September 20, 2007
In search of the right meat
Hanger is one good reason to befriend a butcher
By Darry Madden firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s no glamour in it, and there isn’t a whole lot of money either, but there is some kind of cache, some nostalgic idealism, some something in butchering that keeps us all on the lookout for that tiny storefront adorned with hanging steer and ropes upon ropes of fresh sausage, a pot-bellied man in a white apron inside, whistling while he works.
It’s good to dream.
In reality, New Hampshire’s many local butchers have evolved from simple purveyors of sustenance to keen businessmen, revolutionizing the consumption of meat.
Take Marc Rousseau, for example, who runs Marc’s Sausage Heaven in Manchester. No longer interested in running a storefront butchery, Rousseau wants to provide the sausage to meat counters near and far. He is recreating himself as the go-to man for sausage. Or the folks at Meat Me at the Door in Nashua, the region’s only delivery business for fresh cuts. Then there’s Rick Bennett, self-proclaimed “meat specialist,” who in addition to running Bedford Meats where sirloin tips marinate in a high-tech 500 pound tumbler, acts as a consultant to other meat purveyors as they enter the business.
But some things don’t change, and what once made a good butcher still makes a good butcher, like their customer service, sense of good value and vast knowledge, said Chef Bryan Severans, an instructor of meat fabrication at the New England Culinary Institute.
A good butcher offers good choices to his or her patrons, from tongue to tips and from prime to select. Ever heard of hanger steak from your butcher? Well, you should have, because it’s a very decent cut for which restaurants are charging $30 a plate and that sells for $2 per pound at the local butcher. It’s a part of the diaphragm that hangs from the backbone, hence the name. How about flap steak? It’s a famously underutlized section of the sirloin, suffering, perhaps like hanger, from a bad name. Ask your butcher about them.
Small butchers don’t have a lot of buying power and therefore don’t have a lot of pull in the greater meat industry, said Severans. But still, he said, there is a “slight undercurrent” of interest in the decentralization of meat packing and the use of local meats. There’s another question for your local butcher.
How to cook a burger
Wood-Grilled Hanger Steak topped with Bourbon Demi-glaze on Gorgonzola-Potato Hash
Courtesy of the Commercial Street Fishery, Manchester
Hanger steak is one of those mysteries to most meat enthusiasts. It’s best marinated and cut on the bias for maximum tenderness. Ask your local butcher for a hanger — you probably won’t find it at the grocery store. At about $2 per pound, it’s very affordable.
hanger steak — see your local butcher
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs. oregano
salt & pepper
Marinate hanger steak for at least 24 hours prior to cooking. Cook over wood grill, if possible, or pan sear and finish in a 450º oven if not. Cut the steak against the grain to serve — this maximizes tenderness.
8-10 medium yukon gold potatoes, steamed & diced
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbs. fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tbs. fresh tarragon, coarsely chopped
1 tbs. fresh dill, coarsely chopped
Lightly fry or roast the steamed, diced potatoes until just golden. Meanwhile, reduce gorgonzola and heavy cream over low heat until thick. Add herbs. Assemble by mixing reduction and potatoes.
(Demi-glaze, or reduced stock, is available at most grocery stores)
2 oz. bourbon
2 oz. demi-glaze (they use veal at the Commercial Street Fishery)
1.5 oz. heavy cream
1 tbs. fresh chives
handful fresh cherry tomatoes
Heat bourbon in warm pan and set on fire to burn off the alcohol, which would otherwise overwhelm the flavor of the sauce. Then add demi-glaze and heavy cream and simmer until slightly reduced. Add chives and tomatoes.
Serve cut steak atop potato hash and smother in the bourbon sauce. At the restaurant, they serve wood-grilled asparagus as a vegetable, and top the whole dish with lightly fried onions.
Meat grades probably don’t mean a lot to us average picking-up-some-dinner-after-work types. After all, the three most common USDA grades all sound pretty good — prime, choice and select don’t translate literally to exquisite, so-so and you’ll-need-to-cook-this-awhile.
Meat is graded at the time of slaughter based on how it compares to the ideal. The shape and length are considered, as are the tenderness, juiciness and flavor. There are five more grades beyond the top three: standard, commercial, utility, cutter and canner. Don’t worry about those. Here, educate yourself.
• Prime: About 2 percent of graded beef and lamb is labeled prime, and most of it ends up in the hands of restaurants and specialty meat markets. Prime grade meat is very marbled and flecked with fat, as well as being tender, flavorful and of a fine texture.
• Choice: This is usually the highest grade available at the grocery store. While it’s not as marbled as prime, it’s still of high quality.
• Select: This is the most common grade, and while it’s still tender, it has a higher ratio of lean meat to fat than the top two grades. The meat is less juicy and flavorful than prime or choice.
Timing & Doneness
First of all, go buy a meat thermometer. They cost only $10 and will take a lot of guesswork out of cooking meat. The low-tech solution is to press the meat with your finger — the more tender, the less done.
Here’s a handy chart of doneness for all meats, whether on the stove or the grill — though with a hot, hot grill you may get there faster (but keep in mind that meat continues to cook 5 to 10 minutes after it’s been removed from the heat).
Fresh ground beef, veal, lamb or pork: 160ºF
Beef, veal or lamb (roasts, steaks or chops): rare 135ºF; medium-rare 145ºF; medium 160ºF; well-done 170ºF
Fresh pork roasts: medium-well 160ºF; well-done 170ºF
Grill vs. Stovetop
To grill is not to barbecue. We know this is coming as a shock to many of you. Grilling is the outdoor equivalent of pan searing, only the open flame of the grill yields a charred and crisp exterior and a juicy tender interior. Barbecuing is the outdoor equivalent of slow-roasting, and the hardwood charcoal should be kept in a separate chamber from the meat so the cooking is indirect.
• Bare Bonz Butcher Shop, 707 Milford Road, Merrimack, 889-9600, www.barebonzbutchershop.com.
• Bedford Prime Meats, 132 Bedford Center Road, Bedford, 471-6328.
• Bull Run, 1100 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 669-0891, bullrunbeef.com.
• Concord Square Mall 79 S. Main St., Concord, 226-3474, www.concordbeefandseafood.com
• Meat House, 254 Wallace Road, Bedford, 472-5444; 291 South Broadway, Salem, 685-0302, www.themeathouse.com.
• Meat Me at the Door, 295 DW Highway, Nashua, 888-1170, meatmeatthedoor.com
• Mr. Steer Meats, 103 Nashua Road, Londonderry, 434-1444.
• Prime Butcher, 58 Range Road, Windham, 893-2750.
• Sausage Heaven, 21 West Auburn St., Manchester, 886-879-1961, sausageheaven.com.
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