by Terese Allen, Organic Valley Food Editor
The switch is on. More and more Americans are replacing factory-farmed, conventional cuts with organic beef, pork, and poultry. For many of us, the first taste of pasture-raised, pesticide-free beef is a special-occasion steak, or the first experience of organic turkey is a whole roast bird with all the trimmings. But organic man does not live by large cuts alone! Smart cooks add substance and savor to everyday dishes by featuring modest amounts of organic ground meat, sausage, or other “small cuts” in them.
For the creative-minded, this “meat as ingredient” approach can be downright fun. The thing is, while traditional centerpiece meats like pot roast and baked ham will always have an important place in the American cook’s repertoire, using meat as a component in more innovative dishes can be the kitchen artist’s opportunity to color outside the lines. Take that steak, for instance. Sure, you could just slap one on the grill and be done with it. Or you could amuse yourself and thrill your guests by cutting the seared flesh into strips, pairing it with julienned vegetables, and then fine-tuning the colorful toss with a fresh mint dressing.
If tradition is your thing, then turn to time-honored recipes for one-pot stews, bean dishes and casseroles. All-American dishes like scalloped potatoes and chop suey, or international specialties like French lentils with ham—these are classic “wholes” that are greater than the sum of their parts. Update them if you like: improve that chop suey with garden-fresh veggies and spunky seasonings, perhaps, or tuck smoked turkey into scalloped potatoes.
Thinking of meat as but one element in a main dish is particularly helpful for those who are going organic while keeping their pocketbook in mind, too. It’s an affordable, responsible way to include healthful animal protein and other nutrients in meals, and to make the move towards a more environmentally sensitive diet.
It’s also a way to please more people more of the time: The flexitarians at your table, for example, will welcome a choice that fits their philosophy of including some meat in their diet without always putting it at the center of the plate. And even when you do showpiece an organic purchase—roast beef or a dressing-stuffed chicken, say—what better way to make use of the leftovers than by adding them to frugal soups, pastas, pizzas, and the like.
Turn on your switch! This month’s recipes highlight moderate quantities of high-quality organic meat.
Call it “haute hot dish”: The legacy of the Sioux and Chippewa peoples is combined with chicken breast, wild mushrooms, organic cream and fresh thyme.
Everyday-easy but worthy of company, this is also a “flexitarian” dish, one in which you can replace the pork with vegetables or another kind of meat.
Adding a modest amount of smoked meat to plain-Jane dried legumes is a time-honored way to make a little go a long, unctuous way.
In Russia, feeling khrenovo, or "horseradishy,” means that things could be getting much better. That’s exactly what happens to old-fashioned scalloped potatoes when it is accented it with smoked turkey and a horseradish-breadcrumb crust.
An easy braise of sausage and vegetables that’s a little sassy, a little sloppy and ideal for casual gatherings.
For a salad you can sink your teeth into, cut vegetables into matchstick-shapes and toss them with grilled steak and a lively dressing.
A retro recipe gets an upgrade with fresh veggies, sesame oil, spicy chilies and all-white chicken meat.
The famed New Mexican stew of large-kernel corn, chile and pork; diners add their own toppings from an array of fresh vegetables and seasonings.
Start a meaty conversation with your friends and family. With many Americans switching to organic beef, pork and poultry, Earth Day, April 22, is the perfect time to gather for a memorable Earth Dinner and share the story of the food on your table. Visit Earth Dinner on Facebook for ideas.