Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ask the Internet: Meat Ideas for an Ex-Vegetarian?

This week's question comes from our very own Jaime, writer of the mighty Green Kitchen column.

From Flickr's Shawnzam
Q: Dear internet,

I recently started eating meat again after 13 years of vegetarianism. I love to cook [obvs] and am excited about these new options, but although I know veggies and soy products well, I've never cooked meat, as I went veg back when my mom was still packing my lunches.

What are some inexpensive cuts of meat that can be prepared easily? (I don't - yet - have a slow cooker.) I want to stay away from factory-farmed meat, but humanely-raised chicken is easily gettable for me. (I also can't cook fish at home, because my boyfriend is majorly allergic.) So where should I start?

[Meat is so tasty!]

A: Jaime! Man, it's so tempting to write "bacon" and scuttle away, cackling all the while.

Instead, I'll point you to chicken thighs. They're inexpensive, nutritionally pretty good, and very, very forgiving when overcooked. Buying humanely-raised thighs might be a little tough, but after you try Chicken Provencal, you won't be sorry.

Readers, whaddaya think? Let's indoctrinate Jaime right.

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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alexis said...

I make a really good picadillo with ground turkey (i dont know if u'll find anything authentically humanely raised, but you'll find plenty of ground beef n turkey labeled organic, hormone free, free range, grassfed, etc)

1 lb ground turkey (of course could use ground beef also)
1 big onion (chopped)
3 poblano peppers (chopped)
half big can (1 med can) diced tomato - (could also use some tomato paste, tomato sauce whatever)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 whole habanero ( put a few slices in it to let the heat thru)
two big handfuls of raisins
1 can beans (whatever kind u have, rinse and drain)
1 potato diced
2 bay leaves
black pepper
tiny tiny tiny sprinkle of cinnamon
2 tblsp vinegar
two big hanfuls frozen peas (maybe 1/3 bag?)
cilantro ( could be parsley - would be dif flavors... but do what u like)
capers (** this is good with olives, i cant use em cuz boo doesnt eat them)

u can omit, double, or change anything in here to suit ur taste or whats in ur kitchen

heat a lil oil in a macaroni pot on med-high

add onion, peppers (poblano and habanero), bay leaves

when onion translucent and peppers soften, add garlic

after 30 sec to 1 min (let garlic soften, NOT BROWN) add the ground turkey

brown the ground meat

once meat is not pink, add tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, raisins, black pepper

add about 2 cups water (just fill the bean can) (more water you add, slower it will cook - u might want it to cook slow cuz gives spice more time to develop, so add two cups, might want fast cuz ur hungry, just add one cup....)

add potato

turn on high bring to a boil, once boils take it to med or med low....

if you're making rice, this is the time to put your rice on... rice takes 20 min, ur gonna let this simmer for 15min, and come back to work the last 5

5 min before done, add vinegar and peas

chop cilantro and capers together

after 5 min, shut the heat and add cilantro and capers

u can serve with white rice.....
i also love it on a fresh tortilla (sprinkle some cheese..... mmmmmm)

** note on peppers, ive made this before with bell peppers and jalapenos, just jalapenos, poblanos and habanero, serranos and cubanelles, korean peppers....jarred roasted peppers and added cayenne......

alexis said...

here's another inexpensive tasty one - chicken stew (I like to think it's reminiscent of peruvian seco)

Chicken parts (ive made it with leg quarters, with drumsticks, thighs, boneless skinless breasts, it all works)
Hot peppers (1 to marinate chicken, 1 or 2 for stew - i used jalapenos)
Lime or vinegar or beer or wine (the acid of ur choice)
Garlic (2 cloves to marinate chicken, 4 cloves in stew)
2 Carrots
1 Bell pepper
1 Onion
1 Bay leaf
2-4 Potatoes
Peas or chickpeas
Cilantro (a big handful, could sub out parsley)

1. Grind garlic, 1 hot pepper n salt in mortar n pestle. Rub over chicken, douse with juice of 1 lime, or 1/4 cup of ur acid, n then add water to cover . let marinate (last time I made this I skipped this step and it was still wonderful)

2. Heat 1-2 inches oil in soup pot over med heat. Pat chik dry n fry in batches til browned all over, set aside

3. Once chik is browned, dump extra oil in bowl or jar (u can use this oil to start ur rice, saute aromatics for ur beans, etc) add chopped bell pepper, carrot, hot pepper, onion n garlic to same pot (should have 3-4 tbsp oil)

4.Nestle chik back in, add ur spices n cover w water to top of chick. Bring to boil, then lower to simmer n cover

5. After 20 min add chopped potato. Check salt/ seasoning (can be a lil watery cuz water will reduce more)

6. When chik has absorbed flavor, taters r cooked, broth has thickened to a sauce (about 40 min later), add ur peas n chopped cilantro n kill the heat. Check salt again Serve w rice or egg noodles or mashed taters or in a bowl w/ nice italian bread

Kat Slonaker said...

FISH without question. Simplicity itself: a little olive oil and some seasonings (lemon pepper is a favorite of mine) on some tilapia or other mild fish, slipped under the broiler until a fork stuck in meets no resistance. Mmmmm.

Jen said...

Soups and stews are great ways to incorporate meat in a cheap, healthy, and easy way. Start with a chicken soup! Make the broth if you feel up to it, or just buy a good quality boxed one and poach chicken in it (45 minutes or so at a gentle simmer if you're using a whole bird), shred, add some veggies and/or noodles. Delicious! I recently made a chicken chili from the new show Mad Hungry and it was fantastic:


Of course there's also regular beef chili, or maybe beef stew, or even something like a bean soup with ham or bacon. Again these tend to be harder to screw up because they're cooked in liquid. Anything braised would also work well, such as pot roast, beef short ribs, lamb shanks, etc. It's difficult to overcook those.

And make sure you get a meat thermometer too. It is an invaluable tool for making sure you've cooked meat properly! I've cooked meat my whole life and I still use it regularly.

Anonymous said...

I would be sending you to things that do not have bones for a little bit. Wean your way in without bones. That said how about a pork tenderloin?

Marla @ 180turning30 said...

Do you own a dutch oven? I recently made Chicken Cacciatore (http://180turning30.com/2010/12/15/cooking-new-foods-23-hellbraiser/, adapted from The Pioneer Woman) and Short Rib Ragu (http://180turning30.com/2010/11/29/cooking-new-foods-7-sacred-short-rib-ragu/, adapted from Bobby Flay) and both were amazing (a-braizing?).

Kristen » gezellig-girl.com said...

Learn how to roast a chicken!

Speaking as both a.) a former vegetarian, and b.) a current tightwad, I know the price on a humanely-raised chicken can put you into sticker shock, but try to remember there's at least 5 meals you can wring out of that one chicken — roast the chicken in whatever way you'd like, use the leftovers wisely, then use the bones for stock, and it's really a bargain.

Sassy Molassy said...

Since you want to buy humanely farmed chicken and whole seems to be the easiest way to find them, you might consider buying several and cutting them up yourself, then freezing portions of just legs, just thighs, etc.

Here's my all-purpose marinade and a method for using it to roast chicken legs and thighs, but I also use it for pork chops, whole pork loin, and steaks that we plan to grill.

In a large zip-lock bag, combine about 1/4 cup olive oil, a few (3-4) tablespoons of Dale's marinade (or something else salty and brown, like Bragg's, Worcestershire, or soy sauce), Montreal Steak seasoning (grainy, peppery spice mix), a blob of spicy brown mustard (1-2 Tbsp)and about 1/2 cup of water. Seal the bag and press it to mix well, then add chicken legs and/or thighs. (I do large numbers of legs a lot because I'm cooking for 6-9 people every night). Let sit at least 30 minutes, then dump the whole thing, excess marinade and all, onto a large, foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 385 degrees (I use the convection setting on my oven, but if you don't have that option baking is fine) until done. Legs take about 45 minutes, thighs an hour.

Sara said...

I've found that it's sometimes easier to find whole chickens when you're looking for humanely raised meat rather than the cut-up parts. I made this chicken for a vegetarian boyfriend once and it was a huge hit (he agreed to eat chicken for one night if I cooked it!):


It is also super easy...whole chickens are easier than you might think! :)

Rachel said...

Any ground meat is good transition food. It mixes into almost anything (pasta sauce, stir fries, casseroles) that you are already familiar with, or can be at the center of the meal (burgers, meatballs. or loaves)Just remember that the leaner the meat(turkey or very lean ground beef) the easier it is to dry out.
That said, I really to second learning to roast a chicken (I've done them all sorts of ways- high temp, low temp, etc and as long as I season it well and don't not over cook it, it is always the bomb). I do not believe there is a more delicious meal for the tiny amount of work involved. Roast vegetables in the pan and you have a gorgeous one pan meal. Adding in leftovers and broth as a bonus and it is you little black dress of carnivorism.

beth said...

The seafood allergy is a bummer, as that is some of the easiest stuff to learn to cook. I'd have to second the chicken stew idea with some chicken white chili. You could also use chicked or pork cuts to make chile verde. Tacos or pasta recipes are always super simple too.

To stick with a tight budget, I'd definitely recommend the slow cooker. You can do cheap cuts of almost anything (and cheap cuts of humanely raised meat may still be pricier than the sale stuff, but it's still cheaper than a life of tenderloin and chicken breasts) with seasoning & root veggie of choice for 8 hours and eat for a week.

LibertyJBE said...

Sausage is one of my favorites. Added to broth and veggies you can make a wide range of soups with lots of flavor. You also don't need much, maybe 2-3 links to feed 4. I also second boiling a whole chicken. It's not as hard at it looks.

Carla said...

most dishes that call for a slow cooker can be done in a 250 oven in a casserole dish covered with foil

some things off the top of my head:
chili/burgers/meatloafs (w ground turkey, chicken or beef)

stewed chicken thighs - italian style use tomato, basil, garlic/ mexican style use tomato, cilanto, onion/ asian style use soy, mushrooms, sesame seeds

beef brisket - use a dry rub, sear it on the stove in a pan then add a cup or so of liquid (wine, bbq sauce, tomatoes anything really) cover and cook at 250F for a few hours

also don't forget basically any pasta primavera type dish will usually take cubed up chicken breasts or thighs (brown meat, then add veggies once all soft add to cooked pasta and sauce)

Sally said...

You don't need a slow cooker to cook the tougher cuts of meat -- you need something to cook it in (a 9x13 pan covered with foil will do) low heat and time. In addition to chicken, I'd suggest any kind of beef or pork roast. They're not difficult to cook, they're tasty and there are innumerable possible uses for leftovers.

Marcia said...

I agree on the roast chicken.

Ina Garten has a great recipe - google it.

Then you've got leftovers for stir fry, soup, stew, enchiladas...

I am mostly vegetarian, so I don't cook meat often. I have slowly built up a repertoire.

I also buy humane meat, which is expensive ($4-8 a pound). So, I don't want to screw it up. When I want to make something and not screw it up, I go to Cook's Illustrated.

Michelle said...

Here are a couple of my favorite recipes.

I use boneless chicken thighs and when I am in a hurry, I skip the shallots, ginger and oil and it is still delicious. My four year old declared it the best chicken ever.

I always skip the water chestnuts and cilantro or the kids would not eat them. I use just ground beef, just ground pork or a combination depending on what I have on hand from our meat CSA.

Darra said...

I eat lots of different kinds of meat, but for some reason the smell of ground beef browning is my favorite cooking smell. This is an Everyday Food recipe that is fabulous and so easy: Thai Beef with chiles and Basil http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/thai-beef-with-chiles-and-basil-over-coconut-rice

chacha1 said...

I agree with Anonymous - pork tenderloin is a great entry-level meat. No bones, cooks in less than 20 minutes on the stovetop, takes an infinite variety of seasonings, and it's inexpensive.

I cook it in my Calphalon nonstick grill pan. Brown in a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter on medium-high, then reduce heat to medium-low, add seasonings and 1/2 cup of liquid, cover, and cook 7 minutes per "side." Yes, it's kind of round - turn it only once. :-)

tt in nyc said...

Am I the only one who is sad about your decision to eat animals? Just because they are humanly raised, its still a life taken unnecessarily.