For my first taste of home-cooked beef, not just any beef was worthy enough for me to cook and sink my teeth into. After all, I remember quite vividly why I became a vegetarian in the first place. But after eating Painted Hills Natural Beef, I might have to say my vegetarian days are officially over.
Click below to read more about where I found this beef, and what I did with it.
As a recently converted carnivore, I haven’t had a steak since 2004. My vegetarian diet ceased a few months ago as I started cooking and eating chicken. But beef? I’ve had a few dishes here and there, but the last time I cooked beef was in my pre-vegetarian days (and pre-nutrition days) when Hamburger Helper was considered a home-cooked meal. Wow, a lot has changed since then!
It might not be difficult to find a good piece of beef, but if you have concern for your health, and the health of the cattle, then finding natural beef can be quite a challenge. Luckily, here in the West Coast, more and more restaurants and retailers demand high quality, hormone-free beef, and Painted Hills Natural Beef is there to provide it.
Painted Hills Natural Beef hails out of Wheeler County, Oregon, where the cows actually roam freely on acres of grassy field. According to rancher and real-life cowboy, Will Homer, “The California Milk campaign stole our motto, because these cows are happy cows.” If these cows already have a destiny to end up on your plate, might as well make sure they lived a good life, right?
The good life starts young for these cows. Calves live with their mamas and are weaned after 9 months. From there, it’s strictly a vegetarian diet, first harvesting grass in the fields, and then eating a mixture of alfalfa hay, corn (to flavor their meat), and potatoes (to provide moisture) in the feeding facility. These cows even have their own nutritionist!
Thankfully, Will Homer and the rest of the ranchers at Painted Hills realize that this care and respect for the animals will consistently deliver flavorful, top-quality beef to their customers, without the risks from added growth-hormones and antibiotics. Cows elsewhere usually are injected with these drugs to encourage more eating and weight gain. If that isn’t bad enough, animal by-products are often fed to cattle in the overcrowded, dirty feeding facilities. This unnatural way of raising and feeding cattle can have a adverse effect on those that consume the meat. Do you remember the Mad Cow Disease?
Think Before You Pink also raised concern about the use of growth hormone in dairy cows and the correlation with breast cancer. Studies show that the dairy from cows injected with rBGH can increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. If dairy can put humans at risk, then meat with the growth hormone should also be something to worry about.
When I had the opportunity to sample Painted Hills Natural Beef, I knew the only thing I had to worry about was getting over my vegetarian ways. In fact, Mr. Homer mentioned that many of their customers are former vegetarians who want to be conscious in the meat that they eat. Accepting the sample was taking a step into being a conscious carnivore.
A huge box arrived on my doorstep and I wasn’t quite sure what was sent to me, because the box looked like it could fit a whole rack of ribs! Excitedly, I opened it and found a Styrofoam box inside. Under a layer of ice packets sat four vacuum sealed packages of some pretty thick cuts of striploin steak. The blue label proudly read “USDA Choice“ and “100% Vegetarian Diet,” which I found quite ironic because my diet, especially after cooking those four steaks, is now far from vegetarian.
Steak 1: S&P
For the first taste of this meat, I knew it had to be just a straight up steak. I’ve never cooked a steak before in my life, and when I ate steak, it would always be well done. Ew, I can’t stand the thought of blood. I understand that the “best” steaks are always cooked medium well, but I’m sorry, this is my first taste in a long time. I was surprised I even could touch the raw meat.
Pushing my vegetarian thoughts aside, I seasoned the steak with sea salt and pepper, and threw it on my favorite cast iron skillet. A medium well steak should cook for approximately 7 minutes on each side, but I made sure to leave it a minute or two longer to cook it more. The smell in my kitchen was amazing, and once I flipped it over and saw the seasoned, juicy crust of the steak, I knew it would be the steak I’ve been waiting to try.
After the steak cooked on both sides, I sautéed mushrooms in the juices in the pan. The middle of the steak was still pink, and my friend was thrilled to know that I didn’t overcook it all. I ate the edges, which were so flavorful, and my friend ate the pinkish middle. She claimed it was the best steak she’s ever had, and I wish I could take all the credit for it, but really, it’s not the chef who made it what it was, it’s the cut of meat.
Steak 2: Carne Asada
Mmm, carne asada. This is what I’ve been missing most while I was a vegetarian. A taco is just not the same if it doesn’t have the perfectly seasoned steak. My first task in making carne asada was to cut it down into thinner slices. This was a challenge for me because I simply do not like the raw meat. I’m sorry, Lady Gaga, your dress did not do it for me! I sucked it up and sawed away, focused and determined to get thin, even strips.
Then I marinated the meat with loads of lime, cilantro, onions, and a little bit of salt. The meat bathed in this mixture in the fridge for over 1 day. I’m not sure if that’s ok, it just seemed like the longer it sat, the more flavorful it would be once I cooked it.
It would have been ideal to grill this meat, but instead, I threw it again on my favorite cast iron skillet and let it just simmer in the citrus and onion mixture. The house smelled like my favorite taqueria, and the meat, I’m sorry to say, tasted better than theirs! I made some Mexican fried rice in the same skillet after wards, and ate the carne asada with the rice. The meat held the flavors well, and I couldn’t get over how tender it was. Once again, this was a winning meal!
Steak 3: Thai Red Curried Beef
I wanted to try this beef in my slow cooker, well because, it’s one of those kitchen tools that rarely gets used. That, and I wanted to find other ways to cook the steak. Beef stew bores me, so I thought I’d try a Thai style red curry with beef. This spicy blend of coconut milk, lime, bell peppers, and lemon grass would sure give this tasty meat an exotic flavor.
I cubed the steak and lightly browned it before I added it to the slow cooker, which was already filled with the coconut milk and the spices. I let it cook slowly for about 3 hours, giving my whole house an aroma that made me hungry as each minute passed by.
When it came time to try this dish, I spooned it over steamed rice and devoured it before I could even take a photo. Yes, it was that good. The beef almost fell apart in my mouth and it went so well with the flavors. I made this dish when a few guests were over, and I just had to tell them how great this beef was. They were quite impressed with the quality of the meat and the complicated ingredients, but I never told them how easy it was for me to make!
Steak 4: Korean BBQ Tacos
This was my last steak and it wouldn’t be right if it didn’t get a chance to hit the grill. I’ve heard all the hype about Korean BBQ tacos, so I thought I’d try to make my own version of what I think they’d taste like- without using short ribs of course.
Once again, I had to cut the meat into thin strips, and at that point, touching raw meat didn’t phase me. I marinated it for a few hours in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, and Sriracha hot sauce to add a little kick of spice. After weaving the beef onto skewers, I threw it on the grill and just let it cook. While it was cooking, I basted the meat with more marinade, and because the meat was so thin, it cooked quickly. I warmed up a few corn tortillas, took the meat off the skewers, put it on the tortilla and topped it off with spicy Kimchee, shredded cabbage, and just a little more Sriracha. I like it hot!
One of my friends, who couldn’t even fathom the idea of a Korean BBQ taco, ate most of it. The meat was once again very tender, and all of the sweet and spicy flavors exploded in your mouth with each bite. I didn’t even marinate the steak for more than one hour, and still the meat held the spices well.
It’s hard for me to say my favorite way of cooking Painted Hills Natural Beef because all were just so tasty and tender. I’m truly glad that I tried it four different ways to test out the versatility of the meat. But what makes me even happier is that I can be a carnivore again- with a healthy conscious!
If your mouth has been watering after reading this and you’re wondering where to find this beef, try out the Painted Hills Natural Beef locator.
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