Monday, October 27, 2008 

Sunday With Family

As you've no doubt noticed, there was no "Friday Food Porn" this week. Truth is, I didn't cook. Instead, I spent the evening with friends and let them fleece me out of nearly twenty dollars at poker. But, I did get a darned good meal out of it - the wings and burgers were great!

This Sunday, though, I did take some time to throw some meat on a grill. My mother and step-father came down from up north to return the child we had loaned them for the weekend. In return for them driving all the way to our place, we cooked them a nice Sunday afternoon meal.

Not wanting to waste space, I threw two of our chickens and an odd little pork roast on the Weber and smoked it up with some wicked good lump and cherry chunks! Mmmmm!


Cooking Grass-Fed Meats

Robert over at the White Trash BBQ Blog posed a question to me in a comment on my last "Friday Food Porn" post.
He asked: "Do you cook grass-fed meat differently than you cook grain-fed?"
This is an excellent question, and instead of replying to his post, I thought this would make a much better post for all to see. Farmer Girl and I are big proponents of grass-fed and family-farm raised meats. For the past seven or eight years we've raised some of our own animals because we feel strongly that this food is healthier and better tasting. At this very instance, for example, we've got five Tamworth pigs sleeping in their shed north of our house. Right behind me, a homemade hoop house contains some twenty turkeys. About three weeks ago, we put up some 25 chickens in our freezer. The only one of the three food groups (that's beef, pork and poultry for those keeping score) that we haven't raised ourselves is beef. At this point, our farm is a touch small for an animal that size. So, last spring, we used George Bush's tax rebate to purchase half a cow from North Hollow Farm two valleys over from our home in Rochester, VT. We purchased this meat, pounds and pounds of it, knowing that we'd have to treat it a little differently than we treat the grain-fed stuff you get at the supermarket.

My introduction to the difference in cooking grass-fed meats came from an exceptional little cookbook called "The Farmer and the Grill: A guide to grilling, barbecuing and spit-roasting grass-fed meat", by author and farmer Shannon Hayes. It's a little paperback cookbook, weighing in at only 164 pages. But the information about grass-fed meats is very good. Most importantly, on page 21 you find the key to cooking grass fed meats properly - don't use the USDA recommended temperatures for some meats! For example, the USDA recommended temps from rare to well done are 140-170 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas the temperatures she suggests for the same range are 120-140 degrees. Similar differences can be seen for veal, lamb, goat and pork. Interestingly, the big pieces of meat that we cook for competitions (pork shoulder and brisket) stay at the same temps most of us cook them regardless of grain-fed or grass-fed.

One of the main reasons we cook our meats as hot as we do is out of concern for our health. In the past several years, we've seen a rather large amount of food poisoning by e-coli and other pathogens. One of the biggest downsides to the way meat is most commonly farmed in the USA (feed lot, grain fed) is that there is a much greater opportunity for disease and ill health. One might assume that cooking grass-fed meats at a lower temp would be risky. Not so, according to at Cornell University which determined that grass-fed animals have far fewer E. coli than grain-fed animals!

But health issues aside, the reality is that grass-fed meats just can't handle the high-heat and high internal temps that grain-fed meats. If you buy a good piece of grass-fed beef and use the USDA temps, I guarantee you'll be disappointed, and you'll head back to the supermarket for that nice-marbled grain-fed beef. Having been converted to the value of grass-fed meats, I can assure you that if you stick with Ms. Hayes suggested temperatures, you'll find yourself quite pleased with what you cook. It does take some practice and repetition to re-learn how you cook beef, though. Just as an example, the pictures my "Friday Food Porn" below actually show a couple of steaks that I seared too much! So, I'm still working on it.

For more information on the benefits of grass-fed meats, I would suggest you go to the following locations:

One last note about Shannon's cookbook - the section which talks about how to properly cook sausage is fantastic. I had no idea how wrong I had been cooking my links until I read this book. There is no doubt in my mind that her suggestions had a lot to do with our 2nd place trophy in Sausage at Merrimack in 2008.



Saturday, October 18, 2008 

Saturday AM Quickie

I just want to say that leftovers rock. Particularly, when said leftovers are grilled rib-eye steaks! I'm on my own for breakfast on Saturday mornings because Farmer Girl and the Boy are at Karate class. This morning I cut up the leftover rib eye from last night, sauteed it up with a small onion and a green pepper (from our garden!). I had the intention of making an omelet with the mixture, but laziness (and the need to get to work) took over and I just mad an egg scramble with it.

Rib-eye, pepper, onion, egg scramble with Dizzy Pig Rub!

I topped it off with Cabot Sharp Cheddar cheese and a dash or three of Dizzy Pig's "Raising the Steaks" rub. Mmmmmmmm. Good breakfast.



Friday Food Porn

Several of the other barbecue blogs I read have been posting a friday picture of whatever foodee goodness they're whipping up. I thought I'd tag along. Friday's dinner is one of my favorites to cook. This is probably because it's Friday and that is a thing worth celebrating, but also because I feel as though I've got more time to play with my food.

On the left: Veggie Hobo Pack
On the right: Grass-Fed Rib-Eyes

Last night's dinner (I posted this on Saturday afternoon) consisted of grass-fed Rib Eye steaks from North Hollow Farm (two valleys over from where we live) and a hobo pack mixture of new potatoes, leeks, garlic, carrots and onions. All of the veggies came from the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share we got from Four Springs Farm this season. It makes me extremely happy to be able to cook foods that were raised or grown less than twenty miles from where I live. Buying local is an important part of how we choose to live. And let me tell you - local foods just taste better!



Monday, October 06, 2008 

The American Royal: The Superbowl of Barbecue

I was finally able to scrape together the cash for a little practice this weekend. Between Friday night and Saturday morning I cooked up two pork butts and a pair of our own, freshly processed chickens. No pictures, unfortunately, as we misplaced the charger for our cameras battery. It has been recovered, but not in time to capture the porky goodness!

While I was enjoying the fun of practice, several other members of the New England Barbecue Society were doing the real thing, competing at the Superbowl of Kansas City Barbecue - the American Royal (AR). The AR has two contests over the championship weekend. The first, is the invitational, which you can only be invited to if you've won a state championship (in the instance where there are multiple "state championships" the AR representative is chosen by drawing names out of a hat). The New England Barbecue Society had two teams participating in the invitational this year, perennial NE circuit winners I Smell Smoke and IQue. In a field of 106 of the best teams on the KCBS circuit, our local teams did very well. Overall the teams came in 20th and 30th respectively, including a first place chicken entry for I Smell Smoke!

The second day of the AR is the "open" which is, as you can imagine, open to any teams willing to pay to get in (at least this is how I understand it, correct me if I'm wrong). This contest features not only a mix of the teams that are in the invitational, but a number of others, with a total team count of a whopping 459 teams! Again, ISS and IQue were very successful, with ISS again coming in 20th overall. Chris Hart's team, I Que were more successful in the open placing 8th overall! Also representing NEBS in the Open was Transformer Barbecue, who were in the upper quarter of the pack at 119.

I'd be lying if I told you I don't get awfully tired of hearing I Smell Smoke or IQue get called for a grand champion trophy at any of the events that we compete at. This summer at Harpoon ISS again took home the NEBS Team of the Year trophy. But the reality is that there's a reason that the folks from ISS and IQue (and now Transformer) are beating the crap out of the rest of the pack - they're damn good at cooking barbecue! And as much as it pains me to say so - they all deserve the success they've had. Someday I hope our little team can achieve some of the success these hard cooking folks have achieved. Until then, I'm glad they're out there representing us yankees in the American Royal!

And, most importantly - Congrats to I Smell Smoke and IQue! You guys are the tops of NEBS!