Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Earlier this week we had a visit from Carolina Mushroom Farm, Shahane brought us fresh Oyster , Baby Bella and Shitake Mushrooms. When he told us the prices I was floored.  Not only are they grown locally over in Willow Springs they also are cheaper than what my family normally buys at Whole Foods. Shahane was a great sport in patiently waiting till I could speak to him. Our store was quite busy at the moment with deliveries and clients in for their shopping.

Last week I join SWMBO & Dan on the Low Carb diet.  When Shahane delivered the Shitakes Asian Lettuce wraps popped in my head instantly. Unfortunately its been 3 days and I am just getting a chance to cook them.  My favorite type of lettuce to use for this is butter lettuce however I only have iceberg here at home. Sigh. I will make do.

Lets talk lettuce wraps now. The ideal chicken for these is ground chicken coming in at $8.50 lb.  And while I would like to say there will be leftovers there won’t be. They just taste too darn good. I totally recommend making 2 batches of this at once. One for dinner and one for lunches. Did I mention they even taste great cold?

Store Manager and resident chef at Ninja Cow Farm LLC
Lucy lives and works on Ninja Cow Farm. Most days you'll find her tending to the garden or working in the store. She's cooked in restaurants and as a Personal Chef.

There are some perks to this farming thing

Alec Baldwin talking about not being a farmer
I’ve been in a tux, can’t say I enjoyed it.

This is meant as a dig at farmers. He’s too sophisticated to be in anything but a tux.

The last time I was in a tux, I went home with a lady who I still haven’t gotten rid of yet. (Hi SWMBO!)

Whenever I start feeling uppity, she reminds me that she put the mom curse on me, multiple times, to get remarried if I were to leave her. I’m NOT putting on one of those things again.

I’ll take being a farmer in my comfy clothes any day over being a Baldwin, or whoever he’s supposed to be playing. I actually feel sorry for people like he’s portraying. I wouldn’t give up this life for anything resembling theirs.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Happiness is a full bag of squeaky cheese

So I’m in my office, working away on paperwork, emails, etc. And on this particular morning, I’m hungry. SWMBO said no breakfast this morning when I asked, which is probably smart because the scale isn’t exactly at record lows at the moment. Nothing dramatic but skipping a meal wouldn’t kill me, especially since I’m desk bound this morning, and truck bound all afternoon.

But I’m hungry (insert whining here). And it’s hard to work when you are hungry. Then I remembered!! Squeaky cheese came in on Wednesday! I scurried down to the store and snagged a full bag and ran back to my office to hide away, work away, and squeak away.

There is still some left in the fridge if you need your fix as well. We ordered extra this time. No idea how long it will last but we are open today from 2-6 and tomorrow from 8-5. I wouldn’t recommend coming on Saturday at 5pm.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Hot Dogs Back in Stock Open Today 2-6 pm

Great news just in time for the weekend. Weeping Radish dropped by this morning and delivered Uncured Hot Dogs, Beer Bratwurst, & Linguiça. Hopefully next week they will have our  Pastrami & Roast Beef ready for delivery.

Hot dogs $7 lb 4 per pack in pork casing

Linguica $10.50 lb

Beer Bratwurst $10.50lb

We’ll be sampling the new products this weekend, stock up for Memorial Day cookouts.

Store Manager and resident chef at Ninja Cow Farm LLC
Lucy lives and works on Ninja Cow Farm. Most days you'll find her tending to the garden or working in the store. She's cooked in restaurants and as a Personal Chef.

Finally, someone talking sense about grass fed beef part 4

So what does production first, last, and most important mean to us?

It means we chase production at the expense of quality. And unless you were born in the 40s you simply don’t know what beef used to taste like. All you know is mass produced, juvenile cows. That’s right, juvenile. A cow at 24 months old is the equivalent of a person in their 20s. As we get down to 18 months, we are talking a 16 year old. 16 months? A 13 year old. But how can that be? We aren’t eating veal!

Spork sitting in a Carbon Cub
Spork sitting in a Carbon Cub

Spork just turned 13. He’s 5’9 1/2″ tall. He’s lean and strong but as tall as an average adult man. If I’d put him on a diet of Twinkies (the human equivalent of a grain diet) instead of weighing 130lbs he’d weigh 180 lbs. He’d be fat and sickly, but he’d be the size and weight of the average adult male. Success! I’ve raised him to full size. But is he full size? Hardly.

Spork has years to go, and growing to do. He’s 5’9″ now, but he’ll be well over 6 feet before he’s done growing. He’s gangly and lean right now but as he matures he’ll broaden out, muscle up, and into his 20s maybe even put on some fat. I don’t need to give him a special diet for that, I just need to give him time.

It’s much the same way with cows. Can I get a 1000 lb cow, covered in fat, in 16 or 18 months? Yep, no problem. Is that cow mature, marbled, and muscled? No. This is the first article I’ve ever seen that addresses age as a factor. This is while everything else, and everyone else, is pushing for younger and younger cows in the freezer. Heck, even the USDA has gotten into this and requires that all cows processed for meat are under 30 months of age.

How old are our cows? We target the legal limit, 28-30 months. That is twice what the typical farmer targets which is 15-18 months. Why does your grass fed steak cost more? That’s most of the reason right there.

Except when I got into this, or when I talk to anyone in the beef business, they will tell you that they are finishing at 18 months. Maybe 24. I’ve never met a soul, till I read this article, that targets beyond 24 months. All the advice I’ve ever received, including school, was to push the age down, down, down. But having done it the other way, I’m pushing it up, up, up. Mature cows taste better, period.

So is finishing grass fed, grass finished cows hard? Nah, it just takes twice the time, twice the land, about 1000 other small details we didn’t even address here, and the ability to go left when everyone else is going right. Other than that, it’s a piece of cake.

Thank you Bill for sending me this article. I truly enjoyed reading it. Maybe there is hope for us grass farmers yet.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Finally, someone talking sense about grass fed beef part 3

In the last post we asked if grass fed was worth all the hype. I’ll let the article answer this one.

Anya Fernald of Belcampo in California raises grass-fed beef prized for its deep color and flavor and its buttery fat with a yellow hue said to indicate a high vitamin content. “I wasn’t fully committed to grass-fed and -finished when I started Belcampo,” she said. “Most of it tastes terrible.” But as Ms. Fernald and her partners tested different types of feed, including barley and other grains, they found pure grass-fed cattle had a denser “knitting”—the beautiful, lacy lines of fat distributed throughout a superior cut of meat. “The driver for us is that it tastes great,” she said.

Our grass fed steak (above) beside a store bought grain fed steak (below)
Our grass fed steak (above) beside a store bought grain fed steak (below). Photo courtesy of April McLaughlin, one of our customers. 

It should say “well done” grass fed is the way. When a cow has ample forage, good genetics, a quality job done at the butcher, and is allowed to live well past normal industry finishing times (18 months), the meat is FAR superior to bland, tasteless, conventional meat. Better than “Grade A Prime” beef. There is a flavor and a richness that you cannot get from grain fed cows, period. Not a different flavor, and actual flavor. Grain fed beef is like eating packing peanuts instead of popcorn with butter and salt. The crunch is there, but not the flavor.

The best way to make sure you’re getting genuine—and tasty—grass-fed beef is to buy from a reputable butcher who can provide all the information you want on how the cattle was raised and recommend a cut that’s right for you. (See “Here’s the Beef,” below.) After talking to experts and cooking many pounds of meat, I learned that the tastiest grass-fed beef comes from cattle allowed to graze for 28 months or longer. The beef should have a good marbling of fat, a rich color and a slight smell of the grass on which it’s grazed.

Here is one place where I break away from this article. But in their context, it is correct. This author is talking about being in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles. It’s not like you’ll be in Brooklynn and hit your local grass fed farm down the street. But for those of us blessed to be in NC or anywhere that rural farms still exist, it’s better to know your farmer than it is to know your butcher. Go to the source, see how the animals are treated, and buy your products there (yes I am biased.) I also know that butchers will eschew a farmer because they are too small, too far away, or won’t discount enough. Or maybe the butcher is conventional too and doesn’t really care about grass fed. Going to the butcher is no guarantee of what you are getting.

I’d like to come back to the 28 months thing in the previous quote. When I went to grazers school (yes there is such a thing) a lot of the conversation revolved around how to finish cows in as little time as possible. If your farm can only carry 100 cows, and it takes 24 months to finish a cow, then you can produce 50 cows per year. However if you can finish your cows at 18 months,  you’ve increased your production dramatically. What about 16 months? What about 15 months. Folks, this is what beef farmers talk about. How quickly can I go from calf to cash. It lessens the time spent managing, lessens chance of predation, chance for disease or injury, everything. We are ALL about production and efficiency in this country and we are good at it.

So what does all this production cost us? That’s the next post.

 

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Finally, someone talking sense about grass fed beef part 2

During my five year ordeal trying to learn how to finish cattle properly, I went on the CFSA farm tour several times and made it a point to visit beef farmers. I stood in long lines to get a coveted piece of meat and pay a heavy premium for the opportunity, only to get home and discover all kinds of problems. Off flavors. Unbelievably tough. Much of the meat was inedible and was given to the dog. Nothing was what I’d call good. There is a saying that Grass fed’s biggest problem is grass fed farmers (selling bad meat) and my experience backed that up.

The sub-par grass-fed beef I tried in the past likely came from inexperienced farmers. “I think some of the early stabs at finishing cattle on all grass didn’t go so well,” said Dan Barber, the chef and sustainable-agriculture crusader behind Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns outside the city.

We did play with out genetics during this time period, thinking maybe we just had the wrong cows. Heck, I didn’t know, we’d had a closed herd of whatever dad thought was good all my life. Black Angus and Hereford mix? It’s called a Baldy Angus. Maybe he picked the wrong cows. Trying to step out and try new breeds is how we ended up with the Ninja Cow, and we all know how that ended.

Belted Galloway and calf
Belted Galloway and calf

In the end, we decided that like almost everything else where I questioned my dad, he was pretty darn smart and that our cows were much better than anything else we could find.

Raising the right breeds matters too—Black Angus cattle, for example, were originally bred to flourish on grass alone. “Those particular breeds have been selected for one particular thing their entire life, how well they eat,” said Mr. Niman. And it’s important to allow herds free movement, the sort grass-fed cattle enjoy throughout their lives. A well-exercised muscle makes flavorful meat.

So is grass fed worth all the hype, even if done correctly? We’ll find out in the next post.

 

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

7125 Old Stage Road Raleigh NC