Do you have a picky eater? Are you a foody and fear that you’ll have to sacrifice good eats on the GAPS diet? We say- no way Jose! We learned early on that GAPS does not have to mean bland flavorless food. You may need to adapt your favorite recipes (or the popular ones you see online or on Food Network). But you gotta know that there is more to full GAPS than boiled chicken and stewed vegetables!
Before GAPS, we spent years learning how to become better cooks. Initially that meant better in terms of being able to follow more complex recipes. Later it came to mean that we were able to adapt our favorite recipes and go off the map and create flavor combinations in new and interesting ways- usually combing techniques from various recipes for our creations. Ultimately our last stop pre-GAPS was a couple of years following the Nourishing Traditions style of eating (soaking grains, fermenting dairy, some bone broths). But always, we loved the Alton Brown show “Good Eats”. We learned that eating well did not have to mean eating bland, fibrous, mushy, or hold-your-nose-to-get-it-down.
One of the easiest things to do, Alton sears by this and I do to, is that most good meals start with a good mire-poix. Mire-poix is French for sweating together chopped carrots, onions, and celery as a flavor foundation to which you add your recipe ingredients. Soups, stews, sauces, casseroles, are all enhanced by a good mire-poix. Even that daily dose of bone broth is enhanced if to start with a mire-poix, then pour in your broth to heat it up. And you can switch up your mirepoix by changing the fat source you use for the sweat (collected bacon drippings, lard, and EVOO are our favorites- we like butter and ghee too but with a dairy allergy in the family we are limited there). You can also add salt and pepper to the sweat- or some dried herbs like oregano, basil, and thyme are really nice as well. For later stages you might even spice things up with a dose of paprika or cayenne pepper. One final twist on the mire-poix is to crank up the heat during the last few minutes and produce a little brownness in the pan for added flavors.
BACON! Everybody loves bacon. The first food I really was excited to learn to make when considering GAPS was sugarless bacon. I found several great recipes, including the Charcuterie book that was so popular a few years back. You can check my site for a GAPS recipe for homemade bacon and pancetta. We add bacon to meals almost every day. Thinly sliced pancetta or thick chunks of bacon add a sweet, savory essence to anything you can cook in a pan. We use it in sauted greens (which we do almost daily), we us it in caponnata, and even as the base for mire-poix when we make pasta sauce. On occasions when we make bacon on the weekend, we almost always hide some extra bacon away for adding to fresh salads!
Tips on grilling chops, burgers, fish, chicken
Here in the DeGuzman’s house we love our grilled meats. In fact, we’ve always been year-round grillers with the help of our Weber Silver propane-powered gas grill. Since venturing onto GAPS, we find that cooking on the grill proves to be a fast and easy way to prepare meals and minimize cleanup. <Sorry for those on Intro or stage 1, not much you can do with a grill-but there are wonderful flavors of herbs and mild spices you can add to give your meals depth> So I wanted to post some of the GAPS adaptations, and general tips and techniques we’ve learned since venturing on GAPS.
Brines, Rubs, Sauces and Marinades
Brining is a great way to prepare meats for long, low-heat cooking. To brine is the act of soaking something in a salty solution (read more on wikipedia). Brining helps distribute moisture and essentially injects flavor at the cellular level. I like to brine pork chops and chicken before seasoning and grilling. My typical brine is nothing more than 1T of sea salt per 4 cups hot tap water stirred to dissolve as much of the salt as possible. This is typically enough to brine 4-6 farm-cut pork chops or a whole chicken. Make sure to place thawed chicken or pork chops in a large bowl first, then pour in the brine- adding additional water to cover. You may need to use a plate to hold the meat submerged under the brine. I then usually cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-to-6 hours. Check the grilling books list below for specific brine times if you want to optimize brine time. You can also add other GAPS-friendly flavorings to your brine (peppercorns, rosemary, quartered citrus fruits).
Our standby rub is the meat medley. Almost any meat that we grill, fry, or roast will have a generous dose of sea salt and meat medley. Meat medley adds an exotic flair to any meal. I especially like to add the medley an hour or two in advance of grilling (that’s right, 2-3 hours brine, then 2-3 hours hanging out with the medley). The salt enhances the flavor of the meat and the medley! We adapt the medley depending on how “macho” a flavor we want by adding more or less paprika and cayenne (or toss in some crushed red pepper). We might take the medley to the far-East by dry-roasting the fennel seed, mustard seed, cumin seed, and corriander before grinding them. I also find that the medley spices add a little bit of a flavored crispy layer to grilled and fried foods. I never hold back on the meat medley.
One of the saddest thoughts, and biggest challenges with GAPS, was the old pre-GAPS days of hickory smoked flavor from our favorite Tubbs barbeque sauce. It was a long time before we stumbled across Mark Sisson’s “Primal Blueprint Cookbook” recipe for HFCS-free ketchup and barbeque sauce. These are now standby’s for grilled pork chops, chicken, ribs, and fish. We adapted the recipe by simply excluding the non-GAPS ingredients and swapping in some raw, local honey in place of any sweeteners (you don’t need as much as the recipe calls for). Which you can get away with not having barbeque sauce, my kids definitely notice when it is absent. USAGE NOTE: only add barbeque sauce during the last 5-to-10 minutes of cooking (otherwise the sugars just caramelize and become charred embers).
For a change-up play, go with a simple marinade comprised of EVOO, cider vinegar, minced garlic and some chopped herbs. Brush on to your favorite steak, chops, or salmon and grill away. Simple yet effective flavor delivery!
If you’ve read my homemade bacon post, you will notice I recommend a smoker box for final curing the bacon. I use the same smoker box for making most everything on the grill- especially Ribs, salmon, and cut chicken. Smoke adds a layer of flavor that you simply cannot recreate indoors. Beware of liquid smoke which just sounds creepy to me. I originally used either mesquite or hickory wood chips that you can buy at Lowes, Home Depot, or Ace HW. But we recently had some oak trees taken down near our house so I just grab a couple of pieces of hand-cut, kindling sized oak (chainsaws spew oil and I didn’t want that burning and fouling up my food) and drop them in the smoker box. Gotta love flavor that’s free!
Preheat your meat
OK, so you only buy your meats direct from the farm or pasture-raised producer. Maybe you buy them from the meat counter at Whole Foods. If you are savvy enough to follow the GAPS protocol, you probably are not buying mass-produced, CAFO, cheap meats. So put aside your fears for a moment and consider this. Since you really do not want to overcook meat when you are on GAPS (overcooked means more difficult to digest and potentially carcinogenic), then you really need to preheat your meat. What I mean is, you need to take your meat out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking time and let it come to room temperature. I’m not talking about defrosting a deep-frozen chicken on the counter. But once you have fully thawed the meat in the refrigerator, you should let it come to room temperature before applying the cooking heat. Restaurants do this all teh time! Room-temperature meat will not only cook faster, it will cook more evenly. If you don’t preheat, you will liekly end up with meat that is overcooked on the outside and rare on the inside. Whenever I skip this step, inevitable I get the “Ewww! blood chicken!” remark later on. Or dry, tough, over cooked meat. Believe me, you will not die from preheating your meat- unless you buy your meat in opaque packaging from the freezer case at Food Lion or any other mainstream grocer.
The Great Grate Debate
Cast Iron or Stainless Steel? Enameled or au-natural? Grates or plates? When Grok learned to cook with fire, who knew he had to make so many choices. I have had the opportunity to experiment with pretty much every kind of grill grate or plate combination and I can say without doubt or fanfare that Cast Iron Grates are my number one choice for grill surface. I like to heat up the grates on highest heat for a good 10 minutes before cooking. Because the cast iron holds heat so well, I then drop the temperature to medium-low during cooking. The high heat provides the initial “seal” and sexy grill marks, while the continuously radiating heat cooks food at a consistent pace. And since I preheat my meat, I don’t need to keep the flame turned up high in order to cook things through (except when I don’t have time to preheat, then I’m just out of luck). I will say that I like to use a Lodge cast-iron griddle/grill on my gas grill if I am cooking a large hunk of fish(because fish is expensive and I don’t want to lose any of it on the grate) or fattier cuts of meat (mostly because this collects the fat). Some people complain about the maintenance with cast iron grates, but I can tell you that I have had the same pair of cast iron grates for 13 years and have never seen a spot of rust or corrosion (but then again I keep my grill closed and covered when I’m not cooking).
Gas versus charcoal
not gonna touch this debate since it is close to a religious discussion. We like the cleanness of propane grill, but I am asking for a new charcoal grill for Christmas. ’nuff said.
I hope this post convinces you that GAPS and good-food do not have to be mutually exclusive.
I almost forgot to mention the fact that lacto fermented salsa, kimchee and sauerkraut are fantastic flavor enhancers for every meal!
NEED TO UPDATE BOOK AND PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS HERE