November 16, 2009

Scrapin' Up the Bits - Bollito di Manzo style

Gina DePalma's posts on Serious Eats are invaluable. Best known as the pastry chef at Molto Mario's world-famous Babbo, DePalma is in Italy doing research for a cookbook and writing up the occasional delicious recipe.

I printed out this Bollito di Manzo recipe some time ago. Now, with fall in full swing, some perfect grass-fed beef cuts for it in our freezer (short ribs), and most of the appropriate veg from the final week's take from our CSA, it was time to finally make it.

The result: good, but not great. The meat itself was really good: extremely tender with a real depth of flavor. You could tell it was grass-fed. The broth, on the other hand, was a little too tame. Not surprisingly, I did not have any veal bones. Next time (and there will be a next time) I'll add one more rack of short ribs, a few more all spice berries and peppercorns, and I may remove the short ribs when they are tender, strip off the beef and put the bones back in to cook in the pot for just another hour or so before turning off the heat and letting it cool.

In the meantime, I have a good bit of of the broth from this first batch in the freezer. When I go to use that, I think I'll bring it to a simmer for about 30 minutes with a parmesan rind in it, maybe even use it to make some risotto. I'm thinking mushrooms.

I'll admit that I'm slightly torn on this one: whether raw oysters harvested during warm months along the Gulf Coast should be banned. I enjoy raw oysters. I eat them selectively, though, from places that I feel are dedicated to getting the freshest product possible. In these parts, that likely means the northeast coast.

Yet I know that when I eat them I am taking a risk. A small one, but a risk nonetheless that I may get sick. Apparently in the Gulf Coast region about 15 people die each year from eating raw oysters. They apparently have a higher risk of being infected with a nasty bacteria when they are harvested during warm months. And the FDA had proposed a ban on them.

After getting push back from legislators in the region and the oyster industry, that ban has been indefinitely delayed.

The agency said it would conduct a study of the issue. “It is clear from our discussions to date that there is a need to further examine both the process and timing for large and small oyster harvesters to gain access to processing facilities,” the agency said in a statement.

There are, reportedly, ways of dealing with the bacteria.

The anti-bacterial process treats oysters with a method similar to pasteurization, using mild heat, freezing temperatures, high pressure and low-dose gamma radiation.

But doing so "kills the taste, the texture," [said Mark DeFelice, head chef at Pascal's Manale Restaurant in New Orleans]. "For our local connoisseurs, people who've grown up eating oysters all their lives, there's no comparison" between salty raw oysters and the treated kind.

For now, the non-anti-bacterially treated Gulf Coast oyster is alive and well.

The health care reform bill -- you know, the one that will end democracy and freedom as we know it (that's snark, FWIW) -- passed in the House includes language that would require many restaurants, including fast food chains, to explicitly post on their menus how many calories are in each dish. It's interesting because the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation just did a study (careful, this is the whole PDF!) that showed providing calorie information at the point of purchase decreased the amount of food people ate during those meals.

Oh, and finally, while as a country
we throw out like 30 percent of the food we purchase and have gazillions of acres of corn to provide feed for cows so we can have cheap burgers at Red Robin, there are a lot of people going hungry:

In its annual report on hunger, the [USDA] said that 17 million American households, or 14.6 percent of the total, “had difficulty putting enough food on the table at times during the year.” That was an increase from 13 million households, or 11.1 percent, the previous year.

For those in the Pittsburgh area, you can make a contribution to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank here.

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