Deborah Krasner's new cookbook, "Good Meat" has the subtitle, "The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat". It's true. Not only is the cookbook filled with delicious head-to-tail recipes covering beef, lamb, pork, rabbit, and poultry, but it is also filled with details on naturally raising the animals and processing the meat.
Raising a pair of sheep and/or a small flock of birds in your backyard, as Deborah did, might not be practical for everyone, but if it works for you, there's plenty of personal advice on how to do it. Even if you aren't raising your own cows, sheep or pigs there are many local farms that allow you to order a quarter, half, or full animal.
However you come to the point of talking to your meat processor, Good Meat excels in gaining an understanding of how to create a cut-sheet that trades-off the various possibilities for the processor so you get what you want, not just what the processor decides. Do you prefer chuck steaks for grilling or chuck roasts and stew meat from the first few ribs of the chuck primal cut? Deborah goes through each of the primal cuts of the various animals, describes the various cuts, and then lists the trade-offs that a processor can make. One of the more interesting aspects of the book layout is that each animal is given a photo montage that shows how the processor breaks down the meat into various well known cuts.
Each section of Good Meat details the various animal breeds, how to humanely pasture raise them, how to process the meat into traditional cuts, and then an extensive recipe section on using all that wonderful meat. The recipes run through an incredible range including traditional savory dishes, offal and other rare cuts, to even desserts. There are recipes for everyone. Looking for something traditional? Try one of the several recipes for meat loaf or burgers (both beef and lamb). Or, if you'd rather, something more exotic is just a few extra pages away; maybe a Pan-Fried Sweetbread in Butter with White Wine Sauce, or Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Vermouth Sauce made with Orange Zest, Mustard, and Cream, or one of my favorites, Lamb Tangine with Preserved Lemon and Green Olives (see recipe below).
The dessert selections are a surprise in a cookbook about meat; there are only a few, but they're a great addition. There are the expected desserts that follow the current trend of adding bacon to anything and everything (a very good trend if I do say so myself!), though in this case, it's fresh lard or bacon fat in recipes such as molasses cookies with crunch and snap and a great pie crust recipe. But that's not all. From the section on beef, for example, there's also an incredible sounding steamed suet pudding. What's not a surprise is how pasture feed, humanely raised animals become the basis for everyday meats and the delicious meals made from them.
Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Green Olives
Recipe from Good Meat by Deborah Krasner ("Stewart, Tabori & Chang", 2010)
This tagine is adapted from a recipe in Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco by Paula Wolfert, who has taught so many of us about Moroccan food. The method here is interesting. Instead of browning the meat at the start of the cooking process, you allow it to brown at the very end-it stays in the oven while you finish the sauce on the stovetop. If you don't have preserved lemon, you can make this with fresh. The flavor is a little less complex, but the dish will still be terrific. Be sure to serve this with a starch like rice to soak up the flavorful sauce.
- 4 bone-in pastured lamb shanks
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
- 3 cups water
- 3/4 cup flavorful green olives such as Atlas
- Freshly squeezed juice from 1?2 lemon
- 1/2 preserved lemon or 1 fresh lemon, rinsed and zest cut into thin strips
- Salt, as needed
- Plain yogurt mixed with a little harissa
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
Bring the meat to room temperature, rinse it, and blot it dry. Combine the ginger, cumin, saffron, cinnamon, paprika, and a generous amount of black pepper and toss the meat with this spice blend in a medium bowl.
Using a ceramic tagine, Dutch oven, flameproof clay pot with a cover such as a Chinese sand pot, or a heavy, shallow braising pan, slowly heat the olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Cook the spice-coated meat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it is warmed on all sides, glistening, and aromatic. Remove the meat from the pan and add the onions and garlic, giving them a stir and cooking for a few minutes to reduce them to limpness. Return the meat to the pan, placing it on top of the onion bed. Add the parsley and cilantro along with the water, and bring this to a quick boil. Immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible set-ting and cover the pot with a layer of parchment paper that nearly touches the meat, then put the lid on the pot-this really helps to keep the moisture in. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is nearly tender, checking occasionally to make sure there is enough liquid and turning the meat now and then. (Alternatively, you can roast the meat at 300 degrees for about the same amount of time.)
Blanch the olives in boiling water for about 1 minute, drain them, reserving the liquid, and add them to the pot, along with the lemon juice. (The blanching can be omitted, but the olives are less ?avorful and juicy without it.)
If you are using the preserved lemon, scoop out and discard the pulp from the lemon half. Cut the rind into nar-row slices and add them to the meat. For the fresh lemon, use the reserved olive-blanching water to blanch the strips of zest for 1 or 2 minutes, then add them to the pot. Cook the tagine, covered closely with parchment paper, for another 30 minutes, or until the meat is meltingly tender. If you wish, the recipe can be done ahead to this point and refrigerated; this will make it easier for you to remove the fat from the top of the braise. If you do this, gently reheat the defatted braise on the stove before proceeding.
Using tongs, transfer the meat to a sheet pan. Heat the oven to 450 degrees and set a rack just under the broiler. Crisp the meat for about 5 minutes per side.
As the oven heats and the meat crisps, skim the braising pan of any fat. Gently reduce the liquid over medium heat, if necessary, to slightly thicken the sauce. The heat must stay moderate so that you don't cook out all the good flavors. Taste and correct the seasonings as needed (be aware that preserved lemon is quite salty, so if you used it, you will need less salt than if you used fresh).
Combine the now-browned meat and the sauce, and serve, garnished with a dollop of harissa-spiked yogurt and a generous sprinkle of chopped cilantro.
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.