It's January, the winter chill has finally set in, and nothing sounds better than curling up with a hearty, filling stew. Don't sacrifice your New Year's resolutions just yet. Try this satisfying and light Cioppino instead of something that will weigh you down.
Cioppino is an Italian-American fish stew that originated in San Francisco, California. Originally it was made on boats while out at sea and later became a staple in Italian restaurants.
You can add all sorts of seafood to this stew — clams, mussels, shrimp, white fishes, salmon, octopus — you name it. Serve it with white wine and some crusty bread to sop up the flavorful broth.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
5 cups fish stock
1 bay leaf
1 pound clams, scrubbed
1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 pounds assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets such as halibut or salmon, cut into 2-inch chunks
Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.
Add the clams and mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and fish. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard any clams and mussels that do not open). Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and red pepper flakes.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.
Friend of the store and loyal customer, Sean Vineyard (@chezsean85), was gracious enough to detail how he makes duck prosciutto at home with very little equipment. Read on and get inspired!
HOME-CURED DUCK PROSCIUTTO
Words and photos by Sean Vineyard
Coppa. Bresaola. Lomo. Panchetta. Prosciutto. American’s love cured meats, and with good reason; we’ve been curing meats for centuries. What once was done out of necessity as a means of preservation is now done out of a passion for rich, concentrated, meaty deliciousness. Why did we stop curing meats? Mostly because of refrigeration, but ultimately it’s the same reason we no longer have cassette players in our cars. Something better came along.
Many people now associate charcuterie with low production artisans, tucked away in the back of a small store-front, legs of prosciutto hanging from the window, skillfully stuffing natural casings with pork, fat, wine, fennel, pepper, and garlic to make finocchiona salami. So, what if I told you that you could make cured meats at home? Most people don’t believe me. What if I told you that you could do it in less than three weeks, start-to-finish? Usually people look at me as though I’ve proven string theory when I tell them that.
The least complicated of all of the variety of charcuterie is definitely whole muscle cured meats. That is to say, essentially everything less salami and cured sausages. Of the whole muscle cured meats, duck prosciutto is the easiest way to gain entry into the vastly addicting world of home curing and that is largely because it is quick. You can see results in a couple of weeks and adjust recipes to your liking instead of 6-18 months if you were to cure a whole hog leg to make traditional prosciutto. Okay enough talking, let’s get started – trust me – those who know me know I love to talk and will gladly do so if not intervened.
What You Will Need
2-3 duck breasts
¼ cup juniper berries
2 TBSP peppercorns (mixed black, green, red, and white if you can)
2 TBSP fennel seed
2-3 whole star anise
4 bay leaves
4 cups of sea salt
Light vinegar (not distilled) or white wine for rinsing
How to Select Your Duck
Just as with any dish you make, selecting the right ingredients is one of the most essential parts. No matter how good of a Chef or cook you are, you can’t turn bad products into something that tastes good. My recommendation is create a relationship with your grocer. Know your butcher. And if you can, know your farmer.
When selecting which type of duck breast to use I thought it best to ask The Organic Butcher, Don Roden, what his thoughts are on the subject. Don says that there are three widely available breeds of duck available. Those being Peking, Moulard, and Muscovy. If anyone has ever eaten at a decent Chinese restaurant, you’re probably quite familiar with Peking duck. Peking duck has a lower fat to flesh ratio making it the least ideal for curing. Remember, fat is good! And truthfully, if you don’t like fat, we can’t be friends. Moulard is the Rolls Royce of duck breasts. Rich, fatty, deep in color and flavor. But just like with a Rolls Royce, they are expensive. They are well worth the price but certainly not the best option to try out your hand in curing. That leaves the Muscovy. Don says the Muscovy has the best fat to flesh ratio, portion sizes, and flavor, and they are very affordable.
Once you have decided the type of duck to buy, you need to select your meat. Freshness is imperative in curing meats because any ‘funk’ will be exacerbated by the curing process and while stinky cheeses always have a place in my fridge, stinky meats are not good eats! There are three senses that are important to remember when selecting your meat. Sight, feel, and smell. First, you want to make sure that the duck is not greying along the flesh or yellowing along the fat or skin. Second, you want to make sure that the duck is wet but not slimy. Last, and probably the most important, make sure that the duck smells relatively neutral. Yes, any good butcher will let you smell their products! As strange as it may seem, do it. It should smell like raw meat, not like a trash can. If it’s not pleasurable to your nose, it won’t be pleasurable to your stomach.
Preparing Your Cure
The cure is a very important part of the process. This is what draws out the moisture in the meat. The moisture, being a veritable bacteria playground, is not something that we want a lot of. In fact, the curing and aging process should reduce the overall weight of your meat by about 25-30%. The curing process is also what imparts a lot of the flavor to the meats based on what spices you put in the cure. While I have my favorite spices, I recommend that first-timers use just salt. By doing that you are going to really taste the meat itself and then you can figure out which spices you want to add based on your preferences and not just listening to what I say works. Create your own cure! That’s part of the fun.
My basic ratio for my cures are 1 part spices to 3 or 4 parts salt (depending on how thick the meat is and how much of the flavor of the spices you want in the meat). The key thing to remember when making your cure, regardless of what spices you use, is to use whole spices and toast them! Toasting them brings out the oils of the spices and brings an added layer of complexity to the flavor. To toast your spices, places your whole spices in a pan on medium heat. You will want to nearly constantly stir the spices for 5-6 minutes until they begin turning golden brown on the outside and become very fragrant. Put them into a spice grinder (or you can grind them by hand) and blend them all together. Then mix the spices into the cure. Let the cure cool down. You do not want to bring any heat to the raw meat. I will often times put the cure mixture into the fridge for an hour or so to let it cool.
Curing and Aging
To begin the curing process, place about half of the cure in the bottom of a baking dish. I generally prefer glass. You want to make sure there is at least one inch of cure on the bottom of the dish. Place your duck breast on the mixture. You will see some recipes tell you to score the skin and fat. Truthfully, I never do. It makes the duck too salty and makes it more challenging to slice afterwards. Not to mention it doesn’t look as uniform when you slice it. It’s all about the presentation! You will also see recipes that tell you to place it skin-side down. I have never seen any difference in taste or texture with doing it skin or flesh side down so you do whatever your heart desires.
You want to make sure that your duck breasts are spaced about an inch apart to ensure that the cure gets in contact with every bit of the duck. Pour your remaining mixture over the meat (again, you should have at least an inch of mixture on top of your duck). Cover the whole thing and put it in the fridge for between 2 and 3 days depending on the size of your duck breasts. I will usually stick with 48 hours unless they are particularly large.
After the two days, take the duck out of the fridge and remove it from the cure. The duck breasts should be firm but not hard, a little smaller in size, and slightly darker in color since much of the moisture has been removed. You’ll want to remove any excess cure by pouring a little vinegar over it. I usually use a white wine or apple cider vinegar. You can also use white wine if you have some lying around and for some strange reason you don’t want to drink it.
Now it’s time to wrap it, tie it, and hang it. You wrap the duck in cheese cloth to prevent direct air contact when it is drying/aging. Direct air contact will dry out the outside of the flesh too quickly and it may prevent the inside of the duck from properly drying. Take your cheese cloth and lay it on a flat surface. Place the duck at one edge in the center. Roll it (like you would a sandwich) and about half way through fold in the ends and then continue rolling it. Use the butchers twine to tie the duck. It is easiest to YouTube videos on “how to tie a roast” to show you how to properly tie the duck.
It’s hard to explain how to properly tie without a video. Make sure to leave a loop of twine at the top to hang it. For the drying process you can get an S-hook or a suction cup hook from the hardware store and place it in your fridge. Unless you want to go all out and build an in home curing fridge like I did. Hang the duck and place a Tupperware container underneath it filled with salt water. It should be about the same as ocean water. This will create a micro humid climate since refrigerators are notoriously dry and that is not what we want. Make sure that the duck breasts are not touching each other or anything else. If they touch, the contact points could create warm, high humidity areas that could grow bad mold. You want to keep the duck hanging for two weeks. After that you’re ready to eat it!
Slicing and Serving
You have a couple of options for slicing and endless options for serving. You want to cut the duck prosciutto paper thing. If you are have a meat slicer at your house, you are already far more prepared than most. If you don’t have a meat slicer, a very sharp slicing knife will work just fine. I find it easiest to lay the duck fat side down if slicing by hand. The key is to go slow and take as few strokes as possible when slicing.
For serving, I love the duck prosciutto just like it is. No accompaniment, no accoutrement, just duck. But you can pair it with figs and bread or crisp it up and put it in a salad. Whatever peaks your interest, do it.
This week's featured fall recipe is a simple duck confit. This version is pared down from the original, but still requires a bit of time (the legs are cured for 24 hours, and then cooked for about 3 ½ hours). In this recipe the duck legs cook in their own rendered fat, rather than in quarts of additional fat. For someone who has never made duck confit, this will make prep and clean up a breeze.
Duck Confit with a Fig and Red Wine Sauce
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
8 Moulard duck legs (about 4 pounds total), rinsed and patted dry but not trimmed
12 fresh figs, halved (dried will work if soaked in water overnight)
2 cups red wine, such as Barolo
1. In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf pieces. Sprinkle duck generously with mixture. Place duck legs in a pan in one layer. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
2. The next day, heat oven to 325 degrees. Place duck legs, fat side down, in a large ovenproof skillet, with legs fitting snugly in a single layer (you may have to use two skillets or cook them in batches). Heat duck legs over medium-high heat until fat starts to render. When there is about 1/4 inch of rendered fat in pan, about 20 minutes, flip duck legs, cover pan with foil, and place it in oven. If you have used two pans, transfer duck and fat to a roasting pan, cover with foil and place in oven.
3. Roast legs for 2 hours, then remove foil and continue roasting until duck is golden brown, about 1 hour more. Remove duck from fat; reserve fat for sauce.
4. Add the figs and wine to roasting pan with remaining duck fat. Heat over medium until the wine has evaporated by half and the figs have softened, scraping any crusty bits from the pan into the wine.
5. Arrange duck legs on a plate and serve with the wine sauce.
100% Grass-fed meat is from cows that are pasture-raised on grass, from start to finish. They are rich in good fats, and managed sustainably. Compared to conventionally raised meats, which get little or no exercise, it's leaner and there is true muscle integrity in the meat. But leaner doesn't mean tougher. Cooked more gently, grass-fed meat is juicy and tender.
When cooking a grassfed steak, you'll want sear it and then allow it to finish cooking at 325F. This allows the naturally-occurring sugars to caramelize on the surface, while keeping the muscle fibers from contracting too quickly. Tough grass-fed steaks result from over-exposure to high heat, which causes the muscle fibers to contract tightly and become chewy and dry.
The biggest mistake people make when cooking grass-fed beef is over-cooking it. These five tips will ensure a perfectly cooked steak every time.
1. Lower the cooking temperature. Because grass-fed beef is leaner than its grain-fed counterpart, you need to cook it at a slightly lower temperature (at least 50 F) for 30-50% less time. Otherwise, you cook off the fat and are left with a dry, tough, unappealing mass of meat that’s lost many of its nutrients. (The more cooked your grass-fed beef, the more Omega 3s you lose.)
2. Invest in a meat thermomenter. You may know how to eyeball when conventional meat is done, but because grass-fed beef is leaner, you don’t have the same kind of wiggle room for mistakes. A meat thermometer will ensure you cook your meat just the way you like it — every time. The desired internal temperatures for grass-fed beef are:
IMPORTANT NOTE! To achieve the desired temperature, remove the meat from heat when it’s about 10 degrees lower than your goal temperature. The residual heat will finish cooking the meat over the next ten minutes as you let it rest.
3. Start steaks at room temperature. This is a good rule for all meats, but especially for grass-fed-beef. By starting your meat at room temperature, it will take less time to reach the ideal internal temperature while cooking. This gentler cooking method will help your meat stay juicy and delicious.
4. Don’t play with your meat. Avoid the temptation to poke steaks or roasts with forks or pat burgers down with spatulas. This lets all that delicious fat escape, giving you a less juicy end result.
5. Give your meat a rest. When you’re done cooking your meat, let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing into it. This allows time for the escaped juices to reincorporate back into the meat.
GRASS-FED RIB-EYE STEAKS WITH BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE (Epicurious)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for steaks and grill
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
4 3/4-inch-thick grass-fed rib-eye steaks
3 garlic cloves, pressed
4 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Simmer vinegar in small pan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Add shallots, 1/4 cup oil, and crushed red pepper; return to simmer. Remove from heat; whisk in parsley, capers, and thyme. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
Rub both sides of steaks with oil and garlic. Mix paprika, 2 teaspoons coarse salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper in small bowl. Sprinkle on both sides of steaks. Let stand at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Prepare grill (medium-high heat). Brush grill rack with oil to coat. Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness. Transfer steaks to plates. Spoon vinaigrette over.
The Organic Butcher of McLean has a wide range of 100% grass-fed meats, order online or come in and see us. If you prefer more marbled meats, we also carry humane, antibiotic-free, pasture-raised beef (with access to grain).
Welcome to the first installment of our new Fall Recipe Series! The weather hasn't exactly cooled off but school is back in session and our mindset has shifted away from summer and toward cozier nights.
This recipe is simple and flavorful, but won't heat your kitchen up like a stew simmering all day. It's originally from Nigel Slater's book Tender but we've adapted it to make it a bit easier.
This dish is both paleo and gluten-free IF you can find Jerusalem artichokes. Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, are tubors that look like ginger root but have a flavor more in line with a potato. They can be mashed, roasted or pureed and boast less carbs than a sweet potato.
Sunchokes are in season from October - April, so should be in stores and farmers markets soon. We substituted small new potatoes and purple potatoes for some color in the meantime. The final product was delicious.
Pork Sausage with Jerusalem Artichokes
8 pork sausage links (our gluten-free Bratwurst or Mild Italian work well)
4 medium yellow onions, cut into thick segments
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup mushrooms, halved
2 cups Jerusalem artichokes or potatoes
1 large lemon, cut into segments
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp grass-fed butter
Chicken stock or water to cover – about 2 cups
Salt to taste
A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Heat the butter over medium heat, add onions and sauté until soft. Add garlic, mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes (or potatoes) to the pan. Cook for a few minutes then squeeze the lemon segments and add them to the pan. Add fennel seeds and salt, then cover the vegetables with stock or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the Jerusalem artichokes or potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
When the Jerusalem artichokes are tender, uncover, and cook on high until all of the liquid has evaporated. Be sure to take your time and allow the vegetables to caramelize. Color equals flavor!
Meanwhile, grill or pan-cook the sausages until cooked through and browned.
Sprinkle parsley on top and serve.
Wine suggestion: Michael Shaps Cabernet Franc
The question of which dietary fats are good and which are bad has caused a lot of confusion lately. Some fats are heart-heathy, some are not. Some oils are processed with chemicals, some are not. Some break down at high temperatures, some do not. Some sound healthy because of the word vegetable in their name, but aren’t. What’s a cook to do?
We thought we’d put together a short primer on which fats to use and when. Bookmark this page and refer to it when in question.
Most cooking oils on the market are processed with chemical solvents, steamers, neutralizers, de-waxers, bleach and deodorizers before they end up in the bottle. Highly processed seed oils contain very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, that can have detrimental health effects when consumed in high quantities. Sadly, these oils are in nearly everything we eat nowadays. Grain-fed livestock, is also high in omega-6. A diet high in omega-6 is associated with an increase in inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and cancer to mention a few.
Here are the industrial oils to toss from your kitchen:
Refined palm oil
Refined peanut oil
These are the saturated fats and healthy plant-based oils from meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, and avocados that are loaded with omega-3s. It has recently been debunked that saturated fats cause heart disease. In fact, it’s the very removal of these from the American diet and the increase of sugar and carbohydrates that has attributed to a whole host of health issues, including obesity, diabetes and chronic inflammatory conditions.
Saturated fat has been shown to have positive effects on the body, including helping the liver to function more effectively, boosting the immune system and aiding in the regulation of hormones.
Some things to keep in mind during food prep:
Best fats for hot use (with their smoke points):
Beef tallow (400°F)
Duck fat (375°F)
Avocado oil (400°F)
Coconut oil (350°F)
Extra virgin olive oil (325°F)
Grass-fed butter (350°F )
Best for cold use:
Extra virgin olive oil
At The Organic Butcher, we carry a wide array of high quality oils and animal fats, and can help guide you toward the right choice for your needs. Just ask!
Tired of chicken breast for dinner but not in the mood for red meat? Throw our Berkshire Heritage pork chops on the grill for an easy, but over-the-top delicious meal.
Berkshire pork is a heritage breed of pig, which was discovered over 300 years ago in Berkshire County in the United Kingdom. Berkshire pork is renowned for its richness, texture, marbling, juiciness, tenderness and overall depth of flavor. It is thought by many to be the Kobe beef of pork. It is said to have a very specific taste, not generic and bland or mild like regular pork.
Berkshire pork is a richer pink, almost red color and heavily marbled. They were specially bred for the King of England for his own personal meat supply, because of the excellence in the meat.
To take this pork to the next level, rub both sides with our Butcher Shop Steak Rub. For medium-thick pork chops sear both sides of the chops briefly over high heat to get a nice crust and then move them to an area of less intense heat, cover the grill, and let them cook through. Or leave a little pink inside for the perfect chop.
Served with an arugula salad and a nice vinaigrette, and you've got yourself a meal fit for a king!