Forces of Nature

2 10 2011

I had a lot to do; many errands and tasks to complete in the brief respite we know as a weekend. Yet, October had arrived. And with that arrival the very first coolness that is autumn.  Despite official decrees adhering to the equinox, autumn does not arrive until you can feel her, a cool caress; and hear her, a soft rustle and bustle as wind makes its way through wood; and see her, a patchwork of bright colors peering from within a monochrome curtain of green; and smell her, faintly earthy and dirty in a deliciously naughty way. The only thing left is to taste, and for that we made a dinner resplendent with the flavors and feel of fall. Yes, there was a lot to do and now there remains the same, but only a fool denies the forces of nature when she beckons….


Bolognese Sauce (served over home made roasted beet root pasta)

  • 8 ounces finely chopped pancetta
  • 2 cups onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup madeira
  • 4 ounces red wine
  • 1 Tbs. anchovy paste
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • Bouquet garni (6 sprigs oregano, 6 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs parsley, 2 bay leaves)
  • 1 (28 ounce) can pureed San Marzano tomatoes
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • Basil, chiffonade cut for garnish

In a separate small sauce pan reduce the cream by 1/3 over medium low heat. Render the pancetta in a large stockpot over medium heat. . Add the beef and veal, season with salt and pepper and brown the meats. Add the garlic, carrot, celery and onions and cook until softened, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add the anchovy and tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the Madeira and red wine and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Add the tomatoes and bouquet garni and allow to simmer for about 3 hours. Periodically check and as the liquid evaporates add the milk until it is fully incorporated. After all the milk has been incorporated add the cream. Serve over pasta with basil garnish.


Where’s the Beef?

25 08 2011

For many a year I have preached the Grassroots Gourmet Gospel about eating fresh and avoiding adulterated products through following The Path of The Three“Be’s”:

  • Be Aware and Avoid the call of the Junk Food/Fast Food Siren
  • Be Fresh-But No Adultery!
  • Be On Time and In Proportion

Yet, many people are still unaware that this goes beyond simply avoiding fast food or junk food. Simply because something is purchased at a supermarket does not mean it is free from prior manipulation. The act of altering our foodstuffs by adding or subtracting compounds and/or altering the form of the food by cooking, irradiating or freezing has some effects. Some, perhaps the vast majority, of these effects are negligible. Perhaps some only have significance with long cumulative exposure or critical combination. Perhaps others are altered, for better or worse, by a tincture of time. Other effects may only manifest in the setting of susceptible genetics or physiology. These are the great unknowns regarding the Law of Unintended Consequences. What is clear is that the variables and thus the result operate in equations much more complex than simple addition and subtraction.

And it is also an oversimplification to label groups of foods as simply good or bad. Red meat, as a group, contains the entire gamut of possibilities. There are fresh lean game cuts and grass fed free range beef steaks. AT the other end there are industrialized geometrically symmetrically processed patties with a list of additives longer than Keith Richards’ toxicology report. As chef and an interventional cardiologist I am often asked my opinion about red meat consumption. So I shall opine: as but one in long lineage of omnivores, to put it quite simply, I love my meatses. And I love my meatses fresh. Although my choices are driven by my taste buds and several million years of evolutionary hardwiring I find adjudication within the confines of medical science. As an example several recent studies, including a meta-analysis comprising over a million participants worldwide performed by Harvard, have failed to demonstrate a correlation between consumption of fresh red meat and increased cardiovascular risk[i],[ii],[iii],[iv],[v]. However, there did appear to be increased cardiovascular risk and an increased risk of developing diabetes when highly processed meat products were regularly consumed.

Why? How? Is there a difference?  Isn’t eating any red meat the cardiovascular equivalent of launching an atherosclerotic drone into your coronary artery? The answer is there appear to be major differences and it’s time we moved beyond bovine bigotry by regarding all red meat as a single class of foodstuffs. It’s like lumping a Yugo and a Ferrari together as “cars” and being confused at the quarter mile time trial results.

Consistent with the previous data examining cardiovascular risk and the consumption of fresh red meat, the largest study to date examining red meat consumption and stroke risk was recently published[vi]. Over 40,000 Swedish men aged 45-79 were followed by questionnaire for over a ten year period. The researchers found that consumption “of processed meat, but not of fresh red meat, was positively associated with risk of stroke.”  The increased risk was over twenty percent. Dr. Robert Eckel, a Professor of Medicine at The University of Colorado and a past President of The American Heart Association also noted that the group with the highest intake of processed meat in the Swedish study also had a healthier diet overall, including more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. He commented that this “suggests that the effects of processed meat may confound the benefit of a heart-healthy diet.”

This study follows on the heels of a very large and interesting study demonstrating the increased cardiovascular risk when the dietary ratio of sodium (often referred to as “salt intake”) to potassium is greater than one. This may explain why previous studies have failed to definitively link increased absolute amounts of sodium to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The effect may lie in a ratio, not absolutes. The processing of a piece of fresh pork, with sodium to potassium ratio less than one, to produce a slice of ham (even low-fat ham) inverts that ratio. The causative possibilities are intriguing, but the important question remains.

Where’s the beef?

It should be back on the menu-but only if you keep it fresh!

[i] (Micha, Wallace, & Mozaffarian, 2010)

[ii] (Siri-Tarino, Sun, Hu, & Krauss, 2010)

[iii] (Micha & Mozaffarian, Saturated fat and cardiometabolic risk factors, coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: a fresh look at the evidence, 2010)

[iv] (Siri-Tarino P. , Sun, Hu, & Krauss, 2010)

[v] (Siri-Tarino P. , Sun, Hu, & Krauss, Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease, 2010)

[vi] (Larsson, Virtamo, & Wolk, 2011)

Cottage Pie

24 03 2011

What to do with those extra veggies? Add some delicious grass-fed free range ground beef and bison, season and top with Maytag Blue Mashed Potatoes and you have a cottage pie. Often mistakenly labeled as Shepherd’s Pie (Shepherd’s is made with lamb, hence the “Shepherd”) cottage pie is delightfully simple and amazingly satisfying and tasty!

Slow Smoked Cranberry and Honey Glazed Beef Short Ribs

12 12 2010

Slow Smoked Beef Short Rib with Honey Cranberry Glaze (topped with gremolata)

Here in the South, we like to do some things slow. It’s not quite on the Island Time of the more southeastern Caribbean locales, but we are definitely a notch less hurried than our Northern brethren. We speak a little slower, chat a little longer, linger a bit over our iced tea and cook a little more deliberately. That process yields things like slow cooked pork barbeque, for which the South is rightly famous. Here we used that process to slow cook some beef short ribs for several hours, smoking them to delicious perfection. The cranberry glaze kept the taste in season, and also added a honey-sweet heat that formed a delicious crust. Keeping the ribs submerged overnight assured a moist rib when the smoke cleared. This glaze would work equally well for chicken or pork.

  • 6 Beef Short Ribs
  • 1 quart water
  • ½  cup salt
  • 22 oz dark beer (I use Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout)
  • 2 Star Anise
  • 1 stick Cinnamon
  • ¾ pound (~12 oz) Cranberries
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 1-2 Jalapeño pepper, rough cut (leave in seeds for additional heat)
  • 6 Tbs Honey
  •  Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt

Heat the quart of water with the salt to dissolve. Cool and add along with beer to brine the ribs overnight. Add the remaining ingredients together in a separate pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer until the mixture is reduced by about 1/3 and the cranberries have split. Strain through a colander to remove the large pieces and cool.

Prepare your smoker.  Before you smoke the ribs, and frequently as they cook, coat the top of the ribs with some of the glaze. Halfway through the cooking process, turn the ribs and continue to glaze. Remember to reserve enough glaze (about 1 Tbs per rib) to top prior to serving.

Welcome Fall-It’s Doctober!

1 10 2010

It is my favorite month of the year, Doctober! I can think of no better way to kick it off than to finish our second pilot menu. That would mean detailing for you Doc’s secret to the perfect thick steak. No more thick cut steaks with zones of gray that surround a small strip of perfect rare-medium rare middle like smog around LA. Just a thin crust of grilled goodness and flavorful, perfectly done all the way through beefy deliciousness.   

2 inch Grass Fed Organic Free Range Beef Tenderloin topped with Roasted Tomatillo and Prickly Pear Chimichuri-note the perfect pink center surrounded by the thin rim of seared beef!


Doc’s Secrets to the Perfect Thick Steak (1 1/2 inch cuts and greater in thickness)   

  • Dry Age: To create some of that great flavor that comes with dry aging, if you can’t find  or afford those expensive cuts try this maneuver. 24-72 hours prior to the cooking, place the steak, unwrapped on a cooling rack set on a sheet pan. Make sure air can circulate all the way around.  Place in the back of the fridge uncovered. This allows moisture to be removed intensifying flavor and allowing the natural enzymes present in the meat to tenderize as well.
  • Pre-cook: Cook the meat in an oven at low heat prior to grilling. I use about 250 degrees for about 20 minutes, this allows the center to cook without overcooking the edges.
  • Quick Grill: Place the steak on the grill and sear the sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Since the middle is where you want it, you only need a nice sear on the outside.
  • Rest: Let the steaks rest so they can retain juciness.

The Completed Meal

Braised Short Ribs over Truffled Polenta

10 09 2010

Braised Short Ribs over Truffled Polenta


  [tweetmeme source=”WCWD” only_single=false]

This one takes a little advance planning, but well, it’s worth it.


    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 6 beef short ribs with bones, ~2 inches thick
    • 1 Tbs Kosher salt
    •  ½ Tbs freshly ground pepper
    • 1 Tbs Emeril spice
    • ¾ cup AP flour (for dredging)
    • 1 Tbs tomato paste
    • 1 large onion, roughly sliced
    • ½ fennel bulb, roughly sliced
    • 3 carrots, roughly sliced
    • 3 celery ribs, roughly sliced
    • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 1 tsp smoked paprika
    • 2 cups red wine
    • 3 thyme sprigs
    • 3 oregano sprigs
    • 2 cups chicken stock


  1. In a large sautoir pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Season the flour with salt, pepper and Emeril spice. Lightly dredge the ribs in the flour. When the oil starts smoking add them to the pan until browned (about 2-4 minutes per side). Remove them from the pan.
  2. Reduce the heat and using the same pan add the tomato paste onion, carrots, celery, fennel, smoked paprika and garlic to the pan and cook over low heat until soft and lightly browned, about 15- 20 minutes. Remove the vegetables and in a Dutch oven or heavy baking dish layer the vegetables on the bottom. Place the ribs in a single layer on top of the vegetables. Add the wine to the pan and deglaze any remaining bits. Add thyme and oregano sprigs and bring to a boil and then remove and pour over the ribs and let cool for 8 hours or overnight, turning the ribs once.
  3. Preheat the oven to 325°. Over the stove top add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Remove and place in the oven covered and cook for about 90 minutes. Uncover and braise for 45 minutes longer, turning the ribs once or twice, until the sauce is reduced by about half.
  4. Transfer the meat to a clean shallow oven proof dish. Strain the sauce using a fine mesh strainer making sure to push all the juice out of the vegetables. Place the sauce into a medium saucepan and reduce until slightly thickened. Remove and reserve.
  5. Preheat the broiler to high. Drizzle the top of the ribs with the sauce and place under the broiler for several minutes, until the sauce thickens and starts to glaze upon the top of the meat.
  6. Place the ribs on top of the polenta and drizzle sauce over the plated ribs. Serve and enjoy.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

21 05 2010
From Doc’s Rx Pad: I know this is a long post, but I believe it is an important one. It speaks to the core philosophy of Doc’s Grassroots Gourmet Program. It highlights that the “conventional wisdom” while often conforming is not always wise. Please read and pass it along, I am going to leave this one up all weekend so everyone has a chance to read it.

Along with Murphy’s Law, I believe the other universal truism is The Law of Unintended Consequences. The universe is always in a cause and effect mode. The glass falls off the table and breaks. Cause then effect, the glass never jumps from the floor and reassembles itself on the table. The universe never operates in an effect then cause fashion. As many of you know, I promote Doc’s Grassroots Gourmet style of food preparation and cooking. This means, among other things, using fresh ingredients and minimizing the processed additives where possible.


The Law of Unintended Consequences.

Whenever you alter something, no matter how slight, it has some consequence. Some consequences do not translate into any meaningful effects, homeostasis is maintained. Some cause major perturbations. But make no mistake, there is some effect. With our keen science we do our best to foresee what those effects will be and appropriately address them. That is where the law of unintended consequences comes in; there are things which occur to a system that neither anyone can foresee nor did anyone ever intended to happen.

For awhile now I have been promoting eating healthy not by necessarily skimping on the steak, but by choosing a different steak (and a reasonable portion). Beef from free range grass fed cattle is low in saturated fats and rich in omega -3 fatty acids and other goodies (see previous posts for the references). Well, here’s the data coming in to support our working hypothesis about choosing these products and including them in a tasty, enjoyable and healthy diet.

A recent meta-analysis from the Harvard School of Public Health published in Circulation this month suggests that the cardiovascular risk associated with red meats comes primarily from the highly processed and chemically treated varieties such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and other processed lunch and deli meats. The non-processed meats examined were beef, lamb and pork (not poultry).

While both contain fat, cholesterol and saturated fat, the processed choices are much higher in salt, preservatives and additives. The analysis combined data from 20 different studies involving more than 1.2 million people worldwide.  The findings revealed that daily consumption of about two ounces of processed meat was associated with a 42% increased risk of heart disease and a 19% increased risk of diabetes. Conversely, a four-ounce daily serving of red meat from beef, hamburger, pork, lamb or game did not increase the risk of heart disease, nor did it significantly increase the risk of diabetes. The rates of smoking, exercise and other risk factors were similar between the two groups.

The study concluded people, especially those already at risk of heart problems or with high blood pressure, should consider reducing consumption of bacon, processed ham, hot dogs and other packaged meats that have a high salt and nitrate content. The heavily processed choices had four times the amount of sodium and 50% more nitrates than their unprocessed counterparts. I would add to that the processed versions also contain high levels of additional compounds and preservatives. This combination is what may have led to an unintended consequence in the effort to keep food preserved. The levels of saturated fat and cholesterol are roughly equivalent between the highly processed and unprocessed meats.

“ (There are) factors that have made all red meats potential culprits in raising the risk of cardiovascular disease….But when you try to separate processed from unprocessed meats, you get an entirely different picture.” said Renata Micha, a research fellow in the Harvard School of Public Health’s epidemiology department and a lead author of the study. Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietician at the British Heart Foundation echoes our Grassroots Gourmet viewpoint: “If you like red meat, this can still be included as part of a balanced heart-healthy diet… aim to cook from scratch.”

A previous meta-analysis released in March involving 21 different studies found that intake of saturated fat wasn’t linked to a statistically-significant increased risk of heart disease, stroke or cardiovascular disease.

These studies do not establish a cause and effect relationship; it is correlative. They do, however, validate the universal truism held within The Law of Unintended Consequences. In our Grassroots Gourmet philosophy, we choose the path of least perturbation.

When you gets your meatses, I suggest you do the same.