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Posts from the ‘Bits & Bites’ Category

The Glorious Twelfth

Every August 12th grouse hunting season begins in Scotland – the day is called the Glorious Twelfth. In the United Kingdom, the start of the red grouse season is much anticipated, and since the Game Act passed in 1831, it has been diligently celebrated with much shooting and chasing of grouse (the season ends December 10). This is the earliest of the hunts in the season, so it was determined by law that no grouse would be had before August 12th.

It’s always a competition among chefs to be the first to serve grouse. This has been taken too far, as in London at the end of the 19th century, when the famous chef, Louis Eustach Ude, was hauled into court for serving grouse at Crockford’s Club before August 12th and was fined and reprimanded. The Scottish lord who had tattled on him came back to the Club to make sure grouse was no longer on the menu. Satisfied it was not, he ordered salmi de fruit defendu (salmi of forbidden fruit). The forbidden fruit was, of course, GROUSE!

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The red grouse is endemic to the British Isles, developing, as most island species in complete isolation. The red grouse is sometimes called “moorbird” in Scotland, since it lives in the moors amidst the heather. Grouse eat the shoots, seed, and flowers of the heather, will eat berries and insects, and have been known to cruise newly mown oat fields to pick up leftovers and fatten themselves for winter.

The male grouse is larger than the female, for whom the males will perform rather extravagant courtship dances that have been translated to folk dances imitating the male bird’s moves in both the Alps, and on the American prairies (winters must be very long for this to have become a tradition).

Many grouse habitats in the UK are managed by gamekeepers who burn small patches of heather in late winter to create new shoots for the grouse and manage predators to give the birds a chance of survival before hunting season begins. The hunt begins with dozens of “grouse beaters” crashing in the brush to frighten the birds into taking flight so they can be shot by sportsmen. Dining on pheasant, quail and grouse served from giant silver-domed dishes from sideboards the size of airplane runways has come to represent a certain country lifestyle of the British ruling class that is fading in the 21st century.

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Red grouse average 10 to 12 ounces dressed weight, and might be considered an acquired taste. The meat is dark, reddish and quite unlike its relative the chicken. There’s no other way to say it: grouse is gamey. Although grouse is popular in Europe and the UK, it is a taste shared primarily by the hunting community in the U.S., but is not common on America’s supper tables. That should be changed. The problem is, it’s illegal in the U.S. to sell shot game, and grouse don’t respond well to farming so they are not as available as they might be.

But never fear! D’Artagnan imports red grouse from Scotland during the hunting season. The birds are hunted on controlled preserves, where the balance of the moors and the grouse population are carefully managed. Wild, heather-eating and delicious, the little birds are remarkable when prepared well. Care must be taken when eating wild grouse, as there will be actual shot in the meat—not good for the teeth.

Although grouse is usually roasted and served whole, Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert was fond of famous chef Alexis Soyer’s Grouse Salad. This was made with hard boiled eggs, anchovies and pickled vegetables (beets and gherkins), tarragon chervil, shallots, chili vinegar and sugar in a cream enhanced mayonnaise and roasted grouse (either the cut up whole bird or just the breast) on a bed of lettuce. The chef warned the shallots might be too much for the ladies and that this was a salad better for the gentlemen.

Grouse may be for the adventurous palate, but if you are game to try, Deana Sidney, who recreates and interprets historic recipes on her blog Lost Past Remembered, has a recipe for grouse using an aged Madeira. And Hank Shaw at Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook has many grouse recipes, and he actually hunts his own in California.

Deana Sidney Grouse Recipe

A short art film by Zachary Heinzerling called “Hugh the Hunter,” is about the grouse hunt on Scotland, and on this particular Glorious Twelfth, will be screened at Postmasters Gallery in New York City. In fact, it’s dinner and a movie; we provided quail and Ghetto Gastro is cooking them for a game repast.

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What is the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet has been coming out of the cave and into the mainstream over the past few years. This return to pre-agricultural eating has its detractors and supporters, like any dietary trend. But in a world where people seem to be eating themselves to death with processed foods, the Paleo Diet encourages a return to real foods that our primal ancestors would have eaten. If it’s a trend, it’s the oldest one around.

Dr. Loren Cordain, Phd., who is the founder of the Paleolithic movement, and in fact coined the term “Paleo Diet,” explains the simple premise of the Paleo lifestyle.

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At the most basic, a Paleo lifestyle returns us to our ancestral diet – what we would have hunted and gathered: meats, fish, greens, fruits, seeds and nuts. It’s an unusual diet in that it bucks many established verities, such as the dangers of saturated fats and the desirability of grains. Humans in the Paleolithic era would not have counted calories, or found any low-fat, processed diet foods in the store. Intent on survival, they would have eaten all the saturated fats and nutrient-dense foods they could get their hands on.

The modern-day followersof Paleo do the same. They revel in eating pastured pork and poultry, grass-fed beef and grass-fed lamb (because animals wouldn’t have eaten grains either), game meats and game birds and offal. These proteins are balanced with natural fats, vegetables and small amounts of fruit and nuts.Paleo Meat Strip

So what does the diet eliminate? Noticeably absent are all grains and legumes, which came along later in our evolution, during the agricultural age over the past 10,000 years. Grains and legumes are understood to be harmful, because we have not yet evolved to digest them and absorb the nutrients in foods introduced during the agricultural era of human history.

The Paleo Diet also eliminates dairy and refined sugar, as well as hydrogenated vegetable oils like canola, margarine and soybean oil. All of these are either late additions to the human diet, or processed replacements for products from nature, such as animal fats and olive, coconut or avocado oils.

The Paleo Diet is not an attempt to accurately reenact the diet of cavemen, or return modern people to the Stone Age. Instead, it is a return to simple, unprocessed foods, made at home with real ingredients. The followers of Paleo Diet feel that many chronic health issues are the result of the modern diet, which relies heavily on many of the processed items listed above.

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A basic Paleo plan encourages people to exercise moderately, sleep deeply and in sync with the setting sun, following natural Circadian rhythms, and to eliminate external stress. This Paleo Diet 101 from Paleo Leap is a good place to start with the essentials.

It may well be an effort to follow this kind of eating plan in the modern world. But when you look at the ingredients of the packaged food in most stores and realize how far from a natural diet we have come, perhaps a return to simpler times makes sense. Many people are reporting health benefits, such as weight loss, improved immune function and increased energy on the Paleo plan.

And if you think a Paleo approach means you will be eating dull meals, take a look at Simply That Paleo Guy’s blog for meaty inspiration, like this photo, encouragement and dietary guidelines.

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While not all D’Artagnan products fit the Paleo plan, many of them are perfect for those exploring this primal dietary path. From wild boar and venison to game sausage made without dairy, additives or preservatives, we have plenty of premium protein – the cornerstone of a good Paleo diet.

12-Hour Sale on Foie Gras

Some people remember that July 1, 2012 was the day the California ban on foie gras went into effect. Of course, that ill-conceived law was overturned on January 7, 2015, to much rejoicing and popping of champagne corks. We traditionally mark the day with a special on foie gras.

So for you lovers of the good stuff, it’s time to enjoy with abandon.  And to encourage you, all foie gras is 20% off at dartagnan.com for 12 hours only.

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Father’s Day Special – Includes Chicken Wings!

Along with juicy wagyu patties, rack of lamb, giant steaks,  all kinds of sausage and Berkshire pork (ribs and chops!), our favorites for Father’s Day are now 20% off –  but only until Wednesday, 6/17.

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And we are introducing a new product just in time for Dad’s day: organic, air-chilled chicken wings!

Our fabulous, organic whole chicken has always been a popular bird, and we know you will love the parts. After all, everyone loves nibbling on wings. Even some of our French chef friends serve an homage to the classic recipe, complete with hot sauce and blue cheese.

We like to make “truffalo” wings – our oven-baked version of the famous Buffalo chicken wings, by swapping black truffle butter for regular butter. We think Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is a must for the sauce (some things are sacred), and recommend that you be generous with the butter.

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Those black specks are bits of truffle, not black pepper.

But you don’t have to stop there. We whipped up two more recipes for those who want to try something different. This harissa-honey chicken wing recipe starts on the grill for a smoky, spicy kick. The sauce goes on last, to keep the honey from burning on the grates.

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Serve with yogurt sauce and other Middle Eastern favorites to make a meal.

Our fried Asian-style wings recipe has sweet chili sauce to balance the heat of sambal oelek (or your favorite chile sauce). One of the benefits of making wings at home is that you control all the ingredients. If you want to eat “fast food,” we think it’s best to make it yourself.

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Crispy, crunchy, sweet and spicy, these wings have it all.

Try our organic chicken wings, available in 1-pound tray packs (in a case of 4) or in bulk (2 bags, 5 pounds each) for a simple home treat, or your next gathering, whether for the game or a backyard party. And save 20% right now in our Father’s Day special.

 

Signs of Spring: Ramps

We are sure that spring is here when the ramps arrive. We’ve had them for a little while now, in limited quantities, and they have been selling out quickly to our chef clients.

These fragrant wild leeks are the hottest thing on spring menus. Among the very first green to appear in the dead woods, they are a potent reminder of the power of plants and the changing of the season.

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A field of ramps makes a fresh green splash on the drab forest floor.

Wonderful with bacon, egg dishes, casseroles, potatoes, in pesto and anywhere you might use scallions or leeks, wild foraged ramps (they are not grown on farms) are a joyful and flavorful way to celebrate spring.

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Muddy and damp, like the springtime woods.

As the season progresses and availability increases the prices will come down. If you want to buy a 5 lb bag of ramps, you may call our customer service department to order: 800-327-8246.

 

 

 

Spring Thaw SALE!

It’s spring at last and we are clearing out the freezer! Enjoy 30% off select items now.

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FREE Shipping All Month!

Happy March! We’re celebrating with free standard shipping on all orders over $100 this month at dartagnan.com – no promo code needed. This means you can stock up on favorites or even try something new. Whatever you crave, the shipping is on us.HPC_FreeShipMarch

Offer valid through 11:59PM EST, March 31st, 2015. Promotion cannot be combined with any other offer. FedEx Priority Shipping not included.

Praise the Braise with 15% Off!

With the winter chill there’s only one thing to do: get in the kitchen and braise! Now is the time for comfort foods like slow-cooked short ribs that fall of the bone. Simmering foreshanks of wild boar. Succulent osso buco … you get the idea.

Now through February 24 save 15% off all the cuts we like to braise, and few other items that might help in your braising efforts. Like bacon. A true braise begins with rendering some bacon fat into a pan – but you knew that. Because you’ve got to brown the meat in something, and it might as well be bacon fat.

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Save 15% off All Duck!

For many of us the New Year offers a reset, a return to basics. At D’Artagnan that means duck. Thirty years ago Ariane began the company with duck products, and while she quickly expanded our offerings, duck is where it all started. So in the first weeks of our 30th year, we celebrate the simple pleasures of duck with 15% off at dartagnan.com.

Enjoy duck breast, duck legs (raw and confit), whole duck, duck fat and our signature prepared duck products. So go ahead, cook some duck! It’s easy to do at home, as our video with Sara Moulton proves.

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Victory! CA Foie Gras Ban Lifted!

A judge today ruled that the ban on foie gras in California goes too far. And so the ban is lifted! It’s now legal to enjoy foie gras again!

To celebrate we are offering 20% off all foie gras at dartagnan.com. Break out the Champagne and the Sauternes, because it’s going to be a wild party.

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