Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dana Joy on Summer Grilling: Size Matters

I love meat. And whoever told you that size doesn't matter was lying. Because, honey child, it does.

My friends Geno & Paula came over the other night and brought with them this gorgeous, two pound, grass-fed, bone-in, three inch thick, New York strip steak from Schmeisser's Butcher Shop in Chicago. This was a real gift. This, from the same people who once bought me a 3 lb. fat-wrapped beef tenderloin for my birthday. Cause that's what you give the girl who has everything; you give her meat.

I used to eat meat 3-4-5 times a week. But not anymore. Now, it's a real celebration when I do and my meat rituals are special and sacred.

A few months ago, I saw a screening of the movie Food, Inc. and it changed me forever. I can no longer eat meat, mindlessly; I need to know it was raised naturally and humanely. My current budget doesn't allow for the meat sprees I used to afford so now I'm careful to parse out a small amount each week for some beautiful, preferably local, pasture raised beef, lamb, pork or chicken. So many farmers' markets are now selling locally raised meats and be sure to also ask your butcher where they get their meats from. The more you request meats that are grass-fed, pasture-raised and locally-raised, the more they will become available to you. (Remember, it's your birthright.)

My favorite way to prepare meat is to grill it using real, hardwood charcoal. Both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's sell hardwood charcoal and in my opinion, you should never grill with anything but. The flavor says it all. Use a chimney starter which is more economical and keeps the chemicals away from you and your precious meat.

So, back to this gorgeously large piece of meat - we seasoned it simply with sea salt, fresh ground pepper and fresh thyme and cooked it over a medium-hot grill for 6 minutes a side to medium-rare. It's so big, we had to cook it on all four sides! Is that crazy talk or what? I love it! After taking it off the heat, we tented it loosely in foil and let it sit for 5 minutes before cutting it in into thick slices - it was the perfect amount for three ravenous adults.

I also made a completely un-summery potato preparation - twice baked potatoes. My friend Geno is very fond of copious amounts of butter, garlic, bacon, cream, cheese and salt. He's one of my oldest friends and I love to make him happy. So, I turned my oven on in the middle of summer and made them for him.

Other than that there was a salad with a lemon vinaigrette that contained pretty much the entire contents of my vegetable drawer: chard, cucumbers, fresh peas, carrots, red onions, breakfast radishes and basil.

And lastly, I macerated peaches in sugar and fresh mint and served them over the vanilla ice cream I made earlier in the week.

It really doesn't get any better than this. So here's to summer. And big meat.


MEB said...

this cattle country girl's stomach is growling!

You make seem simple and EASY for even us cuisine novices!

This might be a bland request but anything out there to spice up ordinary chicken breasts?

Dana Joy - TasteSetter, Writer, Real Food Advocate said...

Howdy MEB, well, yes, first off if you want to ensure that your chicken breasts stay moist,(nothing worse than a dried out bland piece of chicken) soak them in buttermilk for 20 minutes before you do anything to them. That's an old Sara Moulton trick I learned. You could also add some hot sauce to that and from there, season with salt and pepper and then grill, bake or broil them. I also love to marinade chicken breasts in harissa paste and yogurt and then grill, broil or bake them. Guaranteed flavor! That's like a trip to Morocco on your fork! :)