For your viewing pleasure…

This movie comes out tomorrow and you should definitely go see it because it’s probably good.

How do I know it’s probably good?  Because I’m in it!

When Franck interviewed me it was at the tail end of his shooting and we spoke a little about the different places he had been but I had NO idea the kind of heavy hitters appearing in the film.  Someday I’ll be able to tell my kids about how I was in the same documentary as Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, and some hack by the name of DARIO EFFING CECCHINI.  They won’t care, but I’ll rest assured that I will tell this story often.

(If somehow my presence is not enough to convince you, here’s an actual review.)

Here’s the key bit:

And the Trailer:
Dario freaking Cecchini…
A trimmed and tied leg of lamb

Meat Cuts 101: Leg of Lamb

NAMP Number: 233 (A-G depending on how you want it)
Muscle Name(s):  Tons, it’s a leg.
Other Names: Piernas, Sin Cana
Cooking Style: Roast or Braise  Certain cuts have certain connotations for me.  

Whenever I think of Porterhouses I think of Fiorentinas in Italy; whenever I think of London Broil I think of Saturday nights with my wife back when we were dating.  And whenever I think of leg of lamb I think of back when I was a Viking, sailing the heaving North sea with nothing but a flagon of mead and an haunch of rarest mutton to stave off the biting cold.  That last part didn’t entirely happen, but the fact remains that cooking and eating a leg of lamb conjures up something primal.  There’s no mistaking that you’re eating a part of a once-living creature when you can see a recognizable part of it’s anatomy right in front of you.

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Fourth of July Meat Porn

Fourth of July is upon us and for a butcher this week is basically the Super Bowl (I also say that about Thanksgiving and Christmas – cool thing about my job is you get a lot of Super Bowls).  Since I’m fully in steak-making mode here’s some recent meat porn to hold everyone over until next week when with any luck I’ll be a little more rested.
A beautifully grilled spatchcocked chicken

Spatchcocking a chicken for maximum grilling (and joke) potential

Whole chickens don’t get much love during the summer months.  Sure, people are buying the sexy cuts – boneless breast, skin on thighs; but once you get sick of the marinated kabobs and healthy chicken breast sandwiches where are you going to turn to get your chicken fix?  The answer is to rock out with your spatchcock out.  By removing the backbone and spreading that sucker open, you can take a whole chicken from the realm of oven roasting into the world of grilling.  And trust me, you’ll never go back.

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Big Apple BBQ Block Party

For the last 13 years, the best BBQ pitmasters in the country have gathered in Madison Square park in Manhattan to do what they do best – smoke (literally) tons of meat.  This last weekend was the 13th annual Big Apple BBQ Block party, and for the second year in a row I was there to sample the best smoked meat the country has to offer. Started by Danny Meyer as a way to raise money for this (at the time) underloved park near his flagship restaurant Eleven Madison Park, this event has grown every year and has come to be seen as something of a showcase of the best of each regional style of BBQ.  This year’s lineup included Tim Love, Mike Mills, Chris Lilly, Wayne Mueller, Scott Roberts, and Billy Durney.  If you’re me, these names evoke some of the same screaming fanboyism as the Beatles circa 1963.

Standout dishes were the sausage from The Salt Lick (which incidentally is very high on my bucket list’s restaurant section), the jerk ribs from Hometown (In my Fleisher’s days we would be in hometown on a weekly, sometimes twice weekly basis), and the beef brisket from Dinosaur (little known fact, my wedding rehearsal dinner was in the original Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse – we probably would have had the actual reception there if only I had whined a little more to my wife.

Smoked Brisket, sausage, and slaw from The Salt Lick


Jerk Ribs from Hometown

To top the whole thing off, Eleven Madison Park had a bar set up serving every age of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon – allowing people the ability to wash down America’s best BBQ with America’s best bourbon.  The takeaway from all this is that if you find yourself in NYC next June (or, even if you don’t – cash in those frequent flyer miles) you really, really need to check this event out.

Not a terrible selection…

Skirt Steak

Meat Cuts 101: Skirt Steak

NAMP Number: 121C
Muscle Name:  Transversus Abdominus
Other names:  Outside Skirt, Costillar, Arracherra Regular, Diaphragm, Bifteck de hampe, Faja, Romanian tenderloin, Philadelphia steak
Cooking Style: Marinate this sucker and grill it quick.  More than 5 minutes over high heat and you’ve overcooked it

I want to tell a story.  Actually I don’t because it’s embarrassing, but I’ve been day drinking dark ’n stormies, and the rum, it compels me.  When I first started out in the world of whole animal butchery, I was working for a Belgian dude with an organic, pasture based livestock operation in upstate New York.  I would break animals all week, and then head to the Union Square Greenmarket to hawk our wares in one of the premier farmers markets in the country.  One day a well known NYC chef contacted us (I’m not about to say who, but you’ve heard of him), asking if we could provide him with skirt steak, which at the time was a cut that we didn’t usually fabricate.  I was mostly left to my own devices in the shop, so it fell to me to identify the cut and fill the order.  Maybe you can see where this is going. 

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New Grill!

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:

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A grass-fed Porterhouse

Meat Cuts 101: Porterhouse

NAMP Number: 1173
Muscle Name(s): longissimus dorsi, psoas major
Other Names: Lomo, Bistec Porterhouse, His and Hers Steak, Aloyau gros filet, Club Steak
Best Cooking Method:  Keep it rare.  The tenderloin can overcook quick.  This steak just wants a couple minutes on the grill.

Let me set the scene for you, it’s a balmy summer night and the lass you’ve had your eye on is coming over for a homemade dinner.  The grill is the obvious choice in this case, but clearly hamburgers just won’t do - this is a girl for whom the concept of a romantic dinner involving your old Weber isn't an instant turn off - you’ve really got no choice but to bust out the king of steaks: the Porterhouse.
The great thing about the porterhouse is that it’s really two steaks in one.  On the one side you’ve got a super flavorful New York Strip (aka the longissimus dorsi muscle), and on the other a succulent psoas major – the beef tenderloin.  Running down the middle you’ve got a lumbar vertebrae which comes in a well-known “T” shape.  The rules on Porterhouse vs T-bone are pretty clear “The minimum width of the psoas major shall be at least 1.25” when measured parallel to the length of the back bone.  The internet tells me that this is about the diameter of a 50 cent piece – whatever that is.

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Dry Aging – The Science and the Alchemy

Dry aging is all the rage right now – and for good reason.  The process can take an already excellent piece of meat and turn it into something truly sublime (it can also make crappy meat taste significantly better, but we won’t talk about the heathens who engage in that practice).  Dry aging is equal parts science and art; you need to be able to closely monitor and control your airflow, temperature, and humidity – but you also need to have the intuition to pull an aging primal at just the right time, and to be able to spot problems before they occur.  Done right, a properly stored cut can be aged for 60, 90, even 120 days – each day longer it hangs out the flavor evolves and deepens that much further.

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