“When you’ve got a proper hunger you can’t top a Triple Whopper®.”

At least that’s what the folks at Burger King would like you to think. Who’s so famished that they need to stuff ¾ of a pound of beef into their mouths to satisfy their hunger, proper or otherwise? It borders on obscene.

Fast food has had an unhealthy reputation for some time, as has red meat, but did you know that the risk of dying prematurely rises with red meat consumption? In other words, the more red meat you eat (especially processed red meat), the more likely you are to die young. So what is it about red meat that makes it so potentially harmful? Well, along with the high saturated fat content which can contribute to heart disease, charring red meat at high temperatures can produce carcinogens on the surface – and carcinogens cause cancer. The good news is that you don’t have to give up red meat entirely to cut the risk; just eat less of it.

I signed up for Chef Antonio Cerullo’s cooking class, The New Carnivore, at Choices Market, hoping to learn more about how to enjoy red meat as part of a (mostly) healthy diet.

Chef Antonio Cerullo at Choice's Market

The first recipe Chef Antonio demonstrated was Beef Salmonato; a riff on the classic Italian dish Vitello Tonnato. Instead of searing or grilling the beef, he chose to safeguard against carcinogens by simmering it in stock. Once the meat had chilled, he sliced it very thin and topped it with a heart-healthy salmon sauce.

Vitello Tonnato

Chef Antonio told us that he focuses entirely on taste without worrying about presentation. I’ve never heard a chef say that before. *

Next, he used some of the leftover stock to make a delicious soup.

Beef Broth

The main course, Ginger and Tamari Marinated Rack of Lamb, highlighted several healthy cooking techniques. First, Chef Antonio marinated the racks of lamb overnight before he seared them over high heat. Studies have shown that the right marinade can reduce HCAs by as much as 96%. He also chose to load the marinade with powerful antioxidants – ginger, sesame oil, tamari soy sauce, lime juice, mint, and cilantro. These antioxidants help counteract any carbon that might form during cooking. Finally, he chose to cook with responsibly raised meat, Ovation Free Range New Zealand Lamb. For the healthiest option, look for terms like grass-fed-and-finished, certified organic, free range, certified humane, and natural on the package.

New Zealand Lamb Chops

For dessert, Chef Antonio taught us how to make Bacon Rosemary Chocolate Fudge; a sweet and salty little slice of heaven. The crust is made from bacon, rice puffs and bacon fat. The top is a rosemary-scented ganache made with the standard 1:1 ratio of milk chocolate to whipping cream. The idea here is to use a small amount of intensely flavoured meat (like bacon, prosciutto, or pancetta) to deliver a huge hit of happiness.

Bacon A slide of Rosemary Chocolate Fudge

The New Carnivores eat meat less often and in smaller portions, and are willing to spend more to get the best available. They also choose cooking methods that reduce carcinogens and deliver powerful antioxidants. Oh, and they don’t eat the sandwich Burger King describes as “the best threesome you’ve ever had”, the Triple Whopper®, for lunch.

* I confess I was really surprised to hear Chef Antonio say that as long as a dish tastes great, presentation doesn’t matter. What do you think? Do you agree?

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Choices Markets
1937 Harvey Avenue
Kelowna, British Columbia
Canada  V1Y 6G5

The New Carnivore
Date:  January 29, 2013
Cost:  $25.00 CDN
Style:  Demonstration, Dinner with Wine Pairing
Duration:  2 hours
Chef Instructor:  Antonio Cerullo