Sunday, June 28, 2009

Marlow & Daughters

Tom Mylan and the crew at Marlow & Daughters have been getting a lot of well deserved praise since they opened. Marlow & Daughters is the sister (ahem) butcher shop to the Marlow & Sons, Diner and Bonita Restaurants. While I was in New York, I spent a couple of days hanging around the shop, doing my best to take pictures without getting in the way. One of the things that immediately jumped out at me is that their is no back room at Marlow & Daughters. Everything from breaking beef quarters to making Sausage is done in plain view of anyone who happens to be in the store. I asked Tom if customers ever get grossed out by this, and he said it has happened a few times, but that most of their customers like the transparency. As Tom said, this isn't the Butcher Shop for everyone. Customers looking for enough Beef Tenderloin to serve 15, or for boneless skinless chicken breast aren't going to get what they're looking for here.

Bringing it in...

... and breaking it down.

What Marlow & Daughters is, is a great butcher shop featuring meat from local farms that are working hard to raise their animals the right way. The transparency that comes from butchering right in front of the customer runs through the shop and extends to the farmers who are supplying it. If you ask what farm your steak came from, they can tell you. And if you call up the farm, you can probably go visit.

In addition to some mighty fine looking cuts of meat, they also sausage, some charcuterie items, and a small amount of prepared or ready to cook items (the marinated duck heart skewers got my attention!) In addition, they have a great selection of artisinal products, including some of the best American cured meats, including Fra' Mani, Benton Hams, La Quercia and Salumeria Biellese. Mix in some local eggs, dairy and produce and and you have a great shop with a great sense of community. While I was there a guy came by with some homemade mozzarella to share and get feedback. This is definitely the kind of butcher I'd like to have in my neighborhood.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Parts & Labor: Corned Beef Tongue pt 1

My last couple of posts were kind of wordy, so I'm gonna let the pictures do most of the talking on this one. Corned (or brined or pickled) Beef is beef, most often brisket, that has been brined and then is boiled before serving. Beef tongue makes a great substitute for brisket because boiling is the best way to cook tongue. I used the Lobel's Meat Bible recipe for Corned Beef, but replaced the brisket with tongue.*

I like to get all my ingredients ready before I start cooking.

The celery and onion are just for decoration, they don't get added until we boil the corned tongue.

Here is our tongue. I forgot to take a picture before I put it in the brine. This one has been bringing for about a day, but I pulled it out to take a look. The texture and color are already beginning to change from the brining. Tongues can be a bit hard to brine all the way through, so I used a brine injector to shoot it full of brine before I put it into the brining bucket.

Here is the tongue, back in the brining bucket. As you can see, not all of the tongue is submerged in the brine, so...

I put a plate on top to weigh it down and make sure the entire tongue stays submerged in the brine. Throw some plastic wrap on the top, stick it in the fridge and forget about it for a couple of days. After 3 days, move the tongue so that the part that has been at the bottom of the bucket is on the top. Put it back in the fridge and forget about it for a few more days.

My tongue will be done brining next week. Check back then for the final steps and to see how I serve it. (Here's a hint: I also have a batch of sauerkraut on the way.)

* Both out of fear of legal consequences and respect for the authors and publishers of books, I'm not going to reproduce recipes on the blog.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Part(s) of the solution

Following up on my last post, I wanted to continue with the importance of changing our approach to eating meat. If we follow the economics of "less for more" consumers will either have to eat less meat or spend more money. For the "average" consumer this is going to be a tough pill to swallow. Despite a growing awareness about the risks and rewards of different models of food production, most people are dealing with the much more immediate concern of feeding their families on a limited budget.

As I said in my last post, I think that eating all parts of an animal is an important aspect of changing our consumption habits. While there is certainly a stigma attached to "variety meats", offal or my personal favorite term, parts, there are tons of good reasons to be a little adventurous. Perhaps the greatest incentive is the cost, since most of these cuts provide a great deal of nutrition and, yes, flavor for a much more affordable price. (These things are of course connected. Much of the stigma around eating parts is that they have historically been poor people's food.) Luckily, many chef's are taking it upon themselves to envangelize on behalf of parts, none more so than Chris Cosentino of Incanto and Boccalone fame. If parts are safe for fine dining, then what's the problem with bringing them home as well?

Well, I know from first hand experience, the biggest obstacle is figuring out how the hell to cook it! First off, Fergus Henderson's cookbooks are an invaluable resource. Once you get them, check out this great blog by a home chef working his way through the recipes. In addition, while I don't claim to be in Henderson or Cosentino's league, I am going to add my voice to the choir and start posting about my home experimentations. Come back tomorrow to find out what will be the first mystery meat!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Less for more

Jay from The Linkery has some interesting thoughts about the idea of a "less for more economy," the idea being that we need to change our consumption habits towards consuming less quantity, but higher quality and therefore more expensive items. The original blog post at The Plastic Society touches on food as one aspect, but Jay goes into more depth. This is a pretty bold position for a business owner to take. I don't think there are too many ad agencies out there that would recommend their clients slogan be "We'll give you less and charge you more for it, but for a good reason." But if we step back and think about what qualities we want in our food, "cheap" shouldn't really rank all that high. For me, nutritious, flavorful, safe and sustainable all immediately come to mind before cheap.

I think that this is even more important when it comes to meat. Health concerns from E. coli and mad cow, to heart disease and colon cancer are all linked to consumption of meat, especially "cheap" meat. In addition, as consumers, we've been tricked into believing that meat is a commodity, essentially all the same regardless of where its from or how its raised, and that the most desirable cuts are all middle steaks. In essence, we've come to expect that we can eat filet mignon all the time, anytime, anywhere, that it should be relatively inexpensive, and that it should taste the same all the time. The problems with this, though, are too numerous to list. (Read the Omnivores Dilemma, Fast Food Nation, or Food Matters for a more complete run down.)

The reality is that good, healthy meat is expensive, and we need far less of it than the average U.S. consumer eats. Government subsidies have made bad, unhealthy meat artificially inexpensive, and so most of us eat way too much of it. Even under the best of circumstances, I can't envision changing our production and distribution systems to be healthy and sustainable without also changing our consumption habits. Obviously this means eating less meat, but it also means eating all of the animal. So, if you haven't yet, head down to your butcher and buy some oxtail or beef cheeks, pig trotters or lamb shanks. Don't be scared, ask the butcher how to cook it, or look a recipe up on the internet. It will be a whole lot cheaper than the filet mignon and it might just taste a whole lot better.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Maybe this should have been a BBQ blog...

17th St Bar & Grill Ribs and Beans

While BBQ is certainly well within the realm of what I thought this blog was going to be about, I didn't think it would be quite so prominent of a feature. But, as the saying goes "When life gives you BBQ... What are you complaining about, BBQ is the the greatest thing in the world!" This past weekend, life gave me a little more BBQ at the 7th Annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party. With Pitmasters coming in from around the country, this is the kind of event that would be worth planning a trip around, but for me it was just a happy accident. In fact, I only found out about it last week when the Southern Foodways blog mentioned it. Upon finding out, I quickly decided that in lieu of my third trip to Fette Sau, I would get my BBQ fix at the festival. (Now, I know you are asking yourself, "why not go to the block party AND go back to Fette Sau?" The answer is quite simple really. It's pizza. I only have so many meals to eat in New York and I have to make sure I eat enough pizza to last me until my next trip.)

I don't think there was bad BBQ to be found, but I decided to focus in on the guys who had traveled north for the event. The Salt Lick was there serving their unrivaled brisket, but I've been to the Salt Lick and will have ample chance to return in the future. I ultimately decided on 3 pitmasters: Ed Mitchell from The Pit in Raleigh, Patrick Martin from Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint in Nashville, and Mike Mills of 17th St Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, IL and Memphis Championship Barbecue in Las Vegas (He's also the author of Peace, Love & Barbecue).

Mike Mills was cooking up some unbelievable ribs, with a wonderful crust, great smokey flavor and great sauce. Next time I'm visiting my family in Illinois I'm going to have to make the trip to Murphysboro because I will be dreaming of these ribs for a long, long time.

Both Ed Mitchell and the Martin's crew were doing Whole Hog BBQ, but with a couple of notable differences. Martin's was using wood that they burned down to coals and then placed in the smoker and Mitchell was using charcoal. The other big difference was that Martin's put a small dab of tomato based barbecue sauce on the sandwiches, while Mitchell uses a vinegar based sauce on the meat but no additional sauce on the sandwich. Both sandwiches had a coleslaw topping.

Unfortunately, my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I only ended up getting to try Martin's sandwich. It was really quite wonderful, with wonderful flavor and a complex texture. They were also giving small pieces of skin to those interested. It was very flavorful but very tough, definitely not for the meek.

Martin's Sandwiches

Pile of skin at Martin's

Despite having my appetite completely defeated by ribs and a sandwich, I decided to spend some time watching Ed Mitchell practice his art. It was a sight to behold. Not a measuring cup to be found, salt, sugar, pepper, vinegar and chili peppers were added to the meat by the bottle and and handful. I also enjoyed watching one person after another coming by to get their picture taken with Ed. There is no doubt about it, the man is a superstar. I had a brief conversation with Ed and I was interested to find out that he raised his own pigs. This is clearly a man who know a thing or two about pigs.

Pitmaster Ed Mitchell getting the fire going

Ready for the grill

Close it up and cook until tomorrow

Friday, June 12, 2009

Isn't it about time for a post about salt and time?

Despite naming this blog Salt & Time, I haven't really posted much about the wonders of using salt and time to "cook" food. Chow has a great video up about Alex Hozven "master pickler" from Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley. As Alex tells us, the Japanese word for pickles is Sukimono, which means to alter without the use of heat. Check it out:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fette Sau, pt 2: The Food

So by now, you already know that Fette Sau looks cool, but the burning questions remains unanswered. How is the meat? In order to have a well informed opinion, I found it necessary to make two trips in a 36 hour time period, and while I think it still have little chunks of pork belly floating in my veins, I'm already salivating at the thought of a third trip before I leave town.

On my first trip I went with friends, which had the advantage of getting to try lots of different things, but had the disadvantage of having to share it with them. We got pulled pork, pork ribs, veal breast and a couple of links. A couple of rolls, sides of beans, pickles and kraut, and a gallon of beer and we were ready to dine!

First, the sides: The pickles were great, nice and crispy with a very clean mild taste. The freshness of the cucumbers really came through, the kraut was also nice and crispy, it tasted like it had not been cooked or pasteurized (hooray!) but was also a very light flavor. The rolls were fluffy and moist. There was no butter for them, but it didn't matter once you jammed some meat in there. Finally, the beans were my least favorite. They were good, but they were somewhere in between chili and baked beans. I like my baked beans a little sweeter.

The beer was Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold. It was cold, tasty and came in a glass jug. I'm not much for writing about beer, but if you want to read a good beer blog go here.

Now, on to the main course. Let's start with the ribs. Mmm... ribs. While I generally prefer baby back ribs, these St. Louis Style Spare ribs were incredible. They were moist flavorful and tender, the kind of ribs you lay in bed dreaming about. They were great without any sauce, which is the true test of good BBQ. The ribs and the pulled shoulder were both from Duroc breed hogs. The pulled pork was nice and moist with a good flavor. I piled it on a bun with a small squirt of sauce and spicy mustard and had myself a real nice sandwich. Next up was the spicy sausage, also pork but this time from Berkshire pigs. The sausage was excellent, though not very spicy. I could have sworn I tasted some fennel, which I found interesting. I don't usually think of fennel in smoked sausage, but it tasted great. Finally, for this meal anyway, was the veal breast. I've never had veal BBQ before, and I'm not sure that I would pick it again. It was kind of what I expected, very tender and fatty but without a whole lot of flavor. You know, like veal. Of all the meats, this was the only one that really needed sauce.

A couple of days later, I decided that I really needed to eat at Fette Sau again. After all, I hadn't had the pork belly OR the brisket. I mean, it was practically like I hadn't eaten there at all, you know? So, I returned to dine alone at Fette Sau. This time, I made sure to get the aforementioned items, plus sausage and potato salad. The potato salad was tangy and mustardy, the dressing was not over the top creamy, but not a vinaigrette either. The brisket was a little dry in parts, but this may just be because I am judging it against the greatest brisket in the world. The pork belly more than made up for it though. As you can probably imagine, the belly was incredibly moist and fatty, and I mean that in the best possible way. Occasionally I would take a bight with a little more meat than the others, and it was like finding a buried treasure of flavor. When it comes to the belly, a little bit goes a long way, but it is absolutely wonderful.

As you can see from the above photo, I wasted no time getting down to business on trip number two. That is, by the way, the pork belly on the left, the sausage in the middle and the brisket on the right. One thing that was odd was that this time the Spicy Sausage did not have fennel in it. Maybe they made a different batch, but I thought without the fennel it seemed to be missing a little something.

Though I haven't mentioned it yet, one of the great things about Fette Sau is that they make a point of buying quality meat from small and local farms. They list the farms on their website, which I think is great. (I would link to the page but its a fancy flash site, so I can't, but its under the "About Us" section.) We should all celebrate the farmers who are working hard to provide us with high quality and sustainably raised food. Cheers to Fette Sau and their farmers.

Big City paper on small town BBQ

Thanks to my new friend Zane who sent me this link to an article in the New York Times about Scott's Variety Store and Bar-B-Q:

"In the manner now expected of the nation’s white-tablecloth chefs, the Scotts shop local, whenever possible. They buy pigs from farms in three nearby counties. And they turn to Mel’s Meat Market, in the nearby town of Aynor, for butcher work and delivery."

It sounds like these guys do things a lot like the folks in "Whole Hog," even if they are a state or two over.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fette Sau - big city BBQ done right

My friend Paul has been demanding that I go to Fette Sau since I arrived in New York, and his urgency is understandable. Fette Sau is great barbecue smack in the middle of Brooklyn. Big cities and BBQ are not always so compatible (Oakland, for example!) and true aficionados are rightfully skeptical of city slicker claims of good BBQ. (Watch the video in the previous post if you don't believe me.) But the second you walk in to Fette Sau, all your fears of boiled and grilled meat drenched in canned sauce fall away. As you walk past the wood pile on your way in, the smell of smoke welcomes you, and smoke is the second most important ingredient in BBQ.

Fette Sau's aesthetic borrows generously from Southern BBQ shacks but it is also unmistakeably Brooklyn hipster. The cut chart wall mural is awesome, and I loved the butcher tools for draught handles.

Okay, enough of how the place looked. Lets get down to business, how was the food...

Come back tomorrow to find out!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dad's Finds

When it comes to finding interesting sights on the internet, my dad Tom is a mad genius. His technique is unorthodox, but he find's great stuff.

Dad, hunting the internet for cool shit.

One of my favorite sights that he's found is the Southern Foodways Alliance. Based at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, the Atlantic Monthly describes the SFA “this country’s most intellectually engaged food society.” SFA publishes Cornbread Nation, sponsors all kinds of great events and has an awesome website. My favorite part of the sight is their documentary film project and my favorite of the films is "Whole Hog."

Whole Hog from Joe York on Vimeo.

The SFA has tons of great resources including, a blog, podcasts, a monthly newsletter and so much more. Spend some time on the SFA's sight, you will be glad you did.

photo of Dad courtesy of Beer & Nosh. Yes, my dad is a food blog superstar.

On the ground in New York City

I arrived in New York last night and had a great meal at an Argentinian place, which I will right about in great detail later. The blog will be a little quiet for the next couple of days, but will be back with a vengeance next week.

Monday, June 1, 2009

South Bay Sausage Tour, pt 2

After eating lunch at Neto's, we headed up to Mountain view to check out Dittmers Gourmet Meats & Wurst-Haus. Holy Crap! Dittmer's is out of control, they have an incredible variety of sausages, smoked meats and cured meats. They make everything on sight except for their Italian Salumi and proscuitto because, well, Dittmer is German not Italian, and he's go the accent to prove it.


After seeing the incredible variety of products they were selling, I was not surprised to learn that they break whole hogs at Dittmer's. It's clear that nothing goes to waste; Head Cheese, Liverwurst, smoked Hocks, if it comes from a pig then Dittmer will make it taste awesome and sell it to you.

Dittmer's has more going on than just Pork Sausage though. They also are a full service butcher shop with fresh cuts of beef, pork, lamb, veal and poultry and they are a full service deli. Unfortunately I was still stuffed from lunch, but I did grab a landjagger, some beef jerky and some sausage. The landjagger was nice and smokey. The grind was coarser than I expected which gave it a hardy texture. The jerky was wonderfully smokey and rich with just the right amount of sweetness. The sausage, unfortunately, went in the freezer, but I'll report back when it gets eaten.