Affordable Cuts to Feed A Crowd: Summer Edition

bavette29 (1 of 1).jpg

Summer BBQ season is coming and I could not be more excited. I dream of the day that we move out of our one bedroom apartment and into a house with a backyard BBQ. Until then, I just try to invite myself over to friends’ houses with the promise of meat.

One of the major problems that most people face when thinking about having a BBQ is the uncertainty surrounding what cuts of meat to serve, especially if you’re trying to buy from a good butcher. Ribeyes and filets can be super expensive and, when you’re buying for a crowd, that adds up quickly. You love your friends, yes, but maybe not that much. Of course, sausages are an economical option but I wanted to give you a few other suggestions so that you can class it up over summer and have your friends over without breaking your bank account. So, here it is, my list of affordable cuts to feed a crowd over the summer:

  1. Whole Sirloin Flap AKA bavette. You can marinate this just like carne asada, or put a dry rub on it. Be sure that the butcher has cleaned the silver skin off it for you, and have them leave as much fat on as possible. Finally and, most importantly, be sure to slice it into thin strips across the grain. Don’t worry- the grain is so visible you’ll know just what I’m talking about when you see it. Estimate about ½ pound per person.
  2. Whole Butterflied Chicken. I never understand why someone would want to throw a bunch of boneless chicken breasts on the grill to dry out. But, grilling separate legs can also be sort of time consuming and grill space greedy. So, I always recommend the grilled butterflied chicken for a crowd. Firstly, guests can get white or dark meat, as they prefer. Secondly, it’s easier to just flip one thing on the grill than to constantly have to flip tons of legs or breasts. Estimate about ¼ of a chicken per person or, if you have a lot of sides, ⅛ per person.
  3. Pork Spare Ribs. Ribs are great for so many reasons. Firstly, you can precook them so that they’re almost totally done before they even hit the grill. And that can be done up to 2-3 days beforehand. So that’s a total win. Secondly, they’re handheld, which is always good when kids are around. Estimate at least 2-3 ribs per person, and 1-2 ribs for kids.
  4. Boneless Beef Short Ribs. Newsflash! You don’t have to always braise your short ribs! You can *grill* them, just as long as you promise not to overcook them. However, there are a couple things to know before you do it. For me, I prefer boneless short ribs for grilling to be cross cut, meaning they’re not cut into those little cubes that we often braise, but cut into long rectangles between 2-3” thick. You also want to trim some of the fat off the surface so as not to cause flares on the grill. If possible, have your butcher give you ribs from the cross section of the beef. They’re just meatier. Finally and most importantly, make sure that any of the connective tissue that connected the bone to the meat is cleaned off. It’s tough and will not soften on the grill. Allow ½ lb per person.
  5. Pork Top Sirloin Steaks. Pork top sirloin steaks are a butcher’s secret. We love them and for good reason: they’re more economical than pork chops and they stay way more moist when you cook them on the grill. They have a darker more tender section of meat than the chop, and more intramuscular fat. Win, win, double win. Allow ½ lb per person.

Okay, so, now that you know what to get to feed your friends, get out there and start planning your BBQs. Don’t forget that I don’t have a grill and I have access to all of these cuts so….I’m just saying, think about it ;)

Xx

Melissa

Meatballs + Polenta

ACS_0029.JPG

Sometimes, I think that my friends and customers think we’re over here at my house, eating gourmet meals every night, dishes miraculously washed, ingredients somehow magically arranged neatly in the fridge, . Reality: I never manage to get all the ingredients we’ll need for the week in one or even two shops, we’re always missing something we need, we don’t have a dishwasher, and we both get home around 8 and try to figure out what we’re going to eat.

While I hate that life is so busy and know in my heart that we all need more time in the kitchen to cook for ourselves and our families, the reality is that- at this moment in my life anyway- that time is nonexistent. We can barely get out the door to work over here. From what I hear, that’s how it is at a lot of people’s houses, especially those around which small children wreak havoc.

So anywho, that’s why we make meatballs (and other ready to cook things) over at Bavette. For nights when there is no hope for dinner, and you’re about to order pizza. Again. For maybe the second time in one week.

With these meatballs, you can make so. many. things. This version with polenta is a great place to start because it’s super hands off, and requires no knife skills or chopping if you use your fave store bought tomato sauce. The polenta does take a little time if you use the good stuff- and I think you should- but that time can be spent washing breakfast dishes, tidying up or, let’s be real, pouring a glass of wine and chilling out. The polenta I used is milled here in LA at Grist & Toll and it is just hands-down delish, if you can get it.

 

Meatballs + Polenta

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups polenta (preferably Grist & Toll LA milled)
  • 8 cups water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons butter, to taste
  • ½ cup parmesan, finely grated, + extra for garnishing
  • 1 package Bavette veal meatballs (or 1 lb homemade meatballs)
  • 2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce- I like Rao’s
  • 2 tablespoons (or so) basil, cut into thin strips, if you have it

Instructions:

  1. Bring the 8 cups of water to a boil in a large heavy pot. Add the salt.
  2. Grab a whisk and slowly whisk the polenta into the water and then switch over to a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Turn the heat down. From this point on, you’ll need to stir the polenta regularly and, as it thickens, be a bit careful as it spatters and can be quite hot. Cook on low, stirring often, until thickened to a porridge like consistency. This usually takes between 30 and 45 minutes.
  3. While the polenta is cooking, put the meatballs and the sauce into a deep saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook, turning the meatballs gently every once in awhile, until the meatballs are cooked through.
  4. Taste everything for seasoning and adjust as needed. Portion the polenta into bowls and top each bowl with a meatball (or two!) and a scoop of tomato sauce. Top with the basil, and more parm.

What's A Heritage Breed?

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 5.02.23 PM.png

Nowadays, you can walk into any supermarket during the summer and find at least a few heirloom tomatoes. After years and years of bland, mealy tomatoes imported from Mexico, finally, we are rediscovering heirloom produce, breeds of fruits and vegetables that were selected by past generations for their unique, superior flavors. In the meat industry, heritage breeds are like to heirloom produce and, just as there are many varieties of heirloom tomatoes with distinct appearances and flavors, there are many breeds of animals that have been selected by generations before us to have different behaviors, appearances, and flavors. In short, heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to their local environment. However, those adaptations are particular to the kind of farming practices that were prevalent 100 years ago and beyond. Heritage breeds are not well-adapted to the rigors of modern agriculture and so they are generally passed over by our modern agricultural system in favor of newer breeds that have been selected to withstand the rigors of industrial production. That’s why we don’t see them at the store very often.

A little history: at the birth of our nation, Americans were subsisting on a diet of wild meats and vegetables grown in individual and communal gardens. As the colonies grew, the meat packing industry grew, but not as we know it today. Colonists harvested, salted, smoked, and packed their own small supply of domesticated meat in order to trade it with the West Indies for products like sugar and molasses. As we all know, the industrial revolution meant two big things: (1) many, many people left farm life in order to live and work in cities and (2) innovations in transportation and industry led to increased production of all kinds of goods, not just meat. For the meat industry these two factors meant that demand for meat increased in cities, where people couldn’t raise their own animals, a demand which coincided with the birth of the railway system. With the advent of refrigerated railway cars, the industrial meat complex was born. Since then, ranching operations have been increasingly confined to more and more isolated areas, as out of the public’s sight as possible. Heritage breeds have become rather uncommon, as they’re not suited to confined feeding operations. We’ve replaced them with our own breeds that have been selected to gain weight quickly, survive confined conditions, and demonstrate docile behavior. Conventional breeds have become so distinct from their predecessors that they often lack the desire to procreate or the ability to do so.

Aside from the industrial revolution, something else has impacted the way we’ve selected breeds to raise here in the US- health fads. In the eighties and nineties, as most of you know, there was a movement against fat and red meat. In reaction to this move, pork producers began breeding leaner and leaner pork. That’s why our pork chops taste nothing like those meaty, fatty chops our grandparents used to serve us. Heritage breeds have distinct flavors and fat profiles that make them unique, and tasty.

Turkeys make for a great, relatable example, since almost all of us eat turkey at Thanksgiving. All domesticated turkeys are descendants of wild North and South American turkeys. However, the conventional turkey breed that is most commonly raised in the US right now is called the Broad Breasted White, which has been selected over time to be so docile and fast-growing that it’s incapable of reproduction and often can’t stand correctly, or fly. Now, if you’ve ever been chased by a wild turkey- and I have, that’s a different story- you know that those guys are fast-moving, fearless, and capable of flying to great heights. Heritage breed turkeys - like the Bourbon Red and the Black turkey- still exhibit most of their natural characteristics and, most importantly, have unique flavor profiles and superior quality meat. The meat is different, that’s for sure, but most people find that, when they taste a heritage breed turkey, they can’t believe how much flavor is there.

One last note about heritage breeds: it is essential that we work together to maintain these breeds. Centuries of our ancestors’ work has gone into selecting them to be highly adaptable to certain conditions and, despite their superior flavor and adaptability, many of these breeds are at risk of extinction. Once gone, we cannot get them back for centuries, if at all. Many ranchers and farmers are raising and reviving heritage breeds - and some never stopped raising them at all! While this meat may cost more, it’s important that we support their efforts. You may find that you fall in love with the distinct flavor profiles and characteristics of heritage breed meats.


Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 5.01.59 PM.png

Want to try heritage breed pork? It's all we carry! Sign up for our email newsletter to know when we get fresh pork in, and get all the details on ordering with us.

Why We Don't Have a Storefront

IMG_0244-2.jpg

I believe that the most frequently asked question I get at the farmers market is, “where is your retail storefront?” It’s hard to answer because most people don’t want the long version of the story here, they just want to know where to find us and, well, the answer is that we don’t have a retail storefront and aren’t currently working towards opening one. This can be confusing for some curious customers to understand, and so I wanted to lay out the reasoning behind this decision and shed a little more light on the way we’re currently structured.

When I first started Bavette, my health was relatively unpredictable and I had to structure the company in a way that wouldn’t decimate my life, as so many food businesses do for those who start them. The food industry is infamous for insanely long hours, tedious physical work, and epic burnouts. I have been victim to all three of those things before and didn’t fare well; my health took a toll for that, and continues to take it. Naturally then, it was important to me to structure Bavette in a way that was manageable for my life. From the outset, that took a retail storefront off the table- at least for the foreseeable future- because storefronts demand constant attention. You must be there for a certain number of hours each day and that felt unsustainable for the long term, for me, at the time, and continues to feel unsustainable for me right now.

The more I thought about the whole storefront thing as related to my health, the more I realized that there were other benefits, both to the business and the consumer, of staying away from retail at the start of things. For the consumer, I believe that we are able to charge a little less than we might otherwise because of our relatively low overhead and generally nimble structure. For the business, we are saved the chore of constantly filling a retail case with extremely perishable product. Much, much less goes to waste at Bavette because everything is cut as fresh as possible and packaged immediately.

Finally, this is the most efficient way that I can think of to run a meat business. When meat comes in, we are able to batch work and get it all cut and packaged for customers without constant interruptions. Then, when we see you at the farmers market or at one of our pickups, we can give you our full attention. Of course, this isn’t to say that I don’t dream of having a storefront someday. Creating a sense of community among food producers and consumers is central to the mission of the company and I would love to have a store that serves as the hub of that community. But, not yet.

I hope that explains a little more why we operate the way we do. I’d be curious to hear what you think or would prefer, so feel free to leave feedback in the comments section below!

-Melissa

Isn't bone broth just stock for hipsters?

Copy of Five Tools (2).png

This is a fair question. It really is. And here’s why: strictly speaking in terms of classical cuisine, stock is made with animal bones, and broth is made with meat instead of bones. So...bone broth is a paradoxical name for fundamentalists. There’s so much confusion about this question that I thought it warranted its own little place on the blog. To be clear, I actually don’t know how everyone in the world makes bone broth since it’s not as clearly defined a process as classical stock-making. So, my comparison between bone broth and stock in this piece refers only to the bone broth that we make at Bavette. But, when it comes down to it, there are significant differences between how and why we make stock, and how and why we make bone broth.

When chefs make stock, they choose to make either brown or white stock. Brown stock uses roasted bones, tomato paste, and caramelized mirepoix (onions, celery, and carrots), while white stock uses unroasted bones, uncooked mirepoix, and skips the tomato paste. A broth, by contrast, is made by gently simmering the meat with mirepoix and perhaps some other seasonings. A few important things about stocks and broths:

  1. They’re generally unseasoned or only seasoned very lightly, as they generally serve as a base for other dishes and will be seasoned later on in the process.
  2. Clarity of a stock and broth is important, meaning they shouldn’t be cloudy when properly made.
  3. Stocks are generally cooked for between four and eight hours, and broths for a significantly shorter amount of time.
  4. Stocks are generally jiggly or jello-like when chilled, where broths are liquid.

When we make our bone broth at Bavette, we generally roast the bones but not the vegetables, we never add tomato paste, and we generally add a little bit of apple cider vinegar, as it’s thought to help extract some of the nutrients from the bones. Here are some of the other major things that differentiate our bone broth from our stocks:

  1. For us, clarity does not matter. The broth is intended to sip on it’s own or use as a base in a soup, so we generally season it much more than we would a stock.
  2. We cook our bone broth for 24 hours. It’s not generally proven that this does indeed correlate with increased minerals and collagen breakdown in the broth, but it’s thought to have this effect. The cooking time also yields a deep color and deep flavor that might be too much for a classical stock.
  3. We use both meaty bones and meat scraps in our bone broths. So, they are indeed a combination of stock and broth. This yields a richer flavor and a more distinct gel when chilled.

For me, the difference boils down (get it?) to the intention and the execution. Stock is intended to serve as a base for other preparations and has a set method for its preparation.Broth is intended to be seasoned and sipped or used as a base for a soup. Bone broth, on the other hand, is intended to be a nutritional supplement, is usually sipped on its own or in a soup, is cooked for a longer time, and often contains ingredients that are not traditional to classical stock.

Does that clear up the confusion? Do you feel like bone broth and stock are still the same thing? Either way, let me know in the comments below! AND if you like what you're reading here, don't miss my email newsletter! It's packed with more stuff just like this- sign up here.

5 Tips to Help You Make the most of your Meat

Copy of Five Tools (1).png

Real talk: pasture-raised, healthy meats cost a lot more than a pack of meat you can just throw into your cart at Costco! I know! And, lest you think I’m somehow swimming in a sea of free meat over here, Ryan and I buy everything we eat directly from Bavette at retail prices. So, I know that it can feel really expensive to buy quality meat. That’s why I think it’s really important to get the most bang for your meat buck. There are a lot of tips and tricks that I use at home to make sure we’re getting the most value out of every last bit, and so I wanted to take a moment to share those with you so that you too can start maximizing your meat dollars, and respect the animal as much as possible while you’re doing it. So, here are five easy little tips for you to try at home:

  1. Keep a ziplock bag in the freezer for bones. When you roast one chicken or rib roast and then ask yourself if you want to make stock with the bones, the answer might be no because it’s not worth it to make a tiny batch of stock. Stock is work and if you’re going to do it, you might as well do a lot at a time. At my house, I keep a bag in the freezer and my family knows that, when we clean up dinner, any bones that are left over go straight into that bag. If I’m cutting anything up at home before cooking, those bones can go into the bag, too. When the bag is full, I bust out the slow cooker and make some stock.

  2. Keep separate, labeled containers in the freezer for livers, hearts, and other offal type things. Really, the same thing goes here. If you buy, for instance, a whole chicken and you get the liver, heart, and gizzard inside, it’s not possible to do much with those tiny little things. But, if you accumulate a bunch of them over time, you can do lots of things! Personally, I like to make skewers of chicken hearts wrapped in pancetta and grilled and chicken liver pates and mousses.

  3. Keep a separate, labeled container in the freezer for fat and skins. Now you’re getting the hang of things! Of course, the main idea here is that eventually, when you have enough chicken skin or beef or pork fat accumulated, you can defrost it and render it so that you have a natural cooking fat to use. This saves you money in the long run since you won't have to buy cooking oils, and increasingly animal fats are being recognized for their health benefits for us. The slow cooker makes rendering fat easy and, pro-tip, if you add some garlic or rosemary in there while it’s going, the whole pot will be infused with flavor.

  4. Use trim and scraps in stock or bone broth. If you happen to trim anything off before you cook a piece of meat, or you have some fatty or chewy scraps that no one ends up eating, throw those into the bone bag. They can add a lot of flavor to your broths and stocks.

  5. Feed your pets & get creative in the kitchen. Chicken gizzards, pork livers, and other offal cuts can be amazingly healthful for us, and delicious. But, if that’s not your thing, you can always chop them right up in the food processor and freeze in small containers to add to your pet's food. Blitzing them in the food processor also makes it easy to incorporate a tiny amount into ragus, burgers, and other ground meat dishes, if you’re feeling adventurous. Offal contains a lot of minerals and nutrients that we usually don’t get enough of, and starting with a tiny amount will hardly be noticeable to your palate.


Hey! If you found this helpful, think about signing up for our email newsletter. It's packed full of info to help anyone and everyone feel more confident cooking great meat at home. It also contains promotions and discounts that are never made available to the rest of the public. To sign up, click here :)

Thanks! melissa

Red Posole

IMG_0772.jpg

If you live in LA, it’s likely you already know what posole is. If not, you can think of it as a soul food dish of Mexican cuisine, incorporating many of the classic elements of soul food: cheap ingredients, fatty or off cuts of meat, and surprisingly deep, rich flavors given the limited ingredients used. Posole is thought to have been made since the time of the Aztecs and, when I make it, I love thinking about the long history of people who stirred the bubbling pot of hominy and pork before me. I also love that it has adapted well to my modern, rushed life; I can make one pot of posole and freeze a bunch of it so that we have dinners for a long time. It holds extremely well.

This version of posole is dubbed ‘red’ because it incorporates a rich chile paste made from ancho and New Mexico chiles. When Bon Appetit published this recipe, they called it “party posole” because it’s the perfect no-fuss dish for entertaining. As for myself, I’m rather busy and don’t entertain as much as I like, so I prefer to make a big pot that feeds us over and over again.

A few notes on ingredients:

If you’re not familiar with hominy, it’s just corn that has been treated to a special process, just like the corn that is used to make tortillas and tamales. It is delicious. I used this one from Rancho Gordo because I find it superior in flavor and I love their growing and sourcing practices.

As for the pork, the recipe calls for country style ribs but, I have to be honest with you, I just used a bunch of pork trim I had lying around. Any pork shoulder cut will work- stew meat, coppa roast, picnic meat, pork butt, etc. Don’t be picky- it’s against the intention of the dish.

On the chiles: the Mexican market is the best place to buy good quality dried chiles. Sometimes Rancho Gordo has them in stock but, usually, they’re sold out. To get the seeds out, I usually cut the top off with a pair of scissors and shake the chiles over a bowl.

Red Posole

From Bon Appetit: see original recipe here

Ingredients:

Posole

  • 1 ½  lb dried large white hominy, soaked overnight
  • 2 large onions, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3 Tbsp kosher salt, divided
  • 3.5 lb bone-in country-style pork ribs
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Chile Purée and Assembly

  • 2½ oz dried New Mexico chiles
  • 2½ oz ancho chiles
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more
  • Avocado wedges, cilantro sprigs, thinly sliced cabbage, sliced jalapeños, sliced radishes, lime wedges, sour cream, tortilla chips, and hot sauce (for serving)

Instructions:

  1. Drain hominy and place in a large heavy pot; add onions, bay leaves, peppercorns, 2 Tbsp. salt, and 12 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, still covered, stirring occasionally, until hominy starts to soften (some skins will split), about 1 hour.
  2. Sprinkle pork all over with cumin and remaining 1 Tbsp. salt. Add to pot along with garlic. Partially cover pot and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed to keep ingredients covered, until hominy is tender and pork is fall-apart tender, about 2½ hours.
  3. While the posole is cooking, make the chile purée. Wearing gloves if you have them, remove stems from chiles and shake out and discard most of the seeds (for more heat, keep more seeds). Transfer to a large bowl and add onion and garlic; pour in boiling water to cover. Let sit until chiles are softened, about 30 minutes.
  4. Drain chile mixture, reserving soaking liquid, and transfer chiles, onion, and garlic to a blender. Add vinegar, brown sugar, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 cup soaking liquid and blend until smooth.
  5. When posole is done, remove pork, onions, and bay leaves from pot (keep posole simmering). Transfer pork to a plate; discard onions and bay leaves. Let pork cool slightly, then pick meat from bones, discarding any cartilage and larger pieces of fat. Shred meat into bite-size pieces and return to pot; discard bones.
  6. Stir chile purée into posole and let simmer 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Taste and season with more salt.
  7. Divide posole among bowls. Serve with avocado, cilantro, cabbage, jalapeños, radishes, lime wedges, sour cream, tortilla chips, and hot sauce alongside for topping.


 

Why you NEED to Calibrate your Meat Thermometer, and how to do it

Copy of Five Tools.png

Remember that time you said to your dinner guests, “the thermometer said it was at a perfect 135!” right before serving them a sadly overcooked piece of meat? Well friend, I’m here to tell you, that thermometer that you bought goodness only knows how many years ago, that you dug out of the kitchen junk drawer five minutes before you used it, is probably not calibrated correctly anymore. Scratch that. It’s definitely not calibrated correctly anymore.

When I say calibrating a thermometer, here’s what I mean: testing it to be sure that it’s reading temperatures within an acceptable degree of accuracy and, if it’s not, adjusting it so that it does take temperatures accurately.

Now, I’m not recommending any kind of thermometer in particular here in this piece but, if you read the piece I wrote about essential kitchen tools, you know I generally prefer a thermocouple digital thermometer -called the thermapen- at my house. The important thing to know for now is that thermometers can fall into two main categories

  1. Digital: A digital face and a metal probe. Sometimes folding to protect the probe. Thermocouple- like the thermapen- and thermistor thermometers fall into this category, though they work slightly differently. Some can be calibrated, and some can't.
  2. Dial: A clock-like dial face replaces the digital face, and a metal probe, generally thicker than a digital probe. Bimetallic coil thermometers fall into this category. Almost all can be calibrated.

Of course, there are a few other kinds of thermometers- like the kind with a cord and a probe that stay in the oven, while the actual reading device stays outside. But, since these can't be calibrated, I don't talk about them here. Again, I’m not weighing the benefits and drawbacks of digital vs. dial thermometers here, except to say that dial thermometers don’t hold their calibration all that long, but are quite easy to calibrate. In comparison, digital thermometers tend to hold their calibration relatively well, but can be a little more involved to calibrate. 

So, now that we know you need to test and calibrate your meat thermometer, let’s talk about how to do that. The basic idea is that you create an environment where you know, for a fact, what the temperature is. Then, you use the thermometer to measure that environment and see if it reads the right temp. Since we know that water freezes at 32 F and below, and we know that water boils at 212 F, either one of those makes a great “environment” for us to test with our thermometers.

One note: for most calibration procedures, I prefer to use an ice bath at 32 F as opposed to boiling water and testing for 212 F. This is because the boiling point of water changes at different elevations, and I don’t want to have to account for that temperature change. For some digital thermometers, however, (like the thermapen) you need to use both environments.

To test any food thermometer:

  1. Create an ice water bath. This is the important part: it must be majority ice. So, grab a measuring cup and put in enough ice to come up to the two cup mark. Giant ice cubes don’t work as well here. Then, pour water over the top, stopping when the water just comes about an inch above the ice. Stir it all around.

  2. Put the probe of the dial thermometer into the water, with 3 inches of the probe immersed in the ice bath. Wait to let the probe equilibrate at least one minute (unless you have a fast reading thermocouple thermometer, in which case you don't need to wait as long).

  3. Read the temperature. The thermometer should read the temperature of the ice bath as 32 F, within 2 degrees of accuracy.

To calibrate a dial thermometer: If the thermometer is not reading correctly, you can use a small wrench to twist the nut underneath the thermometer face. Be gentle! Slight adjustment should be all that’s needed. For quickest results, you can adjust the nut with the probe still in the ice water.

To calibrate a thermapen thermometer, see this guide: https://www.thermoworks.com/pdf/user_manuals/Thermapens/Thermapen_Original_Calibration_Manual.pdf

For other kinds of digital thermometers, be sure to check online manuals or your own manual to see the exact procedure.

 

Like what we're doing here? Want to know more? Join our newsletter for first dibs on classes, exclusive info, and cooking challenges. Click here :)

What is leaf lard, and why should you bake with it?

IMG_0728.jpg

So, the internet is telling you to use this thing called pork leaf lard in your pie crusts. And so are chefs, foodies, bakers, and ranchers. BUT WHY? And what in the world is leaf lard? Well, I’m here to save the day and, I’ll tell ya, I had to scour some deep academic research papers to get to the bottom of the why. I mean, I've always told customers that leaf lard is the best, but when I went to find out why it yields such a flaky, tender pie crust, I couldn't find the answer. All the available info on the internet was superficial and non explanatory. Also, A LOT of it- even from reputable resources that I generally trust- was flat out wrong.

When it comes to animal fats, not all fat is created equal. They all have their own virtues, sure, but the more you get to know the anatomy of the animal, the more likely it is that you can identify and distinguish between fat from the shoulder, leg, loin, and so on. When it comes to pork, good butchers and charcutiers classify pork fat in different groups related to the kind of charcuterie you can make with them. When it comes to baking, though, the fat from one particular area of the animal is king. This fat, called leaf fat, comes from around the kidney of the animal, and the abdominal lining. It has a different texture than fat from the rest of the animal. It’s more delicate and soft, easily crushed between your fingers, and more mellow in flavor than fat from the rest of the pig. The fat, when rendered (or cooked down) becomes leaf lard. The rest of the fat from the animal, when rendered, becomes just plain lard.

Okay, that’s what leaf lard is. But what’s the big deal about using leaf lard in pie crusts? I know from experience that using leaf lard can yield an incredibly tender and flaky crust. But I really wanted to know why. From my research, I believe there are five major qualities of leaf lard that make it superior for pie crusts:

  1. Lard has a higher melting point than butter. This is a good thing because you want whatever fat you’re using to stay in crystals as long as possible in the oven so that the structure of the pie can set before they melt. This helps in the creation of flaky layers.

  2. Leaf lard has a higher smoke point than butter and a more mellow flavor than regular lard. This is a good thing because, most of the time, we’re making sweet pies and we don’t want them to taste like bacon. Also, butter can easily burn in a hot oven and when you’re trying to bake your pies nice and brown as is the trend today, the last thing you want is a burned butter flavor.

  3. Lard is higher in healthy unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats than butter. Okay, I’m not sure yet if this relates to the quality of your pie crust but, as I see it, it is related to the quality of your life. Interestingly, lard is also a good source of vitamin d and other healthy nutrients especially if the pig leads a good life and eats the right diet.

  4. Lard has a lower water content than butter. Actually, lard has no water in it and butter usually has between 14% and 18%. So, the thing about water in your fat of choice is that water activates gluten in flour and gluten is something you don’t want too much of in a pie crust. Not that you don’t want any, but you’ll have plenty of time to activate a little gluten when you actually add water intentionally to the crust. Until then, you want to limit the water.

  5. Lard has larger fat crystals than butter. From what I could tell from the research, this isn’t always strictly true. And this is important for butchers to know too. It seems that the size of the fat crystals correlates directly with the speed and intensity of cooling after rendering. FASCINATIN! SO, if you cool your rendered lard more slowly and over more time, you’ll allow larger crystals to develop. Large crystals of fat are good because, as with the higher melting point thing, the crystals take longer to melt in the oven, and create bigger pockets and, therefore, more flake.

Wow, I have to say, I’ll never cool my rendered lard the same way again. :) But seriously, though, it’s nice to know why things work they way they do. One important note to end with: it appears to me, from all the research I did, that many of these characteristics also apply to regular lard, and regular pork fat. The difference is that leaf lard has the more delicate flavor that bakers prefer for sweet pies. Also, if I can form one hypothesis for us all to think on, I also know that leaf fat renders faster and more easily than normal pork fat and that, perhaps, this interrupts the fat structure less, leading to those desirable big fat crystals. If you can’t find leaf fat to render or leaf lard to use, try regular lard from a good butcher. As long as it’s rendered slowly, it should have a mellow enough flavor. Remember to COOL IT SLOWLY!

Yours in pork fat,

Melissa

Here are some of the resources I used:

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/299902?n1=%7BQv%3D1%7D&fgcd=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=25&sort=default&qlookup=lard&offset=&format=Full&new=&measureby=&Qv=1&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=

https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2501&context=etd

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/04/how-to-use-rendered-leaf-lard-in-pastry-dough-recipe.html

 

Like what we're doing here? Want to know more? Join our newsletter for first dibs on classes, exclusive info, and cooking challenges. Click here :)

Pickled Green Strawberries

IMG_0742.jpg

I remember the first time that I took a bite of a pickled strawberry, almost ten years ago now. I was eating at the Garden At The Cellar, in Cambridge, and I had come to see what Chef Will Gilson was cooking. I had met the chef’s parents at the farmers market because they had a family farm, and they told me about the farm to table dinners their son held. So there I was, a new line cook, out in the world to eat all the things. When I saw pickled strawberries on the menu- I don’t even remember what it came with- I was intrigued. They didn’t disappoint, and I’ve kept them safely stored in the back of my mind ever since.

When I was invited to participate in the Strawberries Are The Jam Collaboration, I immediately went into my memory and brought that dusty idea of the pickled strawberries back to the front of my mind. I wondered if you would think they were too weird or unapproachable. But then I thought of the charcuterie boards you could decorate, the chicken salad you could dress up, and the relishes you could make with this very simple little recipe. I imagined you hosting an early summer pool party and serving up tons of icy cold rose and tartines slathered with rich French butter, piled with waves of prosciutto and bunches of spicy greens, and then adorned with slices of tart, jewel-like pickled strawberries. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on any of that because I was too hesitant to put the recipe out there!

IMG_0711.jpg

One note: green strawberries are just unripe strawberries and, often, farmers will pick them for you, or are already selling them, especially at the big farmers markets here in LA. If you have a garden and your strawberry plants are starting to fruit, you’re in luck. Otherwise, you can also make this with firm, as-close-to-unripe strawberries as you can get. Just change one part of the recipe: don’t heat the vinegar mixture before pouring over the berries. Just pour the mixture over and give it a few days.

So, with that, I present to you a simple, delicious recipe for pickled green strawberries. You can use them to:

  1. Dress up a salad
  2. Add texture and flavor to a sandwich
  3. Accompany a charcuterie board
  4. Top a cured meat tartine
  5. Form the base of a relish
  6. Serve alongside Scandinavian cheese and flatbreads

Just so you know, for the tartines pictured here, I used two variations:

  1. Country bread, French butter, speck, pea tendrils, and pickled strawberries
  2. Country bread, pork rillettes, pea tendrils, pickled strawberries

If you’re in LA, the bread came from Lodge Bread Company and the green strawberries came from Murray Family Farm.

Pickled Green Strawberries

  • 2 cups unripe green strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 cup muscadet vinegar (or use champagne vinegar, if unavailable)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 1 1” piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh bay leaf (or dried, if unavailable)
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3 Tb sugar (or less, if you prefer)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt

Instructions:

  1. Put all ingredients except the strawberries in a nonreactive (read, not aluminum) pot and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
  2. Put the strawberries in a wide mouth jar or other storage container that fits them relatively tightly. You just don’t want them swimming in too big a container, because the vinegar won’t cover.
  3. Cover the strawberries with the hot vinegar mixture, seal with a lid, and refrigerate for 4-5 days before deploying in all kinds of delicious culinary projects.

This post is part of a super fun collaboration called #strawberriesarethejam, bringing you tons of strawberry recipes aaaalll day (and long after that!) See the list below to check out some of the other posts.

Square Meal Round Table’s Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Pavlova

The Cooking of Joy’s Strawberry Matcha Cream Cheese Tart

This Healthy Table’s Strawberry Tahini Shortcake

Flours in Your Hair’s Strawberry Milk Donuts

The Wood and Spoon’s Strawberry Icebox Pie

Smart in the Kitchen’s Rustic Strawberry Galette

The Herb and Spoon’s Strawberry-Jam Filled Brioche Donuts

Better with Biscuit’s Strawberry Cobbler

My Kitchen Love’s Strawberry Rhubarb Tart

Sift and Simmer’s Rose Strawberry Hibiscus Mille Crepe Cake

What Great Grandma Ate’s No Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Bars (Paleo, Vegan)

A Modest Feast’s Greek Yogurt With Crispy Quinoa and Roasted Strawberries

Hola Jalapeno’s Strawberry Pink Peppercorn Margarita

Worthy Pause’s Strawberry-Basil Shrub Cocktail

Hot Dishing It Out’s Panna Cotta with Strawberry Jelly

Figs & Flour’s Shrimp Tacos with Strawberry Apricot Salsa

Pie Girl Bakes’ Strawberry Ginger Pie

Crumb Top Baking’s Strawberry Chia Jam Oat Bars

The Gourmandise School’s Strawberry Pistachio Salad

Tiny Kitchen Caper’s Strawberries and Cream Pound Cake

Cook Til Delicious’ Mini Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Ganache

Something New For Dinner’s Watermelon, Tomato and Strawberry Salad with Burrata

A Spicy Perspective’s Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake

Easy and Delish’s Strawberry Brigadeiros

Plays Well with Butter’s Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese, Grilled Chicken, & Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Katherine in Brooklyn’s Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

Sugar Salt Magic’s Strawberry Mousse Tart

The Healthy Sins’ Coconut Flour Crepes Topped with Fresh Strawberries and Coconut Yogurt

Lemon Thyme and Ginger’s Strawberry Basil No Churn Ice Cream

IMG_0338.JPG

Made from Scratch’s Roasted Strawberry and Basil Ice Cream

Eat Cho Food’s Strawberry Basil Glazed Donuts

What’s Karen Cooking’s Strawberry Eton Mess

More Icing Than Cake’s Strawberry, Balsamic & Black Pepper Babka

Well Seasoned Studio’s Classic Vanilla Layer Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream and Fresh Strawberries

Farm & Coast Cookery’s Strawberry & Thyme Shortcake

Marianne Cooks’ Strawberry Madeleines

Clean Plate Club’s Mini Strawberry Bundt Cakes with Lemon Glaze

My Berkeley Kitchen’s Strawberry Kale Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

The Cinnaman’s Rose Hibiscus Strawberry Icebox Pie

Prickly Fresh’s Strawberry Burrata Kale Salad with Pistachio & Lemon Vinaigrette

Maren Ellingboe’s Angel Food Cake with Whipped Cream & Strawberries

Baking the Goods’ Mini Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes

Fufu’s Kitchen’s Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches

What Annie’s Eating’s Vegan Strawberry + Basil Ice Cream

Katie Bird Bakes’ Strawberry Crumble Bars

Cosette’s Kitchen’s Strawberry Shortcake

Blossom to Stem’s Strawberry Pavlova with Mezcal and Lime

Babby Girl Yum’s Strawberry Spinach Almond Salad

It’s a Veg World After All’s Butter Lettuce Strawberry Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

Le Petite Eats’ Strawberry Orange Blossom Tartlets

Cooking with Cocktail Ring’s Basil Balsamic Strawberry Shortcake

Ful-Filled’s Lilac Sugar Strawberry Shortcakes with Greek Yogurt Whipped Cream

The College Housewife: Mixed Berry Whiskey Crisp

Frosting and Fettuccine’s Strawberry Basil Layer Cake with Strawberry Simple Syrup

Jessie Sheehan Bakes’ Strawberry Basil Turnovers

Rezel Kealoha’s Apple Cider Rose Poached Strawberries with Thyme Flowers

Want more recipes and tips for living your best meat-eating life?

Sign up for our email list to never miss a post.

5 Tools You NEED to Cook Better Meat

Five Tools (2).png

Okay, here's the deal. If you're buying nice meat to cook at home and wondering why it never comes out quite the way you want, you may want to take a look at your equipment. Professionals know that tools. are. everything. Upgrading your tools mean upgrading your meat game, plain and simple. Take a look at this list of five relatively inexpensive pieces I think you must have in your kitchen to cook meat well each and every time. Here it is:

  1. Meat thermometer
  2. Oven thermometer
  3. Cast iron pan
  4. Tongs
  5. Paper towels

Yes, paper towels are on this list. I’ll explain. But first, let’s talk about the other admittedly more important members of the list.

Meat Thermometer

I like this one. BTW, this is not an affiliate post. There’s no reason for me to promote that particular thermometer except that I like it the most, and I happen to have used a lot of meat thermometers. Also, if you’re trying to cook meat often at home, you need a good meat thermometer. There’s no shame in that game! Even professional cooks use thermometers often because it’s just such a relief to know for certain that you’ve cooked something to the perfect temperature. Here’s what I like about this particular guy:

  1. It reads exceptionally quickly. I don’t want my steak to overcook while I’m waiting for the darn thermometer to figure out what temperature it's at.

  2. It has a thin probe. One thing I’ve noticed about meat thermometers is that the ones with really large probes poke a correspondingly large hole in the meat. What happens next? Juice starts to pour out of that hole and that’s not a super good thing when it comes to juicy steaks. So, look for a thermometer with the thinnest probe you can find.

  3. It can be calibrated. Thermometers need to be calibrated. Yes! That is, they need to be tested and adjusted to be sure that they’re reading accurately. Most digital thermometers can’t really be calibrated at home. But, this one can!

  4. It’s sturdy. It folds up to protect the delicate probe, and it can be safely stored without messing up its calibration.

Oven Thermometer

I’ve cooked at a lot of people’s houses and one thing I’ve noticed is that no one’s oven EVER cooks the same way and no one’s oven EVER seems to reach the correct temperature. So, when you read a recipe that tells you to finish your roast in the oven at 325, how can you be sure the oven really is at 325? Oven thermometer to the rescue! I like this one.

Cast Iron Pan

Look, you don’t have to have a cast iron pan. There are plenty of great stainless steel all-clad versions out there that’ll do the trick. The most important thing is that you want a pan with a heavy bottom that will conduct heat evenly. That said, cast iron is often the butcher’s choice for meat because it holds and conducts heat well, moves easily into the oven for finishing, and can’t be ruined by the high high heat you need to get a good sear on a steak. Cast iron lasts lifetimes. Plural. Also, oddly enough, it has been shown that cast iron can transfer trace amounts of iron into our food so, hey, that’s kind of cool and possibly beneficial for our health. For heaven’s sake, whatever you do, don’t try to sear your steak in a nonstick pan. Just don’t.

Tongs

This is a hot button issue for me. It seems that whenever I go over to cook at someone else’s house, they have an ever more ridiculous version of tongs. Like this one. Or this one. I don’t understand it because, in the end, they’re such a simple tool and, if you go into any kitchen and watch professional cooks, you’ll see that a very simple, short pair of tongs basically becomes their right hand (and a folded towel their left). Listen, get yourself a basic, steel, locking, SHORT tong. Like this one. No plastic coated anything, no special colors, no cool interlocking this or that, and definitely no tongs that are so long you drop everything you try to grab with them. They’ll last longer, too. 

Paper Towels

Okay, this is a weird choice on the list but I stand by it and here’s why: you must be able to dry meat off really well before you pan sear it or roast it. Now, I’m as on board as anyone about minimizing paper towel use but in this one case I do prefer paper towels to cloth ones. A cloth towel is easily ruined when you press it all over with meat juices. And, it’s kind of unsanitary in our home kitchens. So, just have some paper towels on hand for that good good pan sear.

 

Butterflied Chicken with Everything-Spice Smashed Potatoes & Chili-Flecked Yogurt

IMG_0690.jpg

Hey hey Troop!

This dinner is totally doable for a weeknight and has lots of things going for it:

  1. Everything spice. That stuff we normally have on everything bagels? It’s delicious and, turns out, works well on lots of other stuff. FYI, it's usually a combo of sesame and poppy seeds, dried onion, dried garlic, and salt. 

  2. Butterflied chicken. In case you’re confused about what I mean when I say butterflied chicken, it’s a whole chicken from which the backbone and part of the breastbone have been removed. The important thing to know is: the bird lies flat. This means it cooks in half the time and is easier to carve.

  3. Chili-flecked Greek yogurt. Tangy, a little spicy and healthy. Who says we can’t have it all?

I do have some hot tips for cooking this recipe.

When it comes to the chicken, make sure you dry off the skin really well. A dry surface means easier, better browning yielding a more crisp, delicious skin. Also, a big cast iron pan will likely give you the best browning, and transfers right into the oven.

As for the potatoes, make sure the water you cook them in is salty, and that you start with cold water. Technically speaking, “salty like the sea” means about 3% salt so that means, for every one liter of water, you would want about 30 grams of salt. That is roughly two tablespoons of salt for every liter of water. Or you can just dip your finger in and taste how salty the water is. Whatever you feel more comfortable doing. Don’t get baby potatoes that are too small. They should be golf ball sized or slightly bigger so that you can get the most crispy surface area after they’re smashed.

For the spices, I used the everything spice from Trader Joe’s. It’s super delicious. For the chili, you can really use anything- like Aleppo or Urfa- but I used the blend from Other Brother. I’m a big fan.

Lastly, don’t use skim yogurt. Please. That’s ridiculous.

Chickenwitheverythingspice2.jpg

Roasted Butterflied Chicken with Everything Spice Smashed Potatoes & Chili Flecked Yogurt

Serves (up to) 4 people

  • 1 whole butterflied chicken, 2-3 lbs
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chili flecked yogurt, see recipe below
  • Everything-spice smashed potatoes, see recipe below

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Get the potato recipe going.
  3. Dry the chicken off and season liberally with salt and pepper on all sides.
  4. Heat a cast iron pan or heavy skillet that’s big enough to fit the chicken. Add the grapeseed oil and allow to heat until the oil shimmers and spread easily around the pan.
  5. Dry the chicken off again, if it needs it, and add the chicken, skin-side down, to the pan. Press down to get it to adhere. If possible, use another heavy pan to weigh down the chicken.
  6. Allow to cook for 5-10 minutes, rotating the pan every few minutes, until the skin side is well-browned and crisp. Turn over and move entire pan to the oven to finish cooking. Generally speaking, the chicken should take 20-25 minutes to get to an internal temp of 165.
  7. While the chicken is cooking, smash potatoes and get them into the oven. Then, make the chili flecked yogurt.
  8. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
  9. While chicken is resting, toss potatoes with everything spice. Dress arugula with a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Drizzle the rest of the lemon juice over the resting chicken.
  10. Carve the chicken and serve with the arugula, yogurt sauce, and potatoes.

Everything-Spice Smashed Potatoes

  • 2 lbs small potatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp everything spice
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 (or, if you’re doing the chicken, it should already be at 425!) Put a rimmed baking tray in the oven to heat.
  2. Put the potatoes, whole, into a pot with cold water and make sure they’re covered by at least two inches. Season the water with salt.
  3. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender and the skin splits a little bit on the sides. They should not be falling apart.
  4. Drain the potatoes and pull the hot pan out of the oven. Toss the potatoes in the 2 tbsp of olive oil.
  5. Pour the potatoes onto the pan, being careful to remember that it’s still very hot! Use a potato smasher or the flat end of a measuring cup to carefully flatten each potato. Don’t worry if some of them break up into pieces- those become crispy and delicious.
  6. Put the pan back into the oven and roast until browned on the bottom side. Depending on your oven, you may need to flip the potatoes to brown them on the other side. (For me, I have to put the whole pan on the bottom of the oven to even get them to brown, and then I flip them and put them back on the bottom to brown on the other side.
  7. When potatoes are brown and edges are crispy, put them in a large bowl and pour the everything spice over. Toss the potatoes in the everything spice and serve ASAP.

Chili-Flecked Yogurt

Makes 1 cup

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 tsp ground chili, like Urfa or Aleppo
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Mix everything together and season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use.

IMG_0689.jpg

Here's a  behind the scenes picture of me while making this dish, just for fun. That's my usual hair, btw.

And, if you don't want to miss a recipe, be sure to sign up to be a part of Troop Bavette here.

Don't forget to tag @bavettemeatandprovisions if you make this dish! I love to see your photos. 

Xx

Melissa