After a certain point in my life, it became a reliable joke at the house of one my best friends: Michelle loves meat.
I went over there a lot through many stages of life, from elementary school to the weird preteen years up through college, and was often invited for dinner. (Hi, Kiebzaks!) Over the years, the notion stuck: Michelle enjoys a hearty burger or a rack of ribs and is not ashamed to dig in. If ever there was a steak going on the grill, or a meatloaf in the oven, my friend's dad would get a glimmer in his eye, and the playful, er, ribbing would begin. More than once I ate my friend's share of meat, especially when it was, to her chagrin, meatloaf night.
It was all justified. My grandpa introduced me to filet mignon steaks at the age of about 10, and I never looked back. I brought roast beef sandwiches to school in sixth grade, regularly ordered steaks off restaurant menus as a teen. (My friend recently told me that her dad was convinced I would have some sort of meat carving station at my wedding last year. There was indeed steak cut on site.)
But I realized something this week that surprised me. Two stories I wrote this week contain recipes that go out of their way to avoid red meat. (Quinoa Carbonara and 5 Ideas for Ground Turkey)
Who am I?
I started thinking about how lazy I've become in the meat department, and it's because I tend to not enjoy cooking it. For one thing, it can be daunting. It's easier to screw up a steak, with its many cuts containing various amounts of fat, than it is a chicken breast. It's also more expensive, and, let's face it, things can get pretty gnarly with all of those raw juices.
Chicken and especially lean cuts of pork are now my go-tos, reliable proteins that don't come with the health risks too much red meat consumption can lead to. But right now, I'm craving something red. Maybe I need the iron, maybe I'm sick of the same chicken thigh recipe I make all the time. Maybe I'm ready to reclaim my meat-loving past.
Some ideas to curb a carnivore craving, every now and then:
What is easier than skewering some flank or skirt steak and tossing it on the grill? Buy a cut of flank steak, then cut it into one-person servings (as big or small as you desire) and place the servings in a large zip-top bag with 1/2 cup olive oil, the juice of 2 or 3 limes, lots of salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon cumin. Marinate for 30 minutes, then thread one serving of steak each onto one skewer and place on a grill set to medium heat. Cook until steak is done to your liking and serve with grilled or roasted vegetables.
Ground beef on hummus
While perusing the cookbook from which I found the carbonara recipe below, I came across Molly Yeh's recipe for "Hummus With Meat All Over It," which sounds kind of strange until you try it and realize it's delicious. To make, heat some olive oil in a large skillet, add 1 minced shallot and 1 minced garlic clove and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until soft. Add 1 pound ground beef, season with salt and pepper, then add 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin and 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice. Stir to combine and cook until meat is cooked through. Remove from skillet, let cool slightly, then place on top of a large bowl of hummus. Garnish with fresh parsley if you have it. Eat with pita or crunchy pita chips.
Steak on a salad
My first job was working as a cashier at Panera, and to this day one of my favorite salad combinations comes from one of the long-gone menu items: spinach salad topped with steak, red onions, crumbled blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. Opt for a lean cut like top sirloin, cook it however you want, then use it to fortify the big bowl of greens.