A Lot Of Flavor, NOT A Lot Of Carbs

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After deciding that I really could still eat even though I had Diabetes, the trick was to figure out how to get a lot of flavor without a lot of grams of carbohydrates into my "new" menu.

Like all “full plate” chefs, it was important to get a lot (too much for anyone, really) on to the plate. The emphasis was on doing a focus item (protein) and surrounding it with subtle supporting dishes. The problem, as many of you know, is that the supporting dishes of my/our past were carbohydrate heavy. Isn’t a plate full of say shrimp (pork, chicken, or beef) and vegetables well… BORING? Doesn’t it need some pasta, polenta, rice?

Last week, for the sake of a decent photograph, I placed a piece of chicken on a bed of lettuce with a few orange circles to indicate it was orange flavored chicken. The orange slices themselves don’t fit into MY carbohydrate budget. If that is what was served to me, either at home or at a restaurant, I would be one very unhappy camper.

“Oh great, chicken on a bed of rabbit food.”

The chicken, if I say so myself, is delicious. The lettuce, dressed with an orange infused olive oil and a balsamic vinegar, would be scrumptious. Just not the chicken “plopped” on the lettuce.
All chefs/cooks make some mistakes. Mistakes can lead to great surprises. Bought too many tomatoes?...make tomato sauce. Roast chicken didn’t sell… make chicken salad.

I recently purchased a cut of beef advertised as a “petite steak”. I could not figure out the cut from the description or the way it looked in the meat market. It was on sale and l fell for it. It turned out so tough that I was honestly concerned I would break a tooth or lose a filling eating it. But the sale (as usual) was for a big package. It was sliced too thin to make it into a pot roast. It was too thick to pound out to make braciole. Stew was the obvious choice.

While not really one of MY favorite dishes, it is comfort food for a lot of people. The problem is not the beef (0 grams of carbohydrates) but the potatoes and the peas. The question is: how to recreate this dish in a Diabetes-Compatible way? You can substitute the potatoes with cauliflower, the peas with snap peas or string beans, and cut down on the carrots. It actually works… except it isn’t quite ”beef stew” as I know it.

What is the alternative? In this case as in others, the answer is in the sense of the food. It is the soft meat, rich gravy, and the meal in a bowl.

Being clear that I shouldn’t use potatoes or peas, I looked to my French repertory and decided on a version of beef stew that sounds complicated but is really only another form of beef stew. As fancy as it sounds, it is simple to prepare. After browning the meat and the onions, your stove or oven does all the work. Yes it takes a few hours to cook. That is how a tough piece of meat becomes tender and full of the flavors surrounding it.

Today, we don’t have to stoke the fire while it is cooking. We can use the time to do other things like play a hand of cards, plan out your menu for the week, do a load of laundry, toast and grind some nuts for your next cake, or knit me some argyle socks. I decided to make a big batch of pistachio and parmesan “flour” for the freezer and to “rice” some cauliflower to sit the stew on. Buttered noodles are the original accompaniment, but not in my carbohydrate budget. Spaghetti squash would have been very good, but I was cooking the stew in the oven on a lower heat setting than I use to cook spaghetti squash. Hey, I am no different than many chef’s, sometimes I don’t plan ahead as well as I should.

The wine in this dish gives it its complex flavor. Many people have reasons not to cook with wine, including the carbohydrates. You can create the complex flavor easily by using beef stock, tomatoes, herbs, and (surprisingly) orange zest. This is one of those great meals that have a million different versions. Each recipe is as good, and as different, than the last. Best of all, these recipes are forgiving. My original recipe for the stew used salt pork. Why, because Julia Child used salt pork. I forgot to buy it, so I used oil instead. I could have, and someday will, use duck fat. I forgot I had it in my freezer.

Sure there are some dishes that are difficult to replace in a Diabetes menu. But don’t give up. If you think about the sense of the dish you might find something even more delicious to fill your Diabetes-Compatible plate.

The recipe for my stew calls for a lot of mushrooms. You remember them; they are one of the BIG THREE “yuck” foods along with eggplant and fish. If mushrooms don’t work for you… go back to a basic beef stew recipe and replace the potatoes and peas. It works… but… not well enough for me.

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, and BE DECADENT! –w

Source: Ward Alper, The Decadent Diabetic