Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism

Founded by the late Daniel Rogov, welcoming foodies to discuss the dining scenes in Israel and abroad, along with all things related to kosher food.

Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism

Postby Daniel Rogov » Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:35 pm

In response to a comment made on another thread, following is an article I wrote several years ago that pretty much expresses my own feelings about ostrich meat. Dissenting opinions are, of course, invited.





Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism
Daniel Rogov

I have written on several occasions about ostrich meat. To tell the simple truth, although I find the ostrich a bird full of charm, its meat has never succeeded in wooing me. Despite that, when I recently received an invitation to attend a broad tasting of ostrich-based dishes that were to be prepared by talented chef Idan Halperin, my curiosity and my optimism were aroused. Among the dishes I sampled were ostrich carpaccio, ostrich that had been prepared in the oven, ostrich liver, ostrich meatballs, ostrich fillet in demi-glace sauce, ostrich goulash, and even ostrich Strogonov.

To the credit of the chef, the sauces prepared were exquisite, the side dishes were as tasty as I could have wanted, the wine served was extremely pleasant, and the two double espressos with which I concluded my tastings were excellent. Despite the efforts of the chef, however, this was a tasting that took me to the limits of my optimism and I am more convinced than ever that the very best place for ostrich meat is in the bowls of pet cats and dogs.

For those not in the know, ostrich meat is produced primarily in Canada, Australia, South Africa, Israel and Brazil. There are even a few ostrich ranches in Texas and Japan. A bit of research reveals that most farmers started raising these birds for the valuable leather that can be made from their skins as well as for their feathers which are used in many ornamental ways. Somewhere along the way, came the realization that there was a profit to be made from the thirty or so kilos of meat underneath that skin.

The simple truth is that the meat of the ostrich has always been considered edible. Until now, however, few have claimed that ostrich meat was tasty, and to the best of my knowledge, no one ever considered a delicacy. In fact, the only time ostrich meat attained a high level of popularity was during the most decadent days of the Roman Empire. In the third century, for example, Emperor Elagabalus is said to have served 600 ostrich brains at a single meal (despite its charms, the ostrich has a rather small brain). According to a recipe by Roman cookbook author Apicius, the best way to cook this "ugly and unappetizing bird" was to boil it in stock that was heavily flavored with pepper, mint, cumin, leeks, celery seed, thyme, mustard, dates, honey, vinegar, raisin wine and oil. Modern chefs shudder when they think of this combination.

Personally, after many tastings during the ten years during which this meat has begun to appear
on European, American and Middle-Eastern menus, I find it quite easy to understand why some North African Bedouins and Australian Aborigines refuse to eat the ostrich but use its fat to rub on their bodies in order to treat rheumatism and other ailments. My problems with the meat are several. First of all, in the raw state its bright red color does little to trigger my appetite. Far more serious is that regardless of whether we are talking about the most expensive or cheapest cuts, the meat is too sinewy and lacks flavor. Without sauce the meat has a taste that falls somewhere between that of boiled turkey and beef that has been left in the open air for just a while too long. To add to my problems, the meat has the nasty habit of sticking between the teeth and to the roof of the mouth.

The liver of the ostrich gives me a special set of problems partly because it has a texture that is too grainy, a consistency that is a bit mushy, and an aroma that I find a bit too strong. Comparing this product to goose liver, which the producers would like us to do, takes a great deal of imagination and a certain level of culinary illiteracy.

Despite my objections, ostrich meat now has more than 2,200 entries on the Internet; it is being served to members of the United States Army; and, largely because of the fright over Mad Cow Disease has attained an increasing level of acceptance in France, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium and is being touted by its producers as the prestigious "meat of the 21st century". There is a lot of ostrich meat about these days and it is clear that someone is trying to sell it to us.

It is true that much of the ostrich meat making its way to the international market is processed in modern and sanitary conditions. It is equally true that the meat is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than beef, pork, chicken or turkey. I even acknowledge that the meat is high in protein and iron. Unfortunately, those reasons are not nearly enough to tempt me to eat this stuff. In fact, so much do I dislike this meat that I have promised myself that this would be the last time in this lifetime that I either taste or write about it.
User avatar
Daniel Rogov
Resident Curmudgeon
 
Posts: 12964
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:10 am
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel

Re: Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism

Postby Ian Sutton » Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:20 pm

Rogov
Of all those listed, I'd have thought Stroganoff would have appealed most. How was that dish?

I guess my impression of it would support your view, that I thought it fairly pleasant, would not avoid it, but also wouldn't go out of my way to eat it again.

regards

Ian
Drink coffee, do stupid things faster
User avatar
Ian Sutton
Spanna in the works
 
Posts: 3652
Joined: Sun Apr 09, 2006 3:10 pm
Location: Norwich, UK

Re: Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism

Postby Daniel Rogov » Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:40 pm

Ian, Hi...


Indeed the Strogonov was the best of the offerings and that because (a) the meat was cut into thin strips and pounded until soft and (b) the mushrooms, cream and pepper went a long way in hiding the fact that the meat was too dry and did, indeed tend to get stuck between the teeth.

Best
Rogov
User avatar
Daniel Rogov
Resident Curmudgeon
 
Posts: 12964
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:10 am
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel

Re: Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism

Postby Ian Sutton » Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:41 pm

Daniel Rogov wrote:Ian, Hi...


Indeed the Strogonov was the best of the offerings and that because (a) the meat was cut into thin strips and pounded until soft and (b) the mushrooms, cream and pepper went a long way in hiding the fact that the meat was too dry and did, indeed tend to get stuck between the teeth.

Best
Rogov

:lol: I'll take that as a ringing endorsement then :lol:
Drink coffee, do stupid things faster
User avatar
Ian Sutton
Spanna in the works
 
Posts: 3652
Joined: Sun Apr 09, 2006 3:10 pm
Location: Norwich, UK

Re: Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism

Postby Peter May » Wed Nov 26, 2008 8:50 am

Ostriches used to be farmed intensively for their feathers which were used to adorn womens hats.

My Grandmothers job as a young woman was to process the imported feathers, dyeing and shaping them.

I suppose it ended with the first world war, not only the danger of shipping them but the change of fashion from the huge hats of the end of the 19th century to the smaller more serviceable hats of the 1920's.

I recall also that in the 1970's ostrich meat was going to be the meat of the future and farming ostriches was touted as a can't lose investment opportunity. It wasn't, and investors did.

Still, they had a place in Sideways :)
User avatar
Peter May
Pinotage Advocate
 
Posts: 2152
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2006 12:24 pm
Location: Snorbens, England

Re: Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism

Postby Matilda L » Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:56 am

There's a road in McLaren Vale, near to Simon Hackett Winery and Paxton's Wines, called Ostrich Farm Road. I think they were still raising ostriches there a few years after World War II. But I don't remember them in my lifetime. I've never eaten ostrich. I have tried emu, a somewhat similar Australian bird. Didn't like it: heavy, lacking in any delicacy of flavour.

Matilda
User avatar
Matilda L
Sparkling Red Riding Hood
 
Posts: 1336
Joined: Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:48 am
Location: Adelaide, South Australia

Re: Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism

Postby Daniel Rogov » Sat Jan 03, 2009 6:14 am

Latest craze is kangaroo meat, being promoted as lower in cholesterol, less expensive, more "green". Was interviewed by several newspapers about the taste and flavor. As I said to AP and my own newspaper, I've tasted it three times. I'd prefer well-cooked cardboard!

Best
Rogov
User avatar
Daniel Rogov
Resident Curmudgeon
 
Posts: 12964
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 4:10 am
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel

Re: Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism

Postby Matilda L » Sat Jan 03, 2009 10:31 pm

I'd prefer well-cooked cardboard!


Then it couldn't have been cooked properly. Kangaroo, at its best, is delicious. Similar to venison in flavour - and like venison, it has to be a young animal, properly prepared and properly cooked.

I dined recently at The Barn, in McLaren Vale - one of the first restaurants in that town, and still going strong after thirty or more years ... although with a number of changes of hands and changes of focus over that time. The current menu is very "meaty". I had kangaroo, and it was delicious. Medium rare, fine grained, tender - apparently a young animal - pan-grilled and served on a bed of leek and pumpkin, with a sweet-savoury red wine sauce. (To drink with it: Serafino cabernet sauvignon (McLaren Vale) 2003 ... inky purple/maroon; beetroot, black currant, mint/herbal notes, a hint of anise; soft fine tannins.)

lower in cholesterol, less expensive, more "green".


Kangaroo is all those things. But it is also delicous. If cooked right. As with anything. (Come over to my place and I'll ruin a good steak for you. You'll swear that you'd prefer well cooked cardboard to that, too! :wink: )

Matilda
User avatar
Matilda L
Sparkling Red Riding Hood
 
Posts: 1336
Joined: Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:48 am
Location: Adelaide, South Australia

Re: Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism

Postby Matilda L » Fri Jan 09, 2009 9:28 pm

As postscript to my previous post - I had kangaroo again last night, at a cheap and cheerful suburban pub, way off the fashionable foodies' list of places to go. This time, I think the 'roo must have been a fairly senior animal - the meat was not exactly tough (although it would have been if cooked more than it was), but it was fibrous and strong-flavoured. The cook did his best, but gourmet delight it was not. Didn't taste like cardboard, though. More like overheated rubber, as from a used racing tyre. I drowned it with a glass of young and boisterous cabernet sauvignon - Stepping Stone Coonawarra Cabernet 2006. It retails for about $12 a bottle and is as you would expect - one dimensional and no surprises.

Matilda
User avatar
Matilda L
Sparkling Red Riding Hood
 
Posts: 1336
Joined: Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:48 am
Location: Adelaide, South Australia


Return to Israeli and Kosher Culinary Corner

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest