Goose

GooseThanksgiving means turkey.
But, what do you do if you or someone in your family doesn’t like turkey? There are any number of possible replacements for a roast turkey. Plenty of people cook a ham or roast some beef along with their turkey. A large number of us in the Bay Area have Dungeness Crab with our turkey, assuming it’s available. You could still go with something from the poultry family just a bit more exotic.

What about roasting a goose for Thanksgiving?

Geese, much like duck, have a large amount of fat on them which must be rendered out during cooking to make them edible. It is the fat content that makes the goose meat rich and flavorful but also a dish more suitable for holiday celebrations. Also, like duck, goose is a red meat. This means that the breasts are traditionally cooked until medium-rare, unlike turkey which needs to be cooked through and may lead to dry meat. Even better, the fat can be saved and used in other dishes like roasted potatoes.

Most butcher shops carry geese on a year-round basis. But, they will almost always only be available frozen—which is something to consider when deciding on cooking a goose. You can defrost it in the refrigerator or by using cold, running water.

When deciding what size goose to get you should allow for 1-1/2 to 2 pounds per person (unless you have big eaters). An 8-pound goose will serve 4 to 5 while a 12-pound goose should feed 6 to 8. You can always get two smaller geese and roast them together.

There are a number of ways to prepare goose for dinner. It can be roasted whole in a low oven over a long time. This produces a goose that is crisp and crackling-like and the legs become melt-in-your-mouth tender. But roasting the goose whole can also run the risk of over-cooked breast meat. Another approach would be to cook the different parts of the goose separately by roasting the legs and thighs slowly in the oven and sautéing the breasts quickly on the stove. The presentation of a whole bird may be lost but the meat itself will be perfectly cooked. Goose can also be wonderful when braised but again, if you’re going for the wow factor of bringing a goose to the table, this may not be your best option.

There are numerous recipes available on the internet for you to try if you decide to go with goose this Thanksgiving. All of them require rendering out the fat in some way shape or form. One of our favorites is this one adapted from Food & Wine Magazine…

Roasted Goose
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
Yields 6 to 8 servings
This recipe requires you ben the day before roasting the goose. You separate the skin from the meat and then steam the goose. This technique is adapted from Chinese cooking and helps the bird to baste in its own fat and makes the skin extra-crispy. Read more…

Seasonal Fish—What’s Available?

Seasonal Fish—What's Available?Here in California, we are spoiled by the abundance that grows, literally, in our backyards. The concept of seasonality has some pretty blurred lines when you can get whatever you want year-round. What you may not know is the same is true for fish.

Avid fishermen are very aware that certain fish can only be harvested at certain times of the year. Yet, meat counters across the west coast always seem to have what we are looking for whenever we need it or have a craving. Though there are some fish that are available year-round, here is a general guide to the seasons of some of your favorite seafood sold in the SF Bay Area.

Albacore Tuna
Available June through October. Look for line or pole caught tuna to promote sustainability. Also, the line/pole caught tunas tend to be younger fish which means they haven’t had the mercury exposure of older resulting in lower mercury levels in the fish itself.

Clams
Farmed clams are available year-round. Wild clams are available October through June. If you are planning to harvest your own clams, make sure to check with state regulations regarding the harvest of the several varieties available on the West Coast.

Dungeness Crab
Available from November through February in the southern West Coast and June through August in the Pacific Northwest area. This fishery spans the coast from just south of San Francisco up into Canada. The opening of Dungeness crab season usually coincides with Thanksgiving in the San Francisco Bay Area. Recent occurrences of high toxin levels in the crab due to water temps caused by global warming as well as pricing disputes with the fisherman have sometimes delayed or even prevented the opening of crab season in the Bay Area. Read more…

Cooking with Pork

Cooking with PorkWhen considering what you are going to have for dinner on any given evening, how often do you think about a juicy pork chop? Despite being a mainstay of cuisines around the globe, chances are pork is not the first option that comes to mind. While there is any number of reasons why this might be true, the most likely one would be because there is the perception that pork is a tough, dry and flavorless product. This belief is born out of the idea that pork needed to be cooked long enough to make it safe to eat. The quality of the pork could have been excellent—but the finished product was ruined by overcooking. While that may have been the case years ago, recent changes in pork production and cooking guidelines are altering the way we cook and eat pork. And, pork dishes of all kinds are being found on the menus of the country’s top restaurants.

The truth is pork can be a very succulent and versatile source of protein. Pork’s natural marbling for juiciness and its ability to absorb flavor make it an optimal choice for a variety of cooking styles. It is in the leaner cuts like the pork loins, tenderloins, and chops where the way you cook it can be the difference between a fantastic meal and something tough and hard to eat. So, why the concern about undercooking it?

The USDA recommended cooking guidelines for pork were established because of the concern over the trichinosis parasite. Making sure that your pork reached a certain temperature would ensure that the parasite was destroyed and you wouldn’t get sick. The current reality though is that trichinosis has been almost completely eradicated in American pork with only a few cases appearing each year, usually with pigs that are homegrown and not inspected by the USDA. While that is great news, we still need to be cautious and cook the pork correctly. But, we don’t need to incinerate it.

Trichinae are destroyed at a temperature of 137 ºF but to be completely sure, it is best to cook pork to a temperature of 150 ºF to 165 ºF. The meat will still be noticeably pink but is considered to be cooked medium. This means you should be taking the meat out of the oven or off the grill when it reaches 145 ºF and let it rest.

Another reason not to overcook your pork? This is not your Grandma’s pig. As recent as 50 years ago, the pigs that went to market weighed an average of 300 pounds and had a thick, beautiful multiple, inches-thick layer of fat along the ribs. And as we know, the fat is where the flavor is. There was more fat on the animal in general which made for a richer, juicier meat that could stand reaching temperatures as high as 180 ºF and longer cooking times without drying out.

That is no longer the case. Today’s pigs go to market at an average of 240 pounds and have a fat layer less than an inch thick. For those who are watching their fat and cholesterol intake, this is fantastic news because today’s pork has less overall fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories than an equivalent amount of skinless chicken thighs. This gives you options when choosing what protein to fuel your body. When cooked correctly, this makes for a much more flavorful and satisfying meal than serving chicken day after day.

Thick Pork Chops with Spiced Apples and Raisins Recipe
Pork and apples are a delicious flavor combination. This recipe for Thick Pork Chops with Spiced Apples and Raisins is adapted from Tyler Florence. The pork chops are definitely tasty (brining is a must!) and a pork roast will work well, too. But for some, the main reason to make it is the warm compote. Read more…

Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat BurgerPlant-Based Burgers
If you have been watching the news lately you may have noticed that plant-based foods, burgers especially, have been featured prominently. The buzz is because unlike the meatless burgers of the past, Beyond Meat in particular has managed to produce a burger that they say comes as close to cooking, looking, and tasting like an actual beef burger as you can without the cow.

How is that even possible? you might ask…the answer is pea protein.

Pea protein is derived from yellow split peas that have been dried and then ground into a fine powder. The starch and fiber are then removed, leaving a powdered concentrated protein substance also known as pea protein isolate. This protein isolate is completely plant-based, unlike some other protein alternatives—which means it is ideal for vegetarians and vegans. What is amazing about pea protein is that it can be made in such a way that it mimics the way ground beef cooks as well as it’s texture. It even bleeds like a burger thanks to added beet juice. Added coconut oil is what gives the burger it’s juiciness.

Being plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for you, though. Reality is the calorie count for one of these burgers is essentially the same as the real thing, hovering at around 280 calories. Same goes with the saturated fat content. The sodium is on the high side too. Also, If you are someone who is trying not to eat processed foods keep in mind that this product, though plant-based, is highly processed. Lastly, the peas used are legumes. Anyone who has a peanut allergy or reacts to other legumes might want to steer clear to avoid a reaction.

Ultimately, the choice to eat a plant-based burger v.s. a real beef burger is an environmental one as well as a personal choice. The less beef we eat, the less stress we put on our resources and our planet which we can all agree is a good thing, but then again so is the occasional double cheese burger.

We put the Beyond Burgers to the test with some hardcore carnivores and we were pleasantly surprised. All of them said that while they still prefer the taste of a beef burger, the Beyond Burger is something they would actually buy and eat as a a healthier alternative like they would a turkey burger or black bean burger.

Beyond Meat is not just about burgers. They also make sausages and their version of ground beef. We are currently using their ground product in a number of our meatless pasta dishes available in our Deli Grab N Go section so if you are curious, pick some up for dinner tonight…

Prime v.s. Choice Beef

Prime v.s. Choice BeefIf you are someone who consumes beef with any regularity, you have most likely seen the USDA Prime or USDA Choice grade symbols either on the package or as part of an advertisement. But, do you know what they really mean? The easy answer would be to say that the USDA Prime option is the better cut of beef…which would only sort of be true. You could have a cut of USDA Choice that can be as good or sometimes even better than Prime. So how do you choose?

The guidelines the USDA uses to determine what is Prime, Choice, or Select beef all revolve around two words, marbling and abundant.

Marbling is the easy part. Marbling is the amount of fat that can be seen within the cut of meat. The more fat marbling, the better the flavor.

Abundant is a little more complicated. A cut of beef can have moderately abundant marbling, slightly abundant marbling, moderate marbling, slight marbling, and everything else in between. It’s enough to give someone a headache.

To help soothe the ache, below is a quick guide to the two most popular grade, Prime and Choice:

USDA Prime
USDA Prime beef refers to high-quality cuts of beef with slightly abundant to abundant marbling. Though Prime beef can now be found at more and more food retailers, Prime beef is most often sold to restaurants and hotels. Prime beef is high quality and tender and comes with a price tag to match. Prime roasts and steaks are best suited to roasting or grilling.

USDA Choice
USDA Choice beef is also high-quality tender beef but with less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts or steaks that come from the loin and rib areas will be very tender and have great flavor with a much more affordable price tag. The less tender Choice cuts will come from the round section. These are the cuts that are better used for braising or slow roasting.

The grade of beef you choose wholly depends on you, what you are cooking and what your budget can allow. There is no right or wrong option. A lot of times it depends on the person preparing it.

If you ever get the opportunity to try a bit of each option side by side I encourage you to experiment and see if you can tell the difference.

How to Grill a Perfect Steak
Here are our instructions for grilling a steak to perfection. Read more…