Russ Crandall, otherwise known as The Domestic Man, converted to a Gluten-Free and Paleo lifestyle back in 2010 in an effort to take back his health. His incredible journey to recovery is an inspiration to all. With his newfound health, he has dedicated himself to creating authentic and traditional recipes for all to enjoy.
Q: How did you get involved in cooking to begin with? Was it something you learned to love early on or did you come to it later?
I started cooking in restaurants during high school, moving from a burger joint to a pizza parlor, and finally to a family restaurant. Along the way I learned a few tricks and the basics of cooking without any real formal training. My real lessons began once I joined the Navy at age 20 and started traveling the world; I immediately fell in love with the idea that every culture has its own unique approach to food, and each of their traditional dishes are delicious! From then on, I’ve always tried to replicate authentic, traditional tastes in the comfort of my own home.
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish different? How does it affect your cooking?
Eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish is different because you’re eating the healthiest product available. For example, grass-fed beef is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids and conjugate linoleic acid (CLA), both of which are proven to be outrageously healthy, and only found minimally in grain-fed beef.
Eating grass-fed meat only slightly affects my cooking. First of all, I don’t trim away or waste any part of the cuts of meat, especially the fat, because it’s all good for you! Secondly, lean cuts of grass-fed meat tend to be even leaner than what you’d get from fattened supermarket meat, so I will often cook my dishes for a little less time to make sure I don’t overcook the meat.
Q: Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
There is definitely more to eating grass-fed, pastured meats than the health benefits. Most importantly, you’re eating healthy, happy animals that are living the way they were intended to live. It’s also better for the environment, since grass-fed beef doesn’t require mass production of corn (which in turn requires pesticides, nitrogen fertilizers, and oil to harvest). During its finishing period, the average grain-fed cow is fed 2,800 pounds of corn! At this rate, we’ll destroy our topsoil for future generations. Along those same lines, eating sustainably-caught fish means that there will be fish left for future generations to catch.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
Honestly, I didn’t know anything about grass-fed meat until I saw a few documentaries on the subject, especially Food, Inc., which got me thinking where our food comes from. I learned a lot more about grass-fed meat once I switched to the Paleo diet in 2010 and started researching the role that high Omega-6 fatty acids (found in grain-fed meats) play in systemic inflammation.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
I’ve always felt that there are only three fundamental elements to cooking: ingredients, heat, and time. While heat and time can be varied and still result in a delicious meal, using the right ingredients is vital if you’re looking to create a specific taste experience.
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
Planning and research go a long way for the home chef. I like to plan out my meals based on geography — I’ll do an Asian-inspired dish one night, then Mexican the next night, etc. — to keep things fresh and interesting. Once I’ve figured out my themes, I move on to what meats I’ll use that week, and how to fit them into my themes. That gives me a wide diversity of tastes. Lastly, I do research on each dish to see how I plan on preparing it, what seasonings and extra ingredients I’ll need, and how much time I need to set aside. Every night doesn’t need to be a new invention; just start a list of every meal that you enjoyed as you make them, and then refer to that list when you do your planning. Soon you’ll have a repository of healthy, easy meals that you can whip up on a whim!
Q: What are your best tips for home cooking?
There are a lot of little things that a home chef can do that will make sure every meal is a hit. I would suggest having a constant supply of garlic, onions, shallots, carrots, and celery on hand at all times in the kitchen. They can be used in nearly every meal and provide that extra depth that a lot of home cooking lacks. Next, consider making a small, convenient herb box or garden with perennial herbs like rosemary, mint, oregano, sage, and thyme. That way you’ll have fresh herbs available that will keep coming back every year.
Secondly, having the right cookware will go a long way. Consider investing in tried-and-true classics like a cast-iron skillet, an enameled cast-iron dutch oven, and a large stainless steel skillet/pan. These three items are staples at my house.
Lastly, learn to love your grill! Every grill is a little different, but once you learn its peculiarities, and the best techniques for getting the best texture out of your meats, you’ll feel like an expert chef every day. Grilling is often simply a matter of trial and error until you build up your skills. You also don’t have to clean up as many dishes! We use our grill at least three or four times every week. Along with cookware, buying a quality grill pays off in the end. It’s more cost efficient to buy a $400 grill every 10 years than a $200 grill every three years.
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
One of our favorites at the house is my Traditional-cut Korean Short Ribs (Wang Galbi/Kalbi). It took me a while to develop an authentic marinade for this incredible sweet but tasty dish that didn’t use wheat, but I finally figured it out using a combination of grated pear, tamari, soda water, lime, and honey. I also like it because it’s an interesting take on an affordable cut of beef that makes any home chef feel like a professional!