Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lofty-Minded Local (I Just Can't Help It).

As I was leaving work today, I got into a local-blog conversation with fellow Challenge-taker e__ly, who was excitedly telling me about pulling & eating her first onions from her garden. Midway through her description, however, she stopped & said something to the effect of, "...but that's probably not very interesting to someone as hardcore as you..." I protested, & we laughed it off, but this exchange is still bothering me somewhat. Are people getting the wrong impression, here? Am I coming off as some sort of haughty purist who doesn't have time to listen to apparently pedestrian stories of the simple joys of the garden? True, I'm consistently eating above 80%, without too much bother, & I'm loving it quite vocally. But isn't it also true that I wish I'd thought ahead (let alone really desired) to plant my own garden? Isn't it possible that I sometimes regret that my adventures in eating locally are almost entirely of the consumer, rather than producer, variety?

So, in order to reestablish my street cred as a simple, salt-of-the-earth kinda guy, I will now show you a bunch of pretty pictures of totally awesome high-end gourmet meals that I've made recently, like it was no big thing:

Local braised pastured pork country rib with turnip-potato mash,
wilted turnip greens, & tomato veloute

Making & eating this meal was almost enough to make me cry. The flavors were so pure & well-matched that I had to reassure myself that I'd actually made it. It's entirely possible that in my 10-odd years of restaurant work, I rarely came close to creating a plate like this, even with entire walk-ins full of ingredients to play with. Like any pioneer of Electro or Hip Hop music could tell you, sometimes the magic is in the minimalism.

I wasn't sure at first how to work out the percentages on this one, since for the stock I had to use imported celery & carrot (CA), plus Beeler's smoked ham shanks (IA), which fell close to the limit of my personal distance guidelines. But with the revelation that Iowa falls within the Market's definition, combined with the fact that only a fraction of the plated meal actually uses said stock, I'm going to put it at a solid 75%. See, guys? I'm no stick-in-the-mud! Best of all, the leftover stock was very useful in making some great soup, which I'll post on soon.

Local grass-fed beef with mushroom compound butter,
3 cheese potato gratin, & micro greens

Yep, just some down-home steak & potatoes. I didn't grow up eating my steak on the rarer side of medium rare... Well, actually I didn't grow up eating steak at all (well-meaning mothers of the world, take heed). But because I was using the cheapest (& most sensibly small) cut that Thousand Hills offers (Round Tip), it was necessary. Grass-fed beef is so much leaner than conventional that eating it closer to raw than most people deem normal is no big deal. It doesn't have that same bloody, rust-tinged taste that we associate with rare beef, & it makes for a pleasantly tender steak. Due to the fact that after the picture was taken, I chose to drizzle some non-local Cardini's Italian dressing on the greens, I will score this one as 90% local.

Local pan-seared pastured pork loin chop with maple-thyme glaze,
parsnip-potato mash, & red kale with caramelized cippolini onion

I hesitate to claim that this dish was completely incredible, as I was slightly unimpressed with the way the kale behaved while I was preparing it. Apparently, the red-veined variety of kale does not turn vibrantly green & crimson when blanched. At least, not when I blanched it. It still tasted pretty wicked, though. I'm not sure how I'm going to deploy the leftovers from my parsnip mash, but I'm leaning towards making some kind of savory crepe, as I've hypothesized in the past. By the way, if we don't count the vinegar, sea salt & pepper, this one was 100% local.

Removing my tongue from my cheek, & granting that my nose may still appear to be high in the air, I do hope that people understand that I don't want to come off as having any better of a grasp on this Challenge thing than anyone else. Like all of us (when I'm not gleefully showing off, that is), I'm highly likely to be snacking on local chips & homemade salsa in order to put off doing the dishes, or trying futilely to make an 80% local bowl of cereal magically appear through a careful combination of Rice Chex & locally-made granola, in order to avoid getting greasy before work. & by all means, friends, please tell me about your garden escapades; I may not show it, but inside I'm wildly jealous.

Well, not of the weeding, anyway.

-nano out.

1 comment:

Liz said...

What a snob...
It's true that your gourmet meals are a bit intimidating, but if you didn't post pictures of them, I'd be mad.

I'll continue in a post, as the comment I had written is becoming too long.