Ingredient basics: Ostrich

These days everyone is looking for the next health gimmick/trend. Any way that we can become healthier, lighter and smaller without starving or cravings. Healthier, more sensible meat options are coming to light - one good example is buffalo. Ostrich, however, might be a stretch for most folks, but it may be a stretch worth enduring.

Ostriches are classified as ratites and their wings serve only as running aids and for changing direction.  They can run fast: An ostrich can sustain 30 mph runs and can even attain up to 43 mph bursts. A bird that can do that has gotta have some lean, tasty meat.

Ostrich meat is lower in calories and fat than chicken, turkey, pork or beef and has a higher protein and iron content. It's an excellent replacement for red meat for those worried about fat intake. Pregnant women may benefit from a lower fat, high protein, high iron meat source as well.

An ostrich's evolved dependency on their legs for mobility and defense results in muscle with a higher myoglobin content, similar to red meat. This also affects the meat's appearance... and flavor. I can best describe the flavor of ostrich as a mix between lamb and very gamy poultry; and it looks no different than beef.  It cooks fast, and a good sear usually does away with most of the gaminess. But I'm an adventurous eater so gaminess is subjective.

I already know your next question: "Tell me oh mighty food blogger, where can I find ostrich in Tampa?"  Well my go to place for Ostrich used to be whole foods, however I was told that this was on hiatus as no one was really buying it .  They may resume stocking it however, keep checking...and even buy some!. hell, they wont stock it if we dont buy it=)

If this fails, however, I have gone to the source just for you,(no not Africa or Australia).  Pokanoket farms has a 200 year old tradition of ostrich farming that results in the quality of ostrich meat they offer today...raised right here in the US. My contact there, Jack nadwornik advised me that his feathered sprinters are fed a natural diet of alfalfa, barley, soy and a small amount of corn.  I am sure that in addition to genetics, the natural diet also accounts for the meat`s nutritional advantage, after all you are what you eat.

Ostrich recipes abound, even on Pokanokets website. The only recipe you need to know is to substitute it for beef in any recipe and you wont be disappointed...both with the flavor and your cholesterol count=). Jack, the ostrich farmer prefers a steak or ostrich scallopini, me I am still enamored with a well done ostrich burger.  as primitive as it sounds.  Square one bugers on henderson had an Ostrich burger special, and yes yours truly custom built the last one: A medium well pattie with Gruyere cheese on a wheat bun.  I personally liked this to be paired with a robust Pinot Noir, however I am not the wino in this part of the blogsphere.  My wine sensei Taylor  Eason( http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/taylor/) advises that your choice of wine will vary on your method of preparation and not to rule out the heavier varietals such as syrah or malbec.

Now the eggs are a whole other column.  Some of you may have seen them used a few times on iron chef.  With my cholesterol count my doctor has threatened to drop me if I go near ostrich eggs, but he and I will have to negotiate a doctor-pharmacist agreement for that column=)

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