Monday, March 15, 2010

Beefing up the freezer

Some people are into whole foods, but I prefer fractional ones. Because when you're talking about a cow, a whole one is just too much.

Tyler and I recently became the proud owners of an eighth of a cow from Puu O Hoku Ranch on the neighboring island of Moloka‘i, a purchase coordinated by our local Slow Food chapter. Although I'd much rather buy a half hog or goat, I was nonetheless excited in "going in" on a whole animal, especially one that was pasture-raised on a local farm.

Tyler was excited as well, although as the pickup day approached he became more and more nervous about our limited freezer space. After all, we were looking at 50-55 pounds of beef coming to us! His stress was understandable, but I knew we could make it work.

I was conveniently on the Mainland on the appointed pickup day, so it fell to Tyler to fetch and store our eighth. And though it was a tight squeeze, he did an excellent job of packing it all in to the freezer. Check it:

We made burgers straight away, which I see as sort of a litmus test for judging the quality of any beef. These did not disappoint. As a rule, grass-fed beef tastes markedly different from grain-fed beef; it's more strongly flavored, almost gamy, and to me that's a good thing. After all, cows that eat what they're supposed to eat taste more like they're supposed to taste like. (Conversely, cows are not designed by nature to eat corn or soy, and as a result the meat doesn't taste like much at all).

It also helped to know that grass-fed beef is leaner than conventional beef, so it will overcook if you're not careful. But then again, since this beef is from a good source that keeps its animals healthy, and we know it's from a single animal (neither of which is true for conventional supermarket ground beef), we could eat this stuff totally raw, with nary a second thought.

(Of course we will also eat it raw. Stay tuned.)

Since the initial burger fest, I've made a few other things with the beef, and I will continue to post reports and photos as we go along. So far I've also made:

Chili with peppers and ale (a recipe I developed for the cookbook*). For this I used the stew meat and a bottle of Boont Amber Ale. We don't have winter here, but this is such a wintry stew, it almost made me wish we did. Almost.
*want the recipe? Buy the book! Fall 2011, in stores everywhere. Or from me. I'll have lots.

Picadillo, a sort of gussied-up ground beef dish from Cuba. I did add the requisite green olives, but forgot the chopped hard boiled eggs. Not content to leave well enough alone, I then made empanadas using the picadillo as filling and Tartine's recipe for Flaky Pastry Dough as the wrapper. And you know as well as I that butter pastry makes everything better.

So we're about five pounds down, with 50 more to go...

Up next: more burgers on Friday, plus I'm going to tackle an island favorite and try my hand at pipikaula, which is sort of a soft, sweet soy saucy version of beef jerky.


  1. nice... i am envious and gonna start looking for an eighth of a cow munchin on some costan rican grass. thanks for sharin your culinary wisdom Dabney :)

  2. I ate it a day after Tyler bought it to the play reading--bloody delicious! Amazing. The beer aroma was even headier when cold.