Yesterday I brought home a rather large, very heavy cooler containing the better parts of one quarter of a grass-fed cow.
The price was unbeatable, plus, this cow came from a local farm and was slaughtered and processed in the past two weeks.
I am happy to have a freezer full of an amazing variety of cuts of beef, and I am gratified to know that my money went directly to the man who raised and nurtured this cow on my behalf (and also to the people who slaughtered and butchered the cow). I can trace the path of this meat from birth to my freezer, and all of it occurred within a few counties of mine, right here in Georgia.
I have discovered that I enjoy my food far more by knowing exactly where it came from. My eggs come from another farm in the area, and every week I get to see and chat with the farmer, directly putting my money into his hands in exchange for beautiful, nourishing food that he took part in producing. I feel connected to my food, and even connected to my community, in a way that I never experienced in the days of wholly grocery store, conveyor-belt eating.
It takes a little more time, a little more work to eat this way, but the payoff is far greater than the effort. Even when I can't find what I want locally, the wonderful world wide web makes it possible for me to get it from somewhere*.
Having a garden makes me feel even more connected to this cycle. As the season progresses, I am able to add home-grown, fresh herbs and vegetables to nutritious, local, farm-raised meats and make food that is far more delicious and nourishing for far less money than I used to spend at the grocery store.
It is also immensely satisfying to see the enjoyment, and hear the praises of my husband and my friends when I serve them these wonderful foods.
Tonight's meal was the result of being busy all day, and not having any time for extensive prepping. I'm in the middle of a sewing project and had completely forgotten about food til I realized it was after 7pm. I pulled out a pack of cube steak from the NEW COW(!), and started it thawing in warm water, then returned to my project. A little while later I decided that I wanted mushrooms too, so I poured boiling water into a cup of dried mushrooms and, again, went back to sewing.
Around 8:30 I decided that I had sewn enough for the day, and that if I pressed on any further I would begin to make too many mistakes. I turned off the machine and went back to the kitchen to see to supper.
The thing about me is that food is always near the surface of my thoughts, and I had been mulling over what I wanted to cook in the midst of my sewing and audio-book listening (Book 7 of 21 in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin Series). I was considering what I had on hand, and what would work well together, and by the time I hit the kitchen, I knew. Cube steak. Mushrooms. Onions. Basil. Garlic. Thyme. Red Wine. Cream. Butter. YES.
And thus, supper was made.
Begin by dredging your thawed cubesteaks in a bit of rice flour or potato flour. Set the meat aside and saute a coarsely chopped onion in lard. As the onions start to become translucent, add chopped garlic (3-5 cloves, depending on size and taste preference) and fresh basil. Cover and allow the alliums to soften a bit more, then add the mushrooms and the water they were soaking in. (I really recommend dried mushrooms over fresh in this case, because there is a depth of flavor that dried mushrooms add to the sauce, which would be missing with fresh mushrooms. You can find very affordable dried mushrooms at an Asian market, so don't bother to pay the exorbitant prices at the grocery store.) Add some red wine. I used some of the wine that I was already sipping, and I never measure such things. Just slosh some in til it looks good. If you add too much or not enough you will know better next time. (OK, so if you REALLY need an amount, I'd say that I added about 1/2 cup of red wine. Maybe a bit more.)
Start a frying pan heating with a bit of lard while the previous mixture reduces over high heat. Make sure to stir your onion mixture every minute or so to prevent any bits from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. When the liquid has almost completely boiled away, add 2/3 of a stick of butter. Allow this to melt and pour in some cream or half and half, and cover. Reduce heat to low.
While the sauce thickens, return to your cube steak. If you haven't already, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then add to the frying pan. Allow the steaks to sear for a moment and then flip them over. You want to sear both sides, and then reduce the heat to cook for a minute or two longer. It really doesn't take long to cook these guys so in my opinion it's better to err on the side of underdone.
When the meats are ready, dish them up on a plate, and then top them with the lovely mushroom-onion reduction simmering in the other pot. A last topping of salt and fresh ground pepper, and dinner is served!
I apologize for not having photos, but this meal was consumed too quickly. I assure you that it was quite delicious, though, and well worth trying!
*Except England. I tried to order real British Sausages from an British farm, but it was no go. Which is a true shame, because the British Sausage is a thing of profound, delicious beauty. This is completely off topic, but I can't resist linking to this scene from Yes, Minister wherein Minister Jim Hacker allows that the British are willing to put up with a lot of compromises in the course of being a "good European", a true member of the European Union, but he draws the line at the impugning of the British Sausage. (The EU wanted to ban the sausage unless it was relabeled as "Emulsified High-Fat Offal Tube".)