BETWEEN THE SEA AND THE CHATTHOOCHEE
(how to eat lean in the Autumn times)
Our Autumn adventure begins with those things that come into season when the first chill nights arrive. Watch the color of the leaves turn and you know it is time for wild Georgia deer (or farmed New Zealand or Texas). From Georgia ranches like Harris Ranch we have grass fed beef flank steak. The sea is always offering something in each season so if pole caught mahi mahi is not available see what else is from the wild or from the farms. All of these recipes are quite healthy and lean. Venison “Denver” leg steaks with turkey sausage, spiced peanuts and local blackberries with honey-rosemary olive oil. Grass fed beef flank seared with caramelized onions, Maytag bleu cheese, thin sliced apple on chicory greens and acorn squash. Atlantic mahi mahi grilled with roasted garlic aioli, jalapeno, raspberries, rum and pumpkin fries. If there is a wild boar hunter in your family or if you can buy it then by all means include wild baor/sow on your post frost Autumn table.
Today we shop, cook and dine in ways far beyond those of our parents and grandparents. They may have drank a beer, sweet tea or glass of wine with their dinner but the expectation was never that it be a beer brewed up the road, a wine from the West Coast, new age cocktails or tea arriving in hundreds of flavors. Mine had Liptons Orange Pekoe tea, Pabst Blue Ribbon, moonshine and very refined wines of France or on the border at Alsace-Lorraine. Today we are aware, very aware that our meals can be best paired with a boutique beer or herb and roasted tea from flower to white to green and black, with any combination of spirits and mixed drinks, and of course with wines from any place in the world. Pair your foods with beverages reflecting the ingredients, the tastes, the general aroma and appeal of your meal.
Since Autumn invites a host of seasonal memories it is always fun to invoke what has passed, what was before and then to create what is yet to be. Food is as alive as you and I, the dishes we prepare help to define who we are at the table, with guests and family. Food reflects our vision of the world. Some embrace and some set up boundaries. The adventurous cook is constantly studying all things taste and combination both with boundaries and without boundaries. Perfection often arrives by way of repetition. I am justifiably interested in the way our foods are produced, raised, farmed, harvested and hunted. Create the memories with a love of the world and all it has to offer.
Every now and then it is important to reevaluate what “sustainable” means. The overall effort of serving sustainable, something I have been doing for over 15 years is to seek variety. If we eat the same fish over and over, if we fish the same trenches or reefs over and over eventually the snapper/flounder/grouper post office will run dry. Just because something is in abundance today (re passenger pigeons of last century) does not guarantee that without management it will be there tomorrow. Harvest is not greater than reproduction and there is little to no impact on local ecosystem: Sustainable.
As consumers we should be involved in proper food source management for ALL of our foods as well as in protecting blue fin tuna and orange roughy, Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish), Atlantic cod, red snapper, shark, imported swordfish, grouper, monkfish, imported caviar and skate. All of these are all long over fished and on a short list for threatened. Easy solution is to simply lay off of these fish for a few years. Easy kill is to continue on our present path. Check out Seafood Choices Alliance, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seafood Watch, Blue Ocean Institute, the Marine Stewardship Council and of course Clean Fish (through Inland Seafood) and anything Honolulu Fish out of Hawaii. All of which can be found online or by phone within a days reach of UPS or your home.
I use a lot of fish that are caught by sport boats. Yes, when you see that “moby” marlin or redfish hanging in those sport boat photos the next step is often off to a middleman and then to a chef (such as myself!) and on to your plate.
The ways of keeping the last hunted wild protein (seafood) around are many, the ways to destroy are few: overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction. It is not a matter of left or right. It is a matter of how do we feed our enormous population and maintain healthy farmland and waters. There are many fresh water farmed fish and shellfish that are life and health friendly operated such as tilapia, catfish, oysters, clams, mussels, striped bass, arctic char, rainbow trout, white sturgeon and agria (red fish, a member of the drum family) that help us to keep some menu variety. The rest of our strong stock is all wild caught from healthy fisheries like wreckfish, black cod, stone crab, Pacific halibut, albacore, pink shrimp, pole/troll caught mahi mahi, Alaskan salmon, pole/troll caught Hawaiian big eye, yellow fin and skipjack tuna. Imagine, all wild caught.
My career and that of all involved in the seafood industry depends on diverse seafood and reasonable prices. It is implausible to figure a future without wild seafood. So what do we do? Be wise shepherds of our land and waters. Keep it clean and keep it diverse. Every mammal matters and every cetacean matters, every fish and every shellfish, fowl, every fruit and vegetable, they all really do matter in this, our own vast and hurried span of life and time. It is our only earth.
Long ago we learned that if the same plant is grown in the same soil for too long without diversity then the soil becomes infertile. The same holds for our waters.
Venison “Denver” leg steaks with mergheza sausage (beef and lamb), spiced peanuts and local blackberries with honey-rosemary olive oil.
Any thoughts about venison always arrive at how lean it is and how different it tastes from county to county, state to state. I like Georgia deer the best because it is less acidic or gamey than deer I have had from elsewhere in the South. Some say it is because of the pecans. Could be. The restaurant industry is dependent upon New Zealand and Texas venison. Both are quite delicious and are very stable in their flavor and texture profiles. Look for venison that is deep red, almost the color of a Romane Conte vintage wine.
The most economical cut is the Denver leg. This is the leg bone removed and the meat already broken down into sections. When cutting your meat do it so that it best resembles a cut of beef filet mignon, round and thick. There will be a few stray pieces of meat so set those aside to use for a pasta dish or to grind with sausage. People generally take this lean and healthy mean and grind it with pork sausage, a tactic that I have never really liked but do understand why people do it.
4, 5 ounce venison steaks, shaped into round
2 ounces Worcestershire sauce
1 ounce Tiger Sauce
4 ounces red wine or black grape juice
1 tablespoon pickling spice
Combine and marinade venison for 5 hours.
¼ cup shelled and hulled peanuts
½ teaspoon wasabi powder
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon butter
Mix with peanuts and toast in 300 degree oven for 10 minutes.
1 small stalk rosemary
3 ounces local honey
3 ounces Spanish extra virgin olive oil
Combine and warm in pan on low heat for 8 minutes. Remove rosemary.
8 ounces mergheza sausage (a mix of lamb and beef)
Cook sausage on grill. Set aside.
Grill venison to desired temperature. While venison is cooking the last turn brush the olive oil honey over the meat. Paint the bottom of four plates with the olive oil honey. Place one steak on each plate. 2 ounces of sausage with each steak. Garnish by placing peanuts and blackberries on top of venison.
This is the kind of meal that is great with a fruit and spinach salad, yeast rolls and grilled corn on the cob.
Grass fed beef flank seared with caramelized onions, Maytag bleu cheese, thin sliced apple on chicory greens and acorn squash.
People who are unfamiliar with the distinct flavor of grass fed meats are quite surprised by how once fatty meats are now lean and still taste great. That is the thing about grass fed, hormone free meats. They taste like the land around us smells, at least here on the border of woods, river and open pastures. There are many ranches in the South that are grass fed. Harris Ranch is one of the better and more established. The real add ons to beef happen in the stockyard and that’s where grass fed takes the advantage in that nothing is done to the meat as far as changing their diet. What it lives on is what you get. Grassy, fresh and lean.
Flank steak is good for searing and thin sliced. Very lean, very flavorful and easy to prepare. Maytag blue cheese is produced in Iowa in caves and made by hand as it has been done since the late 1800s by the very family that makes Maytag appliances. The herd of Holsteins were favorites of the Maytag family and it turned out that their milk was perfect for making this rich and sweet, best of America blue cheeses. Go for the gold every now and then. Treat yourself and your dining mates to something they will swear is British or Danish. Maytag blue cheese is another in a long line of great American cheese. The first in that line is Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes, California. Find these cheeses and splurge on their goodness.
24 ounces flank steak
1 1/2 cups apple juice
4 ounces Dale’s steak marinade
1 onion, sliced
Combine and marinade 6 hours minimum.
3 onions, thin sliced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
½ poblano pepper, very thin sliced
2 ounces corn oil
Combine and place in small pan. Cover. Roast for 45 minutes in 375 degree oven. Remove and leave covered. Let stand for one hour.
1 (16 ounces peeled) acorn squash, diced
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon sourwood honey
1/3 teaspoon granulated sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Combine and cook in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove. Cover and reserve till dinner. If longer than 30 minutes then reheat in oven.
1 gala apple thin sliced into 16 slices
10 ounces autumn chicory and sweet lettuces
1/3 cup crumbled Maytag blue cheese
4 ounces fig balsamic vinegar
Sear flank steaks in iron skillet. Remove and thin slice against the grain. Divide lettuces and caramelized onions between four plates. Place 4 slices flank on each salad. Set slices of apple between the steak slices. Garnish with blue cheese. Eat and drink an autumn pale ale with this great beef and cheese salad entrée.
Atlantic mahi mahi grilled with roasted garlic aioli, jalapeno, raspberries, rum and pumpkin fries.
It seems that when the full moon is up more than werewolves prowl. Beyond the moors of Northeast Georgia and across the boiling hot piedmont region of South Carolina lies Charleston Harbor and beyond there when the moon rises the surface of the ocean comes alive with feeding sea creatures. Lucky for us this includes mahi mahi. Long a sport fish and for many a good luck symbol the mahi mahi is a staple fish for many tables in the South. Great on the grill and great sautéed mahi mahi is fine with any high heat preparation. I have poached it in extra virgin olive oil to great success. Poached in olive oil? Yes! Keep the oil at 120 degrees and lower the fish into the oil and cook for 15 minutes. Perfection. It is not oily. In fact it is simply moist, velvety and cooked to the same temperature as the oil. Poaching is not frying.
Pumpkin fries! Yes anything can be fried. Peel, seed and cut into classic french fry sizes. Put in cold water bath and leave in refrigerator over night. This will help them to crisp when it is their time for the oil.
Roasted garlic aioli makes for a very rich fish. Brush it onto the fillets while they are grilling. This version of aioli does not contain egg. Originally back in the pre Caesar days of the Etruscans they made aioli simply by mashing the roasted garlic and olive oil into a paste. All the other stuff (eggs) came later with the French. We will use rum instead of lemon juice to thin out our aioli.
October is a great time for blackberries and raspberries. Use them in all the places that you can from salads and entrees to desserts and teas. The jalapeno is there just for the flavor and the heat. Jalapeno is a nice addition to this smooth entrée.
6 cloves garlic roasted
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces dark rum
1/3 teaspoon pink sea salt
1/3 teaspoon fine ground black pepper
Roast garlic wrapped in aluminum foil in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove and place in blender. Turn blender on and slowly add the olive oil, then the rum. Set aside till time to cook.
4, 6 ounce fillets mahi mahi, skin off
Hot grill. Grill fillets for 5 minutes each side; more if you like it cooked well done.
20 french fry cuts pumpkin
2 cups frying oil like peanut or corn
Fry in oil at 350 degrees for five minutes. Remove from oil. Place in 300 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes.
12 slices jalapeno
20 raspberries, large, ripe
Remove mahi mahi from grill. Paint one more time with the aioli. Arrange pumpkin fries in criss cross pattern on plate. Set fillet next to potato. Garnish with raw jalapeno slices and raspberries. Grilled squashes would be perfect with this crisp dish.
Have a great time this Fall. When you are not cooking at home please go out to eat and enjoy the Autumn flavors offered by our beautiful South. Especially at my new home, “Chef Lamar’s Iron Grill”!
A voice soliciting sunrise,
She throws back a cup of sweet Kenya coffee,
Offers crumbs to the cardinals on the back porch,
She watches as they flit away, hunting,
Crunching seeds, scratching mulch,
Rousing the six o’clock yard dogs
From their dreaming running across the fields,
Waking me with barks, chirps and laughter.
Seems a whole zoo is loose out here today.
Seems a Rothko sunrise, layered, the way the leaves
Crank out the colors one by one into the other,
The Autumn palate goes hazy,
And there is no blues before this sunrise,
It’s all a shout of raw sienna rock and roll.
Bacon on the stove top,
Buttermilk biscuits in the oven,
Cold orange juice and a kiss so sweet
It seems that wars really were fought for her.
A kiss at dawn so sweet that the world is at peace.
The world rests in her arms the way it should.
And I am more a man just by being so blessed;
Blessed to be with her on this brisk October morning.