort of wing it the right way with the ingredients on hand (or those that are looking good at retail) and the tools & equipment available.It is great to see you adjusting with the right improvisational sense.
As to the Heavy Cream component of your question. Basically, you can skip the Heavy Cream or substitute for it. Lactose-free substitutions might be Almond Milk, Soy Milk, or Coconut Milk (which might play well with the ginger). Coconut Milk is not Coconut Water, by the way. Also depending on the severity of the lactose intolerance, Yogurt, Greek Yogurt, or various Soft Cheeses might also be substitutes.
We love getting good “Ask a Chef™” questions from our members. “Are there any added enzymes in Kosher Salt? is a good one.” Below is the question and our response.
In the lesson on sanitizing a cutting board, you mention that there is an enzyme in kosher salt that kills bacteria. What enzyme is that? I thought that salt was simply sodium chloride? Is there an additive enzyme in kosher salt?
So, you are right about plain Kosher Salt being simply Sodium Choloride. What we should have said in the exercise is that some brands of Kosher Salt have additives and enzymes that can also help kill bacteria. Very pure brands of Kosher Salt, like Diamond Kosher Salt, won’t have the additives but others out there may.
Depending on the brand, you can find Ferrrocyanide (not extremely toxic as the name might suggest), Yellow Prussiate of Soda, Tricalcium Phosphate, Alumine-Calcium Silicate, Sodium Aluminosillicate and potentially iodine in various measures in various Kosher or Sea Salts.
Most of the additives are anti-caking or anti-clumping agents that work by absorbing moisture, which most bacteria need to live and thrive. Additionally, some Kosher Salt and many Sea Salts can be iodized and as any kid with a scraped knee can tell you, Iodine is also an anti-septic.
The best way to know what is in the Kosher Salt in your pantry is to read the label and if anything is unclear or not specific to then contact the company.
Forget GMO Corn and Worry about Big Corn Subsidies & Ethanol Mandates
Most of us are a little worried about GMO Corn but have not given much thought to its price.
Looking at our grocery bills recently, it is not our imagination that food prices are going up. Before we looked into it, we thought we knew the reasons, but the biggest reason rides on largely below the surface of the mainstream’s thoughts and news coverage.
It is a fact, food prices are up this year. Pork is up 15%. Poultry is up 8%. Beef is up. Sure there was a drought. Sure gasoline is up. Sure there is foreign demand for commodities from Brazil, India and China. None of these though are consuming 40% of our Corn crop.
Well-intended Federal regulations are the actual culprit. In 2005, Congress passed the Renewable Fuel Standard which mandated the use of Corn-based ethanol in domestic gasoline. Today, under the act, Americans must use 15 billion gallons of Ethanol a year. How much is that, a lot or a little?
Let’s judge it against all of the corn produced in the US. 15 Billion gallons of ethanol requires 40% of our US corn crop and this is the rub, Corn that is made into ethanol won’t feed livestock or be available in the produce section.
The original goals of the act were to reduce gas prices and to fight global warming. I can’t speak to the second point since there are reams of arguments to be made on both sides. I can point you to the gas pump to address the first point. Gas prices have not been reduced and are, in fact, near record highs.
Think of the Congress and the ethanol industry when counting out all those extra dollars.
Dan is one of the sage & sane voices in the “locavore” movement and needless to say, he knows quite a lot about sustainable farming and preparing farm products for the table. From the buildup, you’d expect him to be a raging, rabid Vege-a-holic, but is he? And what was Dan’s interesting opinion?
His opinion was that there seems to a certain growing cult-like, messianic devotion to Veganism, including a smugness and self-righteousness about shunning Meat.
Veggie Activists (photo courtesy of The Daily Free Press)
Dan was urging vegans, “Vegans (with a capital “V,”) & VEGANS (all caps) to reconsider mounting their high horses. He suggests that perhaps they should dismount, get close to the ground and speak to a farmer to learn something more about the soil and how production functions on an actual working farm. I remember personally hearing the following come out of the mouth of a Vegan on a visit to Southern California, “Why do we still need farms? I get all of my food (vegetables) at the store.”
Well the vegetables come from someplace and require a lot of hard work to produce. Ignorance about farming doesn’t reduce the importance of soil care and soil management. Deplete the soil and you “break” the farm. Vegetarians don’t seem to realize that, and I quote Dan, “vegetables are actually more costly from a soil perspective than grazing cattle. “Vegetables deplete soil. They are extractive. If soil has a bank account, vegetables make the largest withdrawals.”
The soil depletion by vegetables begs the question of who will make the necessary deposits (no pun intended). Domesticated animals are natural fertilizer factories and have been part of the vegetable life-cycle on farms for thousands of years. It is pretty tough to have one without the other, oh unless you resort to truck loads of synthetic petro-chemical fertilizers, which can’t be better than Ol’ Bossie, Lamiekins, or Charlotte.
It is not kind to kill but eating meat is also not a battle of good versus evil. It is life. It is a cycle we were all thrust into. It existed before us and will after us. Nutrient dense soil produces deeply flavorful, and healthful vegetables. Without a market for the whole animal (including Meat) no fiscally sane farmer will raise cows, sheep or pigs, which in turn can fertilize the soil. Draining the soil will eventually sicken us all.
We think moderation is important and don’t advocate a total meat diet. In fact, we suggest that you eat less meat, but eat better meat. If consuming meat infrequently, you can maximize flavor and enjoyment by procuring better USDA Grades of meat, even Heritage Breeds, and better Portion Cuts. As a special occasion meal you can take your time with the dish and make it shine. If you don’t know how to maximize your meat recipes, learn how. Smart Kitchen is one affordable option, but there are lots of ways to learn.
Dan goes into more detail in his piece but he makes a nice summation statement: “there is no such thing as guilt-free eating.” We’d like to second that and remind everyone in the debate that stress is a killer too.
We invite the vegans, Vegans and the VEGANS to stop preaching and take it down a notch and just share. If we dialogue, then we can all hear each other agreeing that vegetarianism is a good and healthful option.
Last year on our Summer Food Drive 2011, I was super excited to visit Gorat’s Steakhouse in Omaha. We were writing our Beef Topic (it ended up running 800 pages in doc format) and Gorat’s was voted one of the Top 10 Steakhouses in America by Saveur Magazine and they had a reputation for a great dry aging program and it was one of Warren Buffet’s favorite places. Wouldn’t a man who can buy everything, (I mean anything) get the best steak in town?
One would think, but the problem was that whenever I mentioned my excitement to Nebraska based foodies, they invariably said “oh,” like they were talking to their slow cousin Norman. An “oh” wasn’t promising for a once-in-a-lifetime, steak- visit to Omaha, NE the home of the nation’s feed-lots.
If you can believe it, the 3 Nebraska folks I spoke to before the trip were not raging fans of Gorat’s. They all spoke of this other place in Omaha: The Drover.
Even While visiting cattleman Dan Morgan who runs Morgan Ranch in Burwell, Nebraska, which is one of the leading Wagyu Beef operations in the country (Kobe Beef is made from Wagyu Cattle), The Drover came up. Dan was gracious enough to show us around his ranching operation and to cook some steaks with us in 2011. Dan’s favorite steakhouse in Omaha, NE was The Drover. In fact, everyone I bumped into and spoke to about Omaha steaks mentioned The Drover as their favorite for corn-fed Nebraska Beef. They felt that Gorat’s had passed its prime (no pun intended) and was a bit long in the tooth.
In 2011, I was booked and still excited for Gorat’s (had a great visit) but had to footnote The Drover so it could on the agenda for another Summer Food Drive. This year, 2012 was the year.
From my earlier conversations, I imagined The Drover as a sprawling, country-style ranch property near the stockyards. All of the pictures of the Drover on the Internet (even ours) seemed to confirm the ranch motif. I fantasized about big burly butchers in their spattered white coats and construction helmets, just walking over with the best cuts; a Filet here, some Sirloin there. “Oh you say there was run on Porterhouse? Just pop over next door and re-load the larder.” It was some fun imagery and I have to contain myself to stop from going on and on.
As I headed down Mercy Road with its malls and strip centers in Omaha in the ‘Smart Kitchen’-mobile I wondered where they were going to hide a ranch amid the urban landscape. My “Culinary Sense” wasn’t tingling that a stockyard was near.
You Can't Take a Picture of the Homey Entrance and the Office Park
It turns out that they do sprawl but not on a spread. The Drover is a wide-open, sprawling ranch house on about a half a block of land surrounded by office buildings and very near a hospital. The Internet illusions, seen above is really just a fortuitous real estate development history and a bit of photographic framing. No stockyards, no butchers rushing to and fro. I was a bit disappointed after all of the raves from first hand, knowledgeable, sources. I bucked up though when I saw a major hospital across the auspiciously named “Mercy Road,” in case my set-to with so much beefy cholesterol went horribly wrong. In this day and age, beef eaters probably need mercy more than they need proximity to a stockyard.
Entering The Drover, is like entering a “speak-easy” for “beef-a-holics.” One step into the dark entry way and I forgot all about the warm summer day outside or anything else. I gave myself over to the cool, dark, Vegas-like home of grain fed beef. The Drover may be the bad boy, newcomer in Omaha, NE (according to my sources) but it still feels like your parent’s restaurant (in a good way). The salad bar (and presumably the whole place) has been there serving customers since 1968 with those magical ice-cold metal plates. I can’t recall exactly what I was eating in 1968 but it was probably made by the Gerber’s Company.
A Bronze Plaque at the Salad Bar Explains that the Drover has been serving Salad this way since 1968
The Drover’s layout and feel is pretty basic by today’s standard but it isn’t tired or played out. Instead it felt like a restored CLASSIC, sort of like the ’57 T-Bird or ’72 Eldorado of steak houses. And it is getting current media attention. It turns out I missed Man vs. Food’s Adam Richman’s visit by only a week. I had met Adam in Scottsdale this past spring and few culinary people are as current as Adam. After my visit, I am looking forward to watching The Drover episode of Man vs. Food Nation to get his take.
To place my order, I had a choice to make. Whiskey Steak or the GrilledPrime Rib. The Drover is famous for its Whiskey Steak (a secret whiskey based marainade), and I had been thinking of an Omaha, corn-fed Steak for over a year, yet I had always thought of Prime Rib as a Roast. I had never considered cooking a big cut of Prime Rib like a hefty steak. Where they on to something here? When you are just passing through it is hard to come back and try both. What to do? I used a lifeline and conferred with Mike “Spike” Sabin (managing The Drover for 38 years) about my options. His years of restaurant experience came into play. He told me that the Wednesday lunch special was the $17.49 Prime Rib Steak, Whiskey Style. I am not sure if he was pulling my leg and artfully bending the rules, but my problem was solved. There is nothing like a true restaurant professional. Thanks Spike.
The Prime Grade, corn-fed, Nebraska Prime rib is Roasted at 225° F for 4 hours and then Held Warm until it is Sliced as needed. The steak-cut slice is then Marinated in The Drover’s secret whiskey-soy sauce a few minutes before hitting the char-broiler and being Finish Cooked like a steak. The Prime Rib is available until they run out.
As I waited for the my order, I observed the lunch crowd. They ranged from an unlikely table of 4 college girls to business men to the old couples that had been frequenting The Drover since 1968. All sorts of business discussions were taking place. I overheard words like “designated agent” and “ROI” along with foreign place names like “Shanghai” and “Frankfurt.” There was a vibrancy and sense of youthful energy here that I did not see at Gorat’s. It feels like The Drover is replacing their aging customer base and actually they are doing better than ever.
You Can't Argue with the Simplicity of The Prime Rib "Whiskey-Steak-Style"
The Drover’s Prime Rib, “Whiskey-Steak-Style” was a dream. All the buttery goodness of Prime Rib with the Browning and Caramelization of a perfect steak. This is not a “Classic” preparation of Prime Rib, but a classic example of good old fashion American ingenuity. I didn’t ask Spike how it came about but I imagined a re-enactment of the argument.
Chef 1: “Why can’t you cook Prime Rib like a terrific Steak?”
Chef 2: “You just can’t.”
Chef 1: “Yeah?”
Chef 2: “Yeah!”
Chef 1: “I’ll show you.”
The Prime Rib masquerading as a steak falls to the char-broiler. “Sssssssszzzzzzzz.”
Chef 2: “Hey its looking pretty good.”
Chef 1: “Just wait until its ready, Sucker.”
Chef 1 pulls the thick, beautifully marked steak from the grill.
Chef 1: “OMG”
Chef 2, his mouth watering, “Can I get a little of that.”
I also imagined a Reese’s Peanut Butter scenario where two chefs bump into one another and one chef’s roast landed on the grill and they decide that 2 great tastes can go together. OK, maybe I was a little punchy after such a long drive, but all I am going to say by way of explanation, is that sitting by yourself, 1500 miles from home, you have some time to day dream about different scenarios.
However, they came upon it, Grilling the Prime Rib struck me as a stroke of genius. They were not trying too hard, or loading the steak/prime rib up with bells and whistles, like some places. It was just a simple, epic, eye-opening dining / cooking experience. The sides (thick cut toast, cinnamon apple and cottage cheese) were supporting members of the plate. The dated, but welcome, sides also served to confirm that I was still, after all, in the Heartland of Nebraska.
Perfectly Cooked Rare Prime Rib / Steak
With my visit to Fiorella’s Jack Stack in KC just a few hours down the road, I did not even risk a look at the dessert menu.
Writing up my visit, has me almost ready to point the Smart Kitchen mobile towards Nebraska and drive as far as I need to go. If you are a beef eater and you have a chance to drop in, do. And do say “hi” to Spike.
I love a story that begins with an obscure, colorful lead-in such as ”They have been making whiskey here since a buffalo charged the old still” or “It was on fire when I stopped by,” and now I have one of those lead-ins of my own.
A Navajo-Churro sheep herder over in Cortez, Colorado mentioned The Turquoise Room back in 2010. On the Summer Food Drive that year, we visited Cindy Dvergsten of Arriola Sunshine Farm near Cortez to learn more about her breeding and raising the Heritage Breed of Navajo-Churro Sheep.
Cindy Feeds her flock of spring sheared Navajo Churro Sheep
Un-Sheared and Un-Polled, the 400 Year Old Breed Looks Much More “Heritage!”
A Heritage Navajo Churro Ram. Thanks to the Navajo-Churro Sheep Association for the photo.
Cindy was really informative and we had a great time. On the visit she mentioned that a place down in Winslow, Az, The Turquoise Room, occasionally served Navajo Churro Sheep on their menu. The idea struck me as incongruous at the time because all I could recall of Winslow was a small sun-blasted town, where the “Girl My Lord in the flat bed Ford” slowed down and then they all took “It easy.” Because of that iconic musical imagery and some of my own drive-bys, I couldn’t imagine a fine dining restaurant in Winslow, but nevertheless I filed The Turquoise Room away for further exploration.
So the first stop on the 2012 Summer Food Drive was The Turquoise Room, which is located inside the historic, 1930 La Posada Hotel. Driving into town in the Smart-Kitchen-Mobile, I was again struck by the.., the…, the “sleepiness” of the town. Whatever else it might be, Winslow is the kind of place where you can take a picture of the empty main drag (from the middle of said main drag) at 6.30 PM on a Friday night without worrying (too much) about frenetic traffic.
Winslow can be Slow, which is a Win in our book
After months in big cities, I loved it, but became even more skeptical about finding a beacon of fine dining nearby, one which showcased Native American and heritage ingredients. I was wrong to worry.
If you can’t tell from the image above, the Route 66 in Winslow has seen better days. In a form of visual history, The La Posada remains vibrant, close-by the Santa Fe Pacific’s railroad depot, long after the other thriving businesses have moved on.
It's a Good Sign
Similar to many a modern downtown, where most of the business activity has followed the consumer to the Interstate and the suburbs, the old part of Winslow, the 1904 to 1930 part is shuttered and sleepy, except for The La Posada. With its new-age, hacienda style, the La Posada would be at home in the ritziest Southwestern neighborhoods. Things were looking up.
The La Posada has a high-end, new-age vibe worthy of Santa Fe, Taos, or Sedona
The La Posada was one of the last great railroad hotels built along the route of the Chicago to Los Angeles limited: The Super Chief.
1937 Super Chief Provided Service from the Windy City to the Coast. Thanks to Trainweb.org for the photo.
The La Posada was a destination stop and winter vacation spot. The food operations were run by the legendary restaurateur Fred Harvey and his Fred Harvey Girls (the staff uniforms are still “Harvey-esque.”) It continued to thrive as Americans explored Route 66 but with the advent of the freeway system business fell off and the hotel was closed. The building was used for a time as offices for the railroad until it was completely shuttered and eventually sold off.
Luckily, it was purchased and the great old bones were lovingly restored. As the hostess, who advised me to skip the “light lunch” and wait for the full dinner put it, “It feels like your not in Winslow.” She was succinct and had good advice. I had an interesting amble around the 65,000 sq. ft. La Posada while waiting for The Turquoise Room to close from light lunch and re-open for the full dinner at 5 PM.
Newcastle chef, John Sharpe (and his wife Patricia) moved from Orange County, Ca. in 2000 and opened The Turquoise Room, named for the dining car on the 1936 Super Chief. John was intrigued by the history of the hotel and the possibilities of cooking Fred Harvey-style retro dishes with a modern twist using local Southwestern and Native American ingredients like the 3 Sisters: Corn, Squash & Beans. Some of those ingredients are sourced right on site because The Turquoise Room buys Corn, Diné Squash and Runner Beans (when they come in) from the hotel garden.
The Garden at the La Posada; Gourmet and Native American
He has done a great job with the concept and serves 2,000 meals a week. In 2011, he was nominated for a James Beard Award for best chef in the Southwest and in 2009 Condé Nast Taveler Magazine gave The Turquoise Room a 96.9 (the 2nd highest score in the U.S.). I had a chance to speak with John briefly and part of his approach is a subtle marriage of the concepts of the Mediterranean Cooking of Southwestern France with the native cooking of the Southwest. Where the French would do a white Lingot Bean cassoulet, Native Americans would have made a Tepary Bean (white bean) chili stew. Since we only eat at our stops and it was 24 hours since my last meal, I was very curious to explore John’s take on the dishes.
Don't Look at these too Long or You Might Be Loading Up for a Long Ride to the Turquoise Room
My appetizer was a Fried Squash Blossom that bordered on being a Tamale. Sweet Corn pudding on the inside was a great contrast (texture and flavor) to the crispy, crunchy, flash-fried slightly-sweet, beer/corn battered, Squash Blossom. It was worth the 200 odd mile drive and almost worth the $40 price of John’s cookbook. A side note, if you are interested in buying The Turquoise Room cookbook buy it from John’s Turquoise Room’s Website. It is $94 on Amazon. I will be working on my own version, Gluten-Free (for Mrs. P Chef) this summer.
Wafer Thin and a Threat to Your Airway If You Are Not Careful
The Squash Blossoms were followed by a real traditional Native dish, Hopi Piki Bread, made from the ash of hand-ground Hopi Reservation Blue Corn. After several unsuccessful attempts (it is not easy to make the wafer thin bread from a milky batter comprised of water and ashes), John asked Joyce Saufkie of Second Mesa to make Piki Bread for him. Her Piki Bread has a texture like burnt paper, (or like single layers of Phyllo Dough) and a clean bland taste not unlike a rice cracker. I’d put the Piki Bread in the category of “lite” and “interesting.” They eat a bit like a tiramisu, in that, bits of them fly off and try to choke you like the espresso from the Italian dessert. If any experts want to correct my technique, I am game by the way. The Hopi-style, Bad-Dap-Suki Hummus is made with white Tepary Beans grown by the Tohono O’odham.
While I waited for the entrée, the Navajo Churro Sampler, I watched the well-dressed couples drinking and playing croquet on the track-side lawn. It wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine that it was 1936 and I was waiting for the Super Chief after a restful vacation. Today the Amtrak still comes in from the coast @ 8PM every evening, if it’s on time, noted the hostess. I was in a pre-digital mood as I waited for the sampler of locally-raised, heritage, Navajo Churro lamb.
Churro Posole, Churro Medallion and Churro Verde Tamale
I was expecting a gamier meat and was prepared for it but was pleasantly surprised to find that the Navajo Churro was less sharp than regular lamb. I expect this was, in large part, a function of its preparation in a Posole and a Tamale Verde. The 6 oz. unvarnished, well-cooked, (medium) medallion was my favorite. It gave an straightforward taste of the rolling, richer flavor of the Navajo Churro. There was also some elk sausage thrown in for good measure.
Prickly Pear Bread Pudding
Around this time, I was glad I hadn’t eaten in a day and still had room for a taste of the Prickly Pear Bread Pudding. At Smart Kitchen we do a Prickly Pear Picking Party (P4) in the fall because the Prickly Pear Cactus is one of our only truly “local” ingredients in the desert. We are always looking for new ways to experiment with the red “Tuna” fruit or the green “Nopales” paddles. If you have a psychology degree you may be able to see through the preceding as a “rationalization.”
After a 2 year wait, the visit to The Turquoise Room fed the body, mind and soul. If you are interested in award-winning food, history, Native American Culture or all three, I’d stop by when you are playing “King of the Road” on old Route 66.
This year, go wild and create a new twist on your favorite St. Patrick’s Day stew! Try our Sweet & Lucky Lager Lamb Stew!
Sweet & Lucky Lager Lamb Stew
2 L of Leg of Lamb Meat, (Tempered, Cubed )
2 T of All Purpose Flour
5 T of Canola Oil
2 C of Portobello Mushroom Caps, (Gills Removed, Medium Diced)
1 ½ C of Red Onion, (Medium Diced)
1 C of Celery, (Medium Diced)
1 C of Celery Root, (Medium Diced)
1 C of Turnip, (Medium Diced)
3 Garlic Cloves, (Minced)
2 (12 fluid oz) Cans or Bottles of Good Irish Lager Beer (Like Harp)
1-2 Cans or Bottles of Good Irish Lager Beer (optional)
2 cups of Beef Stock
1 cup of Water
1 cup of Sweet Potatoes, (Peeled and Medium Diced)
1 T of Malt Vinegar
1 T of Fresh Thyme, Chopped
1 T of Fresh Rosemary, Chopped
Fresh Parsley for Garnish
Salt and Cracked Black Pepper to Taste
Large Mixing Spoon
Large Mixing Bowl
Top o’ the Mornin (or Evenin’) to Ya! & Happy St. Patrick’s Day. To begin this New World twist on Irish Stew, your ingredients should all be prepped for a proper Mise En Place, (which I don’t think we have a word for in Gaelic).
Once prepped, the first step is to Season your Tempered and Carré (Large Diced) Leg of Lamb meat in a large Mixing Bowl with Salt & Pepper. Add the All Purpose Flour to the Mixing Bowl with the Lamb and Toss the ingredients until they are fully incorporated. When the Lamb is well dusted and seasoned, set it aside for a minute or two while we focus on heating the stew pot.
Place a large Sauce Pan or Stock Pot on the stove top. If you have the option, select a pot or pan made from a traditional material and avoid a non-stick for this recipe where we do want the Fond to stick and add flavor. Give it a few minutes on Medium/High Heat before pouring in the Canola Oil. Let the Canola Oil heat up, until it is approaching its Smoke Point, which will be a Visual Clue that the Pan is ready to receive the Lamb cubes. With the stew pot at heat, add in the Lamb and Brown the cubes. Use a Mixing Spoon or Spatula to circulate the cubes. As we discuss in Smart Kitchen’s Exercise on Searing, the goal of some cooking can be simply Par-Cooking to impart texture and flavor. That is the goal with the Lamb and the next few batches of ingredients here.
While the Lamb is Browning, either clean your large Mixing Bowl that was previously holding Raw Lamb to avoid Cross-Contamination, or prepare another Mixing Bowl to hold the browned Lamb when it comes out of the stew pot. When the meat is Browned remove it from the stew pot with the Mixing Spoon, a Spatula or Tongs. Place the meat in the cleaned Mixing Bowl or the second Mixing Bowl. The Mixing Spoon and Spatula have the benefit of removing the Browned Lamb from the cooking vessel quickly.
With the Lamb off the heat, keep your stew pot on the burner but turn down the heat to Medium Heat. Place the De-Gilled and Parmentier (Medium Diced) Portobello Mushrooms in stew pot. The fact that the stew pot was used to Brown the Lamb is not a problem but a benefit. We are assuming that a bit of Fat, in the form of Lamb Fat and/or Canola Oil, remains in your stew pot from Browning the Lamb. If it doesn’t, it is OK to add in a bit more Fat to protect the Mushrooms. Sauté the Mushrooms until they are Al Dente. This should take about 3 minutes, or so.
Once the Mushrooms are Al Dente, remove them from the stew pot with a Mixing Spoon. Place them into the large Mixing Bowl with the Lamb meat. Next, keep the burner on Medium Heat and place the Diced vegetables (Red Onions, Carrots, Celery, Celery Root, and Turnips) into the stew pot.
Sauté the new round of vegetables, stirring occasionally with your Mixing Spoon until the Red Onions are slightly Caramelized. The slight caramelization is a Visual Clue that the quick cooking MincedGarlic can be added. Sauté the whole mixture until the next Visual Clue occurs which is the Red Onions turning golden brown. With the Red Onions golden brown, remove all of the vegetables from the stew pot and let them join the Lamb and Mushroom party in the large Mixing Bowl. Set all of your par-cooked ingredients aside for a minute while you focus all of your attention on the next step: Deglazing.
For the Deglazing, keep the stew pot in place on the burner and bring the heat up to High Heat. By now, the stew pot has garnered an amazing collection of Fond which we will want to take advantage of in our Sweet & Lucky Lager Lamb Stew. Pour in the Irish Lager and the Malt Vinegar and Deglaze the stew pot. Don’t worry if you have a lingering thirst for the sweet fermented dew of the Emerald Isle; that is what the optional can/bottle of beer is for. We address the thirst just below.
When the stew pot is Deglazed, we are ready to begin making our Irish Stew. Pour in the Beef Stock and Water and bring the liquid to a Boil. When the mixture is boiling, add in the Par-Cooked contents held in the large Mixing Bowl.
Next, add in the DicedSweet Potatoes and the MincedRosemary and Thyme. These ingredients were not Par-Cooked or Browned intentionally. Without Browning, the Sweet Potatoes will remain a festive golden color in the stew which is reminiscent of both, the famous Irish tuber, the Potato, and the legendary Leprechaun gold in the pot at the end of the rainbow. The Sweet Potatoes also don’t need to be Browned because they will Stew long enough to cook them. The herbs are not Browned because we want their Volatile Oils to leech into the Stewing Liquid and infuse the ingredients as they Stew.
With all the ingredients in the stew pot, bring the heat down to Low Heat to establish a light Simmer. Stir the Sweet & Lucky Lager Irish Lamb Stew periodically as it bubbles for 45 minutes, or until all of the ingredients are Fork Tender. While the ingredients cook, Chop your Parsley (or pick the sprigs) and clean and put away your knives.
With the harder and potentially more dangerous (heat & knives) work done, there is an extended period of quiet Simmering, in which to enjoy the optional Irish Lager which tends to be sold in packs of 6. With two of the bottles bubbling away, if you are of age and do tipple, now might be a good time to sample one (or 2) of the remaining 4 exported adult beverages. Mind the heat, stir (and smell) occasionally until the stewing ingredients are Fork Tender.
When it is ready, you can serve the Irish Stew immediately or Hold the Irish Stew hot on Low Heat for an hour or two until your guests have gathered. When ready to eat spoon out portions into Serving Bowls and Garnish with the previously ChoppedParsley or the previously picked Parsley Sprigs. Serve Hot.
Irish Stew does well as Leftovers and can be refrigerated and stored for 3 to 5 days.
OK, if you know me at all you may not buy this, but for everyone else, this blog post is really a Public Service Announcement (PSA). Really. I derived no specific personal pleasure or glee from the activities described herein. That being said, we are food-blogging and cooking professionals and advise that you don’t try the following at home.
I read (maybe it was a late night TV Commercial) that Jack in the Box, the almost national burger chain with breakfast all day, was marketing a bacon shake as part of their loving bacon (Why don’t You Marry It!) marketing campaign. We could not believe anyone would be so horrid & so depraved and were compelled by dark caloric forces to explore the rumor, if for no other reason than to spare our readers a similar fate. Of course it is only a coincidence that SK Chef was out of town and unable to veto this blog post. : )
Before you say it, I strongly resent that anyone would accuse us (me) of wanting to taste such a concoction. I may drive all over the place in search of ridiculous dishes but in this instance, I am acting as a caring blogger concerned for my audience’s welfare. Really!
OK, let’s leave it at this, just because I am willing to sacrifice myself (and my unknowing friends) so that the general public doesn’t have to drink deeply from this strange taste combination that Jack is pushing from his box, doesn’t mean I am experiencing any pleasure from the act. To me, it is just culinary civic mindedness to save you, the reader, from being sucked into the dying act of an unhealthy culinary trend. That is my story and I’m sticking to it but we can agree to disagree so that I can get back to the story.
So to begin the sampling, we slipped out of our Chef’s Coat, donned a disguise, spurned the drive-thru and since the SmartKitchen-Mobile carries distinctive “Smart Kitchen” signage, parked far across the parking lot . Unobserved, we executed a circuitous, calorie-consuming infiltration of the fast food den. We got our shake “to go,” inserted it into a brown paper bag and reversed our path to exfiltrate the house of fried calories.
Wisely, we had thought ahead and Organized, the 1st of Smart Kitchen’s 4 Levers of Cooking,™our live sampling to account for the staggering number of calories and fat grams per ounce in something that is both a fast food milkshake and a bacon. We got a bit Tom Sawyer and disguised the rationale for the small focus group as a mid-afternoon “Gift” to our friends at the local coffee shop.
12 Grams of Protein and Loads of Sodium, Not Bad! (Not!)
In addition to calorie reduction, we also sourced “data points” on the shake as we now had 4 people who all complained, self righteously, about the decadence and depravity of such a shake, before tucking into a 1/4 sized portion.
A Healthy (er) Portion Cup of Bacon Milk Shake
The results were shameful. I should have known it, even with my good intentions, when entering upon such a caloric enterprise. It pains me to discuss it, so I won’t; all I will say is that we were all properly indignant and in the end we did our duty. Within 2-3 minutes there wasn’t a drop of bacon flavored potion in any of the 4 sampling cups. Rest assured, none can fall into untrained hands.
Now, as I type off the 193.25 calories, my mind turns to how to make the shake healthier….for others. Ingredients like hormone-free Heavy Cream, organic vanilla ice cream, and lean Nueske‘s Applewood Smoked Bacon or even Benton’s no-preservatives, traditional cured and smoked bacon comes to mind. And I am just getting started. Can a Cinnamon Beurre Blanc Milkshake be far away? Oops, did I write that? mmm…….I mean hmmmmmm…..
Now, at Smart Kitchen we are not gardeners for the sake of gardening, though it is nice. We are eaters and cookers, I mean gourmands and chefs, sometimes disguised as gardeners.
Nevertheless, we were excited to see that the US Department of Agriculture has revised its Plant Hardiness Map after 12 years. The new map shows some warming of the lowest lows in many areas meaning that extremes of cold should not kill off that warmer weather plants, even in more northerly climes.
The major drawback in using the map, for us as chef’s, though is that the Plant Hardiness Data Base and Zone Map only relates zip codes to one of 11 defined climate zones. To learn which garden crops grow in each of those climate zones, you then have to correlate the proper plants, zone by zone, using another database like the PlantFinder Database at Garden.org or the What to Plant Now Database at Mother Earth News. Each of those databases has drawbacks for easily finding out which edible plants might grow in any given climate zone or zip code. Sorry, the immediately foregoing is not factually true. Zone 1 is an easy because only 7 plants of any kind, including pine trees, are suitable for the frigid Zone 1. What we should have said is that it is tough for 10 of the climate zones.
Talk about foodie web surfing, wouldn’t it be cool if some database programming type could merge the functionality of the two databases for the use of bored and curious foodies? In a snap we’d know, how far north Coconuts or Dates could grow? Or how far south can one hope to tap a Sugar Maple tree and still expect some sap to flow? I am getting excited about the possibilities but….
Until the Smart Kitchen powers that be offer us more programming time, this blog post will have to be filed under wish lists, unless you, the reader, happen to be a database engineer and want to volunteer to work on a good cause, a project to sooth the souls of the members of the foodie/gardening humanity. If it’s you sleepless in wherever, get in touch with us.
Mickey The Mini Zebu Bull Courtesy of Dragonfly Farms
The American Cattle Herd has shrunk but not in exactly the same way that they shrunk Ol’ Mickey, the mini Zebu bull. Drought management decisions by our Cattlemen has the herd down, in absolute numbers, to 90.8 million cattle and calves as of the start of the year. That is the lowest number of animals since 1952. In fact, if it comes to it, 3.57 of us will have to triple/quadruple up on one animal to satisfy our beef cravings for the better part of this year.
But don’t panic just yet and start calling your 3.57 closest friends to go in with you on a whole steer. Though the actual head count is down, the average weight of our bovines is up meaning our 2012 herd will produce more beef than a comparable 1952 herd. We also import beef and have more vegetarians/pescatarians these days than in those days. If you like your beef, you may want to thank one of the aforementioned “Tarians” for backing away from the picnic and leaving more for you.
That being said, consumption is holding pretty steady but prices are not. Prices for Beef are up 17% from last year and look to go up from here, for at least a while. The number of Beef Cattle Kept for Replacement (breeding) was only up 1.4% to 5.2 million head. We all have some accommodations to make.
One way to stretch your budget is to learn more about Beef (the link goes to Smart Kitchen’s paid Topic on beef in Beginning Proteins) and select lower priced, slightly less tender cuts, not just the familiar and pricey favorites. Smart Kitchen’s Beef Tenderness Chart (free Smart Kitchen content) is a good place to start saving money by moving down from the most tender cuts to the second or third most tender cuts, even into intermediately tender cuts. Another way is to get the most out of the cuts you do buy by cooking them perfectly with the right techniques so that they are tender and flavorful. While this price increase may be bad news for the carnivores, it is survivable by shopping smarter and cooking wiser when you do choose to include beef on the menu. Who knows, their LDL/HDL ratios may even improve?
On the other hand, the little devil butcher on my left shoulder is shouting into my ear that “The correct course of action may be to rush out and get your bits of the herd today, before they are all sold out.” I am fighting him mightily, but if I lose, I’ll save you a place in the line at the meat counter. Oh and don’t worry about Mickey, he’s a breeder and not about to be made into a slider.