Free Range on Food: Brisket, the debate over grass-fed beef and more

Ask Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin about his experiences at Camp Brisket in Texas.
Feb 25, 2015

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions. Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! We've got beef on the brain over here (well, some of us more than others do, ahem): Between Jim Shahin's fun take on the obsessive world of Camp Brisket at Texas A&M and Tamar Haspel's exploration of grass-fed beef and whether it's really better, we've got you carnivorous types covered. Both Jim and Tamar will be here to handle questions on those topics and more.

Of course, we're here to take questions on ANY and everything food and drink-related, so hit us up. Try to stump us! 

BTW, if you have questions for Dorie Greenspan, our new columnist (whose Chicken Parmentier looks great, doesn't it?), she'll be taking those in her OWN chat tomorrow at 10. Go here, and submit!

As always, we'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters today, so make your questions and comments good.

Let's do this!

Oh, I almost forgot: For you PostPoints members, here's your code (which you can redeem until midnight tonight under the Claim My Points section of the PostPoints site): It's FR9676 .

NOW let's do this.

..in my head of course. I am going to cook it this weekend as suggested and then make it for a crowd, that includes several friends who don't eat pork. Here come my questions: 1. I've never had a chicken sausage I liked, so I stopped buying them. May I ask you what kind you recommend? 2. Can I ovenbake or microwave sweet potatoes? Would that affect taste or texture? 3. Since I am going to at least quadruple the recipe, what about spices? Quadruple them too? 4. Will making Parmentier in a humongous le Creusette Dutch oven affect the timing? Oven temperature? Will my chicken be overlooked? 5. Because of all the spices used, I presume the house will smell heavenly when cooking. I like that. Food should smell good. If I make Dorie's Shepperd's Pie a day or two in advance, will my guests be greeted with that heavenly smell while the Parmentier is reheating? 6. Not a question, a statement. I LOVE everything Dorie does in the kitchen. We are so lucky she will be with us for a while. Thank you, Joe for giving her to us.. PS: I typed a similar message earlier and it vanished before I completed it. I apologize in case this is a duplicate.

So glad you're liking Dorie! She's chatting herself tomorrow at 10, and would love to hear from you. Submit this question to her here, OK?

ARTICLE: Everyday Dorie: Tinker and tailor your way to a hearty French shepherd's pie.

RECIPE: Chicken Parmentier.

Please forgive me for sniping, but I've just typed a question and before I completed my sentence and pressed the SUBMIT button, it vanished!

We apparently had some technical issues, but it should be all good now! (BTW, did you buy health insurance yet?)

My husband got me a half-dozen flours for Valentine's Day instead of flowers (for, well, lots of reasons). I now have about a pound of tapioca flour, corn flour, coconut flour, almond flour, buckwheat flour, and (I think) quinoa flour. I have plans to make macarons with the almond flour. Any suggestions for what to make with the other kinds? We don't keep a gluten-free diet, so that's not a constraint here.

Lucky you, Jane Touzalin answered this at length in our Chat Leftovers.

ARTICLE: His gift: A bouquet of flours

Commenting on your last paragraph "What I wouldn't give for a certificate of prudence....responsible stewardship on any kind of farm". Have you checked out www.globalanimalpartnership.org ? And have you heard/read Joel Salatin? His recent article in Mother Earth News "A New-Fashioned Food System" describes how society perceives many of these issues and how we talk about sustainability. You are always correct in stating these issues are complex. But there is enough information available to make the right choices and staying smack in the middle of the "confounding issues" gets us no where.

I am quite familiar wtih GAP, and Joel Salatin.  I think the GAP standards are excellent, and are the reason I buy meat at Whole Foods.  I agree that a discussion of responsible beef should include a discussion of the various certifying bodies, but there just isn't space to cover everything in one go.  As for staying in the middle of confounding issues, I'm going to plead not guilty.  I think issues of stewardship, particularly of livestock, are very important, and what I don't want to do is give a facile solution to a complex problem -- I think there's enough of that going around.  Telling people to buy GAP-certified beef is one solution, but it's not the only one.  And, once we start digging on certifying bodies, we find all kinds of labels that aren't terribly meaningful, so that issue gets complicated, too.  Certainly, not every dissection of a food issue leaves consumers with advice on what to buy, but I hope it leaves them with a better understanding of what's important.

I have a non-brisket question! The IQF fish I buy that comes in individual plastic bags has the instruction to remove fish from the plastic bag before defrosting. I usually forget to do that. Do you know why the fish is supposed to be removed from the bag/wrapping?

I could wager a guess: You'd want the excess moisture to wick away/drain from the fish as it defrosts. 

Sorry for the technical difficulties, everyone. Please come back next week! We'll try to move all your questions over to the March 4 session, but feel free to come back and submit again.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew. ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is the Food section's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, a freelance writer based in Cape Cod and our Unearthed columnist, has been writing about food and health for the better part of two decades. She's the author of four books, including Dreaded Broccoli (Scribner, 1999), and currently writes about harvesting food first-hand at www.starvingofftheland.com.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Food's editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
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