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4 of the best winter cuts to cook in the summer

One of the great things about summer is… well actually literally everything.  The days are longer, cycling is on tv, and those of us in the northeast can finally come crawling out of the caves we spent the last 6 months hibernating in.  After a long winter of roasts, stews, and braises, we can finally get the grill out and cook our meat outside the way it should be.  But what gets done with those cuts that so defined our winter cooking regime?  It’s not like beef steers suddenly stop growing bottom rounds, or their shanks up and disappear from lack of interest from consumers.  When you’re dealing with whole animals (which is really the only way to deal, as far as I’m concerned) you’ve got to be creative in ways to approach muscles at different points in the year.  Being sustainable means using every part of the animal, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend all day in the kitchen simmering pot au feu on a 90 degree July day.  Here are some great ways to get the most out of summer’s forgotten cuts:

Beef shank

As I may have mentioned before, beef shank is one of my all time favorite cuts.  It’s dirt cheap, deeply flavorful, and looks positively badass when you leave it whole with the bone in.  In the winter it makes the best possible cut for osso buco or peposo – something cooked low and slow, fighting off the cold with warmth from the oven and great beefy fragrances.  But are you going to run your oven for 6+ hours in the middle of a heat wave?  Of course you aren’t.  A great alternative, and one that does this cut serious justice, is to smoke it.  There might be nothing better than the sight and smell of a backyard smoker chugging away all day, and the end product is a falling-off-the-bone shank which is still just as lip-smackingly gelatinous as you’re used to, but with the additional component of smoke – which is just about the best seasoning you can add to any meat. 

Bottom round

Sundays around my house usually involve some sort of roast – and you can’t beat a bottom round for an old school (or not so old school) roast beef.  But why roast when you have a grill in the backyard looking forlorn and lonely?  You left that poor thing outside under a tarp all winter long, now’s the time to get some use out of it.  The benefits of roasting a bottom round over charcoal – and you are using charcoal, right? – are that you can a seriously hard sear, and then cook it over lower heat to add that charred, smokey element that you just can’t get from your oven.  Add to that some grilled veggies and you’ve got an awesome alternative to the traditional Sunday roast. 

Short Ribs

Want to know a short cut to making a tough, chewy cut tender and ready for the grill?  Cut it really, really small.  In the warmer months when big chunky short ribs are no longer in demand we throw the plates on the bandsaw and cut them less than 1/8 inch thick.  This leaves a well-marbled bit of meat attached to small buttons of rib.  Marinate this overnight in some asian style sauce (this cut, known as flanken, is the traditional meat in Korean Kalbi BBQ) then sear off quick on the grill.  Flanken cut short ribs make a great appetizer, or as a main course if the mood strikes 

Brisket

Another candidate for the smoker, the humble brisket, has been growing in cachet lately thanks in no small part to the rise of BBQ competitions where it factors heavily.  Normally a staple of the winter months, brisket is most often safe in the hands of your jewish grandmother who can braise it to perfection.  Don’t have a jewish grandmother?  Find one.  Trust me on that.  Anyway, unlike the smoked shank which will come out with a much more shreddable consistency, smoked brisket is ideal for slicing and featuring in sandwiches featuring some excellent BBQ sauce (Texas be dammed on this one). 

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