May 2012: There is so much being written about eating meat, that I thought I would give a brief summary of my thoughts. What we know is that most educated people in America eat too much meat and not enough fruits and vegetables. Yes, but what kind of meat should we buy and cook?
It is best to buy meat from animals grown locally—New Zealand lamb may be young and delicious, but it travels a long way to get here. It is best to buy meats from animals that are grown responsibly and not “finished” on grain—most beef sold in this country comes from cattle fattened in feedlots, and some lamb growers finish the sheep with grain as well. I myself love the idea of chickens, pigs, and goats grown outdoors because they basically don’t compete with humans for food. It is said it takes 10 pounds of grain to produce every pound of traditionally grown beef in America. Grass fed beef is better and so is lamb that grazes outdoors. Also, there is a movement amongst chefs to buy the whole animal because it makes more sense rather than just buying the tender cuts like the tenderloin. We can’t all buy the whole animal, but we can reduce the demand for the tender cuts, by cooking the tougher ones as in the stew Recipe that follows. I have to say that I also prefer to buy meat that is not shrink-wrapped. Although, it is necessary sometimes, freshly cut meat is more appealing.
So, where can we buy good responsibly grown and slaughtered meat? The best place to start is your local farmers market. Then, keep searching for local quality butchers in your area. Ignore words like “organic” or “natural”—these are misleading labels. Keep asking and searching.
My new hero is a guy called Don Watson. I first met Don when he walked in the front door of Spruce, a popular San Francisco restaurant, with a whole lamb carcass over his shoulder. Don is a very affable, talkative guy who grows and sheers his owns sheep in the most impressive way in the Napa Valley. What I was most impressed with when I met him was not only that he was delivering the lamb himself, but that he says he gets most of his income from renting his sheep to vineyard owners to eat the weeds between the vines. He says his sheep, mow, weed, and fertilize all at the same time. You can find out more on www.woolyweeders.com.
If you want to eat some of this lamb, beautifully spit-roasted over a wood fire, make a reservation now at Kokkari in San Francisco. It is absolutely fantastic to walk in and see and smell a whole lamb roasting in the front of the restaurant over an open fire. It is so juicy and succulent and full of flavor. As Eric Cosselmon, the Executive Chef, points out in the KOKKARI COOKBOOK, “often a lunch patron, seeing the lamb loaded on the spit, will make a dinner reservation on the spot.” You can find out more on www.kokkari.com. (If you can’t get to Kokkari for dinner, you can buy Don’s lamb in San Francisco at Bi-Rite Market and Golden Gate Meats in the SF Ferry Building and cook it yourself–ask for Napa Valley lamb.)
So, now that you are on the search for quality meats, grown humanely, and now that we have found a source in the Bay Area for fabulous lamb, how should you cook it? Here is my Recipe for a delicious Spring Lamb Stew. If you make the stew a few days before, it will taste even better. You can also blanch the vegetables and store them for up to three days. You can reheat both and serve them as shown in the Recipe or my YouTube video; and mix the extra stew with the remaining vegetables to freeze for another meal. I recommend serving an asparagus first course and a strawberry dessert. You can find recipes for these and many more on www.tantemarie.com/recipes. Remember, cooking is fun, especially if you don’t try to do it all the same day you serve it. Have fun cooking!