Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Conversion Factor: Vegans, Livestock, and Napoleon

I am a carnivore, tried and true. I love meat. My favorite outdated 1980s advertising catch phrase is “Where’s the Beef?” followed closely by Emeril Legasse's “Pork fat rules.” There's a theme here, if didn't notice.

Several of my good friends have become, at least at some level, vegetarian. In concept, I disagree. But I am usually a good sport about their decision if they have some sort of relative logic behind it. Religion is a good enough reason for me, as long as they do not condemn my passion for cooking and eating meat. If they tell me that they heard that animals are mistreated I usually explode in what can only be explained as meat-rage. I do this because I know many families who raise livestock for slaughter and I also know that those people would do everything in their power to keep their livestock healthy. After all, it's their livelihood. In some cases these farmers even send their children out in sub-zero blizzards to care for the animals in the barn. The entire family knows it must be done for not only the animals, but the family, to survive.

A friend of mine grew up eating nothing but steak and chicken nuggets - and possibly small amounts of other things, as I don't recall him going through scurvy or rickets during our respective childhoods. Now he has decided that he is vegan, which is no meat and no animal products (butter, milk, and most things that I consider staples of the kitchen). I have yet to hear anything close to a logical reason for him to make this change.
Now my argument is not to bash the veg-heads - I try to be accepting while learning (and judging) their reason(s) why. Then I offer a defense of meat that is founded in fact and first hand knowledge.

Conversions are rare, but sweet. Another of my friends who chooses to be vegetarian for health reasons - an acceptable reason - was tempted back by this recipe and is back to eating chicken on occasion. It's not a full, brisket and sausage conversion, but the great difficulty in even getting a vegetarian back to trying meat was my great and immortal victory.

Here's how I did it - foist it on a vegetarian you love/pity soon. Reminder: Man B Que does not advocate force-feeding of vegetarians. That's a good way to get rabies.

Chicken Napoleon

The Set-up

- 2 9 by 10" sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into 12 3 by 5" rectangles
- 4 (4-ounce) boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
- 2 poblano peppers, whole
- 3 tablespoons reduced fat mayonnaise
- 1 lime, zested, then juiced
- 1 bunch cilantro, diced
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 large avocado, sliced into 8 pieces
- 2 c baby spinach leaves
- 2 tomatoes sliced 1/2" thick
- Kosher or coarse-grained sea salt
- Olive oil, for drizzling


1. Place an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the pastry on the prepared baking sheets. Using the tines of a fork, prick the top of the pastry all over.

3. Cover the pastry with parchment paper and place another baking sheet on top. Bake for 25 minutes until golden. Remove the top baking sheets and parchment paper. Set aside to cool.

4. Preheat a grill to med-hi. Season the chicken with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Grill until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Set aside to cool.

5. Grill poblano until charred all over peel skin and remove seeds. Cut into pieces to fit puff pastry.

6. In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, lime juice, lime zest, and cayenne pepper.

7. To assemble the Napoleons: Place 4 pieces pastry on a work surface. Slice each chicken breast diagonally into 6 (1/4-inch thick) slices. Place 3 chicken breast slices on each piece of pastry. Place 1/4 cup of spinach 1 tomato slice and 1 avocado slice on top. Spread 1 teaspoon of the mayonnaise mixture on the underside of another 4 pieces of pastry to create the middle layer of each Napoleon. Place on top. Repeat the layering. Each Napoleon should be completed with a piece of pastry as its top.


- Dirt Man

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