“Beef….it’s what’s for dinner.” A very successful ad campaign for the beef industry which, happily for them, coincided with the wild popularity of the Adkins diet. The Adkins diet lead to spectacular weight loss in many people, and gave rise to modifications found in the equally successful South Beach diet. But is beef really a healthy choice? The answer is, yes and no.
Traditionally raised beef, or grass-fed beef, is a very healthy choice, and traditional societies who consume this meat rarely experience the heart disease and cancer found in developed nations. Cattle come with 4 stomachs, making them uniquely able to process and digest the grasses and forage found in pastures. Healthy cows eat grasses. Along the way to our modern food industry, however, we began to collect cattle to hold in feedlots, feeding them corn and soy due to our surplus of those crops. Corn and soy cause them to fatten, but a different kind of fat. Grass-fed beef is very lean, but the fat is high in omega 3 fatty acids, of which we all need more. Corn- and soy-fed beef is higher in fat, but it is omega 6 fatty acids, also necessary for health, but in lower amounts. We need omega 3 fats in a 1-1 ratio with omega 6 fats, but instead we eat 1 omega 3 to 20 omega 6, a recipe for disaster. Omega 6 fats cause inflammation, a leading culprit in heart disease.
Crowded conditions and a poor diet high in pesticide residues cause feedlot beef to need anti-biotics to counteract disease, plus feedlot beef is high in steroids used to tenderize the meat. So you be the judge, and choose according to your values. I buy grass-fed beef from Mike and Cindy Ridenour, both of whom have advanced degrees in chemistry, and who raise cattle in SE Wyoming. Access information about their beef at www.meadowmaidfoods.com, or purchase it at the Food Co-Op on Mountain Ave. Buying in quantity, a quarter or a side, is very economical if you have freezer space.
Beef is high in minerals, especially zinc and magnesium, in a form easy for us to assimilate. And red meat is high in vitamin B12, important for healthy nerves and blood, and carnitine, essential for heart health. Furthermore, grass-fed beef is high in essential fatty acids that help prevent cancer and viral infections, and contains fat-soluble vitamins necessary for us to utilize the critically important minerals in all foods.
Christmas is a holiday that lends itself to beef, and a spectacular presentation for beef tenderloin is to stuff it before roasting. Spiral cut a 4# tenderloin (to feed 4-6 people), if you can for a pinwheel effect, or just cut it in half, almost through, fill it with the following mixture, and tie it with butcher’s twine to hold it together.
Filling for Christmas Beef Tenderloin
2-3 tbsp butter
1 small onion, chopped fine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced or chopped (optional)
½# fresh spinach or 6-8 oz. frozen spinach, thawed
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup bread crumbs to bind filling together
You can prepare the stuffing the day before, and stuff and tie the beef a day ahead. To cook the stuffing, melt the butter in a pan and add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms if using, along with a pinch of salt and some pepper. Add the tomatoes, spinach, bread crumbs and cheese, and stir to combine. Allow to cool, then fill the tenderloin, tie, cover with plastic and refrigerate.
Oil hands with ½ tsp. grapeseed oil and pat the meat all over. Season all sides with salt and pepper, and sear in a dry pan on all sides. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and cook at 425° for 35-40 minutes for medium-rare, 135-140* on a meat thermometer. Remove to a cutting board and rest for 15 minutes while you deglaze the pan with a nice Cabernet, finish the sauce with a touch of butter, and serve the beef sliced with sauce spooned over the top.
Merry Christmas and bon appétit!