Two weeks ago, three-star restaurant Eleven Madison Park in New York announced that its iconic crispy roast duck with pickled radish and plum sauce will no longer be on the menu after the catering lockdown. And it’s not just that duck that won’t return, chef David Humm has decided not to serve anything animal-like at all. This makes Eleven Madison Park a 100 percent plant-based, or vegan restaurant.
You knew that such a decision would one day be made by a restaurant at this level. Anyone who is even slightly conscious about food – and who is more conscious about food than chefs? – realizes that we cannot continue to consume meat at current levels with impunity. That we have to plantify – that the menu of the future will have to be based much more on plants, and only for a small percentage on animal products.
When it comes to reducing meat consumption, the grand gestures are in the air these days, and I don’t mean that in a cynical way. Exactly one week before David Humm’s announcement, the influential food blog announced Epicurious to stop publishing new beef recipes. This “in an effort to encourage more sustainable cooking”. Cows, the editors argue, are the biggest polluters and least efficient of all protein sources. So cutting out beef is a small step with a big impact.
Of course there are many things to argue with on such a decision. Especially for those who are strongly against eating animals, such a beef ban is not nearly enough. You could even call it hypocritical, since Epicurious will continue to publish recipes for pork, poultry, lamb, fish, shellfish, and so on. At the other end of the spectrum, meat lovers have already reported themselves. Patronizing and pointless, an outraged columnist with a barbecue hobby wrote in the Washington Post.
Camp Meat versus Camp Vega: the discussion will undoubtedly continue for a while. But now comes the good. In an editorial on Epicurious it is revealed that the blog has in practice stopped posting beef recipes for a year. And that no one noticed. Not a single reader complained where the burger and steak recipes went. On the contrary. The editors received a lot of praise for her vegetarian recipes.
It’s true that I don’t mean those grand gestures cynically. I applaud initiatives like Eleven Madison Park’s and Epicurious just wholeheartedly. These are all steps towards more sustainable eating behaviour. But at the same time, I have to chuckle a little at the squabbling around it. The fact that no one missed those beef recipes and that the number of clicks on recipes like ‘over charcoal grilled aubergine with harissa vinaigrette’ only increased my feeling that you show, don’t tell often achieved more than with preaching or pushing.
And so no, I’m not going to announce today that we won’t be eating here again from now on. Nothing is banned here. As you are used to, I will occasionally serve you meat and fish, but more often something vegetarian. However, as far as I’m concerned, we don’t always have to mention the latter so emphatically. Let me put it this way: we’re just going to continue cooking tasty things here with one eye on the pan and one on the world.
Turkey stew with peas and green asparagus
Still a bit in the context of that beef ban, we’re making a turkey stew today (and a whole lot of vegetables). With our southern neighbors, turkey stew is the most natural thing in the world. Strangely enough, it doesn’t even seem to exist in the Netherlands.
I called a poulterer from The Hague about it – who, it would be a shame not to mention this, is blessed with the cheerful eponym Ronald Vogels – and he told me that turkey stew, just like game stew, is trimmings. Pieces of leftover meat that are cut from the carcasses after the animals have been deboned. It is dark meat with a stringy structure, perfect for long and gentle cooking. There is just no customer who asks for it and that is why he does not have it in the display case.
What he does have are turkey thighs, says Vogels. “That’s exactly the same meat. And you can just ask any poulterer to cut that off the bone for you.” Great, that’s settled again. You’ll be surprised how much such braised turkey thigh meat resembles, say, scallops. It is slightly lighter in taste and color, but has the same bite. Pulled pork, shall I say. And that after just an hour of cooking.
For 4 persons:
600 g turkey thigh fillet, diced;
a splash of olive oil;
1 onion, chopped;
2 celery stalks, in arcs;
1 small carrot or 2 – 3 carrots, diced;
1 large clove or 2 smaller garlic cloves, finely chopped;
250 ml of dry white wine;
350 ml chicken stock;
4 – 5 sprigs of fresh thyme;
300 g waxy potatoes, peeled, cut into pieces;
1 bunch green asparagus, diced;
150 g peas (fresh or frozen);
optional: green herbs such as parsley, chervil and/or chives.
sprinkle the turkey meat with salt and pepper. Heat a dash of olive oil in a heavy casserole and brown the meat on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. If necessary, pour an extra dash of oil into the pan and fry the onion, celery and carrot for about five minutes, until the vegetables start to colour. Add the garlic and fry for a while while stirring.
Doe Return the meat to the pan and toss everything together. Add the white wine and let it fizz for a while. Pour in the chicken stock, add the thyme sprigs and bring to the boil. Add the potato pieces and put a lid on the pan. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 50 minutes.
Test whether the meat is already tender enough and whether the potatoes are cooked. Then add the asparagus and peas and toss. Let it simmer for another 5 – 10 minutes, until the asparagus and peas are al dente.
Trial and season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle with a handful of green herbs before serving, if desired. Serve with some hearty bread, so that you can easily drag it through the stew.