My father is from New England, and was raised believing that a meal is not complete without a healthy dose of steak and starch. He may enjoy and praise my mother's curries, stews, and inventive braises, but I think deep down, he'd be at his happiest eating straight off the menu of the new Food Network series, Meat & Potatoes.
Host Rahm Fama, a rancher and meat enthusiast, will take us around the country seeking out the best, heartiest, and meatiest dishes in the new show, which airs tonight at 10 p.m.
I checked in with him about his roots in New Mexico, his favorite dishes from the road, and how to pick a great cut of beef.
Your culinary career began in New Mexico. What makes the regional cuisine unique? I didn't have a lot of culinary influences when I was young. It was basically beans and chili, beans and chili. Enchiladas. That was what my family made. So then chefs would use these classics, the grandmothers' recipes, and give them a twist. Santa Fe still has a great local farming community and a lot of other great ingredients like pine nuts, so much fun stuff. And being so secluded from other big towns—it had this big flare for the culinary. You learn from other chefs, walk into other guys' joints, and see how they're doing things.
When did your passion for meat really begin? I've always had a passion for meat, for the appreciation of steak and meat. I was raised on a ranch. It's always been there, and now I get to have a show to share it with the world.
How did you choose where to eat for your show? It was a collaboration between me, the producers, the network—we sit down with all the options. We consider the amount of press the locations have received. Is a place unique? Is it fun? Will it make a great fit for the show? We always say that hopefully there will be more episodes, and we can revisit the ones that didn't make the cut this time.
What were some of your favorite dishes that you sampled while filming? Oh man, always the hardest question. The 75 day dry-aged rib eye was absolutely jaw-dropping as far as a steak goes. There's a lot of waste and money involved but the flavor is actually worth the waste and money. That was in Chicago. But I'm a barbecue fanatic and had some great barbecue in Austin and Kansas and so on. Every episode is just so much fun.
When you're cooking at home, what are your standby meat preparations? I love the crock pot. A lot of people will say it's lazy cooking but I don't think it is—I think time lets the food evolve and change. And I love braising, and I love the grill. I like pushing myself every day so I love open fire grilling, the gaucho style of grilling. I always use charcoal or wood and I've done everything from a whole chicken or side of lamb on the grill. Just make sure to have your friends clean up the dishes.
Meat production is a big topic of debate in the food world these days. Do you have a preference as to grass-fed, organic, traditionally raised, etc when choosing your meat? You know, I do. Being a rancher I know all the different preparations. I really enjoy—and this is my absolute favorite—about 80% grass-fed and the rest corn-fed. The calf will graze in the field most of its life and then during the last part of production I like to have it corn-fed. The depth of flavor and redness develops when the animal roams around, but then it doesn't have the fat content of animals in feedlots. So you let them roam around eating grass, and then during feedlot time you feed it corn, molasses, oats, wheat—all kinds of rich, fatty stuff to give the meat the flavor. It's a science, seriously. Farming, butchering, cooking, all of that to make the perfect steak is science from the day the calf is born.
Meat & Potatoes premieres tonight, Friday, September 24th, at 10 p.m. on the Food Network.
About the interviewer: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves consuming and learning about as much food as possible. She blogs at Feasting on Providence.