Category Archives: Recipes

Brisket Tostadas

The NCF Store recently started carrying a smaller sized brisket. Instead of 7-8lbs the new cut is more manageable for a family at 2 ½ to 4 lbs. This meal fed 2 families, 5 children and 5 adults for under $70. That’s a big crowd when you realize the kids are hitting peak growth and hunger ages. Yesterday, was a typically busy house day. It’s the beginning of the homeschooling year, creating a bit of chaos.

I started watch Big Bang Theory years ago, since then I’ve wanted to make Howard’s Mother’s Brisket. It always appears to be one of those sought after items and much discussed. At 11 a.m. I realized, “Oh no the brisket isn’t in the oven yet. Is it too late?” Usually when I smoke a brisket, I like to keep it at 225 F for 12 hours. This however, was going to be served at 6 pm. OOPS!. As I seasoned the roast I discovered I was out of garlic powder. My mise en place was non-existent. I did what any good cook does and turned up the heat, changed the recipe and crossed my fingers.

In the afternoon, I met up with Erin (our neighbor & NCF’s milker) and run a chicken errand. When Erin and I walked in the door at 5:30pm; Bam the smell hit us. Something amazing had happened while we’d been out, the garlic powder missing was a great accident. Erin was planning to make tostadas for dinner and we both thought the kids would love to have dinner together and pulled beef brisket tostadas just sound AMAZING. I must admit they tasted even better, especially since Erin pampered us with fresh fried tostada shells.

Sorry, there aren’t a ton of pictures of the process as I did not plan on blogging this due to my loss of time management. It is too good not to share though.

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Savory Brisket

  • 1 3-4 lb beef brisket
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 med. yellow onions sliced thinly
  • 2 heads of garlic cut in ½
  • ½ cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 cup high quality no salt beef broth
  1. Pre-heat oven to 285 F
  2. After bringing the roast up to room temperature season both sides with salt pepper and onion powder.
  3. Place in Dutch Oven fat side up with a firm lid ( If no dutch oven is available use an oven safe deep skillet with tight fitting lid.) Or yes a crock pot on the high (about 250F) and be prepared to wait an extra hour or 2.
  4. Lay garlic & onions across the top and sides of the brisket evenly
  5. Pour Worcestershire Sauce over the top of the roast
  6. Pour beef broth on the sides of the roast.
  7. Place lid & place in the oven for 6.5 hours
  8. Once the brisket can be pulled apart gently with a fork remove and rest for 15 minutes before pulling apart completely. Serve warm

As for the tostadas fill that puppy up anyway you like. We topped the shell with refried beans, brisket, onions, lettuce, cheese and fresh tomatoes.

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No side dishes needed here, Tostadas are a full meal.

For another application serve it as a pulled apart roast. Remove the fat off the top of the sauce with a turkey baster, remove the garlic & onion, reduce and serve in its own dish. In my house folks a picky about the amount of sauce they use.

Lamb Sliders with Chevre Cream

Ninja Cow Farm is now carrying a wide arrange of lamb products from High Rock Farm and Thistledown Farm. Dan goes to great lengths to search out small farms that meet his standards. He wants clients to get the best flavor of ethically raised, local meat possible.

Imagine tasty lamb as a burger, now as a fancy cheeseburger. This is  a meal to impress friends. The grand total for it should ring in under $25 for 4.  I served this decadent slider with  a small simple salad and vinaigrette.  A great way to introduce your kids to a more complex flavor palate without spending $75 at a nice restaurant that serves lamb.

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In this recipe, I’m going to teach you how to make Chevre into a condiment called crema.  It is a simple way to use a semi-soft cheese, turning it into a spread.

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Chevre Cream

  • 1 small log of Celebrity Dairy Chevre
  • 1/4 cup Simply Natural Dairy Heavy Cream
  1. Slice all rind off of the chevre log.                                                                     * While some prefer the flavor of rind I’m not a fan. It is not so friendly when melting down into a sauce.
  2. Crumble or cut Chevre into small pieces we want this to melt into the cream quickly.
  3. Using a heavy bottomed pan heat cream over a lo-med heat. Stir often as the fat & sugar content will cause cream to scorch quickly.
  4. When cream is beginning to steam whisk chevre into cream. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat, serve warm.

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Lamb Slider

  • 1 lb of Ground lamb from the NCF store
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Bring lamb up to room temperature by setting on counter for 1 hour before cooking.
  2. Separate into 2 ounce patties. Yes they are small but with the bun and added ingredients it will be filling. Theses are sliders.
  3. Season meat 5 minutes before frying.
  4. Warm cast iron pan on med-hi heat, let this heat thoroughly, you want to get a nice crust on the lamb patty.
  5. Add seasoned lamb patties to hot pan, after 2 minutes check to see if the release easily and flip. If they don’t  wait 45 seconds and try again.
  6. Remove from heat let rest for 3 minutes. Place on bun & dress to your liking.

These are rich flavors, the best way to not be overwhelmed by them is to add a bit of acid. To do that I added pickled red onion and a garden fresh tomato slice.  Ru & my brother added ketchup to theirs. My husband (the short bearded man spotted periodically on the farm) added mustard to his. Lots of ways to dress a slider and none of them are wrong.

For dessert I highly recommend Celebrity Dairy’s Ginger Goat’s  Milk Gelato.

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Spiced Peach Glazed Ham Steaks

Processor pick up day is akin to Christmas morning for 5 yr olds here in the NCF store. The difference is we’re all closer to 40 than 5 and we’re getting giddy over new cuts of meat.  This week we received our first Uncured Ham Slice Steak. Hello new porky goodness to experiment with.

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The fat on these beautiful steaks is going to lead to a lovely crispy finish.

Today I’m going to serve up a Peach Jam Glazed Ham Slice. You’ll find much of my cooking has alcohol in it. As a Nashville girl Jack Daniel’s is a go to flavoring for me. Apple Cider Vinegar is Pork’s best friend. It enhances the flavor without adding a ton of unnecessary sodium.

First things first, just like Beef you want to bring your Pork Steak up to room temperature. An hour before you cook set it out.

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Trim the excess fat from steaks, I freeze my leftover fat to use in dishes later like collards, or to render into lard for cooking. Side note if I’m going to use the fat for collard or beans later it will get smoked first.

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Sauce

  • ½ cup Buck Naked Farm’s Peach Jam
  • 2 TBSP Jack Daniel’s
  • 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

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Place ingredients in a small saucepan cook over a medium low heat till reduced.

Pork

*Pre-Heat broiler to 500 degrees F

*Use a heavy bottom skillet that is broiler safe

*Salt & pepper steaks to your taste

Pre Heat 2 tsp of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive oil) over med-hi heat  place steaks into your skillet

Cook for 4-5 minutes until the steaks release from the pan without tearing. If you feel them stuck to the pan let go and wait.

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While waiting spoon ½ of your sauce over your steaks.  Once the meat releases from the pan flip them. Spoon your Sauce over the 2nd half of the steak. Place in the oven for 7 minutes.  When done place steaks on your serving platter and cover with foil for 5 minutes.

While these cool place your skillet back on the stove on medium heat. Use 1 cup of Pinot Grigio or your favorite light non-oaked white wine to deglaze your pan. Simmer down the sauce till thickened and pour over the steaks.

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Lamb shoulder, sous vide style. Our first lamb dinner.

I reminded SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) that we had new lamb in the freezer and that we needed to get it out and cook a meal. This Saturday, she popped over to the store and said, “Ok, I’m here for the lamb and for the meat for the rest of the week.”

You know how you are at a restaurant, and you see the wait staff and the kitchen staff eating there? You feel like this must be a good place to eat because they work they, know everything that goes on, and they like the food. Yeah, that’s our place.

Wife and kids and a counter full of meat
SWMBO with her purchases for the week

Here is SWMBO with this week’s haul of meat. The total was $403.00! I told you she was my #1 customer. 

So Saturday SWMBO gets back to the house with this meat and then tells me, “You know we are having lamb on Sunday, right?”

“Huh?” Says I. No I didn’t know that. And by the look she’s giving me, I’m apparently cooking the lamb.

So I break out the sous vide cooker and take the solidly frozen lamb shoulders and conjure up some kind of recipe in record time (like 45 seconds).

Frozen hunks of lamb shoulder
Frozen hunks of lamb shoulder

I didn’t have a recipe for lamb shoulder, or especially frozen lamb shoulder. I also didn’t want a bunch of marinades, glazes, etc. I wanted to taste the lamb because I want to be able to tell customers exactly how it tastes. With that in mind, I cut open the packages, placed a couple of shoulders in a new package and sprinkled it liberally with plain old garlic salt from the pantry. I then placed a small sprig of rosemary in each bag, cut from our rosemary bush in the front yard. No muss, no fuss.

Frozen lamb shoulders just starting in the meat aquarium
Frozen lamb shoulders just starting in the meat aquarium

I then sealed the bags and put the still frozen lamb shoulders in the sous vide cooker. The recipes I glanced at in the 30 seconds I looked ranged in temperature from 131 to 158. I guessed and picked 143. Seems legit.

This was Saturday afternoon. The recipes I looked at also called for cooking from 2 hours to 48 hours. We’d cooked 24 hours for other cuts before and it worked well. Plus, I only had about 15 minutes to do this entire operation because I had customers coming for tours so I was limited on my choices.

On Sunday, SWMBO informed me that we’d eat at 6pm, our normal meal time. Then about 5:30 she decided that the boys would be home at 8:15 so we’d eat then instead of 6pm. Just a 2:15 swing in when things would be done with meat already in the cooker and the oven already preheating!

No worries, I just let the lamb swim in the meat aquarium a bit longer, then pulled them and put them on a sheet pan to dry. I took all the juices that came from the bags they cooked in and put them in a sauce pan to reduce. The juice was really salty so I added about 1 cup of red wine, a bit of water, and about 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. I was debating adding a touch of sugar to help with the saltiness but extra vinegar did the trick. I reduced this mix by about 1/3 and took it off the heat.

Meanwhile I’d been taking my now dry lamb shoulders and broiling them in the oven on high broil till they browned nicely. With the lamb shoulders hot from the broiler, and my reduction cooled and thickened, we pulled SWMBOs veggies from the pot and served dinner.

Lamb shoulder of the Gods!
I didn’t’ want wine, but since I had to open a bottle to cook with…

I’ve traveled all over this country and eaten in some seriously expensive restaurants. I’ve also eaten in pretty much every high end restaurant in Raleigh. Folks, I’ve not had a better meal. We dropped frozen hockey pucks in a bag with cheap garlic salt and leaves from the lawn and cooked it six hours longer than we originally planned! We used a meat aquarium and 5 minutes of a broiler. This was as simple of a meal as you could make and it was AWESOME!

Lamb shoulder, A closer look at doneness
A closer look at doneness

The meat was fall off the bone tender but still had good texture. The sauce was sweet and salty and everyone asked for more of it. We had my kids, plus the cousins over. Many people at the table had never had lamb. They all agreed it was stellar. I had two pots to put away, and two sheet pans to clean.

You probably don’t have a sous vide cooker. That’s fine. Bake the lamb, or crock pot it, or boil it. I don’t know, do something with it. But try it. Americans, including us, almost never eat lamb. We have no idea what we are missing. We have this lamb in the freezer now, with more coming. If you haven’t tried lamb, or haven’t since the 70s with some weird green sauce, then you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

My thanks to The Princess, who is the one who pushed me to get lamb in the store. And to The Stanbury who cooked lamb for her on our date night giving her the idea.

Cooking matters

Nobody has cooked, or eaten, as much of our product as we have. We’ve grilled, baked, broiled, sauteed, and crock potted our meats. Heck, we’ve even eaten it raw (steak tartare anyone?) Having had our products every way that you can, I can say that cooking method definitely matter. I usually try and catch new customers before they leave and explain to them how they should cook their new purchase, especially the beef. Grass fed, grass finished beef cooks differently than store bought beef. (I don’t subscribe to all the tips on that link, btw. But most are good). Since I can’t catch everyone, I thought I’d type up my suggestions.

The first thing to know is what kind of meat are you buying. With only so many ribeyes to go around, odds are you’ll be buying a cut of meat you don’t normally get. You need to understand that “eating high on the hog” means that you’re getting the more tender cuts of meat. It also means they are less flavorful. That’s why tenderloin, an expensive and almost flavorless cut of tender meat, is always wrapped in bacon, or marinated in Italian dressing. Recipes are trying to add flavor to the flavorless, tender meat. On the other side of the tenderness scale, the French have perfected the art of taking the cheap cuts of meat and turning them into delicacies. And finding, along of the way, that these less expensive cuts of meat hold the best potential for amazing flavor. Shanks, jowls, brisket. These are all cuts that many American cooks fear but as any Texan will tell you about brisket, they are often the best part of the animal.

Beef cut chart
Where all the cuts of beef come from

Basically, the higher up the animal, the more expensive and the more tender the cut. That’s because the less the animal uses the muscle, the more tender and the more bland. That’s part of the reason that feedlot beef is more tender. The animals sit around and eat and do little else. By knowing where on the animal your cut comes from, you can have an idea of how to cook it. Tough cuts need a braise (like a crock pot) or some other method of preserving tenderness.

For steaks, I recommend hot and fast, just like our pork chop recipe. Just delete the sauce at the end of the recipe for beef. Or another way to cook them is Alton Brown’s method, which he uses for skirt steak. Notice he only cooks the entire steak 30-45 seconds per side TOTAL. I cook every steak, from ribeyes to chuck steaks the same way, hot and fast. They all come out awesome.

I don’t actually cook on coals like Alton. I very rarely grill anything. However, for our bratwurst and kielbasa sausage, the grill is the best place. You actually “cook” the sausages on the cooktop, in a pan filled with water for kielbasa or beer for bratwurst. All you are doing on the grill is browning them and adding flavor via the mallaird reaction. You can brown them on the stove if you want, but it’s not as good as when they are grilled.

For roasts, generally the crock pot is my friend. SWMBO does most of the cooking and she uses our various roasts interchangeably from one recipe to the next. If it’s a big four pound roast, she has no qualms about trimming it down or cutting it up to make it into what she wants. Not the most cost effective method but the meals are awesome so I’m not complaining. For roasts, just follow your usual recipe. If you are cooking them in the oven, remember that grass fed, grass finished beef is going to cook faster than you expect.

Osso Bucco is one of my favorite cuts. Technically it’s beef shank, sliced into 1″ thick slices. It costs the same as hamburger per pound and it’s wonderful in the crock pot. All that connective tissue breaks down and makes beef broth, which your vegetables soak up as it percolates all day in the crock pot. Just sear the osso bucco on both sides before you start, (remember the mallaird reaction from earlier, it’s your friend.) The meat shreds after cooking easily because of the way the cut is made. You pop out the one bone for Fido and serve. A $10 meal including vegetables that feeds the entire family.

For hamburger, I have to give a nod to our resident chef Drew. His hamburger recipe makes for a stellar hamburger. If you don’t want to do all that he suggests, make patties with room temperature burger meat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic and grill. Simple burgers that taste awesome.

For Boston Butt, I again turn to Drew’s recipe. If you are in our store, you can also pick up SWMBO’s crock pot recipe to accomplish the same thing. Her BBQ is no muss, no fuss, and tastes awesome.

Lastly, I need to tell you about sous vide cooking. Drew turned me onto it after about a year of harassing me to try it, finally just loaning me his unit and shooing me away to go cook. After one meal, I had one on order from Amazon. It’s pretty much impossible to overcook using sous vide and I can really dial in the doneness that I want, down to the single degree.

Sous vide cooking
Our meat aquarium

After a swim in our meat aquarium (what we call it) I simply sear the meat (mallaird again) and serve. Cook times can vary by hours with no change in doneness which really makes this more like crock pot cooking. This means that I can still get my work done and pop into the kitchen at the end of the day to finish up and serve a great meal, looking every bit the hero that I am.

Knife Set and Skills 101

The 4 knives you need for almost everything
The 4 knives you need for almost everything

Cooking skills are more important than recipes.  Skills allow you to bob and weave to make something delicious even in the face of adversity.  Skills also allow you to be much more efficient.  When it comes to knife skills, you gain valuable lessons in safety and efficiency.

There are so many shapes and styles of knives out there.  I recommend you put your 50 knife block set aside for most applications and invest in 4 quality knives. I prefer Japanese steel because it is very hard and requires less maintenance if treated properly.  American steel tends to be more soft, but plenty of talented chefs choose it. From bottom to top in the above picture, I have 4 shun knives that meet the criteria for my top 4 knives:

  1. 8 inch chef’s knife
  2. 6 inch serrated utility knife
  3. 6 inch boning knife
  4. 4 inch pairing knife

These 4 knifes will cover you for most applications.

Holding a knife:

Blade grip for added dexterity
Blade grip for added dexterity

The blade grip is the way to go unless you just can’t get comfortable. You move your thumb onto the blade and pinch it with a curled index finger on the other side of the blade.  Your thumb and index finger are far removed from the cutting edge at all times. This gives you an incredible amount of control and dexterity with the blade.  More control = less likelihood of a slip and injury.

Proper angle for cutting:

Proper angle for cutting/prepping food
Proper angle for cutting/prepping food

When cutting food, cut in a 45 angle across your torso.  This provides a much more comfortable (straight) angle for your wrist.  When you try to cut perpendicular to your body, your wrist becomes contorted resulting in an increased risk of injury.

In my next post, I will go through the basic knife cuts that are safe and efficient in addition to the claw technique for holding what you are preparing.  Happy and safe cooking!

 

Bacon Mushroom & Swiss Burger with a Mornay Sauce

Bacon mushroom and swiss burger with a mornay sauce
Bacon mushroom and swiss burger with a mornay sauce

Have you ever fresh ground your meat to make burgers?  If not, buckle up partner because this is a game changer!  While everyone knows how to make yummy burgers, this takes the classic meal to whole ‘nother level.  Mixing and grinding your own meat not only opens up the burger playbook to infinite permutations of flavor, but it also leads to the most tender and juicy burgers you have ever had.  I play around with combinations of steak, ground beef, brisket, pork shoulder, bacon, pork belly, ground pork, lamb, venison and I have even used a little breakfast sausage with great results.  If you already own a KitchenAid mixer, you can get this meat grinder attachment from Amazon for $35 bucks and be on your way.

One of the biggest obstacles to a juicy burger is over compacted meat.  Even when I am mixing in Ninja Cow ground beef, I will run it through the grinder for good measure to make sure it is light and fluffy.  The key is to avoid man handling the patties when you are making them.

Fresh ground patties
Fresh ground patties with brisket, beef and bacon

I decided to make these burgers with Ninja Cow ground beef, brisket and a few slices of bacon.  I cooked them sous vide and they were the jam!

What you need

  • For the Burgers
    • 1 pound ground beef
    • 1 pound brisket (I recommend a cheap digital scale for $10 to $20 bucks on Amazon–it is necessary for cooking, baking or making pasta and it comes in handy for cutting up Dan’s brisket into 1 pound quantities for applications like this).
    • 3-4 bacon strips
    • salt & pepper
    • Swiss cheese
    • English muffins–this burger is a juicy mess and those golden toasted nooks and crannies are the perfect choice to hold up to the moisture without getting soggy.  It is also the perfect bun because it doesn’t try to steal the show.  Rather, it highlights the delicious burger you’re eating.
  • For the mushroom topping
    • 1/2 lb of mushrooms (8 oz)
    • 1 clove of minced garlic
    • 1 medium shallot minced
    • 1/2 cup chicken stock
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tbsp corn starch & water
    • salt & pepper
  • For the mornay sauce
    • 1 tbsp butter
    • 1 tbsp flour
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 1/3 cup freshly grated Gruyère cheese
    • salt & pepper

What you do

For the Burgers:

  1. Grind the meat and make your patties. Remember not to compress the meat too much.  Just squeeze it just enough so the patties hold together.  Sprinkle each side with salt and pepper.  Note that you don’t need any seasoning mixed in these patties.  The meat is so delicious that it honestly doesn’t need it.  I make these into four 1/2 pound burgers, but to each his own.  You could definitely make 6 burgers out of this that would hit the spot.
  2. Sous Vide:  Seal in a zip lock bag using the immersion technique, which is where you submerge the zip lock slowly with one top corner unsealed.  Submerge until the air is forced out and then seal the last corner without any water intrusion into the bag.  All cook times are perfect anywhere from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours.  Rare–120. Medium rare–128.  Medium–133.  Medium well– 140.  Remove from the bag, pat dry and let rest for 5 minutes.  Sear quickly in a screaming hot pan with bacon fat, duck fat or oil of your choosing.
  3. Non sous vide–Sear both sides in a screaming hot pan with a little bacon fat, duck fat or oil of your choice and then bake at 350 for 10-20 minutes depending on how well you like your burgers.
  4. Meanwhile, throw your mushrooms in another skillet on medium/high and saute until they have released their moisture–about 5 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and shallots and sweat for 2-3 minutes.  Add chicken stock and reduce by half.  Add balsamic vinegar and reduce by half.  Slowly add your corn starch slurry to make the reduction more viscous.     Add salt and pepper to taste.

The Mornay Sauce:

Mornay is a derivative of one of the 5 mother sauces from which all French sauces come from–Bechamel.  99% of cooking sounds more intimidating than it actually is and this sauce is no exception.  It only takes a few minutes to make and it can only be ruined by inattention and too much heat for too long.  Bechamel starts with a roux, which is equal parts flour and butter.  A corn starch slurry is the lazy man’s roux, but they serve the same purpose–adding starch needed to thicken your sauce.

  1. Add the flour and butter to a sauce pan on medium/high and stir constantly until the raw flour smell has gone and it begins to smell toasty.  This takes about 2 minutes.  You now have a roux that you can use to thicken anything you’re cooking in any recipe.  Cook the roux until it is brown and you’re getting into the French brown mother sauce.  Cook the roux until it is almost blackened and you’re into Cajun territory for dishes like gumbo and jambalaya.
  2. While whisking constantly, slowly stir in the milk until the sauce is simmering, but not at a rolling boil.  This is the only risky part of making this sauce, so pay attention during this phase.  You will know if it breaks because the milk fats will separate and it will become a greasy mess.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  You now have a Bechamel sauce.  While this recipe doesn’t call for it, at this point you can also add a pinch of nutmeg and/or a sachet bag (banquet garni) with fresh herbs like bay leaves, thyme, and parsley sprigs.
  3. What makes this a mornay is the addition  of cheese.  For this recipe, I chose Gruyère because it complements the Swiss cheese beautifully.  Using a whisk, slowly stir your Gruyère cheese into the simmering bechamel sauce until melted.  Taste and add more salt/pepper if needed. Enjoy!

If you want to have some fun, here are a few more variations to the bechamel sauce:

  • Soubise:  Sweat 1 onion in a skillet without browning it.  Puree in a food processor and add to 1.5 cups of bechamel.
  • Cream sauce–add 1/2 cup of cream to 1.5 cups of bechamel.
  • Poblano–blacken, peal, mince and add to the bechamel.
  • Anything that suits your fancy and complements your meal

Psh–who said French cooking was difficult?  People in fancy restaurants.  Intimidating? Initially.  Difficult?  No.  Delicious?  Incredible.