With Father’s Day coming up, you need a delicious side to go with your steak! This Sweet Potato Salad with Bacon and Spiced Pecans is perfect!
As you may know by now, I recently went on Pasture to Plate beef tour with the Kansas Beef Council. I thought today I would share with you a Father’s Day appropriate side dish that we were treated to on the tour and a breakdown of who we met and what I learned. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in… it’s a goodun.
On the first evening, after everyone had checked into their hotel room, we took a short walk to the Cargill Research and Development Center where we had a tour and the most amazing meal prepared by Chef Janet Bourbon, Chef Pete Geoghegan, and their on-sight culinary team (including the Sweet Potato Salad with Bacon and Spiced Pecans I’m sharing today!). Cargill is an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial, and industrial products and services. It was so interesting to walk through their R&D process and see how they ensure that the product that the consumer gets is consistent every single time. After we were all sufficiently stuffed, we headed back to the hotel to get some much needed shut eye before our (very) early morning.
After about an hour and a half drive to Protection, Kansas we arrived at Woolfolk Ranch. Here, Kent and Stephanie Woolfolk run a commercial cow/calf operation with their beautiful family. While most kids are playing on their iPhones and sleeping in during the summer, these kids are out on the ranch helping rope, brand, and vaccinate the calves #parentsoftheyear. I was astonished at how different their lives were compared to mine. It made me really appreciate all of the hard work that goes into raising the food that we sometimes take for granted.
We then loaded our sweaty selves up and headed to the Gardiner Angus Ranch in Ashland, Kansas. This area was recently hit with devastating wildfires and it was crazy seeing how the landscape has grown back better than before. Guys, the Gardiner Ranch was INSANE. This family is running a very high tech and well-oiled machine. They run a seedstock cow-calf operation that raises purebred Angus cattle. There, we got to learn about artificial insemination and how embryo transfer impacts product quality and consumer satisfaction. We also observed how ultrasound is utilized for pregnancy testing and Chef Janet even got to perform one! We watched how they use liquid nitrogen or dry ice and alcohol to freeze-brand the cattle. This method involves the cooling of a branding iron so that the iron may then be used to alter the hair follicle of an animal to remove the pigmentation. It’s so cool! We then had an incredible lunch at their state of the art facilities and took a tour of their museum and auction headquarters.
The last stop before dinner was at Midwest Feeders in Ingalls, Kansas. Here, Jeff Sternberger showed us around the feed mill and discussed how they ration formulations to balance cattle diets. We took a drive through the feed yard and he explained to us how much room the cattle have, how often the pens are cleaned, and how they keep an eye on the health and well-being of the animals. I was astonished by how much room they allow for each group of cattle. It was huge! We also learned that the cattle stays in their group from the ranch to the feed yard, and even once they go to processing.
Once the exhaustion started to set in, we loaded on the bus and made a quick stop at the hotel to freshen up before dinner. Our home for the evening was the beautiful South Star Barn in Garden City. It’s a gorgeous venue used for weddings, reunions, and special events such as ours. The AMAZING beef meal was catered by a local chef, John Ross Harmon. We were wined and dined before going around the room and introducing ourselves to some of the ranchers who were able to join us for dinner. Hearing just how thankful they were that we were interested in spreading the word about the beef world was an eye-opening experience. I had tears in my eyes the whole time! I left that night with a very full belly and an even fuller heart.
The next morning, we headed out on a walking tour of Tyson Fresh Meats. It’s hard to explain and probably controversial, but I think that if you eat meat, it would be so beneficial for everyone to see what goes into actually getting it on your table. I value everything that I learned on that tour and I’ll be sharing it with anyone who cares to listen lol.
Sadly, our trip had to end somewhere. But, I’m so glad that it was with the brilliant Dr. Dan Thomson, Assistant Dean of Outreach, Associate Professor and the Jones Professor of Production Medicine from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Say that 10x fast! He had a presentation prepared where he discussed animal welfare, sustainability, and beef safety. He also explained the differences in natural, organic and conventional beef products, as well as hormone and antibiotic use by the industry. As a consumer and food blogger, this was probably my favorite part of the tour. There’s constantly so much jargon and biased opinion being thrown around in the meat industry, it was great to hear facts from someone that is so highly regarded.
I’d like to extend a HUGE thank you to the team at the Kansas Beef Council for hosting, the Kentucky Beef Council for inviting me, and all of the wonderful ranchers, chefs, and hard working beef processors for opening my eyes to how our beef goes from pasture to plate.
- 4 each Sweet potatoes, large, peeled and diced 1-inch square
- 8 ounces Bacon, diced
- 1 each Red onion, small diced
- 3 each Garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice
- 1 bunch Scallions, sliced thin
- 2 cups Mayonnaise
- Kosher Salt to taste
- Black Pepper to taste
- 2 cups spicy pecans, roughly chopped
- Peel and dice the potatoes and put them in a pot of cold water with 2 T of salt. Bring the water to a boil. Once the water reaches a boil, turn down the heat and let the water simmer. Cook the potatoes until they are tender. Drain and lay the potatoes on a sheet pan. Put the potatoes in the refrigerator and let them cool.
- Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain and reserve the fat. Let the bacon cool to room temperature.
- Dice up the red onion, garlic, and scallions. Cook the red onion in a little bit of olive oil until they are soft. Then add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Let the onion and garlic cool to room temperature. Keep the scallion raw.
- Take the bacon fat and add it to the mayo along with the lemon juice, red onion, garlic, and scallions. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Add the mayo mixture to the chilled sweet potatoes.
- Season to taste with the Salt and Black Pepper.
- Just before serving, stir in the spicy pecans.
- 1 pound Pecan Halves
- ½ cup Maple Syrup
- 1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Cumin, Ground
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- Preheat an oven to 350°
- Combine the spices and the maple syrup, Mix until all the spices are incorporated.
- Add the Pecans and stir to coat.
- Place the pecans on a parchment paper lined sheet and place in the oven for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, take them out of the oven and stir.
- Place them back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Remove them from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes. Stir them to separate and cool for another 10 minutes.
Recipes Courtesy of Chef Pete Geoghegan of Cargill Meat Solutions in Wichita, Kansas