Chef Andrew is the executive chef for Niman Ranch where he develops high quality value-added, all natural meat products for retail and foodservice applications. He has more than 20 years of culinary experience. He began his training at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in various segments of the industry including fine and casual dining, and research and development. Andrew lives in Los Angeles, with his wife, Marilyn, and his two sons, Benjamin and Nicholas. He recently returned from Thanksgiving in Afghanistan where he cooked a “Dinner of a Lifetime” for US Special Forces in forward operating bases.

Ultimate Cheeseburger

ultimate cheeseburgerWhen given dinner options in our house, where boys rule, the answer is always unanimous, “Cheeseburgers!” I must admit that I love cheeseburgers too, and not just because they’re simple and easy to prepare, but because Niman Ranch has amazing ground beef.

During the week we usually cook the burgers indoors in a cast iron skillet over high heat. On weekends, especially when the boys’ buddy, Dash, comes over we always make sure to fire up the charcoal grill in time for an afternoon of burgers and playtime.

The other benefit to burgers is they can be simple for the kids and more gourmet for the adults. Jazz ‘em up any way you like.

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Goose Fat Potatoes

Goose fatLast month, Sarah reminisced about Christmas dinner goose with all the trimmings and how her grandfather preferred goose fat on his bread rather than butter. The “grease” that drained to the bottom of the pan was almost always reserved.

Not only is reserving the drippings a tribute to Grandpa’s resourcefulness, but chefs cook with reserved fats to add aroma, flavor and texture to dishes.

These potatoes couldn’t be easier to make and, as an added bonus, they will fill your kitchen with a wonderful aroma.

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Prime Rib Roast

Prime ribMy favorite butcher in Los Angeles is Marconda’s Meats in the original Farmers Market. Marconda’s specializes in high-quality, natural meats and Niman Ranch is proudly featured in their cases. What began in 1941 as a traditional butcher continues on today in the same style. On any given day, you can find two or three generations of butchers behind the counter. I love that my boys are growing up with the same tradition that I had when I was their age.

There’s no better holiday dinner than a Prime Rib Roast. It’s the perfect way to celebrate tradition!

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Holiday Ham with Honey-Brown Sugar Glaze

The holidays are my favorite time of year. It’s a time for family, fun, and a respite from crazy schedules. For me it means spending less time in the kitchen and more time in the living room watching football with my boys. Glazing a Niman Ranch ham fits perfectly into this holiday plan because it’s short on preparation and long on leftovers.

The honey glaze will seep into the nooks and crannies as the ham bakes. Plan ahead though and put the ham in early so you can let it bake at a low and slow temperature until it’s steamy hot in the center.

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Cornbread Dressing

???????????????????????????????As we prepare to gather with our families around the dinner table, consider adding to your dinner menu a new cornbread dressing recipe made with sausage from hogs raised with care by family farmers across the Midwest. Without dressing, even the best Thanksgiving dinner would be somewhat bare.

This version uses a bold combination of Italian sausage and a cured ham balanced by the sweetness of the cornbread and slight sourness of the sourdough bread. Bake the dressing separately because the turkey and dressing cook at different rates, making it difficult to gauge doneness and safe temperatures. If you’re looking for a little added turkey flavor, baste the dressing with some of the pan juices.

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Smoky Bacon Pumpkin Soup

Fall harvestWe’ve recently discovered a picturesque town east of LA in the San Bernardino foothills called Oak Glen where apple orchards and red barns line the curving mountain roads. Nestled next to cider presses and piles of fallen autumn leaves are patches with pumpkins still attached to their vines. Some gourds are striped green while others are white and the rest are Halloween orange. Allowing my two young boys to actually pick their favorite pumpkin from the vine is a good lesson in respecting crops and being certain about their choices.

I picked a few extra pumpkins for the soup I’ve been craving since the heat of this summer got the best of me. And since Halloween is the gateway to winter, I’m taking my first chance to make a velvety soup with Niman’s delicious smoky bacon. If roasting and pureeing your own pumpkins seems too daunting, don’t skip a beat, and substitute the canned version.

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Grilled Bone-In Pork Chops

GrilledFor the last several years, turning the corner of summer into fall has been marked by the Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation dinner. It’s when we pool our collective talents and orchestrate the most important event of the year by saying Thank You to our farmers. Farmers who work outdoors in both sunshine and rain, hot and cold weather to produce the greatest tasting pork on earth.

The weekend is held each fall in Des Moines and features farm tours, sustainability seminars and lots of eating. It’s crowned with a 400-person dinner celebrating the connection between the farmers raising our food and the chefs committed to honoring it. It’s a Farm-to-Table Celebration!

So I thought it would be fun to give you a little taste of the dinner by offering a pork recipe that captures the spirit of the dinner and marks the symbolic corner from summer to fall with a dish that’s fun for everyone to make. The intention when cooking Niman pork is to enhance it with complementary flavors while celebrating the wonderful flavor it has from the love and attention given by the farmers throughout the year.

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Gearing up for the end of summer

GearingThis summer, I helped create a new summer snack program at our boys’ school called, “Dirt to Dish” – an organic, sustainable farm-fresh approach to school snack. The goal was to teach our kids how to eat from the garden and their local farmers markets while encouraging them to try new flavor combinations, especially sweet and savory together. As the program grew, we realized how hungry (both literally and figuratively) the kids were to learn about their food and take a leadership role in snack preparation.

As we geared up for the end of summer camp, the culminating event was an all-camp BBQ.  I knew right away the menu would be Niman Ranch Fearless Franks, Sausages and fresh fruit from the local farmers market.

Hot dogs don’t always have a good reputation, but not all hot dogs are created equal. You can eat Fearless Franks with confidence that you’re getting all-natural meat that’s free of antibiotics and added hormones, and is fully traceable. So my goal was to teach both campers and parents on the values that go into the franks and the confidence they have knowing they’re eating wholesome food.

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Grilling for the Fourth by Niman Ranch Executive Chef Andrew Hunter

Tri tipI love everything about the 4th of July. The fireworks, picnicking with friends and family, and of course the undeniable aroma of smoky charcoal and searing meat, all remind of us of our great national pride. To go along with my favorite festivities, Niman Ranch Tri-Tip is perfect for the outdoor grill. You simply can’t beat the texture or flavor.

If you’re on the fence about what to cook this holiday, search no more! This recipe will please everyone in your gathering and simplify your job as host of the party. Best of all, it draws on diverse flavors helping us celebrate what truly makes America great… we’re a melting pot!

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