Are you a sustainable consumer or just the GARBAGE dweller….???

Ok, I’ll not be hypocritical and say I don’t visit a few fast food chains every now and then. I’ll also say that I’m sometimes suspect of where most of the food comes. Face it, most of us are swift to ingest and devour with such unhesitant greediness without giving any pause as to where the food comes from. We must satisfy the whimsical growl of hunger pangs at the whiff of fat in the air.

Hydroponic Arugula beds

Hydroponic Arugula beds

But alas, I shall not be critical less my house be burnt to the ground and then I shall be forced to live on a sustainable farm. Wait, that might be quite a healthy move. I recently took a trip to a sustainable farm in Homestead, Florida. Albeit, I wasn’t there to just poke around in the dirt and smell dainty leaves. I was there to film some additional footage of a project I’m working on. We visited Teena’s Pride in South Florida, a place that chefs visit, a place that grows fresh tasting food, an environment that practices sustainable farming. What the hell is that you ask? Yes, I’m speaking to the non-foodie or uninformed foodies. Seems it’s quite easy to say something cool like certifiable organic and we go nuts and bow down to the health gods because we think we are righteously making our bodies healthy. Sustainable farming is not just a method to plant food or raise animals. It’s a way of life and a commitment to great quality foods. Sustainability in all aspects embodies that of the artisan. At Teena’s Pride that means: how the earth is treated, how the crops are planted,  how the crops are grown, how the crops are cared for, how the crops are harvested, how the crops a packaged, how the people are with the food, and definitely how Teena is with her staff. Sustainability has to do with the extra care that goes into making each product the best it can be. All the seedlings are planted by hand even in all the hydroponic beds as supervised by the farm manager and Teena. Yes, sustainable farmed products cost more but frown not until you have tasted a tomato picked freshly from the vine that had no pesticides or animal manure anywhere close to it. Try doing that on a regular farm. Yes, belly hot madness.

eating fresh nosturshium leaves

eating fresh nasturtium leaves

tomato seedlings, planted by hand

tomato seedlings, planted by hand

heirloom tomatoes on the vines

heirloom tomatoes on the vines

Listen, this is not the first time I’ve been on a farm but it’s the first time I’ve been on a farm since becoming a chef. I grew up in a place where visiting various types of farms was the norm for me. As I got older though there was a marked change in the food and food quality probably because farmers were deluded into believing that you can’t get a great product unless you douse the hell out of it with fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and other ailing sides. Farmers got corrupted by the ease of bigger money because they could get bigger products and stuff that grew quicker and developed faster to bring it to market in record time. Do you know that it takes a chicken roughly 5 – 8 months to develop naturally? Here you can have that defeathered and plucked yard bird in less than 2 months, that would be 6 weeks y’all. Hail to the protein and genetic modifiers. I tasted a tomato, actually several tomatoes (Oh jesam, Tenna gonna send me a bill now) and I couldn’t stop eating the bloody things they were so good. Damn good I tell you. I was on the farm for over an hour listening to how things were done on Teena’s farm and devoured so much freshly picked leaves I felt like a goat feeding on fresh fodder from the pen. Hmmhm, I was a free range ram. I tasted things I hadn’t before and saw certain plants in their infancy. Chocolate and Pineapple mint are delicious. The leaves from that Nasturtium plant, oh my god somebody slap and call me Mariposa. Okay that’s a stretch. You on a diet and want some flavor while cutting the cheese from a salad? Blaze the Nasturtium I tell you. With her tangy, spicy and citrus notes, Pepper Jack may have a little competition I dare say.

nosturshium

nasturtium

I walked away from this visit thinking about my part as a chef in this crazy food chain. The way I am today as a person and as a chef is far different from when I grew up as a kid. When I went to the market with my mother as a child, I may not have known the vendors by name but I knew them by sight. Not sure if my mother knew their names either but she had developed a personal relationship with so many that often times she would leave me and the heavy bags with them. Yes, a personal relationship, that which most of us really have with the people who sell us our foods. Most chefs are really keying on that element when it comes to food purchases thus allowing them to bring you the best quality products possible. Chefs want to know how that pig was raised – fresh organic feed, mud holes, space to roam; that chicken – not ten to a cage;  that goat, know how that eggplant was grown; know the humanitarian aspects are of that farm – proper crop rotation, proper soil maintenance, even slaughter process must be  included. I may not be able to source products from vendors I know personally but I feel I must continue to be more vigilant  and aware of the products I use. Alas that may come with an increased price tag on your bill. But let me ask you this really quickly, what price are you willing to continue paying for some of the garbage we buy and eat? Make it a sustainable choice.

Yes, it does indeed have a chocolate note.

Yes, it does indeed have a chocolate note.

My bounty I escaped with

My bounty I escaped with

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Chef Irie’s Thanksgiving tips..Food on Fiyah!!!

Alright, let me have it, let me hear that I’m a little derelict in the writing duties for this post.  Alas it’s not Thanksgiving yet so maybe some of these tips will help you out some. Let me guess, 15 people are coming over for dinner and you are worried that the menu is not going to be great, the food will come out cold, it will all not be ready at he same time. Have you started to stress yet? Relax, you will survive and live to shop the sales for Dark and Stormy Friday. So here are some things that may help you out and remember, everything is not all about the turkey.

Getting ready to slice up this beast..Happy Thanksgiving Y’all..

Tip 1: Know what you want to make, WRITE a menu then shop for it.

Tip 2: Think about how you will manage your time, make some things ahead of time

Tip 3: Try a new dish or technique new this year: Brined the turkey? Deep fried turkey? Jerk turkey? Turkey on the grill? Smoked turkey?  All delicious indeed, if done right that is.  Not feeling turkey this year? How about some: Roast beef? A long neck goose? Cranberry apple gravy? Sweet potato bisque with crawfish.  Hmmhm, I won an award for that.  Use it, I won’t mind :-).

Ok, so you have all this food every where and you are ready to cook right? Well, let’s see. Have you taken any precautions to not get any of your guests sick? Food poisoning from contamination can run rampant. Salmonella from your prized turkey will be an ambitious culprit.

Tip 4: Keep it clean…SANITATION, SANITATION, SANITATION!!! Won’t be cool to have those washed peppers sitting on the unwashed cutting that you just propped that turkey on to pat dry. Keep that turkey prep area to a minimum. Wipe all surrounding areas down when done.  Have a spray bottle with 50% water and vinegar on hand to ease the unsure mind. When in doubt though, wash it again.

tip 5: Don’t forget to season under the skin and the cavity of the bird. A nice herbed butter would be great here. Really easy, add softened butter at room temperature into a mixing bowl then add some combination of dried herbs – Thyme, Oregano, Tarragon, Basil, can even add a little truffle oil or duck fat to the butter. Mix until herbs are blended into the butter then set aside.

Tip 6: Pat that dude dry.  Add some of the herbed butter mix under the skin of the bird and all over the skin then add dry spice seasoning over the same areas, now your seasoning will go nowhere. Bird ready? Place him breast down in the roasting pan atop a wire rack. Guess where those juices are heading?  Hmmhm, indeed, juicy breast for later. Flip for the last 30-45 minutes. I roast my turkey just like everything else I roast. I start on high, say 425 deg for about 20 minutes or so then reduce the temperature to about 325 degrees. Twenty minutes per pound they say to be done.

Note: You may have a new house or have recently upgraded your oven with a nice cool combination convection/convention oven. Convection oven times are faster than a regular oven settings because the air circulates with more efficiency in the entire oven, even more so when using the trivection setting on some of the newer upscale models. Reduce the temperature by about 15 deg or so if using a convection oven and about 15 minutes from your cooking time. If you have brined your turkey, expect this bird to cook faster as well in any oven. Don’t trust yourself, well better have that thermometer on hand for the ready. You won’t go wrong with a 165 deg. reading. No problem taking that bird out when the temp reaches 155 -160 degrees. The temperature of the bird will continue to go up even after being removed from the oven. It’s called carry over cooking. Let the bird sit out (resting) if dinner will be in the next 30 -45 minutes. When you cut into the flesh it will still be hot, especially if it’s a nice big dense bird.

Tip 7: Do you really need to have a 26 lb. bird sitting his fat ass on your table? How about two smaller birds? Just you and the kids or just you and the newly wed partner? Instead of the whole bird just get the turkey breast, you will be done in no time.

Tip 8: Remember,  if you are making stuffing, make it separately. Stuff the bird with aromatics – orange peels, onions, carrots and fresh herbs – thyme, rosemary, sage, lemongrass – all depending on the cuisine profile you are going with.

Tip 9: Those giblets, roast then with some vegetables to give a deeper richness to the stock for the gravy.  Add some wine or brandy to get some depth to your gravy. My rule of thumb for adding any spirits, if it’s not drinkable don’t cook with that sucker.

Tip 10: Are you still stressed? Remember, don’t think of doing all this work by yourself. Recruit those lazy bone relatives and junior DNA spawns. There’s no free lunch anymore.

Have a glass of Vino while you cook…It’s all about the rum for me to sclaaatttt!!!! Hum a sweet tune…Have some fun damn it!!! Be safe..Hey, I’m talking to you Mr. Deep fried turkey guy, Ms. I must be gossip as I get the oil hot for those sautéed Brussel sprouts.

If you remember nothing else remember one thing, it’s only food but you must treat it with love and cook from the heart. This is Thanksgiving, give thanks and stay blessed. Did I tell ya the left overs are going to be amazing on Dark and Stormy Friday?

Getting it ready for the table..The turkey dude, the turkey!!!

Food on Fiyah!!!