The Case for Bison

Filed under: Culinary Trends,Recipes , Tags: , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , July 24, 2017

I’m no vegetarian but I don’t eat nearly as much meat as I used to. I doubt many of us do anymore. And, we’re all looking for ways to make those selections a bit healthier.

Enter the shaggy American buffalo. Known scientifically as bison to distinguish it as a bovine more related to domestic cattle than to Asian and African Cape buffalo, our American buffalo has become a beef alternative.

According to the USDA, there are about 150,000 bison raised on public and private lands in the U.S. They’re huge — a bison bull is the largest animal indigenous to North America. A bull can be taller than six feet at the hump and weigh more than a ton. They’re free ranging for most of their lives, eating hay or grass until the last 90 to 120 days of their lives, when they’re fed grain — not unlike a lot of domestic cattle. Even with the grain diet before slaughter, there’s little marbling, which is why bison meat appears to have a deeper red color than beef before cooking. Neither hormones nor antibiotics are given to bison.

Because bison meat is very lean, it will cook faster than traditional grain-fed beef and more like grass-fed beef, so bear that in mind if you’re grilling a bison steak or a burger.

I tried the bison sold at Whole Foods recently. I picked up both a New York steak and a package of ground meat. The bison are are raised in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado, and processed at 30 months of age after spending 14 days in the feed lot.

I broiled the steak, seasoning it just with salt and pepper. To accompany it, I made a tomato relish of chopped heirloom tomatoes and red onion, julienned basil, diced jalapeño, minced garlic, and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

The steak cooked quickly; just a few minutes on each side left it medium rare. It was more tender than I expected and had a lovely sweet flavor.

The following week, I pulled out my pound package of ground bison (packaged as “ground buffalo”) and let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator. I used half to make burgers, which I gently mixed with salt, pepper and fresh jalapeños, then stuffed with about a tablespoon of Purple Haze goat cheese before putting them on the grill.

The rest of the ground bison went into a tomato and red pepper pasta sauce I had made. I’ll be honest; the sauce was just okay so I had frozen what I hadn’t eaten to give me time to figure out what to do with it. With the ground bison, I figured I’d defrost it and make a ragu. The flavors were tremendous. I wanted to dive into the bowl once the pappardelle was gone and lick up every last bit of the sauce. The meat gave it a richness and sweetness that the vegetables alone just couldn’t produce.

Bison comes in most of the same cuts as beef. I saw tri-tips, rib-eyes, and filet mignon at Whole Foods. But it is pricey at around $20+ a pound. The New York steak was about half that. The ground bison is pretty reasonable.

Are you substituting conventional beef with bison? What are you making?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

New Year fireworks

Happy New Year! As chefs, you know how important it is to stay on top of what’s going on in the industry. So, we’ve pulled together a round-up of eight food trend forecasts for 2016. You may not want or need to follow all of these for clients, but here’s what they’ll no doubt be exposed to when dining out–and that can lead to requests in their kitchens or for events you cater.

Clean Eating: “Free-from” for all (gluten, soy, lactose, etc.) falls into this category, as does organic, natural processing, flexitarian, and greens in the Innova Market Insights’ Top Ten Trends list for 2016.

Veggie-Forward Menus: The Specialty Food Association created a top 10 list of trends on the 2016 horizon–everything from veggie-forward menus to no waste and supermarkets for super health.

887313_260177637509214_138051736935271659_o

Snack Attack: Innova was very busy with trend predictions. Here’s a list of global trends they produced for the 2015 Anuga Show held in Cologne, Germany. The top 10 includes the growing trend of snacking, marketing to millennials, high-quality convenience, and an emphasis on texture.

The Return of Lard: Lard is back. Escargot is back. So are beets. Say goodbye to sriracha and embrace the heat of harissa and gochujang, according to the Sterling Rice Group’s list of 14 trends. They see the end of GMO’s and more local, transparent sourcing. Like, The Specialty Food Association, they, too, see no waste and a focus on vegetables.

Old-World Ingredients and New Vino Vehicles: From Whole Foods we get a top 10 list that runs the gamut from plant-based everything to wine in cans. In the sustainability folder, we get consumers interested in unusual seafood and cuts of meat. Fermented foods are going to be big. So are heirloom ingredients, dehydrated foods, and Old-World flavor adventures.

Roasted peppers

Substance Over Sizzle: Zester Daily brings its Top 6 Food Trends for the year, leading off with the movement for healthier food, and noting the importance of sustainable diets, food literacy, supermarkets as health hubs (see The Specialty Food Association above), raw milk cheese being hot, and an increased consensus by the experts on what to eat.

Plants are the New Meat: I love this food trend interview with food writer Bonnie Wolf on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. She notes that vegetables have moved to the center of the plate. We’ll see more dried beans, peas, and lentils. And, like Innova’s predictions, she sees millennials as the trend movers and shakers.

Einkorn salad

Einkorn salad

 

Get Outta Here: Now for food trends famous chefs would like to see retired, from Thrillist. You can probably relate to some of these. Tired of deviled eggs? How about molecular gastronomy? These chefs are. They’re over tweezers (use your fingers!), smoked cocktails, and calling everything “farm-to-table.” So long, kale (really?). And, let’s end it here, get outta here with food trends!

Kale salad

What’s on your 2016 food trend list? Will anything above influence how you create recipes and menus?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

Organics

One of the issues that often comes up for personal chefs is how to get the most bang for the buck on food. And, of course, it’s just as true for clients and cooking class students. As a food writer, I get asked this question all the time, so I thought I’d pull together some ideas that may resound with you and that you can share with clients. Even if you do the lion’s share of cooking for them, it can’t hurt for those who are interested to have some tips for how to spend food money wisely–and reduce waste. While this can entail a healthy dose of frugality, we’re not talking coupon clipping here–and it doesn’t mean there isn’t room to splurge. It’s just a matter of knowing how to make the best decisions based on eating habits, budget, and health concerns. Sometimes a little splurging is actually good for you and not reckless, especially if you’re balancing it with cost-savings in other places.

Some of these ideas are really obvious (especially if you’re a chef) but are things we tend to forget or let slide, so I’ve included them here for you or to share with clients and students. And, if you have suggestions of your own, let’s hear them with a comment below! Share your knowledge so we can all benefit!

Olive oils

Where to Splurge:

  1. Buy good cuts of meat, only in smaller portions. I like to go to Whole Foods and buy a small piece of Wagyu skirt steak to grill. It doesn’t cost much but it’s delicious. When it comes to pork, I enjoy the richness of Berkshire pork, which you can find at a quality butcher.
  2. Buy good quality olive oil for finishing, sauces, and dressings. When heat is involved–sautéing, frying, etc., less expensive vegetable oil is fine–often preferable–but use good quality olive oil for the flavor. Also try avocado oil for flavor finishes, too. Remember to store oil in a dark, cool place to maintain quality, but don’t hoard it since it will go rancid or just lose the intensity of its flavor.
  3. Buy roasted chickens and use them to help you make other meals faster–like tacos or soup. Save the bones and unused meat for making stock.
  4. Buy organic produce, but if you have to prioritize, go with produce without a thick peel you don’t eat – lettuce, berries, etc. as opposed to avocados. Here’s a list of the “dirty dozen”–produce you should spend those organic dollars on.
  5. Buy vanilla beans, but only to use when the vanilla flavor is the star in the dessert. Store the beans in vanilla extract to impart more flavor to the extract, or store the beans in a bowl of sugar.
  6. Buy small pieces of good cheese. Buy chunks of parmesan or cheddar or mozarella, not pre-grated. If you have a food processor you can easily grate the cheese if you need large quantities.
  7. Invest in good basic kitchen tools: knives, graters, peelers, and salad spinners. It makes cooking much easier and may encourage you to do more if you’re not fighting your ingredients. And take care of them. Make sure your knives are well sharpened.

Parmegiano Reggiano

Where to Budget:

  1. Buy whole chickens instead of parts and cut them up yourself. Double wrap and store pieces in freezer. Be sure to mark the package with what the item is and the date so you can use it before it gets freezer burn. Also, dark meat is less expensive and has more flavor. Save parts like the back, wings, drumsticks and use them to make stock.
  2. Don’t buy skinless, boneless chicken packages. If you’re not going to buy a whole chicken, it is cheaper to buy the whole parts and remove the skin and bones yourself. If you see bulk packages of chicken parts (skin and bones intact), buy them and divide into meal-sized portions and freeze.
  3. Buy cheaper cuts of meat, like lamb shoulder instead of loin for chops, or pork butt–basically cuts in which you’re talking about muscle. The meat will be tougher but you can do a nice slow cook or braise to make the meat more tender and flavorful. These cheap cuts are the best for stews and soups as well. And don’t buy pre-cut “stewing meat.” Buy the whole piece and cut it yourself so that you have pieces that are the same size and will cook evenly. You’ll save money and get a better result in your dish.
  4. Eliminate meat from your diet two or three times a week and instead make dishes with beans, rice, lentils, and other grains or legumes. Experiment with quinoa, couscous, farro, wheat berries, polenta and other grains. Try using whole wheat pasta. Use meat to flavor dishes, not as the centerpiece of the meal.
  5. Don’t buy pre-packaged produce. Peel your own carrots, wash and chop your own lettuce. The only exception may be spinach, which is a real pain to clean.
  6. Buy bags of popcorn kernels instead of packaged flavored popcorn and pop it yourself.
  7. Buy produce that’s in season and have a plan for it (i.e., menus) so it doesn’t spoil. Also think of ways to use the whole fruit or vegetable. Beet tops, parsnip tops, and other root vegetable greens are delicious steamed or sautéed. They can also be included in stock. Stick brown bananas in the freezer to use later for banana bread or to make a smoothie.
  8. Jars of dried herbs are pricey and often lose their flavor sitting on the shelf exposed to light. Instead, plant herbs, even in pots. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, mint (always plant mint in a pot because it spreads fast) are easy to grow.
  9. If you have room in your freezer, store flour, sugar, beans, etc. in there so you don’t have to toss food because bugs got into the container.
  10. Make your own convenience foods. If you’re cooking, make enough for two meals. Make large pots of soup or stew and freeze it in serving-size containers. You can do the same with chicken or proteins other than fish. Welcome to your new frozen food dinners.
  11. Make your own pizza. Dough is easy to make and can be frozen. Then it’s just a matter of grating cheese and having your own combination of toppings. Instead of tomato sauce, use sliced tomatoes and fresh basil.
pizza before cooking with pesto, tomatoes, black garlic

Pizza with pesto, tomatoes, and black garlic before baking

12. Learn a couple of cooking techniques that can give you flexibility in making quick meals. For instance, you can quickly brown chicken parts in a large Dutch oven on the stove, add layers of sliced onion, garlic, olives, artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, etc. with herbs, a dash of wine or stock, cover and cook in the oven at 350 for about an hour. Make rice or other grains and you’ve got your meal. Alternately, use diced tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini for a different flavor combo. Make roasted tomato soup and the next night add seafood to the soup with a few slices of lemon. Now you have cioppino. Do you enjoy the flavors from roasting vegetables? You can turn any combination of roasted vegetables into a quick and easy soup. And, that goes for leftovers.The leftovers from the roasted squash you served with chicken one night can be added to stock, simmered and then pureed to make soup the next night.

Roasted peppers

Roasted peppers

Roasted red pepper soup

Roasted red pepper soup

In the Market:

  1. Have a plan. Make a list. Check your calendar to see when you’ll actually be home to eat. A lot of the produce and dairy you buy gets tossed away because you don’t use it before it goes bad. Knowing how you’ll use what you buy and that you’ll be able to eat it will prevent you from wasting money.
  2. Shop the store’s perimeter–that’s where the produce, meat and dairy tend to be. The middle aisles, with the cookies, prepared foods, and snacks are the most dangerous and expensive places in the store. Stick with your list.
  3. Shop ethnic markets. You’ll find interesting, even unusual produce, often for less than the big chain supermarkets. If you don’t know what an item is or how to prepare it, ask someone who works in the store or a fellow customer. I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful recipes that way. And, I’ve found great deals on duck legs, lamb, fish, and other items at ethnic markets.
  4. Again, buy produce that’s in season. If there’s a great deal on a particular vegetable you enjoy, buy in quantity. You can use it to make soup; you can even freeze it. And, it’s less expensive than buying packages of frozen vegetables. If Roma tomatoes are on sale and you like tomatoes, buy several pounds, slice them in half lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil and roast. Romas have a hearty texture but they don’t have great flavor; roasting brings out the sugars. Roasted tomatoes are perfect for soup, pasta sauce and cioppino. And you can freeze them.
  5. If you like to shop farmers markets but find them too pricey, try shopping at the end of the market. Sometimes farmers will give shoppers a deal so they don’t have to schlep inventory back.
  6. If you’re single, go in with friends on deals for bulk purchases when buying at Costco, CSAs, etc.
  7. Become friends with your butcher and your produce guy/gal. They can direct you to good deals, tell you about the product,  and offer suggestions on how to use it. If you feel like making stock from scratch, ask your butcher if he/she can give you beef or lamb bones. Roast the bones, add onion, garlic, root vegetables, salt and pepper and, of course, water, to a big pot. In a couple of hours you’ve got stock for making a lot of different meals. Package them in one-cup and quart containers so you can add a little or add a lot to make soup or a stew. And don’t forget to mark them so you know what the container is and how old.

butchering

What are your favorite strategies for smart food purchases? Where do you splurge? Where do you save?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership

sorghum salad2a

We are enjoying a whole grains revolution. Not only is the public becoming enthralled with whole wheat breads, quinoa salads, and brown rice sushi rolls, but we’re being introduced to a plethora of flavorful ancient grains whose names still mystify a wide swath of consumers. Cookbook after new cookbook is coming out with recipes for grains like spelt, farro, wheat berries, and amaranth, and vendors are showcasing them on market shelves. But it doesn’t take much namedropping to underscore how much education still needs to be done.

For those of you whose focus is on creating healthy, nutritious–and, yes–very flavorful meals, ancient grains can be your best new friends. As the name suggests, ancient grains were cultivated at least a millennium ago–before GMOs and the crazy corporate methodology of removing all nutritional value. They can be cooked as grains or ground into flour. Many are gluten free.

I picked out three that you may not have come across before: freekah, sorghum, and einkorn. But if you want to really delve into ancient grains, check out my friend Maria Speck’s now classic book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. Her new book, Simply Ancient Grains, will be published in April.

So, let’s start with freekah. This is less a grain than a process which originated in the Middle East centuries ago in which grains are harvested while still green and then slow roasted in the hull. Some versions are called greenwheat freekah because the freekah is made with young wheat kernels. It’s reminiscent of farro and barley, with a nutty, grassy flavor and hearty, toothy texture.

raw freekah

What I love about it, along with the flavor and the fact that it cooks up in all of 20 minutes, is that it’s so ridiculously healthy. It’s low in fat, low carb with a low-glycemic index, high in fiber (a single serving has seven grams of dietary fiber), and is a prebiotic.

cooked freekah

Freekah is as versatile as rice, even if it’s more earthy, so it’s an easy substitute for many of your favorite rice-based recipes. This time of year, mix it up with winter squash, crispy bacon, sauteed greens, fresh apples and pears, dried fruit, toasted nuts, or mushrooms. In warmer weather, turn it into a salad with fresh herbs, shrimp, berries, or figs.

Then there’s sorghum. When I hear the word sorghum, my head immediately pulls up an image of Gone with the Wind. Isn’t it some kind of Southern molasses?

Dry sorghum grains2

Well, yes and no. One type, sweet sorghum, is a tall cereal grain that has, in fact, served as the source of an inexpensive syrup and as feed in the form of the whole plant for animals. But in the U.S. a second, shorter variety is grown for animal feed. And ethanol. And, get this, fencing, pet food, building material, and floral arrangements. Its great quality is that it’s drought tolerant (anyone growing it in California?) and very hardy. In fact, it requires a third less water to grow than corn. And that’s why, in thirsty parts of the U.S., sorghum is making a comeback. According to United Sorghum Checkoff, in 2013 8.06 million acres of sorghum were planted in the U.S.–primarily in Kansas, Texas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Colorado on dryland areas.

Originating from northeastern Africa, where it’s been growing for at least 4,000 years, sorghum spread to the rest of Africa, as well as India and China. It’s thought to have been introduced to North America in cargo ships that carried African slaves.

While corn is still king in the U.S., farmers are experiencing greater demand for sorghum and not just because of water scarcity. Because it’s an ancient grain and a gluten-free grain, increasingly people are showing a culinary interest in it. It’s ground into flour for baking but I have been enjoying the whole grains themselves–which look like pale little ballbearings with a black dot in center.

Sorghum is not difficult to find. I found Bob’s Red Mill packages of it at Whole Foods. Like any whole grain it’s endlessly versatile. Boil it like rice and enjoy it as a side dish. Create risotto with it. Make a hot cereal with it. Or, you can even pop it like popcorn.

I kept it simple just to try it out. The water to grain ratio with sorghum is 3 to 1 and it takes close to an hour to cook. The grains plump up, but they still are small and have a chewy consistency.

I first ate the cooked sorghum with a tomato-based chicken stew. Then I turned the leftovers into a sorghum and cherry tomato salad, basically rummaging through my refrigerator to use ingredients like sliced kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, diced red onion, garbanzo beans, parsley from my garden, currants, and toasted pine nuts. I tossed all of it together in a light vinaigrette I made. Day one it was a solid B. The textures were good–some crunch, some chew. The flavors were, too–sweet, herbaceous, briny, salty, garlicky (from the vinaigrette). But day two it all came together. So, make this a day in advance so the flavors can really meld.

sorghum salad

You can also pop sorghum. Use just the slightest amount of oil to a quarter cup of sorghum in a tall, heavy pot over high heat. I found that stirring with a wooden spoon seemed more useful than shaking the pot. The grains won’t all pop but even the orphans can be enjoyed without worry of cracking your teeth. What to do with them? Other than snacking, of course. They make a great garnish. The popped kernels are petite and delicate looking. Use them to top a creamy soup or a platter of roasted vegetables. Add them to a salad. Make little sweet balls (a la popcorn balls) to garnish a dessert. They’re just fun!

Popped sorghum

Finally, there’s einkorn. Einkorn is such a unique name that I figured it was some sort of exotic grain. But, in fact, it was much more familiar than I’d expected. It’s a species of wheat that is truly ancient, in its cultivated state dating back over 10,000 years ago to archeological sites in southern Turkey. In grain form, it is essentially a wheat berry–something I’ve been cooking with for years.

Einkorn

As one of the earliest cultivated forms of wheat–along with emmer–it can survive in the poorest, driest of soils. But it faded from popularity. Now it appears to be coming back, thanks to its health properties, which includes a higher percentage of proteins than modern red grains and higher levels of fat, phosphorus, potassium, and beta-carotine.

It also tastes really good. It has a sweet nutty flavor and a marvelously chewy texture, making it terrific for grain salads/sides, stuffing, and cereal. It can also be ground into a flour for baking.

Einkorn salad

I’ve prepared einkorn in two ways so far. First I made a salad filled with citrus and dried figs, sugar snap peas, toasted walnuts, and garbanzo beans. I had cooked up 1 cup of dry einkorn and used 3/4 of that for the salad.

The rest I saved for breakfast the following day. I added a little more water to the cooked einkorn, stirred it up, then heated it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. I transferred it to a bowl, added a bit of butter, maple syrup, and more toasted walnuts, along with a splash of milk. It was divine. Einkorn just absorbs any flavor you pair it with and serves it back to you in a nutty, chewy mouthful.

Einkorn cereal

You can find many ancient grains at markets like Whole Foods and Sprouts–or online.

Kale and Crimini Mushroom Greenwheat Freekah Pilaf
Makes six servings

Ingredients
1 cup greenwheat freekah
1 3/4 cups water or stock
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch kale, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as sage, oregano, or Mexican tarragon
Juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. Bring water or stock to a boil. Stir in the freekah. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes.

2. While the freekah is simmering, heat a large saute pan or wok. Add oil and let warm up. Reduce the heat and add the garlic and onions. Let them cook slowly until almost caramelized. Add mushrooms and cook until softened. Add kale and herbs. Cook until wilted. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the cooked freekah and mix thoroughly. Serve.

Kale and crimini mushroom Freekah pilaf2

 

What ancient grains do you cook with for clients?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

While chatting with Chef Bart Dorfman by phone today a topic came up that I have not addressed in the forums for some time, and Bart suggested I do so today, so here it is:

What is the difference between a personal chef service and other home meal replacement, meal delivery service; grocery store HMR pickup service; drive by restaurant pick up service and other HMR (home meal replacement) meals available in the market place today?

Thanks, Bart!

I’ve said many times for many years that what separates personal chefs from pick up or delivery service home meal replacements is the SERVICE aspect of our programs. Many times, personal chefs replace Mom or Grandma in the household from a standpoint of being that person who pays scrupulous attention to what the members of the family WANT and NEED to feel well and to feel supported.
Personal chefs are SCRATCH cooks using fresh ingredients. Personal chefs are giving their clients exactly what they want, exactly the way they want it to be enjoyed WHEN they want it.

Personal Chefs conduct an in depth assessment of each clients’ food preferences not only from a standpoint of what and how they like to eat, but also from a standpoint of allergies, sensitivities and flavor or ingredient prejudices. If a client dislikes an ingredient or is sensitive or allergic to an ingredient, we can guarantee that ingredient will never cross their threshold. I repeat, we can GUARANTEE it!

Delivery services pick up services and home meal replacements are designed and prepared for a broad-based palate and are intended to NOT offend clients who purchase them. In so doing, they actually manage to offend EVERYONE because the food tends to be bland in its makeup and its attempt to not offend anyone. Personal chef meals are palate specific to the client’s taste and the client’s requests.
Personal chef custom designed, palate specific meals taste exactly the way the client wants them to taste and reflect the client’s specific wants and needs. Further, their meals are most often prepared in the safety of the client’s kitchen where the personal chef is the guarantee of safe food preparation for the client’s peace of mind.

In today’s changing and aging population more and more people are being diagnosed with specific medical challenges or are simply reaching the realization that eating food that is NOT prepared from fresh ingredients or sourced from reputable NON GMO ingredients can have a negative effect on their health and well-being. A personal chef will do the research for the client’s needs and source ingredients from local purveyors who guarantee their safety. We are actively working to protect our clients from harm and contribute to their well being and the quality of their lives by providing nutritious, delicious meal support from safe food sources.

Many personal chefs work directly with local organic farms and CSA groups (community sourced agriculture) who provide weekly produce for residents of the community. Not every client will request this type of service, but for those who want to know where their produce, seafood and often meat are being sourced, personal chefs can tell them.

The world we live in is less than friendly sometimes. I have often said that if someone creates a “charm school” for retail clerks they will become very rich, because most retail clerks are surly, disinterested in the client’s needs or opinions and could really care less whether or not the client enjoys the experience of shopping in their establishment.

Personal chefs, on the other hand are actually asking their clients: What would you like, what do you need? I’ll get it and do it for you! Good grief, folks. We are a bright spot in their lives because we actually ask them want they want and then we GIVE IT TO THEM!!

Personal chefs ROCK, and our client’s are wise to be using our outstanding services to ensure their enjoyment of our custom designed healthy delicious meals in the comfort of their own homes and having the time back in their lives to enjoy dining with their family and loved ones.

Last updated by at .