I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer a few common meat-related questions. My thanks to Andrea at the Primal Blueprint Ontario facebook group for asking them. There were more, but I’ll get to the others another time.
I’ve always bought my meat from a grocery store. What questions should I be asking butchers as I venture in to that world?
The first thing you should ask your butcher is their name. Remember it. Developing a relationship with your butcher is probably the most important, most valuable step you can take in your meat-buying ‘career.’ If you’re wandering in to Medium Rare, say hello to Angelo. He’s friendly, his sense of humour is nicely bent, and he knows far more about meat than you or I ever will.
I asked Angelo what people needed to know about shopping at Medium Rare.
He had the following to say:
“What most people don’t realize is how much choice they have. We do everything custom. If you want a steak thicker or thinner, just ask and we’ll cut it for you. If you want something you can’t see on display, just ask. We’ll either cut it right then and there, or, if we don’t have it, we’ll get it for you. Remember when you wanted a beef heart? We took care of you, right?”
They certainly did (and it was delicious, and surprisingly tender).
The takeaway lesson: As with any relationship, communication is key.
Is there a roast that’s best for the slow cooker?
Normally I’d say, “If you want a better dinner, buy a better cut of meat.” For slow-cookers (or roasts cooked slowly in the oven), however, the opposite is true. Doing something in a crockpot for 8-10 hours will break down the muscle and connective tissue in just about anything and so an inexpensive cut of meat will work better. If you do Prime-Rib in a slow cooker it will come out looking like shredded wheat – and what a terrible thing to do to such a beautiful roast.
Look for the words: outside round, oven roast, cross rib, brisket, blade, simmering, pot roast. If you are at all unsure, just look at the price. If it’s one of the more expensive cuts, it isn’t meant for the slow-cooker. If it’s cheap…bingo! Always, always, always go for the roast with the most marbling. Forget all the I have to watch my fat/cholesterol intake garbage and eat enjoy your food. Sorry for the hyperlink-intensive sentence – I had to get that off my chest.
Should I cut my own stewing beef (and if so, what cut) or buy it pre-cut?
I love stews. They’re easy to make, delicious, and there are few better hearty winter meals. A good beef stew is a thing of beauty. It’ll take a little bit of prep time (half an hour if you’re moving slowly and/or sipping red wine while you cook…and why wouldn’t you be?) but after that you’re just waiting for it to finish. Much like the slow cooked roasts, the cheaper cuts of meat work best for stews. All of the same roasts that work well for slow-cookers work well for stews. An expensive cut will completely fall apart.
Cutting your own beef has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you get to decide how big you want the piece and you can make sure they’re all the same size so that they are all cooked the same amount. On the other hand, you’ll have to chop it all yourself, and it’s all going to be in the pot for long enough that it’ll be cooked through anyway.
My stew suggestions:
1) Experiment. Try different meats. I’ve done chicken stews, lamb stews, and beef stews and they’re all amazing in a different way. The lamb stew is so good I almost think I can actually cook. Try different vegetables and mushroom combinations.
2) Experiment some more. Play with your spicing. Consider trying different curries. Try different liquid stock; two of my favourites are red wine, and Guinness.
3) Sausage. Chop up a few sausages (Medium Rare’s Dolce Vita sausages is one of my favourites for this) and drop it in the stew with the lamb/beef/whatever. It’ll kick your stew up to a whole new level.
This is definitely my favourite part of writing this blog. This is where I take one for the team and eat something delicious and then write about it.
Magret Duck Breast, with Prime-Rib and Porcini mushroom sausages.
Angelo gave me some quick cooking tips (sear fat-side down it in a cast-iron pan for ten minutes and then flip it and throw the entire thing in the oven at 400 C for ten minutes) and he was spot on. It came out medium rare, juicy and delicious.
Most people would probably consider the sausages overkill but they’d be wrong. They were amazing. My two year old daughter is a picky eater. She turns her nose up at almost everything we cook. She inhaled both duck and sausage.
Well, that’s all for now.
If you have any questions or subjects that you’d like to hear about, let me know and I’ll do my best.
About the Author:
Mike is an SF/F author who loves meat and lives on a diet of real food, red wine, and great cheese. He can be found at www.michaelrfletcher.com or on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MichaelRFletcher.