Archive for February, 2012

Roasted Grass-fed Oxtail and Caramelized Onion soup

Oxtail is actually not from an ox anymore, it is from beef.  I picked mine up while at Whole Foods which usually carries them.  I would otherwise ask your butcher and they will be able to track it down for you if they don’t carry it.  This soup is very easy to make, requiring minimal prep and minimal ingredients.  I used veal stock as the base.  As most of you know I have an affinity for bone marrow, so when I have used the marrow I will save and freeze the bones until I have accumulated enough to make a stock.  You may also use chicken stock or vegetable stock for this preparation.

This literally is the tail cut into cross-sections.  When stewed or braised as you do in the soup it becomes very tender, almost melting in your mouth.  So, out of this delicious ingredient we get a decent source of gelatin to provide an easily digestible protein and help protect our bodies from sickness through keeping our gut healthy.  We also get plenty of saturated fat (healthy for us!) as well as a more balanced ratio of O-6 to O-3 fats.  Not to mention, the homemade veal stock is packed with some of the same nutrients!

The first step is to roast off your oxtail pieces at about 500 degrees F.  Ideally, you want to sear your oxtail pieces in the same pot that you are going to make your soup in.  However, most homes or apartments do not have industrial ranges or good exhaust fans so you may smoke yourself out!  To avoid the fire alarm, put your oxtail pieces in a lined roasting pan, and season with sea salt.  Oven-sear at 500 degrees for around 20 minutes or until they appear golden brown and delicious (GBD).

In the meantime, cut your onions to a 1/2 inch dice.  Turn the heat on high under your soup pot and add about two tablespoons of fat.  For sauteing, you would want to use a fat that can sustain high heat cooking like avocado oil, bacon fat or duck fat to name a few…  In mine, I used leftover bacon fat that I have been saving from past breakfasts.  Not to worry though, this bacon fat is from quality bacon, no preservatives, antibiotics, nitrites or nitrates!

Once the fat in your pan gets really hot, right before it starts to smoke…add your onions by half the total amount at a time so as not to cool down the pan too much.  Maintain movement to avoid burning by stirring.

Once your onions have started to caramelize add your garlic and tomato paste and reduce the heat to med-low.  Stir to incorporate then add your stock and bring to a simmer.  As soon as your oxtail has turned GBD, remove from the oven and add to your soup, fat and pan drippings included!  From here cook at a light simmer for two hours until the oxtail becomes fork tender.  At the end, give your herbs a quick chop and add to your soup if you so desire.

There will be a lot of fat on the surface of the soup by the time it finishes cooking.  I would suggest skimming much of it off to reserve for future times when it is needed like breakfast eggs or sauteing veggies for dinner.  I really like fat, however, I do not like to eat spoonfuls of it!  If you find that it is too challenging to skim the fat while the soup is hot, wait until it is cold and the fat has firmed up.

This recipe is:

Roasted Grass-Fed Oxtail and Caramelized Onion Soup

6 lbs of Beef oxtail

2 TBSP Bacon fat, or high heat oil like Avocado oil

2 Large Onions

8 cloves of garlic (slivered)

2 Qts of Veal Stock (or other bone broth or vegetable stock)

2 TBSP Tomato paste

Fresh Rosemary, thyme, oregano (chopped)

Sea Salt and Pepper

 

 

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Fat

Fat is something that has been vilified over the past 30 years or so with the thought that it is the cause of heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity and many other health problems.  There has been recent published medical research stating that this is not the case, which is easily found online.  Go to http://www.thincs.org for articles by doctors, scientists and other qualified professionals regarding fat and cholesterol.  A reasoning behind the suggestion to eat more healthy fat is that it will mean you eat less carbohydrate, hopefully!  Too much carbohydrate and sugar causes too much blood sugar, which in turn, causes too much insulin.  Too much insulin is the enemy!  This causes inflammation and the inability to use fat for energy.  Sorry carb-lovers, but this is what will harm you.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying to go and eat all the bacon you want, and to eat spoonfuls of butter!  However, pork belly (bacon) that is not treated with preservatives and from a smaller farm (not Oscar Mayer) is a better alternative.  The same goes for butter.  I will spend a little more money on better quality butter because I don’t burn through it!  These slightly more expensive choices should be looked at as an investment in your health.  At this point you may be wondering how butter from a small, local, organic farm is healthier for you than a generic brand from Wal-Mart or Stop & Shop.  I’m going to use butter as a representation of all animal fat or meat, so feel free to look at the word butter as beef, pork, bacon, chicken or whatever meat or animal fat you think of.

Butter contains saturated fat and a balance of omega 6 to omega 3 fat.  For health purposes, I want to focus on the O-6 to O-3 ratio.  It is widely known that grass-fed, free range meat is more healthy for you than it’s factory farm likeness because of the O-3 fat content.  The same goes for the products coming from those animals.  The ratio of O-6 to O-3 fats is in a much better balance and that’s the key!  O-6 fats are easily oxidized within our bodies and it is the O-3’s that help to clean up those oxidized O-6’s.  In your reading on http://www.thincs.org you will find that the cause of major health problems like heart disease is oxidation and inflammation!  This more balanced ratio of O-6 to O-3 is very important to heart health.  Sources like these are our healthy choices, not the vegetable oils and margarines!

Below is a list of oils and fats that are healthy for you despite what conventional wisdom and grain marketing schemes tell us.  Note that the sources of animal fats should be free-range, organic if possible.

Butter

Lard

Coconut Oil

Pork Fat

Duck Fat

Chicken Fat

Tallow

Avocado Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the sweet tooth…

This next recipe is probably the easiest, least labor intensive one on this site.  It takes as long to put together as it takes for the chocolate to melt!  The question is now whether or not it is considered healthy and why is it on this site…  This brittle that I made is a healthier option than a Snickers bar for sure!  But, I am not recommending it be part of a purists healthy diet recommendation.  For those of you who have some willpower, than yes, by all means go ahead and keep some on hand for that occasional craving.  Everything in moderation!

This recipe also includes macadamia nuts and coconut, two rather healthy sources of fat!  Macadamia nuts happen to be one of the healthiest nuts you can consume based on the comparatively low content of the unstable, vilified Omega 6 fat!  The coconut is also a great source of lauric acid, which helps boost the immune system!

Chocolate is made from the fermented bean of the cacao tree.  In it’s natural form, most people wouldn’t care for it.  It is very bitter!  It is only when cocoa butter, sugar and some other flavoring is added to it, that it is what most people can relate to.  Unfortunately that is the problem.  The sugar is what draws people back for more and more.  Dark chocolate has little to no cocoa butter and a lot less sugar as well as some essential minerals and antioxidants, which is why it is said to be healthier.  Unfortunately this is a double-edge sword because what most don’t know is that chocolate also contains phytic acid.  Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient found in many grains and legumes, nuts and seeds.  This anti-nutrient binds to other essential nutrients in foods like the minerals in chocolate, which block our body from the ability to absorb and use them.  The USDA’s recommendation to eat whole grains, of which contain high amounts of phytic acid, fail to inform us of the effects of phytic acid…just sayin’…

Regardless, there are some antioxidant properties associated with good quality dark chocolate so why not have a taste now and then.  It will not send you into a downward spiral towards the hell of dark chocolate addiction…I don’t think!

Try to obtain the best quality chocolate you can!  I used a 70% dark chocolate from Valrhona…Using a double boiler, melt your chocolate with the occasional stir.

With a knife and cutting board or food processor, give a chop to your macadamia nuts.  I wasn’t very worried about size as you can see, I just broke them up a bit…

 

Once your chocolate is melted smoothly, go ahead and add your nuts and coconut.  If the addition of the nuts and coconuts ends up drastically reducing the temperature of the chocolate causing it to firm up a bit, just stir over the heat from the double boiler to soften it up again.

 

There is not much else to explain for the method of preparation, I’m sure you can

see what is happening as this comes together!

Once everything is mixed, line a sheet pan or two with parchment paper and carefully spread out mixture on each pan as thin as the mixture will allow.

You can now put your pans into the fridge for an hour or so, or until the chocolate is firm.  From there, when you take it out, break it up into bite size pieces and store in a zip-lock bag.

This recipe was equal parts of:

70% Valrhona Chocolate

Shaved, unsweetened Coconut flakes

Roasted, sea salted Macadamia Nuts

 

 

 

 

 

Braised Kale…

Kale is a dark green, leafy vegetable that is often forgotten.  A form of cabbage, and part of the same species as broccoli and brussels sprouts, kale is the super-food of vegetables.  Kale provides a great source of calcium, as well as fat soluble vitamins A and K.  The carotenoids which are also found naturally in kale, aid in the absorption of vitamin A and act as antioxidants which reduce the amount of the disease causing free radicals within the body.  Some of these carotenoids in particular, help with our eye health in absorbing damaging ultraviolet light.

The presence of vitamin A and beta-carotene in kale have that very particular relationship as I had mentioned above.  It is the natural occurrence of these nutrients together within a food that is so important.  This is where, I believe, supplementation is a problem.  My position on nutrition, is to get it naturally.  It is the intake and absorption of the combination of nutrients together, not separate, that is optimal.  Different nutrients and compounds work together whereas one may help the body absorb the other.  The only supplementation I consider is the occasional protein shake from a quality source, and high grade fish oil.  Since most people don’t eat a lot of oily fish like salmon and mackerel or beef liver, vitamin D is also something that may be considered if you don’t live in a warm, sunny climate.  Something that really bothers me is so called “fitness professionals” advising people or their clients to supplement with protein shakes, multi-vitamins, pre-workout drinks and who knows what else.  Do some research, READ!  Look at the big picture, not just the workout.

Here’s how to turn that kale into something edible…

Start by chopping your couple onions, few stalks of celery and a few carrots.  Try as close to a 1/4 inch dice if possible.  Mince a few cloves of garlic and reserve separate from your vegetables.  After rinsing your kale, cut into strips (chiffonade) like ribbons and set aside.  Lastly, slice up a pound of bacon or however much you prefer (I like bacon).  Use a soup pot with your burner on med-low and add your bacon with a drop of oil (avocado oil, or the like).

Once your bacon has rendered, add your mixture of onion, celery, and carrots and give it a stir.  When your vegetables start to become soft and release their moisture (this is called sweating) then add your garlic.

Just before adding your chopped kale and stock, I added a half of a can of stewed tomatoes, and a sprinkle of nutmeg.  You could also use tomato paste (a TBSP or two).  Nutmeg and dark, leafy greens go very well together…

Now, add your chopped kale and stock.  I had made stock with leftover bones earlier in the week…You don’t need much!  I used about a 1.5- 2 quarts worth.  From here season with a little bit of salt and pepper and let cook at a low simmer until the greens become tender up to around 20 minutes.

I used:

7 bunches of green kale

2 onions

5 celery stalks

5 carrots

6 garlic cloves

1 lb. of uncured, all natural, no preservative bacon

1 Cup of San Marzano stewed tomatoes/ 1-2 TBSP tomato paste

1.5- 2 qts. of chicken/beef/ vegetable stock

nutmeg, salt and pepper

Pan- Seared Wild Venison Loin, Roasted Bone Marrow

This combination of roasted bone marrow and venison compliment each other very well.  I have used beef, lamb, bison, chicken and even some fish with the accompaniment of bone marrow like trout and salmon.  All results were extremely tasty!  The bone marrow used in this way provides a nice finish and sauce to the meat for a really rich mouth feel and flavor.  Bone marrow, when cooked will appear as all fat.  However, this is what we want.  The fat that will be left in the pan once the bones are removed can be reserved for a butter substitute or for sauteing your veg.  The marrow provides us with an extremely dense source of nutritional calories.  It is packed with monounsaturated fat, minerals and essential fat soluble vitamins.

Let’s start off by setting your oven to about 450F, and placing your saute pan on a high burner.  The marrow bones will only take about 15 to 20 minutes to cook so you want to try and time your meat to be done around the same time.

To the left are the marrow bones and to the right, the venison loin.  These marrow bones are a little bit longer than preferred because they were all I could find at the time, however, they will still work!  Typically you would want a three to four inch cross-section of a shank bone from pork, beef or veal.  This is what you would see in the restaurants typically.  From here, stand them upright in your pan.  Season the top of them with a little bit of sea salt and place in oven.   Add a bit of fat to your pan (avocado oil, or other high-heat oil) and make sure your pan is very hot.  Make sure your meat is as dry as possible.  Moisture and hot oil do not mix well!  Season with some sea salt and pepper if you desire.  Place your meat gently in the pan releasing away from you.  Once you have some good browning on the surface, about 90 seconds, carefully flip and add a pat of butter.  As the butter melts, the milk solids in the butter will start to brown (not burn).  Remove from heat and carefully spoon the newly formed pan sauce over your meat.

At this point remove the meat from your saute pan and place on another sheet pan or similar.  Put this into your oven with your marrow for around five minutes.  This will bring it up to about rare.  Remove from the oven and let rest for about four minutes.   When your bone marrow is  just about fork tender (no resistance when you insert a fork or knife through) remove from oven.  At this point throw your venison back in and cook for about three minutes longer.

This dinner consisted of seared venison loin, roasted bone marrow and sauteed broccoli which is not shown.  Typically I prefer to saute my vegetables in the same pan I had seared my meat with, not only for flavor, but to use that healthy rendered fat.

One thing that will lift this dish up at the end which I did not do in this case because of time, is a gremolata.  Traditionally, gremolata is a finely chopped mixture of parsley, garlic and lemon zest.  This is an excellent accompaniment to fish and meat and especially bone marrow.  This would have been a perfect finish to this dish…

So, what are we getting out of a meal like this?  The quality of this protein is of the highest.  When trying to better your nutrition or diet, look at the quality of your food as well.  This is also extremely important!  There is protein and fat in chocolate cake, but this is not the best source of those nutrients!  My father shot this deer during the CT deer hunting season.  This deer came from a natural environment with a natural source of food.  It was not dieting on grains and was not injected with hormones, vaccines, or antibiotics.  As I had mentioned in an earlier post, quality of food is important, which is why you hear good things about grass fed, free range meats.  We want to keep our Omega 6 and Omega 3 fats in a better balance, and this is one way to do it.  The nutrient density of the bone marrow is also very important as I had mentioned above.  Those monounsaturated fats are essential to a healthy cardiovascular system!  I think you all know that broccoli healthy for you…but, you can use any vegetable that you like.  Just please, try to cook with the seasons!  You can easily find the growth seasons online or check out “Culinary Artistry” a book by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page for ideas on the best ingredient and food pairings.