Posts Tagged ‘meat’
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.
So i just acquired some shared office space in the meatpacking district- how appropriate.
One of the big advantages to working in the area is its close proximity to Chelsea market. As if I needed another excuse to eat.
Among its myriad offerings, my absolute favorite has been Dickson’s Farmstand: A butcher shop-slash-sandwich spot. When you walk in the first thing you see is an impressive spread of various meats behind a glass, begging like petshop puppies to be taken home and ,er, eaten.
They offer 2 hot sandwiches that change daily, along with the standard roast beef type cold cuts that you would expect from a place like this. The sandwiches are simple, unpretentious, and are meant to showcase the awesome quality of the meat.
The smoked pork belly is a prime example. it was sweet, smokey, fatty, and delicious. The Jalapenos and pickles root veggies was a perfect counterbalance to the fat fat fattiness of the belly. It was also the right size.
The day before I scarfed down a rad veal neck sandwich that was equally as good, but I didnt even think of taking a picture until i was burping. Sorry about that. Next time, promise.
I never understood the knee-jerk revulsion that most Americans have towards head cheese. Is it the name? Is it the texture? is it bits of un-uniform meat suspended in an aspic?
Mention headcheese to your average friend. They’ll instantly say “Ewwww.” I’d bet that most people who think headcheese is disgusting had never actually tasted it.
There’s this really unattractive mentality among people about eating uncommon parts of an animal. Those people typically stick to hamburger and chicken breasts, and generally want their meat to be as separated from the idea of an animal as possible.
Maybe it’s time to lay some eduction on what head cheese is all about. Take it away, Wikipedia:
“Head cheese is a cold cut originating in Europe. Another version pickled with vinegar is known as souse. Head cheese is not a cheese but a terrine or meat jelly made with flesh from the head of a calf or pig (sometimes a sheep or cow), and often set in aspic. While the parts used can vary, the brain, eyes and ears are often removed. The tongue, and sometimes even the feet and heart may be included. Head cheese may be flavored with onion, black pepper, allspice, bay leaf, salt, and vinegar. It is usually eaten cold or at room temperature as a luncheon meat. It can also be made from quality trimmings from pork and veal, adding gelatin to the stock as a binder.
Historically meat jellies were made of the cleaned (all organs removed) head of the animal, which was simmered to produce stock, a peasant food made since the Middle Ages. When cooled, the stock congeals because of the natural gelatin found in the skull. The aspic may need additional gelatin in order to set properly.”
The way I see it, eating head cheese is a way to support responsible butchering. By using all the parts of the animal, you’re making the most of it. You’re also getting in touch with food that was created out of necessity.
I also think its so important to have an inherent link to the food and the animals we eat. It’s a privilege to eat them. We eat to stay alive, and we kill these animals for sustenance. To render them in a way that lets you forget that it was once a living, breathing, animal disconnects us from the significance of eating them.
The saddest part about this is that head cheese is delicious. You don’t need a well-developed palate for it; just an open mind. It’s savory, meaty, complex, and texturally interesting.
The photo above is a slice of “Topfsuelze” from archdukes of meat purveyors, Schaller & Weber. They have a few different species of head cheese at the shop, but this one is my favorite. I would venture to say it’s the most traditional of the headcheeses, made up of the parts of a pig’s head that are perfectly good for eating, but not sellable as prime cuts.
The vingar-y nature of the aspic (the gelatin) is something most people are rarely exposed to, and it compliments the various cuts of pork beautifully. The biggest favor you can do for yourself is to march over to Schaller & Weber and give head cheese a try. You might be suprised and fall in love. Or würst-case, you continue to say that it’s disgusting (but this time it’ll be justifiably so)