When told, “This is the best beef I have ever eaten,” one might consider the basis for comparison. If the effusive enthusiast habitually consumes gray, pasty, industrial beef glued together with “pink slime” and squeezed into uniformly shaped hockey pucks for the fast-food market, the comment may be tinged with salt.
On the other hand, if the vociferous praise comes from the lips of a trained chef whose life’s work has involved exceptional culinary experiences, a producer may be excused for swelling with pride.
If you stop at the Presque Isle Farmers Market at the Aroostook Centre Mall parking lot on a Saturday morning and speak with Erin Parisien from The Aroostook Beef Company, you can hear the pride in her voice at having received “the best beef ever” compliment multiple times from people who truly appreciate the distinctive product she brings to The Market.
Nothing about quality meat is happenstance. A beef producer is highly unlikely to hear this sort of compliment resulting from purchasing a few anonymous calves advertised in Uncle Henry’s, depositing them on a scrubby hillside for a couple of years to keep down the grass and bushes, then crowding them into a cattle truck to be hauled off to the cheapest butcher. Exceptional beef comes from exceptional animals. A calf is only as good as the genetics of its sire and dam. Once born, attention to detail from weaning to finishing is reflected in the carcass quality. The meat should be consistently tender, richly flavored, and appropriately marbled. Quality meat the primary goal at The Aroostook Beef Company.
The catch-22, of course, is that the meat is prepared by cooks who may or may not treat good beef well. A really nice steak will hold up to anyone with a modicum of grilling skill. Other, “lesser” cuts can blow the doors off your taste buds given the care they deserve. Without that care? Shoe leather. This is not to steer you away from a nice chuck roast — just to keep you from sizzling the life out of the poor thing.
The attached recipe was originally developed for venison (grass fed, maybe; deeply marbled, not a chance). The meat was cooked in a Dutch oven, surrounded by coals from the fireplace. In a modern kitchen, a Crock Pot will make a splendid meal out of an “economy cut.” See if it does not produce a contender for the best beef you’ve ever eaten.
Indian Pot Roast
Crush 2 cloves of garlic and sauté in 4 tablespoons of butter. Rub a 3-4 pound roast in a mixture of flour and salt and brown all sides in the butter. Layer slices of 1 large onion in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the meat and butter, 12 whole peppercorns, 12 “flowers” of allspice, 1 bay leaf, and 1 tablespoon of horseradish. Add ½ cup of rum or red wine and ½ cup of water.
Cover and simmer for 3-4 hours, adding chunks of peeled, fresh carrots in the last half hour of cooking.
The Presque Isle Farmer’s market’s chair/president for the remainder of the season is Deena Albert-Parks of Chops Ahoy farm in Woodland. For information about participating or visiting the market, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.