Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Zero to Two: Pondering meat quantity

Meat is not something I really love - I can take it or leave it. But I have a really hard time getting excited about anything that bills itself as vegan or vegetarian. A friend recently cooked and served a vegan chili for a meeting I was attending and before I even tried it I felt sorry for myself for having to eat it. I assumed it was going to be loaded with some weird fake meat. It turned out to be a Rick Bayless recipe, one I enjoyed immensely, have cooked myself and passed along. There's no fake meat - it's really a rice and beans dish. I cooked it for a crowd of over 100 for a catering event, along with the usual suspects (chopped fresh cilantro and red onion, jalapeno rounds, hot sauce, sour cream and shredded Jack) and had zero left over. Being a RB recipe the chili is really healthy, though you can throw it all off kilter with the addition of dairy. I like my chili flourished with a burst of cilantro and red onion.

On the other end of the vegan-carnivore spectrum is the two-meat-feast that has become our modus operandi for holiday entertaining.  It's decadent, to be sure, and extraordinary, in the truest sense of the word. This year our Thanksgiving buffet included the traditional turkey but also a  beef tenderloin. My good friend Robin counseled me through my first beef tenderloin this summer. It's really quite simple. The hardest thing for me was overcoming my fear or ruining an expensive piece of meat. But if you follow Ina Garten's straightforward method you can't go wrong. Well, you can if you cut it poorly. I had a helper at a party this summer who cut the gorgeous filet  in very thin slices reducing it to a deli platter of roast beef. That was unfortunate. My husband did the honors at Thanksgiving, and set out of gorgeous platter of nearly one-inch thick slices, plated in an overlapping line on a long platter.

And somewhere in the middle are the smaller portions of animal protein we eat most nights. Four ounces of that beef filet has just under 3 grams of saturated fat. I generally serve 4 to five-ounce portions of lean animal protein, including fish and skinless chicken breasts. That amount suits our bodies and never weighs us down. My portions are always challenged by the butcher or fishmonger, though. I guessing it's a combination of them trying to drive sales and me purchasing smaller portions than most. What size portions do you serve at home?

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