Chef Aaron Miller (right) continues to coax delicious flavors from Ranch Foods Direct products in the store's in-house kitchen. Here, he talks about some of his latest prepared dishes and new favorites he's discovered while browsing the store.
Q. According to a survey of more than 700 chefs conducted by the National Restaurant Association, the hottest new food trend of 2018 is new and unusual cuts of meat. What are some of your latest favorites at Ranch Foods Direct?
The chuck-eye steak is the perfect size, six ounces or so, not too big and not too small. I just had to try it using the sous vide method: it really elevates it and makes it even more amazing. Another cut that is great prepared sous vide is the picanha, or sirloin cap, which is popular in Brazil.
Our new smoked beef bacon, while fully cooked, doesn't have the fat rendered out of it. You can cook it in the oven or fry it in a pan; it'll be a little more lean than pork bacon, with a nice mouth feel. Smoked pork jowls (or cheeks) are something that is really popular in the South.
Something new we did for the SuperBowl was "pig wings." They're made from the shank of the pig and resemble chicken wings, but they're meatier.
It started out in the South but now it's becoming a big thing on the East Coast too.
Q. What's new with the sous vide items?
I've introduced what I'm calling my sous vide 2.0 series. Instead of just boiling the meat in a pouch with sea salt, I've added fish sauce and garlic powder. It creates a chemical interaction that mimics the dry aging process. Dry aging in the bag keeps the meat juicier and accentuates the beefy flavor.
Q. What other smoked meats are you doing these days?
We are creating a portfolio of smoked meats you won't find anywhere else! Whole turkeys and turkey legs, chicken, pepperoni, ham hocks... the list just continues to grow. One thing I'm really excited about are pieces of wild Alaskan Sockeye salmon, cured with sea salt and brown sugar and hickory-smoked in-house, a process that takes several days. They can be used for salads, dips and spreads, on pizza or in deviled eggs - the sky's the limit.
Q. Have you discovered some other new favorite ingredients around the store?
The dried beans... I've been using them in a lot of the soups we're making. The pintos and Anasazi beans in particular are really, really good! Papa Hill's popcorn... I'm addicted to it! If I don't get any, I start shaking.
Q. Your chicken soups and broth are really popular. What's the secret to the bright delicious flavor?
I use both coriander and cilantro to get an interesting balance of cilantro flavor in my white chicken chili; it's just not as good without the coriander. Other things I've been incorporating include fresh ginger, lemongrass and shiitaki mushrooms.
Q. What do you plan to make this year for Valentine's Day at your house?
I'm contemplating doing Beef Wellington, but using a different piece of meat other than the tenderloin, sous vide first and then wrapped in puff pastry, and baked. I haven't had time to experiment with it yet, but I have reason to think it will work.