The kangaroo steaks sold out last night, the first time they were on the menu at Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis and, as far as we know, in the Twin Cities ever.
Executive chef Joe Wuestenhagen added it to the menu after extensive testing showed that diners would like it.
"I thought he was joking," said co-owner Cynthia Gerdes as she remembered her surprise at the suggestion of serving the 'roo. Then she headed to the Internet to do some research on the meat and found that it was considered to be both healthful and to have a lower environmental impact. "Greenpeace has endorsed more kangaroo consumption," she said.
That's because the 'roo is not a farmer friendly animal."These are animals that are ruining Australia's lands. Farmers are shooting them," Cynthia said."I never researched a food so much in my life. We don't put an item on the menu to gain some ink," she said.
The upside of kangaroo: No methane gases from the animals (unlike for cattle). They don't damage soil, because they don't have hooves. All-organic meat, as these are wild. The meat is lean.
The downside: People think of kangaroo as a cuddly creature.
"Some people might give us a little backlash, or a lot. That's why I had to think this through," said Cynithia. "In a perfect world, no one would eat meat. But they do eat it. And it's a huge part of restaurants' menus."
She noted that when bison was first introduced to the Hell's Kitchen menu 11 years ago, many restaurant owners raised their eyebrows about that. Bison? Who would eat that? Now it's de rigueur on many menus.
So how does kangaroo taste? (And no, it's not like chicken.) The restaurant reports that the meat has a beefy, slightly sweet and smoky flavor.
"We didn't know how well this would be received, but sold out in one night? This took us totally by surprise," she said.
Initially they are preparing the kangaroo only as steaks. "Our purpose is to get people to try it on the menu," said Cynthia.
Michael Pollan, the best-selling author whose many works are on the shelves of those following food issues, will be in town May 2, at Beth El Synagogue to talk about his new book "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation" as part of the synagogue's "Inspiring Minds" series. Pollan is the author of "Food Rules," "The Omnivore's Dilemma," "In Defense of Food" and other volumes that have been must-reads in the food world. His new book will be published in late April and focuses on the four elements (fire, water, air, earth) that transform the stuff of nature into good things to eat and drink.
Tickets for the event:
$500 for the VIP ticket, which includes a private reception (appetizers by Heidi and Stewart Woodman, chef/owners of Heidi's and Birdhouse) and a photo opportunity with Pollan, reserved seating, a copy of his new book.
$180 for reserved seating and a copy of the book.
$60 for a general admission ticket
$25 for a senior (65 or older) or student general admission.
Part of the proceeds of the event will benefit Appetite for Change, a North Minneapolis nonprofit that uses food as a vehicle for social change. The event will also benefit Beth El Synagogue.
For tickets or more information, see www.besyn.org/pollan or call 952-873-7300.
The event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the synagogue, 5224 W. 26th St., St. Louis Park.
Which cookbook was the best-seller last year, as listed in Publishers Weekly ? Well (no surprise given the photo here!), it was Ina Garten and her next volume in the Barefoot Contessa lineup. At more than 400,000 books sold last year, she was significantly ahead of the other authors, even if you add up the sales of the two Pioneer Woman books written by Ree Drummond (which totaled more than 360,000 books).
Any favorites on this list? Note that all but blogger Deb Perelman either have their own TV show or are regulars on other shows.
1. Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten. Clarkson Potter. 428,105
2. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond. William Morrow. 267,909
3. In the Kitchen with David by David Venable. Ballantine. 264,953
4. Eat More of What You Love by Marlene Koch. Running Press. 132,796
5. Great Food Fast by Bob Warden. Quail Ridge Press. 122,665
6. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Knopf. 114,547
7. The Chew by The Hosts and Staff of ABC's The Chew. Hyperion. 109,020
8. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond. William Morrow. 103,751
9. Weeknights with Giada by Giada De Laurentiis. Clarkson Potter. 95,040
10. Hungry Girl to the Max! by Lisa Lillien. St. Martin’s Griffin. 86,656
My favorite cranberry relish couldn't be easier: Grind up fresh, uncooked berries in a blender or food processor. Add some sugar and the zest of an orange, lemon or both. Then let it sit for a spell. Fabulous. And beautiful. The berries remind me of jewels. It's a terrific sandwich topper the next day, too. You can find this recipe -- and many others suited for the big day -- in the Taste cookbook, "Come One, Come All/ Easy Entertaining Wtih Seasonal Menus."
EASY CRANBERRY RELISH
Makes about 3 cups.
Note: Every menu needs an easy dish. From "Come One, Come All/ Easy Entertaining With Seasonal Menus," by Lee Svitak Dean.
• 1 (12 oz.) pkg. fresh cranberries
• Zest from 1 orange or 1 lemon (or from both for extra flavor)
In a food processor or blender, coarsely chop the cranberries.
In a large bowl, toss berries and sugar together. Add zest to cranberries; stir. Refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours or overnight to let flavors blend. Stir again before serving.
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