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Aussie Meat Trends

Food For Thought

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Chipotle Founder, Chairman and Co-CEO Steve Ells’ thoughtful and thought-provoking op-ed in the Huffington Post, “Conventional vs. Grassfed Beef” earlier this summer raised a lot of eyebrows in the beef and foodservice industries, in large part because of the source. Ells’ Chipotle is a brand known for its “food with integrity” mission and emphasis on sustainable food sourcing. As such, many were surprised to see a public declaration that the iconic burrito brand was sourcing most of its grass-fed “Responsibly Raised” beef all the way from Australia.

Ells’ point is that quality and the way beef is raised – on grass, humanely, without added hormones or antibiotics – is more relevant and important than geographic origin. With so much emphasis placed on local when it comes to sustainability, it marked a new way to consider a responsible choice. We hope to add to the conversation in the coming months, with the pending release of a study of the total environmental impact of meats from Australia.

Keeping it Fresh: Spring Side Dishes

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Whether you're talking about new ideas or the verdant produce that's just starting to make its debut, spring is the season for freshness.

This month's Featured Chef, Brad Farmerie of New York City’s PUBLIC and Saxon + Parole, is all about cooking the unexpected to help his diners gain a new perspective at the table. We asked him to share thoughts on the spring side dishes he’d prepare with grass-fed red meats. With his infectious energy, Chef Brad had no shortage of fresh suggestions, including:

Pea Tendrils

Also known as pea shoots, these spiraling, delicate young leaves, stems, vines, and flowers of a pea plant are subtly sweet, with a mild bitter aftertaste and a light, nutty crunchiness. Making their debut at the close of winter, they're only available during a few weeks of the year (and their appearance is a sure-fire sign that spring has sprung). Harvested before pea pods have developed, they’re also available earlier in the season than shelled peas. "They offer more body, freshness and acidity," says Farmerie, praising their ability to give a lamb dish more of a salad-like, light feel. Additionally, a pea shoot salsa verde can make a fitting partner for goat, offering a different, complex flavor.

Eggplant

"A bullseye," says Chef Brad, of the pairing of eggplant and grass-fed lamb or goat. During the spring, one way to use this year-round favorite would be to top meat with an eggplant relish, made with roasted eggplant, pickled onions, mint and lime juice, or a combination of eggplant and preserved lemon. Additionally, "eggplant can take on an even richer, meatier flavor when it's enhanced with miso or tahini," says Farmerie, who’s also a fan of Asian and Middle Eastern-inspired flavors. An Australian Lamb Loin with Black Baba Ghanoush (Farmerie's take on the traditional Middle Eastern roasted, peeled and mashed eggplant-and tahini-based spread) is currently on the menu at PUBLIC. Rounding out the dish are Za'atar Roasted Cippolini Onion, Goat’s Milk Feta and Pistachio Vinaigrette.

A Hint of Sweetness

As we’re moving away from winter's rich, savory fare, "there's something about spring that suggests sweetness, whether actual or implied," says Chef Brad. As part of his cooking philosophy, Farmerie likes to stay true to his ingredients, while also challenging diners to push their culinary boundaries. To get there, he often looks to the Middle East (and the influence of his Lebanese grandparents) for inspiration, particularly during the spring. In his repertoire are spices commonly used in Moroccan cuisine, like star anise, cloves and cinnamon. They’re ideal for adding a level of aromatic sweetness to a lamb dish, while keeping things light and seasonally on-point. Farmerie often likes to add a few dried fruits to continue the theme while adding a bit of texture that harmonizes with the texture of the meat.

Rounding Out Your Menu: Chickpea Panisse

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This month’s Featured Chef, Australian-born Craig Hopson, has a preference for Australian Lamb—though he’s not just being patriotic. One draw for him is Australian Lamb’s consistency. “Your level of quality and tenderness is always the same. Cutting and trimming is always the same,” he says.     

We asked Chef Craig to share a few of his favorite dish and menu pairings. Here’s what he had to say. 

On the plate: “Classic Mediterranean foods like chickpeas, artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes are a perfect pairing for Australian lamb,” says Hopson. His pairing du jour is easy-to-make chickpea panisse, baked or fried chickpea cakes with a polenta-like texture and an affinity for tender lamb loin. His recipe:     

Chickpea Panisse

Servings

1 half sheet pan    

Ingredients  

2.75 quarts chicken stock

4 ounces garlic confit, passed through a sieve

0.75 quart chickpea flour, sifted

5 ounces extra virgin olive oil

2.5 tablespoons salt

Directions     

  1. Bring stock to a boil.    
  2. Add garlic confit to boiling stock and whisk.    
  3. Slowly, whisk in sifted flour. Mixture will start to thicken.    
  4. Turn heat to low and scrape bottom and sides with a rubber spatula.     
  5. Cook for 20 minutes.    
  6. Take off heat and using a stick blender, add salt and olive oil.    
  7. Pour mixture onto a sheet tray that is lined with parchment paper and olive oil.    
  8. Cool 5–10 minutes, cover the top surface with parchment paper and let set in fridge.      

Like polenta, chickpea panisse offers a rich, savory flavor all its own, and its texture is also made to soak up a range of sauces.      

To Try

Substitute chickpea panisse for the zucchini, walnut and caper couscous in this quick, Mediterranean-inspired recipe.    

On the Holiday Menu

A flavorful beet salad with goat cheese, walnuts and watercress is a great way to introduce diners to a classic holiday lamb dish, like this semi-boneless leg of lamb with roasted potatoes.

For a casual holiday dinner (the kind he’d prepare for friends), Chef Craig suggests a slow-cooked lamb shoulder, accompanied by a Tabbouleh-style dish with bulgur, along with kale or other sautéed greens. As a first course, try a shrimp salad with cucumbers and almonds.

Ode to the Onion

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Onions can be more than just another ingredient in the culinary chorus—especially if you’ve got grass-fed, grilled meat on the agenda. This month’s innovative Featured Chef, Dirk Flanigan, suggests promoting them to side dish, with an onion purée. Simple to prepare, the delicious end result “combines earthy sweetness with a rich onion flavor.”

 

 

Recipe: ONION PURÉE 

Serves 10 (approximately 3 oz portions) 

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. Spanish (or sweeter) onions
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • ½ lb. unsalted butter 
  • Salt and cracked pepper, to taste  

Method

Roast whole onions at 350˚F for 2 hours. Pierce with cooking needle to test for doneness; needle should be able to be inserted through onions with no resistance. Let cool.

Heat cream to simmer and soften butter. In a vita-prep blender, combine with onions, butter and cream, and sprinkle lightly with pepper. Blend until consistency resembles a thin mashed potato. Serve warm. 

Easy to Customize 

Offering the consistency of thin mashed potatoes, a basic onion purée will work well with goat, lamb or beef. Savory on its own, the beauty of the recipe is that its many variations can harmonize easily with even the most complex of red meat dishes.  

One variation that worked particularly well for Chef Dirk was the honey-truffle onion purée he paired with his crowd-drawing "goatchetta," at the 2012 StarChefs Tattoos, Booze and BBQ event in New York City. This dish was a riff on porchetta, made with Australian Goat. An Australian Goat loin and belly were stuffed with de-nuded hindquarter meat and seasoned with flavors of BBQ. Pressed and braised forequarter meat (goat neck and shoulder) was also added to the loin, with Activa RM used as a binding agent. The loin was cooked sous vide with smoked chiles, shallots and paprika, then finished on the grill. 

The honey-truffle onion purée variation proved a perfect foil for the smoky, savory, and BBQ-sweet character of the goatchetta. To prepare this variation, Chef Dirk added a pound of honey truffles to the softened butter-cream mix, before blending. Radish cress salad and BBQ vinaigrette rounded out the dish.  

For Sipping

Serving tender-grilled meat and a smoky onion purée? Chef Dirk suggests pairing the dish with a ripe, round, food-friendly Italian red wine, like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Valpolicella (Buglioni is a favorite producer). Or, serve diners a dry, fruit-forward sparkling rosé. Bugey, from the Jura region of eastern France, is one of his go-to wines. Like the Italian reds, it will mesh well with the savory, earthy flavors of the meat and onion purée.