Monday, January 12, 2009

Not Really a Dilemma

So I finally did it. I sat down and did it. With all the stress around it, you'd think it would have been a big deal. But it turns out to be only slightly more than 400 pages - and a pretty easy read. And so now, when people ask, I can tell them that I actually have read the Omnivore's Dilemma. And I liked it.

And I can also talk about how I felt morally impelled to go to the greenmarket to buy my food for the week. I think it was the corn chapter that got to me. I can deal with the cycle of life - I totally got his whole hunting and chicken things. I just can't deal with us screwing with the economics of corn so that we end up with corn in everything from cows to Coke. I won't say I was determined to never eat another corn fed cow, but I was definitely determined to avoid it wherever I could (I'm a realist... really!).

And so, on a cold (did I mention that winter is not my favorite holiday) Saturday morning, with not quite enough sleep (not killer early, but still, don't love mornings) - I dragged myself out of a very nice, warm, cozy bed and went to yoga. This is not a digression as after the class, I hiked 10 blocks south (and a few blocks east, but I was on Broadway, so I didn't even feel the east part) and started shopping. I wasn't exactly sure what would be available (the website shows January pretty much as a - we sell you the things we have in our cellars - month). But, they actually had some good choices of meats, cheeses, some of the vegs (but yes, especially the root ones) and apples. I did one run through and then went back. I ended up with a bunch of carrots, some parsnips, a few onions, one bunch of leeks, a butternut squash (of course), some ground lamb, some beef for stew, a dozen eggs, some Italian sausage (pork) and two apples. Heavy stuff, but I felt like I had, if not solved my dilemma, at least addressed it. And so I went home (stopping for a very nice brunch first at Ocean - highly (HIGHLY) recommend the chestnut gnocci with pork (probably not freshly killed, but still pretty killer) ragout (though you should like salt, which I do, if you're going to order).

Once home, I realized that the beef needed to be made into a stew (stew cubes aren't good for a whole lot else). I checked epicurious and found a recipe which I used more for guidance than anything else. Really, it was the comment that said something to the effect of: they should have said active time of something more like 3 hours, but it was totally worth it. I wasn't going to do 3 hours active time for stew(!). I read the recipe. It also sounded like my beautiful root vegetables were going to be used more for flavor than substance (it would have been fine if I had had more, but all of a sudden, what had been a very heavy bag, looked pretty skimpy).

And so I improvised.

My recipe:
1 package demi-glace (~ 1Tbsp) plus 5 cups water (or 48 ounces beef stock)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup ruby port (that was the wine option that I had open)
2 parsnips (vegetable numbers are approximate, but parsnips are strong, so don't over-do)
2 lbs carrots
1/2 cup pearl onions
2 lb beef (cubed)

It's pretty easy from there:
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Add olive oil, salt and pepper to top and bottom of beef cubes, then saute (in dutch oven, ideally) in a little oil, remove (do it in multiple batches so you don't kill the heat in the pan)
  3. Deglaze dutch oven with port
  4. Add demi-glace and water, stir and let come to a boil
  5. Put beef back in stock
  6. Put in oven for 3 hours, removing lid for second half (judge based on liquid)
  7. Add vegetables, put lid on, and cook for additional 45 minutes
  8. Ideally, let sit overnight, reheat in same pan

I served this with quinoa. I felt super-healthy: quinoa, grass-fed beef, organic&local vegetables - only the demi-glace, the port and the water (NY tap) were not officially sanctioned, but the result was fabulous. I will make again - two thumbs up for my only critic that matters -me.

And way too soon to tell if my new-found Saturday 'habit' will have an impact on my overall health (or that of the planet), but I'll keep trying - for at least a little while.


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