The phone rang while I was away at a conference recently. It was Giuliano. “Lael,” he said, “why is there a box of beef at our door”?  Oops…

Social media is a great thing!  Through twitter I had met the director of Rocky Mountain Organic Meat, our tweeting each other had led to a phone call where I learned about his mail-order-only grass-fed beef.  Rocky Mountain Organics is based near the Big Horn Basin in Wyoming and the company works with the “tribes” to make sure that their cows are certified organic.  A certified organic cow is one that has been raised on land that remains in its natural state.  In addition, the cattle are tracked from birth to consumption and there is a long list of what the cattle may not eat.  Upon learning that this meat is VERY lean, I was a bit skeptical.   I like marbling on my meat; I wasn’t sure how I was going to like meat this lean.  Rod generously offered to send me some.   Hence the phone call from my husband.

We were sent “one of each”.  There was some ground meat, some tenderloin, a flank steak and a NY strip.  There were even samples of jerky.  I had grandiose ideas of a feast, but Giuliano looked at me bemusedly and told me that each cut would just about feed our family of four.

The arrival of the meat coincided with a family gathering.  My in laws, Victor and Marcella Hazan were coming over to celebrate Michela’s 7th birthday and Labor Day.  We had asked Michela what she wanted to eat in celebration and she had said, “broccoflower pasta and meat”.   We were happy to oblige.  Giuliano grilled the flank steak and made a tagliata out of the NY strip.

Marcella Hazan choses her meat carefullyThe verdict was positive.  The meat had a rich flavor and a firm texture that spoke of the place where it was raised: much like a wine, its terroir.  Victor was reminded of a neighbor he had who was from Argentina.  Apparently the neighbor had always complained that American meat was too tender, and that a good steak in Argentina, considered the capital of flavorful beef, was something you could sink your teeth into. Victor was confident his neighbor would have enjoyed this meat.  Marcella who is soon to be 87 proclaimed that one needed “50 year old teeth” to chew this meat.  Indeed, it didn’t just melt away, it had texture and flavor.

A few nights later, Giuliano made meatballs out of the ground meat. Meatballs in Italy are not served “on top of spaghetti”, but as their own dish.  In our house, we serve them with rice. Creating meatballs is a great family activity, so our children joined in which also helped to vary the size.  They were very flavorful and we all gave them a thumbs up.

In addition to providing the meat for our tasting table, Rocky Mountain Organic Meat generously offered to sponsor our first giveaway.   This contest ran from September 27- October 12, 2010 when we had  our daughter, Michela, pull out a name.  The winner  received a 10-pound box of beef from Rocky Mountain Organic Meats.  Please read until after the recipe, the post has been updated to announce the winner and gives her views on the meat.

Meatballs with Tomatoes and Peas

@Giuliano Hazan

These tender, delicate meatballs are comfort food at its best.  This recipe, with minor variations, has passed from generation to generation in my family.  I learned it from my mother, who learned it from her mother, and it is a favorite of our children, who already make it with us.  The meatballs are particularly delicious with White Rice.

Preparation time:  35 minutes

Total time from start to finish:  one hour

Serves 4 (makes about 20 meatballs)

1 slice plain white bread

2 tablespoons whole milk

1 tablespoon finely chopped yellow onion

1 pound ground beef chuck

1 large egg

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice

1 1/4 pounds fresh peas in the pod or 7 ounces frozen peas

1. Cut away the crust from the slice of bread and put the bread and milk in a small bowl.

2.  Peel and finely chop the onion.  Mash the bread and milk to a pulp with your fingers and put it in a large bowl with the ground meat, onion, egg, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and nutmeg.  Season with salt and pepper and thoroughly mix everything together with your hands.  Form the mixture into small compact meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

3.  Put the breadcrumbs in a small shallow bowl and roll each meatball in it until coated on all sides.

4.  Put the oil in a large skillet or sauté pan that will accommodate all the meatballs snugly and place over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot carefully slide in about half of the meatballs using a large spoon.  Lightly brown them on all sides and set aside.  Repeat with the remaining meatballs.

5.  Pour off most of the oil from the pan leaving just enough to coat the bottom.  Return the pan to medium heat and add the tomatoes, breaking them into small pieces with the spoon.  Lightly season the tomatoes with salt then return all of the meatballs to the pan.  Adjust the heat so that the tomatoes simmer and cover the pan with the lid slightly askew.  Cook for about 10 minutes, turning the meatballs once, after about 5 minutes.

6. If using fresh peas shell them.  Add the peas and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes if using frozen peas, or 20-25 minutes if using fresh peas, until they are tender.  Serve hot with good crusty bread or rice.

Note: These meatballs can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.  If reheating over the stove, add a couple of tablespoons of water to prevent them from drying out.

*** YEAH We have a winner!  Allison Silver of Sarasota won our FIRST ever giveaway!   Thank you to Grassfed organics for making this possible.

Allison Silver of Sarasota won our first ever giveaway.
Here is what she said about the meat:
We had our steak taste test dinner at our friend’s Jared and Cassandra Winters. We prepared all the steaks the same way. We had two from Rocky Mountain and the others were Niman Ranch Ribeye. All got Montreal Steak Spice and a pat of butter when done for Steak au Beurre- our favorite. All were grilled Rare/Medium-Rare.  Sides were roasted fingerlings, cauliflower, squash and greek Salad, all courtesy of the Winters. The Delicato squash was a revelation by the way, and I can’t wait to make some tonight.  Also, we had extremely strong vodka martinis, which added to the excitement.  Prior to eating we all hypothesized that the Niman Ranch steaks might be better since they seemed thicker and looked to have a little more marbling. As well, we had been pre-warned by the article to expect the meat to be a little different that what we were used to.
Rocky Mountain Meat vs. Niman Ranch
photo by Allison Silver
After blind and then uncovered taste tests for all of us, we individually all came up with the same conclusion- THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN STEAK ROCKED!

They really were better. More flavorful, and with a more pleasing texture- delicate, not too tough and the taste was not gamey at all, very pleasing “meaty” taste, with the Niman Ranch being more bland.

We were all surprised:
a) that we felt that way
b) that we were all so certain of it and had each come to the same conclusion.

We will be placing an order I think.  Also, the Beef Jerky and Beef Sticks were a big hit both with our girls as well as the Winters, to whom we gifted a package.
So there you have it.
Allison

taste testing meat: photo by Dr. Allison Silver Schwartz


OFFICIAL RULES:

This is where we get to put in all of those lovely legal disclaimers.  Our intent with this give-a-way is pure enjoyment.  Rocky Mountain Meats is responsible for the shipping and product and we assume no liability.  We thank them as they are also sponsoring this give-a-way by a donation of the product.  We aren’t lawyers and we think it is sad that we need to put in disclaimers; however, it is our intent to conform with all U.S. rules and to only offer the possibility of the product to people who will personally enjoy it.  Basically, if something “bad” happens, we are sorry but don’t hold us libel, we enjoyed the product and are trying to give you an opportunity to do so too!  If you are out to “get” us, please stop and think of what kind of world you are creating.

No purchase necessary to enter or win. The selected winner will be notified by e-mail. Entrants can enter 2 times per e-mail address per day. Give-a-way is open only to legal residents of the 50 states of the U.S. (and the District of Columbia), and who are 18 years of age at time of entry. Educated Palate and Hazan Enterprises assumes no responsibility for late or misdirected entries due to SPAM, technological, or e-mail filtering issues or for lost prizes. The use of any system, robot, agent, or software to automatically submit entries in connection with this Giveaway is prohibited.  Educated Palate’s decisions concerning all matters related to this sweepstakes are final. Odds of winning depend upon the number of entries received. Hazan Enterprises employees and their immediate family members are not eligible to win.  No cash substitutions, transfer, or assignment of prizes allowed. Winner must claim prize within 2 weeks after notification or the prize will be forfeited. Prize can only go to a physical address, no PO Boxes.  Winner grants to Educated Palate the right to use his/her name and biographical information in advertising and promotion without compensation or permission.  We would appreciate a photo of you and your “meat” with which we could update our post.  Rocky Mountain Organic Meats will pay for shipping and postage. Any tax, is the sole responsibility of the winner. Winner releases Educated Palate, Rocky Mountain Organic Meats, and Hazan Enterprises from any liability arising out of participation in this Giveaway or the acceptance, use, or misuse of the prize. Void where prohibited by law.