A chance spotlight on Eric Ripert's Avec Eric TV show immediately made a name for Leaping Waters Farm. But as chefs clamored for farmer Alec Bradford's choice cuts of Ancient White Park cattle, Bradford kept finding himself trying to sell the rest — the off cuts for roasts and sausage. He'd dabbled in selling meat at a farmers market near his Alleghany, Va. farm, but between the man hours, price of gas, and time on site, it wasn't worth the effort.
Then he had an epiphany.
"We began with a vegetable CSA and those were really popular. Then I had some brilliant moment of clarity," he says. "I thought, we already have the cuts in packets, vacuum sealed, and frozen. Why not do a meat CSA?"
CSA subscriptions — community supported agriculture — are nothing new. Dozens of area farms offer CSAs, providing boxes of produce, meat, and even seafood to families around the Lowcountry. But HERD Provisions CSA, from Bradford — the man behind forthcoming HERD Provisions restaurant on Grove Street — is a little bit different.
Bradford's meat CSA is a 20 week, 10 delivery multi-cut program that uses a Virginia Tech created algorithm to assure buyers get exactly what they want.
"We give everybody a preference sheet, so you can pick like Kosher no pork or 'I don't want roasts, just steaks' and it helps us tailor to each person's needs. It's recorded what goes in their bags so there's not a whole lot of repeat," he says. "Each customer does generally get ground beef and bacon every time, but everything else varies."
And everything else includes a lot: Italian sausage, beef short ribs, chicken quarters, beef marrow bones, ground pork, and sirloin steak.
All of the meat is processed locally at Williamsburg Meat Packing in Kingstree, S.C. Deliveries are made bi-weekly and in Charleston Bradford makes all the drop offs himself.
Meat arrives in a cold thermal bag each buyer keeps and to help CSA members get the most bang for their buck, Chef Aaron Swersky — who will run HERD once it opens — has developed recipes for each cut.
- Visit herdprovisions.com for more information.
"We include three or four recipes with different cuts generally packaged in one-pound portions," says Bradford. "If you've never done short ribs before, we'll teach you a sim ple braise like a Dummy's Guide to Braising. Or how to make chimichurri." Bradford adds that sometimes his meat requires additional instruction due to it being grassfed. Far too often Bradford says novice cooks prepare grassfed beef well done, then are unhappy with the results.
"The grassfed beef, sometimes people find it a little more challenging, so we have a thorough explanation of how to cook it and it's not what people find on the internet," he says. "Usually you're told to put the grill at a lower heat and cook it for longer. It's the exact opposite. You need a nice seasoning, get it piping hot, and do quick turns on it until it's nicely crisp, then get it off of there. It should never be cooked over medium rare."
So what's it cost to opt into this program? It's a cool $510 up front which may sound like a lot, but Bradford writes on his website, "our prices will be below our normal retail prices but enough above wholesale to cover the expense of individual packing." But the real selling point Bradford says is customers get hand delivered, ethically produced meat, the same cuts of which are sold at some of the nation's most respected restaurants such as Masseria, Bourbon Steak, The Source, and Red Apron Burger Bar. And hey, if it's good enough for Eric Ripert, right?
Leaping Waters Flat Iron Steak with Romesco
Serves 2 people | Prep time 45 minutes
Equipment you will need
Equipment you will need:
• Saute pans
• Large metal spoon
• Roasting pans
• Food processor or blender
• 1 Flat iron steak (approx 1 lb.)
• 2 Tsp. Grapeseed oil
• 4 oz. butter
• 2 Sprigs of fresh thyme
• 2 large red bell peppers, remove seeds
• 1 vine ripe or heirloom tomato
• 1 small red onion, peeled
• 1 clove garlic
• 2 slices sourdough bread, crust removed
• 1/4 cup marcona almonds
• 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
• Olive oil
• 8 oz. Fingerling potatoes
• 1 tsp. garlic powder
• Grapeseed oil
Turn on oven to broil, low setting if that’s an option.
For the Romesco sauce begin by cutting the bell pepper, tomato, and red onion into medium sized diced cubes making sure to remove the seeds and stem from the pepper and tomato. Smash garlic clove but leave whole. Toss all the vegetables in a bowl with a generous coating of olive oil, season well with salt and pepper, and pour out onto a foil lined sheet pan. Place in oven on top rack and roast till vegetables develop some color and blister, then remove from oven and set aside.
Place a flat bottomed saute pan on stove over medium heat and add enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan. Add the two slices of bread to the pan and olive oil and toast, turning frequently to ensure even browning and prevent burning the bread. We want the bread to soak up most of the olive oil, and once evenly toasted it will resemble a large crouton. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Toast the almonds in the same pan briefly by stirring them over medium heat for 1 minute. Remove from pan.
Combine the toasted bread and almonds with the roasted vegetables in a blender or food processor, making sure to add all the residual liquids from the roasting pan. Add the red wine vinegar, and puree the entire mixture till smooth. Taste Romesco sauce and season with more salt and pepper to taste if needed.
For the potatoes
Toss in a bowl with seasoning, then roast in a 400 degree oven till cooked, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven
For the steak
Preheat a saute pan to medium high heat. Season flat iron on both sides generously with salt and pepper. Add enough grapeseed to the pan to coat the bottom. Grapeseed oil has a high smoke temperature so this is the best oil for searing meats. Place steak in pan. Sear the steak on both sides, approximately 60 seconds each side, just enough to get some good color, then add the butter and the fresh thyme to the pan, which will melt and foam and smell delicious as the butter browns. Working quickly, push the steak to the back corner of the pan away from you, and tilt the pan slightly toward yourself while keeping it over the heat. Once the butter has fully melted you will have a reservoir of butter in the corner of pan closest to you. Using the metal spoon, baste the hot browning butter over the steak to finish the cooking process, then remove from the pan to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. The idea here is to develop a quick sear on the meat to lock in juices with the hot oil, then the addition of the butter and thyme allows for a quick basting that envelops the steak with a flavorful and aromatic fat to cook it thru without drying the meat out. Whatever you do, don’t overcook the steak!
Slice the beef, against the grain, into thin pieces and serve over the Romesco sauce with the toasted potatoes. Enjoy!