Articles from June 2010

Chef Mavro Weighs In on Grass-Fed Beef

Chef Mavro - Tips on cooking grass-fed beef

Chef George Mavrothalassitis at his acclaimed Honolulu restaurant, Chef Mavro

A founding member of Hawai’i Regional Cuisine in 1991, Chef George Mavrothalassitis has long known the importance of supporting local food producers. A recipient of the prestigious James Beard Foundation award, Chef “Mavro” is well known in the nation’s top culinary circles.

Always Buy Local
Chef cooks with the philosophy: “always buy the best and freshest, buy local, treat all products with great respect and start afresh every season with new ideas and creative recipes.” A native of the French port of Marseilles, Chef grew up hearing the passionate calls of fishmongers and tasting the farm-fresh flavors of southern France.

“Sometimes buying local means the cost is higher and sometimes it takes more time but the reward is huge,” shares Chef Mavro. “Local farmers succeed and my guests enjoy fresh, regional ingredients and a dining experience they could only have in Hawai’i.”

Today, Chef is at the helm of the acclaimed Chef Mavro restaurant in Honolulu, where the menu changes four times a year. A recipient of the AAA Five Diamond Award in both 2009 and 2010, Chef Mavro restaurant is ranked one of the “Top 10 Restaurants in the World” by Fodor’s. It’s a “must” dining experience on O’ahu.

Chef Mavro at Chef Mavro restaurant

Chef Mavro and Chef Kevin Chong in the kitchen at Chef Mavro restaurant

Wagyu Beef
In addition to grass-fed beef, Chef serves grass-fed wagyu beef at his restaurant. Wagyu beef is from cattle that are genetically predisposed to produce meat with intense marbling, resulting in a rich, juicy flavor. Typical to other breeds of cattle fed-and-finished on grass, grass-fed wagyu is better for you-it contains a higher percentage of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. Wagyu’s increased marbling, which is high in monounsaturated fats, may actually help people lower their “bad” LDL cholesterol levels while raising their “good” HDL levels.

Taste Cooking Demo
Chef Mavro will do a Cooking Grass-Fed Beef 101 seminar at this year’s Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range. Time is 12:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The fee is $10 and attendees will receive a takeaway recipe for creating it at home. The evening Taste extravaganza is 6-8 p.m. Buy tickets for the evening Taste and cooking demo.

Q & A with Chef Mavro
We caught up with chef recently to get one of his fave recipes for using grass-fed beef: Beef Short Rib with Puree of Celery Root. We got to chatting and asked him about using local products, including grass-fed beef…

Q: Why do you like using grass-fed beef?
Chef: I like to support the local economy, number one. And I like the taste.

Q: How do you prepare grass-fed beef at Chef Mavro restaurant?
Chef: We like very much to use grass-fed beef for braised short ribs. We cook it in stock and wine at very low temperature for 3.5 hours. It’s delicious. I braise it this way because braising is the traditional way to cook short ribs. Braising this cut makes the meat tender and the marinade gives it a fantastic flavor.

Q: Is your wagyu beef 100% grass-fed? Where do you get it from and why do you like it?
Chef: Our wagyu beef is grass-fed and from Australia. I like it because of the flavor, the tenderness-you can cut it with a fork-and considering the size of the wagyu, it has some of the best marbling in the world.

Q: You point out several Big Island products on your menu, can you share who they are?
Chef: We use 75 percent of Big Island ingredients in our menus… Hirabara baby greens, hearts of palm, Hamakua mushrooms, Hawaiian Vanilla, Big Island Goat Cheese, Volcano Island honey, and from NELHA: abalone, Kona Cold lobster, sablefish, and our newest offering, Kona Kea Shrimp, which we’re very excited about right now.

Chef Mavro - Sumida watercress farm

Chef Mavro does a demo at the Sumida watercress farm on O'ahu

Q: Can you share any good experiences working direct with Big Isle food providers?
Chef: Yes, yes, yes… always a great experience and such wonderful products. They’ve all become my friends and I go by their farms whenever I can.  I share their stories with our waiters during their pre-service briefings and they pass on those stories to our guests who are very interested in knowing about the source of our ingredients. We brand local ingredients on our menus and our guests really pay attention to what they are eating. And in the last few years so many like to take photos of their plates before they eat! And they go online from their table to post photos and comment on their experience during dinner. This spreads the word about local farms to millions of people!

Q: How many years have you been a participating chef at Taste?  Can you share any experiences using different cuts of meats? Did you learn anything?
Chef: I’ve been involved with Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range since the late 1990s…it’s my favorite event. I got tripe (stomach) one year, which was OK because I love tripe and I did a Filipino tripe stew. One year I was assigned a whole goat and I used a navarin recipe (French lamb stew with turnips, onions, potatoes and carrots-“navet” is French for “turnip”).  It was the first time that I cooked a whole goat in my life and I was suspicious about the result…but it was fantastic.


Recipe: Grass-Fed Beef Short Rib, Puree of Celery Root

Chef Mavro, George MavrothalassitisBy Chef George Mavrothalassitis, Chef/proprietor of Chef Mavro restaurant

Serves 10

Ingredients for short rib marinade:
1 short rib, whole (4-5 pounds)
2 bottles red wine
2 medium onions sliced
2 carrots, sliced
4 celery stalks sliced
8 thyme sprigs
2 Bay leaves
1 qt beef jus (or beef broth)
sea salt as needed
fresh ground white pepper     as needed

Ingredients for celery root puree:
2 celery roots (celeriac) peeled and cut into cubes
1 pt heavy cream
3 T extra virgin olive oil
As needed sea salt
As needed fresh ground white pepper

Ingredients for red wine sauce:
1 bottle red wine, burgundy
1 onion sliced
1 carrot boiled
2 oz butter
2 T needed sea salt
As needed fresh ground white pepper

Ingredients for chimichurri:
2 garlic cloves, peeled and degermed
1 Hawaiian chili pepper
1/4 c shallots minced
1 c flat leaf parsley leaves chopped
1 c cilantro leaves chopped
2 T Marjoram leaves
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar

Method for short rib:
Marinate the short rib with red wine, vegetables and herbs overnight.
Separate the short rib from the wine and dry.
Season the short rib with sea salt and fresh ground white pepper.  Sear in a hot pan with oil.
Brown all sides and remove from the pan.
Add the vegetables from the marinade to the pan.
Sauté the vegetables for 5 minutes or until caramelized.
Add the red wine (from marinade) and reduce by half.
Add the beef jus and simmer for 15 minutes.
Place the short rib and liquid in a braising pan and cover.
Place in a 250°F oven for 3.5 hours.
Remove the short rib from the liquid.
Remove the bones and trim the rib meat.
Cut into 2 oz pieces.
Strain the braising liquid and skim off fat.
Store the rib meat in the liquid.

Method for celery root puree:
Wash the celery root in running cold water.
Remove the skins from the celery root and cut into medium-size cubes.
Place the celery root in the medium-sized sauce pot and cover with heavy cream.
Cook on medium heat until the celery root is cooked.
Puree the celery root in a blender with some of the cream.
Season with sea salt and fresh ground white pepper.
Add the white truffle oil.

Method for red wine sauce:
Reduce a quarter of the red wine with onion until dry.
Add the other quarter of red wine and repeat process two more times.
Add the last quarter of red wine and reduce by half.
Place the reduction into a blender with the cooked carrot.
Blend well.
Add the butter and extra virgin olive oil.
Season with sea salt and fresh ground white pepper.
Strain the sauce.

Method for chimichurri:
Using a mortar and pestle, make a paste with the garlic and a pinch of sea salt.
Add the chili pepper and shallots and work all the ingredients together.
Add the herbs and make a paste like a pesto.
Add the extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Season with sea salt and fresh ground white pepper.

Place the celery root puree on the center of the plate
Arrange the braised short rib on the celery root puree.
Spread a good amount of chimichurri on top of the short rib.
Surround the dish with the red wine sauce.


Americans name ranching a top ‘green’ profession

Ranch in HawaiiWhen your office is the great outdoors and your commute is on horseback, preserving and protecting the Earth is part of the job description.

In a recent national survey of American beef eaters, cattle ranchers and farmers were selected as the third greenest profession from a diverse list of jobs, with park rangers topping the list. The survey was conducted by IPSOS Public Affairs, a global survey-based market research firm, for The Beef Checkoff Program.

Green Values at Kona’s Palani Ranch
Two-thirds of U.S. cattle farms and ranches have been in the same family for two generations or more (Aspen Media & Market Research, 2008).

That’s no surprise to Jimmy Greenwell, president of the Big Isle’s Palani Ranch. His great-grandfather, Henry Nicholas Greenwell, founded the Kona ranch in 1850. Palani is one of our island’s grass-fed beef producers.

“Ranchers are grass growers, watershed managers, soil conservators and habitat providers,” explains Greenwell. “Our goal is to pass on the land to the next generations in better shape than what we found it.”

Greenwell continues, “There are a lot of benefits that flow from grazing lands like ours to the broader community including their scenic value, cultural significance, carbon sequestration qualities, habitat preservation and watershed value. Properly managing this land resource, however, takes money and ranching is part of how we harvest the value of the landscape to pay for its own maintenance.”

Palani Ranch operates 20,000 acres primarily in North Kona.

Emphasizing that it’s important to keep the grazing industry viable in Hawai’i, Greenwell adds, “Ranching maintains the pastureland use pattern, keeping open land intact.”

Ranches Protect the LandHawaii ranch
An overwhelming majority of IPSOS survey respondents, 86%, believe farmers and ranchers are committed to protecting and preserving land and natural resources. Actions seen as “very important” by more than half of those surveyed included things common to cattlemen: planting crops and grasses to control erosion, rotating cattle pastures to prevent overgrazing and planting trees to provide windbreaks and shelter.

Consumers aren’t the only ones who find farmers and ranchers critical to protecting our environment. For example, a group of sportsmen, conservation and outdoor interests-including The Nature Conservancy-is collaborating on a new “Thank a Rancher” campaign in Wyoming that recognizes the importance of agriculture and ranching in maintaining our open spaces and conserving wildlife habitat.

Environmental Sustainability
Hawaiian ranchAccording to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, there are 40 ways that raising cattle contributes to environmental sustainability. The list gives you a broad view of the many duties required of ranchers and their importance; we list 25 of them:

25 Ways Grass-Fed Cattle Farmers and Ranchers Help the Environment

  1. Maintain and introduce habitats as homes for numerous endangered species.
  2. Use biological controls on invasive pests.
  3. Plant trees for windbreaks, which provide protection for the cattle, wildlife and soil.
  4. Maintain proper nutrients in soil by regularly analyzing soil samples to determine which nutrients are needed and in what amounts.
  5. Implement conservation tillage so that soil can be conserved and available moisture used more efficiently.
  6. Fence off streams and wetlands to create a buffer that helps prevent bank erosion and runoff.
  7. Utilize beef production technologies to raise more beef with fewer natural resources.
  8. Plant grasses on highly erodible land, thereby conserving soil.
  9. Protect open spaces from development through programs like conservation easements.
  10. Reduce fuel consumption by using ATVs that use less fuel than other farm/ranch vehicles.
  11. Utilize solar-powered electric fence chargers.
  12. Create retention ponds to protect waterways from excessive runoff.
  13. Use recycled products to build fences and recycled tires to build water tanks.
  14. Participate in university research projects that aim to improve agricultural environmental practices.
  15. Plan soil nutrient management systems to control nutrient runoff and to minimize the need for additional nutrients.
  16. Monitor and document effective practices and regularly solicit input from expert sources to improve resource management.
  17. Control weeds and prevent residue build-up on pasture land so it doesn’t turn into hot and dangerous fires.
  18. Maintain open space as cattle grazing pastures, allowing land to remain natural, free of trash, debris and invasive weeds and trees.
  19. Install irrigation systems that efficiently utilize limited water resources.
  20. Hold up water on ranchlands for extended periods of time in order to replenish underground aquifers and filter out nutrients and particulate matter.
  21. Improve plant density, a sign of a healthier rangeland.
  22. Allow cattle to graze and consume forages that convert to healthy, nutritious beef.
  23. Utilize rotational grazing so cattle are moved to different pasture to prevent overgrazing.
  24. Use windmills to harvest wind energy into usable mechanical power.
  25. Partner with state, local and national environmental agencies to monitor land, water and wildlife and make improvements.

The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The Checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national Checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.


Cooking Beef the Right Way

This weekly blog shares insight and offers discussion on topics pertaining to Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range. We welcome and value your input—please post your comments and suggestions for future blogs. Want to contribute a blog? Let us know. Mahalo….Fern Gavelek

Cooking Beef the Right Way

Hilton Waikoloa Village Chef Charles Charbonneau

Chef Charles Charbonneau at the 2009 Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range

Everyone wants a flavorful, tender and juicy cut of beef. Cooking beef is a balancing act—you want it cooked to your preferred degree of doneness—rare, medium or well—and you want to reduce moisture loss.

Beef—including beef that is fed and finished on grass—is cooked with either dry or wet heat. The cooking method used depends on where the meat is located on the animal.

Meat from the middle of the animal, where the muscles are used least, should be cooked via quick, dry heat: grilling, broiling, sautéing, stir-frying, deep-frying and roasting. Steaks are found in the middle meat.

End meats, like round steak and rump roasts, should be cooked with long, wet heat to break up the cut’s connective collagen and elastin.

Dry Heat or Wet Heat?
Grilling, broiling and pan-frying: rib eye, t-bone, porterhouse steaks
Kebabs: tenderloin absorbs marinated flavors best and is tender
Oven roasting: top sirloin, tenderloin, rib roasts, top rump roasts
Stir-frying: flank, top round, sirloin steaks
Pot roasting, braising, stewing: swiss steak, chuck arm roast, brisket, short ribs, rump roast, stew meat

How to Amp Up the Flavor of Beef
Cook beef in two stages with high and low heat to amp up the flavor.

High heat—above 300-500º—produces a chemical reaction between the meat’s amino acids and sugars. Called the Maillard reaction, it results in a flavorful crust on the meat’s surface. When using dry heat for example, grill a steak by starting the meat on the hottest area of the grill until it browns and then move it to a cooler area of the grill to finish cooking. When cooking a roast on low heat in the oven, finish it under the broiler for a few minutes to create a crisp crust.

When using wet heat to cook a pot roast, sear it first to create more flavor and browning. Searing provides beef with a tasty crust full of complex flavors; it does not, however, seal in juices. Pat the meat surface dry and sear it until it’s a deep brown, but not charred.

Lower the Temps, Time for Grass-fed Beef
Low heat evenly cooks beef to the required doneness. The key to keeping meat juicy is cooking duration. With grass-fed beef, which is leaner, less cooking time and temperature is needed, so turn down the flame. To insure you don’t overcook, use a meat thermometer.  Cookbook author Shannon Hayes recommends cooking grass-fed beef to 120-140º, which is lower than USDA recommended temps of 145-170º for grain-fed beef. Cooking beef that has been fed and finished on grass at the lower temps also helps reduce the sacrifice of the nutritious CLA and Omega-3 fats to the fire.

Check out a list of grass-fed cookbooks, including those by Hayes.

Executive Chef Charles Charbonneau of the Hilton Waikoloa Village shares a favorite recipe for preparing grass-fed beef using the wet method of braising, preceded by high heat browning. He accompanies it with Pineapple Slaw and provides that recipe also.


Recipe: Slow-Braised Hawaiian Grass-Fed Beef Brisket Sliders

Chef Charles CharbonneauBy Chef Charles Charbonneau, Executive Chef Hilton Waikoloa Village
Serves 20: 2 sliders each

I choose the brisket cut as the perfect barbecue sandwich meat. Since the meat is Hawaiian-raised, grass-fed beef, moist heat cooking suits this cut well so it breaks down the muscle to become tender and delicious. The grassy flavor of the brisket lends well to the island flavors of the barbecue sauce.

5 lbs grass-fed brisket
2 large sweet onions diced
1 c pineapple juice
1 bottle Kona Brewing Company Pale Ale
2 c barbecue sauce (recipe below)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
3 oz salad oil

Barbecue Sauce
16 oz tomato sauce
6 oz tomato paste
4 oz cider vinegar
1 oz salad oil
2 oz Big Island Bees Honey
2 cloves garlic crushed
½ onion minced
2 T shoyu
2 t Chinese dry mustard
2 t (or to taste) sambal chili sauce
fresh ground black pepper to taste

40 slider rolls

Pineapple Slaw
¼ head cabbage shredded
¼ head red cabbage shredded
1 large carrot shredded
½ fresh pineapple diced
2 oz lilikoi puree
1 c mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Brisket: Season the beef brisket with salt and pepper. Heat salad oil in heavy gauge pot until white-hot. Brown the brisket on all sides until well colored. Add onion and cook until soft. Add the Kona ale and cook until reduced by half. Add the pineapple juice and barbecue sauce and bring to a simmer. Cover and place into 325º oven for 3 hours-the brisket should be fork-tender. Remove from pan and let brisket cool. Degrease the sauce and place into a saucepot; reduce until thick. Once brisket has cooled, slice very thin and place into pan and toss with barbecue sauce. Place back into warm oven until ready to serve. Portion the sliced brisket into the slider rolls. Top with pineapple slaw and serve.

Sauce: In a saucepot, sauté onion and garlic until translucent. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for one hour at a very low simmer.

Slaw: Mix the cabbage, carrots and pineapple in a bowl. Add mayo and lilikoi puree and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.