Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: Hearst Ranch grass-fed flank steaks

After reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, I shifted my food shopping habits toward locally grown produce and grass-fed beef. If you haven't read Pollan's book, put it on your must-read list. Simply put, cows are herbivores, born to eat grass. However, most cattle today are fed corn. Sadly, a corn diet turns cows' stomachs acidic and makes them sick. No problem. Just pump them full of antibiotics. It's a sad, disturbing cycle.

However, even in Austin, it wasn't easy to get grass-fed beef. I can only imagine how difficult it is to find in small towns or more rural areas. When I read about the opportunity to try Hearst Ranch's grass-fed and grass-finished flank steaks, I leaped at the chance. Hearst Ranch provides the opportunity to shop online for their beef so that anyone, whether in an urban center or tiny town, can eat in a way that's healthier for both their bodies and the environment.

Disclosure: Hearst Ranch provided its flank steaks free of charge. Whether or not I reviewed it in my blog was strictly left up to me.

Hearst Ranch has been raising cattle in central California since 1865. Their cattle are free-range foragers, munching native grasses on 150,000 acres. Hearst Ranch utilizes sustainable agriculture and management-intensive grazing to take care of their cattle and their land.

Their steaks arrived beautifully packaged in a styrofoam cooler with dry ice nestled in a cardboard box. At the time I received them, I didn't yet have a working kitchen. So off they went to the freezer. A few weeks later, we had a functional kitchen and dinner guests. A perfect time to try the flank steaks!

Flank steak, package #1 - steak fajitas:
For our casual dinner party, the menu was Tex-Mex, perfect for steak fajitas. We marinated the flank steak for several hours and grilled it.

The consensus? Delicious. The fajitas were moist, tender, and intensely flavorful. We and our dinner guests, including the children, devoured every single bite.

Flank steak, package #2 - stir fry:
Now, grass-fed beef tends to be leaner than corn-fed beef. It also has 10 times more beta-carotene as well as 3 times more vitamin E and healthy fats. I wondered, how would the flank steak fare in a simpler preparation, without the benefit of marinade. So for our second flank steak package, we chose to stir fry it in an adaptation of a Mark Bittman recipe. The meat was simply cut against the grain in thin strips and stir fried in vegetable oil. Later, it was combined with stir-fried fresh vegetables and a soy-hoisin-curry paste sauce.

Consensus? As my daughter yelled, "Forty-nine thumbs up!" It was somehow lean, yet tender. I gobbled up...gulp...two servings. Pure gluttony.

I'll be sharing these recipes in future blog posts. Many thanks to Hearst Ranch for two delicious meals. I plan on coming back for more.

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