Raising the steaks

Texas Longhorn

The Texas Longhorn, both beautiful and...tasty. Photo: eschipul via Flcikr.

In my family’s never-ending quest to track down healthier sources of meat, we turned to a friend; local farmer Doug Britt. Though Britt isn’t a certified organic farmer, he’s chosen to raise only pasture-fed cattle, with surprising and tasty results.
Britt raises Texas Longhorns, which are a rather exceptional breed of cattle.

I didn’t know much about the Longhorn before we bought his meat, but have since discovered they’re low in both fat and cholesterol. This is a real boost for those who enjoy red meat, but are worried about heart health.

Wait, what?

I know that fat is considered a source of flavor, but with beef from the Longhorn, that’s not an issue. The meat boasts exceptional flavor and tenderness without with excess fat.

I saw the low-fat content first hand.

My sister and I were using some of the ground beef to make spaghetti sauce. Normally, with packaged ground beef, we have to drain the grease after cooking. With the Longhorn beef, we finished cooking and realized there was no excess grease or melted fat in the pan! Nothing. The meat was done, tender and we hadn’t scorched it or the pan…there just wasn’t excess fat in the meat.

And it was delicious.

So how do I do this?

Because of USDA regulations, Britt recommends buying your beef on the hoof—before it’s slaughtered.  No, that doesn’t mean you have to butcher it yourself. What it means is that you talk to the farmer and purchase the particular cow you want before he sends it to be slaughtered. The processing can be done to your preferences, the cuts that you want.

The advantage? You know what you’re getting and who you’re getting it from. You can also get your meat butchered the way you would prefer. The farmer you’re buying it from will be able to help you with that. Even better, it’s less expensive to buy your meat this way and you’re supporting the local economy while purchasing a healthier product.

Do your research. Look for local farms and see if the farmer would be willing to sell to you. Chances are good he might be. My family split the cow: we all paid for a share of the meat. Which means there is a freezer filled with good beef that will last us a long time.

The Making of a Perfect Steak

I’m fortunate in that I have a brother-in-law who cooks professionally. And I’m even luckier that he’s a genius when it comes to grilling steaks. He says the trick to making a good steak is figuring out how to let the natural flavor of the steak shine through, while keeping it perfectly cooked. It’s not easy, yet somehow he does it with a flair. I think he’s actually some kind of secret steak wizard. Odd, but true.

Steaks salted and peppered and ready for marinating. Photo: Alex Klein.

What I’ve learned from him is that the basics for making good steak are simple: salt and pepper. Marinades are great, but honestly, if you’re trying for simplicity, salt and pepper are your best friends. Adding too much to the steak disguises the flavor and then really, why are you eating steak? If you’re hot for marinades, work with a chicken breast and do whatever marinading turns you on.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject: stop putting A1 sauce and ketchup and store bought half corn-syrup marinades on your steak. This isn’t mystery meatloaf. When you cook your steak correctly, you don’t need to cover the flavor up.

Steak should taste like steak. Unless you figure out a way to marinade the steak in order to bring out the actual flavors.

Here’s a recipe that I like that enhances the natural flavor while offering a little surprise for the taste buds, too. It’s not a cover up, but rather an invitation for the flavors to unfold.

Bourbon Pepper Steak

Jim Beam Bourbon
Worcestershire Sauce
Fresh Garlic
Black Pepper
3-4 steaks (sirloin, strip, ribeye…whatever you’ve got)

Using a meat fork or a knife, puncture the steaks on both sides. This lets the flavor absorb better. Salt and pepper the steaks on both sides.
In a large pan, combine the bourbon, Worcestershire and slices of fresh garlic. There should be enough in the marinade to cover the steaks. Set the steaks in the marinade, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Some people might not have access to an outdoor grill, but I feel strongly that it’s the best way to cook red meat. Frying hamburgers in a pan feels wrong. You lose the smoky flavor that makes the burger or steak so delicious. But if you can’t grill, you might prefer broiling to pan frying.

Grill the steaks to your preference- I like them medium, but not everyone likes the rich streak of pink in the middle.

The bourbon and Worcestershire don’t cover up the flavor of the meat; rather they enhance it, highlighting the natural flavors.

Now eat up, pardner!

–Alexandra Klein, Transition Voice Magazine

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