Enriching your diet with grassfed and pastured animals is not only healthier, humane and more environmentally-friendly, it is also more uniquely delicious than eating animals confined to a feedlot or cages. Grassfed meats are especially succulent and flavorful when cooked on the grill. Shannon Hayes, author of The Farmer and the Grill and The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook, shares her insight on the benefits of including grassfed meats in your diet as well as three nourishing grassfed recipes.
The benefits of grassfed meats are boundless
According to Hayes, a grassfed meat producer who runs a sustainable farm in Upstate New York, raising animals on pasture and marketing them directly helps ensure the environmental and financial sustainability of small farms and keeps valuable agricultural businesses thriving.
"It contributes to local food security by guaranteeing availability of wholesome, clean food, with relatively little impact from the larger world's troubles. Best of all, we can assure people that this meat is decidedly safer and more healthful to eat," she adds. In addition, grassfed meats deliver a bevy of health benefits. Hayes emphasizes that true grassfed meat is:
- a source of omega-3 fatty acids (linked to lower blood pressure, healthy brain function and slower growth of cancer).
- a source of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) (associated with improved immune systems and a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease).
- free of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs.
- less likely to be contaminated with E. coli.
- unlikely to be infected with mad cow disease.
- chock full of cancer-fighting antioxidants.
- raised on pastures that are capable of storing two to three times more carbon in their soils than fields that were left unmanaged, left for hay or unharvested.
- a healthy eco-friendly step towards personal and planetary health.
Grassfed meats need more attention than commercial meats
"Grassfed meat tastes different than what you are used to. It is more robust in flavor, but more of a challenge to cook," says Hayes. "Grass-fed meats do not cook at the same temperatures. They have a different texture and taste. They even look a bit different." But don't let the extra attention that grassfed meats need deter you. Hayes' book The Farmer and the Grill
is cooking with recipes and tips on grilling grassfed beef, lamb, pork and chicken to bring out their maximum flavor and juiciness.
Hayes says, "Whether you are a man or woman, a grilling greenhorn or a pit-master pro, there is a wide world of great food experiences awaiting you once you step outside and lay a piece of grassfed meat across the grate."
Check with your local farmers market, co-op or whole foods store for grassfed products. And for more information on grassfed meat, go to Hayes' website GrassFedCooking.com
Recipes for grassfed meat
Tamarind and Apple Butter SirloinServes 3 to 4
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
2 tablespoons apple butter
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 (1-1/2 to 2 pound) sirloin tip steak or London broil
1. Whisk together tamarind, apple butter, ginger, olive oil, garlic, salt, vinegar, cayenne and onion in a bowl and pour into a baking pan or plastic zip-lock bag. Add the steak and thoroughly coat it with the marinade, cover, refrigerate and allow it to marinate for several hours or overnight.
2. Remove steak from marinade, discarding marinade, and blot with paper towels. Let steak come to room temperature. Preheat grill to medium-hot (using the hand-test, the grate will be hot enough when you can hold your palm 5 inches above it for no more than 3 seconds).
3. Sear the steak(s) for 3 minutes on each side directly over the flame, then move them to the part of the grill that is not lit. Set the lid in place and allow steaks to cook, without flipping, until they reach 120 to 140 degrees F., about 20 to 30 minutes.
4. Transfer meat to a platter and tent loosely with foil, allowing the meat to rest 5 minutes before serving (the temperature will come up a few more degrees during this time). Cut it across the grain for maximum tenderness.
*Tamarind paste is a specialty product often used in Indian cooking that can be found in Indian or specialty markets and large grocery stores.
Sesame Grilled Lamb ChopsServes 2
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons tamari (or lite soy sauce)
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
4 loin or rib lamb chops, 1-1/4 inch thick or 2 shoulder chops, 1-1/4 inch thick
1. Whisk together garlic, orange juice, ginger, cayenne, tamari, chives and 2 tablespoons sesame oil in a shallow bowl or mix in a large zip-lock bag. Add the chops and coat. Allow meat to marinate, turning once, for 1 to 2 hours.
2. Light the grill and allow it to heat up for 5 minutes with the cover in place. Once the flames are medium-hot and you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grate for no more than 4 seconds, scrape the grate clean.
3. Remove chops from the marinade and blot dry with paper towels. Brush them with remaining sesame oil, then grill directly over the flame with the grill cover on, 4 to 6 minutes per side until they achieve desired doneness (120 to 145 degrees F.).
Chicken with Mustard GlazeServes 4
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 to 1/3 cup Dijon mustard (extra if your bird is large)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (3 to 5 pound) chicken
1. Insert the garlic clove in the cavity of the chicken. Rub the mustard underneath the skin and over the surface of the bird. The chicken should be coated with a thick layer when you are finished. Sprinkle the skin generously with salt and pepper.
2. Set up the grill for cooking with a rotisserie. If using charcoal, arrange the coals in two rows on either side of where the chicken will be rotating. If using gas, turn on the front and rear burners. Place a drip pan or cast-iron skillet just below where the bird will be.
3. Put the chicken on the spit and allow it to cook with the cover in place about 1-/1/2 to 2 hours, maintaining the temperature of your cooking chamber around 350 degrees F. The meat is cooked when an internal meat thermometer in the thigh reads 160 to 165 degrees F. Do not remove chicken from the grill yet.
4. Once the chicken is cooked, gently warm the sour cream in a small pan over low heat on your kitchen stove. When the cream has turned to liquid, brush it on the surface of the bird, allowing any surplus mustard to fall away. Allow chicken to cook 10 more minutes.
5. Remove chicken from the grill and allow accumulated juices in the cavity to pour into the drip pan or skillet. Set the chicken on the cutting board and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the butter to the pan juices and simmer on the stove top or flames until butter melts. Add additional salt and pepper to taste and serve with pieces and slices of chicken.
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