My journey towards Wolf Creek Farm's stew beef tacos started many months, a few steps, and one important realization ago...
Sometime this past winter I was standing in front of my stovetop preparing ground turkey tacos, a household favorite. (I liked ground turkey because of the lower fat content, and my wife liked turkey because "supermarket* beef is just gross.") Anyway, we were accustomed to buying an Old El Paso taco dinner kit and flavoring our ground turkey with the "seasoning mix" that came inside. Of course, I knew all along that I had spices in my cabinet, but that little packet was so easy to use. I didn't have to think about it. Just dump and stir. That one evening, however, as I ripped open the packet and looked down at its orange-tinged contents, a question popped into my head: "What the hell is this stuff?"
(As it turned out, that stuff, according to DietFacts.com, was a wonderful blend of maltodextrin, salt, chili pepper, onion powder, unidentified spices, MSG, corn starch, yellow corn flour, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, silicon dioxide, natural flavor, and ethoxyquin. Mmmmm. Maybe I'll touch on the awfulness of some of these ingredients in a later post, but for now, back to the story.)
Instead of pausing to think about it, I will shamefully admit that my answer to my question was, sadly, "I'll worry about it later." Yep, I ate it. And you know what? It really wasn't bad...but I knew I could do better if I tried, and it wasn't long before I realized that I should do better.
Fast-forward to Superbowl weekend. Our friends hosted a small potluck dinner/viewing party at their place. After discussing our contribution options the night before, my wife and I settled on tacos, but I was put off by the thought of more chemical-laced seasoning mixes. Then, an idea struck: "What if we got stew meat and slow cooked it in a crock pot with a bunch of other stuff like garlic, chipotle peppers, real spices, maybe even a little orange? We could tear the pieces up with forks like they do with pork barbecue and make tacos with it. I bet that would be good."
Despite the fact that I was pressed for time and had to settle for supermarket beef, it was good. Finished off with cilantro, avocado slices, and a squirt of lime, those tacos were not only a hit at the party, but they tasted better than anything I'd ever seasoned with a packet. Still, even then I didn't want to buy any more supermarket beef than I had to. Perhaps my new taco recipe wouldn't replace the old one after all?
Fast-forward again to last week. I was filling my cart on Retail Relay (best site ever, btw), and I saw a pound of stew beef from Wolf Creek Farm. I hadn't made the stew meat tacos since the Superbowl, but in seeing a super-convenient, local alternative to supermarket beef, I rejoiced. I picked up my RR order the following day and earlier this week I finally made my tacos.
They were even better than my rose-tinted memories. Tender, full of flavor, juicy, and rich. And the kicker? Not only was I avoiding the artificial packet seasonings and the growth hormones, antibiotics, and chemical preservatives of the "gross" supermarket beef, I was supporting a guy who lived about an hour away and who produced my beef in a sustainable, natural, ecologically-friendly way. What's not to feel good about?
* I exempt Whole Foods from the term "supermarket" because a) they're not the typical supermarket, and b) the Cville Whole Foods is clear across the world from my house so I don't go there very often.