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.
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.
Allow me to outline the process for dead-simple grilled whole chicken
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.
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.
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: