Monday, June 21, 2010

So Meaty!

In the case of the beef stew, I can’t say which proverbial chicken or egg came first. Did I want to make dinner with as many local ingredients as possible because I’d decided to be a locavore, or did I want to be a locavore after making dinner? Either way, I was determined to make a full dinner for LA and I using as many ingredients purchased from the farmers’ market as possible.

After reviewing the list of items from Scally’s Natural Beef, I settled on some chuck roast. I hadn’t run into Sandra Scally at any of the markets before. I initially planned on getting beef from T&D Charolais, but they were apparently scared off by the storm that evening. Sandra had stuck it out, so I bought the roast from her. She even invited us out to visit their farm. We’ll be making the trip in the coming weeks.

Now that I had chuck roast, I had to formulate a plan for dinner. I still had some creamer potatoes that I’d gotten from Miller Produce. We got to the market late on Saturday morning, so the pickings were a little slim. No carrots? Everyone had sold out. I managed to find a bunch of meager-looking purple carrots from Barbee Farms. I also bought garlic and an onion from them. My dinner was starting to come together. I had gotten some rosemary from Deborah’s Kitchen Kreations, which I could put to good use in the beef stew.

While looking for carrots, we saw that Ohana Favorites was selling cherries. I love cherries. I grabbed a bag and instantly set my mind on cherry clafouti, a French dessert that falls somewhere between a custard and a bread pudding. I told my dinner plans to Joanie, the owner of Ohana Favorites, and she asked if she could move in. The custardy aspect of the clafouti would come from eggs that I’d also purchased from Miller Produce.

For the sake of full disclosure, I do have to admit that some supermarket items were harmed in the making of dinner. I used beef broth that I already had, as well as half a bottle of red wine, plus tomato paste from a tube (just like toothpaste!). Dessert involved sugar, flour, and milk from the supermarket.

The day of dinner had arrived. LA and I would be eating after completing a visit to the China Grove Roller Mill Museum. We learned all about how flour was produced in the last century. The museum was far more interesting than either of us had imagined. The day was exceptionally hot, and we both looked forward to returning home for a hearty meal.

First up was the beef stew. LA was concerned by the sight of rosemary in the stew, but I’d used a light hand. The rosemary enhanced the flavor of the stew without overwhelming it, as rosemary is often known to do. The stew was full-flavored and delicious. How beef stew should taste—meaty, savory, full of meat and potatoes. Even better was the tenderness of the beef. We ate it with a spoon, and it melted in our mouths. We sopped up the remaining gravy with homemade rosemary foccacia.

The clafouti came next. A sprinkling of Cognac and powdered sugar on the top, and it was ready to go. The cherries were sweet, although a little masked by the other flavors in the custard. I was concerned that it wouldn’t be custardy enough, since the eggs I used were medium-sized, rather than the more standard large ones. It didn’t matter. We each had a sizable portion and nearly licked the plate clean. Later that night, I finished off the rest of the clafouti. I told myself that it wouldn’t be as good after having been refrigerated. In reality, I just wanted to eat it all!

After the meal, we tried to take an honest assessment. Had it been cheap? No. Had it tasted differently than it would have using supermarket ingredients? No. The beef was more tender than what I’ve typically found in the supermarket, but the taste was imperceptible. With all that being said, I had to ask myself if it was worth the extra cost. My answer? Absolutely! I felt good afterwards. The meal had been quite hearty and filling, but didn’t sit like a brick in our stomachs. While I hadn’t grown the vegetables or slaughtered the beef, I still got a sense of accomplishment. I’d searched for some of the ingredients, rather than showing up and finding them. Plus, the menu had been modified based on what I found. I had a pseudo shopping list, but it wasn’t as easy to fill as if I’d run to the supermarket for everything.

While future meals may not involve as much thought and effort, I’ve decided that the source will still be the same. The farmers’ market sells everything I need to feed myself daily. If it’s not in season or the vendors are out, I guess I just won’t have it that day. That suits me just fine. I’d rather have a locally-grown in-season tomato than some wilted asparagus from Peru. Sorry, Peru. If I want your asparagus, I’ll just have to eat it while I’m visiting Macchu Picchu. Otherwise, I’ll stick to my local vendors.

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