This summer I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I picked it up because I was fascinated with the idea of living off the land for a whole year, not that I could ever imagine doing it myself. As I read more and more I had this odd sense that Barbara was preaching to me, nagging me and admonishing me for not being like her and her family. Her tone carried this “I am better than you” attitude and I began to resent her condescending words.
I find myself in the unique position of having many opportunities to provide myself with healthy and local sources of food. I realize that not everyone can have backyard chickens, or plant their own garden, or visit their local famers market. But I can only tell my story as it unfolds and the choices I make, and hope that I always come across as grateful and humble.
Whew, now that is out of the way…. J. used to work for a big “beef company-who-must-not-be-named” here in Colorado. He worked in their corporate offices. We had a first-hand look into the world of meat processing and packaging. It totally changed the way I felt about beef and my relationship to it. I couldn’t continue to buy into this corporation that produced such mediocre product and filled the cows with corn, hormones and anitbiotics (neither of which are good for the cows or you and I).
So we made a choice that I recognize is not available to everyone. We bought a 1/4 of a cow from a ranch located just 15 miles from our house. In the late spring we drove out to the ranch to meet the people who were raising the cows in their pasture. The cows were peacefully roaming the through the grass, a beautiful stream with spring run-off rushed by the cotton wood trees. No feed lots, no cows crammed into small spaces with manure and mud. When the time came the cows would be taken to slaughter and the meat would be aged for 21 days. The meat was then packaged by a USDA inspected company and hand delivered to us by the lovely people who own the ranch.
I can honestly say you can taste the difference, and not in a Boulder Hippy Organic Yoga way. The beef is richer, more tender, intense in its texture and flavor. It is a win-win situation. Not only do I help out a small family farm in my local area, but in return I get beef that has been raised humanely and tastes far superior to anything I have ever had. (To my vegetarian friends and family I understand your concerns and convictions, and I respect your choices)
If you find yourself with the opportunity, I highly recommend supporting your local rancher and community by buying locally.
This weekend I made a pot roast from an English Roast that was part of our 1/4 cow purchase. It was amazing.
Published November 1, 2010. From Cook’s Illustrated.
- 1(3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast , pulled into two pieces at natural seam and trimmed of large knobs of fat
- Kosher salt
- 2tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2medium onions , halved and sliced thin (about 2 cups)
- 1large carrot , chopped medium (about 1 cup)
- 1celery rib , chopped medium (about 3/4 cup)
- 2medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1cup beef broth , plus 1 to 2 cups for sauce (see note)
- 1/2cup dry red wine , plus 1/4 cup for sauce
- 1tablespoon tomato paste
- 1bay leaf
- 1sprig plus 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- Ground black pepper
- 1tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1. Sprinkle pieces of meat with 1 tablespoon salt (1½ teaspoons if using table salt), place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet, and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
- 2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add carrot and celery; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes longer. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1 cup broth, ½ cup wine, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme sprig; bring to simmer.
- 3. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season generously with pepper. Using 3 pieces of kitchen twine, tie each piece of meat into loaf shape for even cooking.
- 4. Nestle meat on top of vegetables. Cover pot tightly with large piece of foil and cover with lid; transfer pot to oven. Cook beef until fully tender and sharp knife easily slips in and out of meat, 3½ to 4 hours, turning halfway through cooking.
- 5. Transfer roasts to cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Strain liquid through mesh strainer into 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprig. Transfer vegetables to blender jar. Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then skim any fat off surface. Add beef broth as necessary to bring liquid amount to 3 cups. Place liquid in blender with vegetables and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer sauce to medium saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat.
- 6. While sauce heats, remove twine from roast and slice against grain into ½-inch-thick slices. Transfer meat to large serving platter. Stir chopped thyme, remaining ¼ cup wine, and vinegar into sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon half of sauce over meat; pass remaining sauce separately.