I love meat.
An obvious statement, at best, but an apt one. But let me qualify it a bit.
I love great meat.
I love well-raised meat.
Meat that was brought up, killed, and prepared by people who respect the idea of eating an animal for sustenance.
The truth is, the vast majority of meat we buy and eat doesn’t fall into that category, and most people don’t know where to look for it.
Last week I had the pleasure of spending my 28th birthday in a fantastic kitchen surrounded by that very sort of meat, purveyed by the folks at Fleisher’s Meats. They had teamed up with Suzi and the gang at Cooking by the Book with a new type of cooking class: The Takeaway Class.
About 20 of us would show up, get razzle-dazzled with a demo by Josh Applestone and his crew, and then learn to do it ourselves. Afterwards, we would cook and eat all the meat we prepared together, walking away with the Fleisher’s guide to well-raise meat, and one of their engraved boning knives.
The class was more than a demo by Josh and Bryan, it was an eye-opening education on what we eat. Today’s food culture, even that of a place like Wholefoods, is embedded with lies veiled as marketing. Quick example: in order for something to be labelled as “antibiotic-free,” all a farm needs to do is not give the animal antibiotics for 30 days. That animal could have been pumped full of antibiotics its entire life, only to weaned off of during its last month of life.
Trust becomes an issue. How can you trust the meat you eat? Simple answer: Pay more and buy it from a butcher who breaks down a small number of whole animals from farmers they trust. Obviously Fleisher’s is a prime example. If paying more for high-quality, sustainable meat is an issue, worry not- the very nature of the class is grounded in how to save money: By buying bigger cuts of meat that you trim and break down yourself, you save money by the pound. Buying a whole rack of lamb and then frenching it yourself will save you a dollar or two per pound.
Eating sustainable meat is also about eating the whole animal: offal, odd cuts, etc. If you can only get hanger steak out of a cow, imagine how many cows have to be slaughtered to meet that demand. Buying odd cuts lets you experiment and instills creativity in your cooking- and the butchers themselves often have great ideas for preparing them. Regardless of what you’re preparing, though, keep one thing in mind: The higher quality the meat, the less you have to do to it. Keep it simple if you want to taste it for what it is.
In the class, we broke down and frenched racks of lamb, spatchcocked (yes, it’s a word) and tore down chickens, made cutlets out of pork (sirloin end?) and learned how to properly tie roasts. After demo-ing and doing some hands-on-work, Suzi’s crew gathered all the animal parts and showed us how to cook them simply. The result was a gathering of meats that made me full and happy.
After drowning ourselves in lamb, pork, beef, and chicken, we finished it off with a candied bacon ice cream (you heard me). We were then each given a copy of Fleisher’s “Guide to Well-Raised Meat” as well as a Victorinox boning knife. Josh Applestone autographed our books with”Eat more veggies!”
For all of you NYC’ers looking to try Fleishers’ products without schlepping to Kingston, worry not: They’re opening a brooklyn shop in the next week or two.