I recently happened upon a blog post about making Bordelaise sauce on the Food Wishes blog. I love making steak, but sometimes too much of a good thing can start to be a problem. I tend to season my steak with salt and pepper so as to not overwhelm it with a foreign flavor. I’ve always been suspicious of sauces and what they may be hiding. I truly enjoy the flavor of the meat, especially the subtle flavor of the meat I get from the CSA I am a member of. Chef John of Food Wishes had the perfect answer in Bordelaise sauce. Making a simple and light sauce such as Bordelaise was an easy way to add depth to the flavor of the meat while still being true to it.
Making the sauce was fun and easy. Not having beef stock on hand, I used store bought beef broth. Cringe, I know. To add further insult to injury to French cooking tradition, I also used some open Chianti as a wine instead of a traditional French wine. While going through the prescribed steps was not hard to do, an all important question did come to mind. How do you know when you have it right? and as I previously wrote, even if it is right, does it matter?
An interesting problem with following recipes or with taking inspiration from food blogs is that you don’t have a real live example to compare to, nor do you have the experience of someone who has come before you to guide you through your food preparation. While this is an interesting “gotcha”, the idea is that you are cooking for yourself or others; this enforces the notion of cooking through method and not relying on recipes. Once you have the basics down you are free to cook and experiment however you wish.
Dinner tonight was different, but not too different. Life keeps getting tastier each and every day.
I finally just picked up my first share for the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that I am a member of with Chestnut Farms in Hardwick, Massachusetts. Having just returned from Chicago, I drove out to meet my friend Jenn at her house who was kind enough to pick up my cooler and store my meat in the freezer while I was out of town; she recently joined the CSA as well.
I’m excited to be part of this CSA for many reasons. First and foremost I feel like I am doing my part to benefit my local community and support my local farmers. I’ve voted with my dollars to support their ideals while they provide me with a nutritious and respectfully cultivated sustainable food product. I am also excited because I will be eating sustainable food that, while not being certified as organic, was cultivated using natural methods without the use of chemicals or unnecessary drugs. My impact on the environment has been kept to a minimum. This is meat as nature intended. Another great benefit of being part of the CSA is that I am now closer to the food source.
When opening my cooler to see my meat share, I couldn’t help to think about Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, and his comment in The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman, about the US being a nation of noncooks taking the easy way out of food preparation, while he butchers whole animals and using every part for his dishes. Michael Ruhlman commented on the fact that the only butchering done at most restaurants was the slicing of the Cryovac packages that contained the meat. My situation has not changed as the meat has been butchered for me and sealed in plastic, although I feel that I am eating food that has been cared for properly and thus respected more so than what is available in big chain grocery stores. As I inch closer to the source and it’s preparation I wonder how far I’ll actually go. This whole food thing could get even more interesting.
I was about to leave work now when I received an email from Chestnut Farms, a local farm in Massachusetts, welcoming me into their meat CSA. This is really exciting news. I learned about them and their meat CSA a few weeks ago at lunch with my friend Erik. He is part of the program and after hearing about it I knew I wanted to join.
CSAs as they are referred to stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The idea is that members contribute contribute to a share of a farming program in return for locally grown meat and/or vegetables depending on the farm. It’s great both farmers and consumers as it it allows for both to connect. Farmers also get the added benefit of a guaranteed demand for their livestock or produce while consumers gain a better awareness of where their food comes from in addition to a fresher and healthier product. A sustainable farm shares a limited amount of shares as the farm must be able to sustain it’s livestock or vegetables by utilizing the land that they have instead of buying feed or chemical fertilizer from outside sources. This requires the changing of grazing areas and the rotation of crops on a regular basis, just as nature intended.
Most of us buy our meat from the supermarket or butcher. It comes wrapped in a package and is practically indistinguishable from its live form, often treated with chemicals or dyes to make it look fresh. While I’ll be picking my meat up at a distribution site once a month, the farm encourages share members to visit and see where their food comes from. I like the idea that I can drive to the farm, see how the animals are treated and cared for. I k now I will feel confident that the food I will be eating is as healthy as it can be and that the animals have been treated and slaughtered humanely.
I signed up for the lowest share to start which provides me with 10 pounds of meat a month consisting of pork, beef, chicken, turkey and lamb. I’m really excited about getting meat from a local farm that is grown without the use of hormones or other artificial means. The commitment for each share lasts 6 months and is available for pick-up at many different locations in surrounding towns; I chose a pick-up site in the town that I grew up in.
At the moment I see three drawbacks of joining a program like this. The first and obvious one is price. It does cost a bit more to buy the meat through the CSA than at the supermarket, but when I think about about what I am getting I am ok with this. Secondly, I have to pick it up at a certain time and place each month whether I need it or not. This means that I have to keep that day free for my pickup or ask my parents to help me out if they are around. It also means that I could run out of meat and have to buy it at the supermarket anyway or that I could have leftover meat which I have to store in my freezer. The other thing which is not really a drawback but a change is the lack of choice in meat. Depending on the time of year and the availability on the farm, my meat share contents will change each month. This actually makes sense and is more natural as not all meat is “in season” all year round. Being able to eat meat or pork any day of the year is only a modern phenomenon which draws gasps of disbelief when pointed out. My share starts in June and I’ll provide updates as I make my pickups