Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meet The Butcher's Guild!

I am still working on a big in depth post about the Carolina Meat Conference and catching up with all the work that piled up while we were wielding knives in the wilds of North Carolina. As we continue to build up our charter membership, I am so excited to keep rolling out the impressive roster we are creating. Take a look at this seasoned meatcutter we are proud to count among our ranks!

Kari Underly
Chicago, IL
Range, Inc

How long have you been a butcher and where did you get your start? Have you been working with “sustainable” meats the whole time and if not, what precipitated your shift in practices?

I can honestly say that I was born into butchery. I was surrounded by butchers on both sides of my family. My love and appreciation for the craft started as a young girl at Underlyʼs Market, my fatherʼs small country butcher shop and ice cream parlor in Lydick, IN. Eventually, I would go through a three year in-house apprentice program at Martinʼs Super Market in South Bend, IN to become a journeyman meat cutter. I worked my way up the management ladder to become their first female Meat and Seafood Merchandiser. While working at Martinʼs, I went to school and earned a bachelorʼs degree in Business Administration. It wasnʼt long before I started my own company, Range, Inc. We specialize in helping companies in the perishables marketplace develop merchandising tools and new strategies to help grow business. I have always been dedicated to the sustainability of the craft. Much of my time and energy has been spent in the training and education of meat cutters and food service operators. I have an intimate knowledge of bovine anatomy, and each muscleʼs profile. This has proven invaluable in my quest to develop original and resourceful ways to utilize the animal by creating cut plans and generating undervalued cuts to bring profit to the entire channel.

What do you think about the current media hype and attention on butchery, butchers and meat in general?

“Hype” insinuates an exaggeration of importance or benefits. The attention is real and well deserved. The renewed interest in butchery and the desire to know where your food comes from is not a trend. It is a movement. This shift back to the “closer to home” model is precipitated by the publicʼs demand for understanding the origin and nature of the meat they are eating. Consumers want to know where their meat comes from; they want to know that the animal was humanely raised and slaughtered. And they want to know how to cut it. Not only do food service operators and chefs want to know, consumers are also interested in learning the details of butchery. This makes me happy. I am thrilled to be involved in bringing back the appreciation for our craft and helping people develop their skills to sustain the art of butchery.

What do you believe is the role of butchers in the movement for a sustainable food system and what do you see as the biggest impediment to a truly sustainable meat industry?

A sustainable meat industry has multiple facets. Yes, it involves limiting our impact on natural resources, and being cognizant about animal welfare matters and food safety, but it also incorporates the effect the industry has on employees and communities. I have a keen interest in the sustainability of the butcher and the customer who consumes the product. The well-being and safety of the employee, along with a good living wage is paramount in maintaining a sustainable meat industry. The shift from shipping sides of beef to shipping boxes of vacuum packed beef has transformed the labor practices in our industry. Employees (including butchers) have been forced into repetitive type jobs which require minimal skill or creativity. The steps between the knock and the finish can be dreary and tedious. Cross training of employees in processing plants and packing houses can go a long way in helping to foster a pride and understanding of the process. There is a renewed demand for the services of the skilled meat cutter. It is an honorable job and a dying craft. There is a shortage of the craftswo/man who is able to take a hanging carcass from the plant to portions for the plate. The key is training and education. The role of butchers (and chefs) is to learn to cut and maximize the entire carcass, and teach the consumer to appreciate cuts from the whole animal. There is an increased cost at every level to maintain a sustainable meat industry. My conversations with meat loving consumers around the country have convinced me that people are ready and willing to pay more for high quality, ethically raised and managed animals.

What does being a member of The Butcher's Guild mean to you?

Honored. Excited. Challenged. This is an important time in our industry and change is happening quickly. There is a desire to support local, sustainable farms and a healthy food system. Professionals and consumers alike are hungry for knowledge and skills regarding whole animal butchery and meat cutting. I feel Iʼve been given an opportunity to help bring back the art of butchery and in turn, quality jobs to our communities. This is my passion. I look forward to working with my colleagues on such an important movement.

Your absolute favorite cut and preparation method/recipe:

My favorite cut is the ribeye cap - not the outside blade cap, but the internal portion of the ribeye. Start by removing the blade. Follow the fat seam underneath the cartilage, trim away any heavy, unwanted fat, and remove the back-strap. At this point, you should see the fat cover of the spinalis dorsi (ribeye cap). I use my hands and feel for the seam between the longissimus dorsi (LD muscle) and the spinalis dorsi. (There is one more little gem of a muscle you will find here, it is the posterior end of the complexus. Itʼs shaped like a big chicken tenderloin. Experiment with this cut using dry heat cooking methods.) Use the pull and seam method to separate the muscles and remove the fat (use the fat to blend in to your hamburger). Finish by using your knife to completely separate the two muscles. I leave some fat on the external side, and remove the silver from the internal side.

Marinate with fresh, seasonal citrus (I like a lime and orange combination), fresh garlic, and a little pepper. Remember, this is the third most tender muscle in the carcass, so thereʼs no need to marinate for long, itʼs just for flavor. You can portion it out if you like, but I like to leave it whole and grill over wood coals. Sear over direct heat, and finish over indirect heat. Let rest for 10 minutes, slice thin on a wood carving board. Serve with fresh corn or flour tortillas, grilled jalapeno, fresh avocado, and tomatoes. Enjoy with a glass of your best tequila - neat. I call it “Tequila Solo”.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Liveblogging from the Carolina Meat Conference

Whew! What a weekend it's been!

The Butcher's Guild crew has been hard at work the past few days. Several sessions of butchery classes have gone swimmingly and Craig Deihl is teaching a group of chefs his magic tricks on whole animal utilization as I write this post. In another hall there are discussions on pasture-raised pigs, low stress cattle handling (which I am going to run off to shortly) and pastured poultry genetics. Tia, Marissa and I even got to take a few laps around a racetrack at almost 200 mph in a Nascar!! Talk about perks!

Yesterday, I took part in a timely discussion on ethical issues in meat labeling and the growth of the alternative meats market. It was a lively conversation to say the least and the audience had quite a bit to add. Butcher's Guild obviously has a unique interest in this topic, so it was a great privilege to be included on the panel.

This conference has been a meat man's dream. Farmers and processors, chefs and butchers, all under one roof sharing ideas and solutions and asking the difficult questions. The focus of the conference has definitely been the local meat industry of the region, however, I see a need for this in every part of the country. Local foods means local issues that need to be resolved by the folks on the ground. As I often say in my travels, what works in Kentucky or New York is not what works in California or North Carolina-and that's perfectly fine. The crux is how we unite all of these people working to answer the same question in a myriad of ways. This is where Butcher's Guild comes in, pulling together the voices of butchers, chefs and others across the country who are dedicated to this craft and invested in improving our food system. This weekend has been a blast, now I am really looking forward to the development of a Butcher's Guild Conference!!

James Beard-nominated chef of Cypress in Charleston, SC and Butcher's Guild charter member, Craig Deihl teaches a group of eager chefs the secrets to whole animal butchery and how to best utilize every part of the animal. All kinds of charcuterie, pork butter, head cheese with trotter meat, shoulder hams and more. This dude knows how to make the most of every carcass, so that's one lucky group of chefs in there right now!

More charter member introductions coming this week, and since I missed Friday's post, I'll be putting up some recipes tomorrow!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Meet The Butcher's Guild!

Chris Cosentino
San Francisco, CA
Incanto & Boccalone Salumeria

How long have you been a butcher and where did you get your start? Have you been working with “sustainable” meats the whole time and if not, what precipitated your shift in practices?

I have been working in restaurants since I was a kid. After I graduated from Johnson & Wales, I moved to D.C. to work for Mark Miller at the Red Sage. This was the first time I worked with whole animals; goat & venison from good sources. There was so much whole meat fabrication there. The restaurant had 2 full time butchers. What a great first job environment. After that I didn’t get to work with whole animals for a while, until I came to the Bay Area. When I got to Incanto that was one of the first things I started to do. 8 years later I am still doing it. We are serving more offal then ever and the demand from the customers is growing.

What do you think about the current media hype and attention on butchery, butchers and meat in general?

The more the better! It is an education for the public to hear and see this, which will have a trickle effect. It will be just like the sushi movement, first no one understood it, now it’s all over and the norm.

What do you believe is the role of butchers in the movement for a sustainable food system and what do you see as the biggest impediment to a truly sustainable meat industry?

We need to correct a broken system that was created mainly by the industrialization of meat production. Now Americans expect cheap food, but they don’t understand that you get what you pay for. We have to break the cycle. Butchers can help through education and a commitment to honoring the whole animal.

What does being a member of The Butcher's Guild mean to you?

I am honored to be among such a group of talent and forward thinking chefs & butchers. We are helping bring back a time honored trade and tradition. I feel that this is an opportunity for a group of like-minded meat loving chefs & butchers a platform to work from. This gives us all an ability to share issues, and important information.

Your absolute favorite cut and preparation method/recipe:

Choosing a favorite cut of meat is like choosing a favorite child it’s just not right. I like skeletal meat cooked on the bone-they have more flavor. In regards to offal cuts, it’s all about what I am in the mood for.

Venison Kidneys with Spicy Lentils & Mint

Serves 4

4 Venison Kidneys
½ cup all purpose flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 cup green lentils
4 cups chicken stock
1 whole carrot
1 whole onion
1 whole head garlic, split
1 bunch thyme
1 bay leaf
1 bunch parsley stems
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup picked mint
½ cup slivered garlic
1 Fresno chili or a jalapeño
½ cup lemon juice

Remove the membrane from the outside of the kidney. Split the kidney in half and remove and discard the fibrous membrane from each side. While cleaning the kidneys, rinse the lentils in cold water, then place in a non-reactive pot and cover with water, bring to a boil. Once they have come to a boil, strain and rinse again with cold water. Place the lentils again in a non-reactive pot with the whole onion, carrot, split garlic head and tied herb bundle then cover with the chicken stock. Cook the lentils slowly until they are tender, once tender remove the vegetables and cook in their cooking liquid.

Dry the kidneys, season with salt and pepper; lightly dust with seasoned flour. Heat butter in a pan. Crack a garlic clove and add a thyme branch; sizzle for a minute, then add the kidneys. Sear until golden brown, and then flip over, cook until medium rare. While the kidney is cooking, in another pan heat olive oil and sizzle the slivered garlic, chili flakes then add the lentils and toss gently to incorporate. Deglaze the pan with lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, toss in the torn mint.

Place the spicy lentil and mint of each of the four warm plates, lay two halves of kidney on top of the lentils, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

Thanks Chris!! Tia, Marissa and I are here in North Carolina setting up for the Carolina Meat Conference. As a perk, we've all been offered a few laps around the Charlotte Motor Speedway!! So, we're off to the track! Catch you tomorrow for another Friday Feast!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Meet The Butcher's Friday Feast!

It's a whopper of a combo! A Friday Feast post that introduces a Butcher's Guild charter member!

Today is all about Chef Brad Farmerie of Public here in NYC. Tonight, I have the pleasure of repeating what was one of the most daring, sumptuous, fantastically executed meals I’ve ever enjoyed. I see flavor profiles as shapes and textures, sometimes even colors and every restaurant as a window into a chef’s palate. A mastery of many shapes, sharp angles and rounded corners, smooth rounds and rolling waves is what many chefs hope to master. Flat with predictable peaks, full of shimmering gold rounds, or a of nearly psychedelic trapezoids and ovals. Many chefs and menus, however, even the best of the best, end up with a range that isn’t quite as wide as one would assume. All of these have their value, but I am most in awe when each dish says something very different. I want to be surprised at every turn, to remark upon the pairings, be enticed by the new flavor combinations being introduced to me. Old favorites are always good, but a kick in the pants is more my style. Anyone who has seen my list of now nearly 80 bacon flavors or attended my dinners knows I put some very unexpected ingredients together and like to keep people on their toes a bit. This tendency toward culinary alchemy is what I look for in chefs that inspire me.

Butcher’s Guild charter member Chef Brad Farmerie’s Nolita restaurant, Public, is my new mecca. The night I spent there with BG founders Tia Harrison and Marissa Guggiana was off the charts food fun. We started with a selection of appetizers. A sweet, earthy lentil salad and shiso-wrapped fried oysters with yuzu wasabi, lusciously rare kangaroo atop a crispy falafel, see where I’m going here? Grabbing from the best shapes from around the world, Public’s menu is all spontaneity and skill. As we finished our cocktails after the plates were cleared, we were presented with a unexpected little snippet of Brad’s work, a deceptively diminutive duck creme with bacon and a savory caramel. Every bite rang with deep, full wells of flavor accented by bright flashes. Our wines appeared in the hands of our server for the night, the icing on the cake, she was super friendly and warm, knowledgeable, genuinely open and engaging, everything that makes a dining experience like this as close to perfect as can be. Our entrees continued to amaze, I was so into my Venison and cabrales (a beloved Spanish blue cheese) dumplings, I frankly don’t recall what the others ate. I do remember a lot of mmm’s and not much talking. To push us over the edge, our meal was punctuated with an ellipsis before a last round of drinks. A line of mini pork’s blood chocolate cupcakes with foie gras frosting. I forgot to mention, an 8-course blood tasting was happening in the other room. Yes, you can swear now because we all did!

The winner of this year's Cochon 555 NYC and Iron Chef contestant, this guy has it and I am going to soak in a little more of his mojo tonight. I am actually counting down the hours!

While I am basking in the afterglow tomorrow, I’ll be catching Brad’s Iron Chef Battle on the Food Network! If you need a little Brad in your life, check out the Meet The Butcher’s Guild interview below and then watch him work some maple syrup on March 19, 2011 at 5:00 PM EST.

Brad Farmerie
Executive chef, Public and Double Crown, NYC

How long have you been a butcher and where did you get your start? Have you been working with “sustainable” meats the whole time and if not, what precipitated your shift in practices?

I have been a cook/chef for about 16 years + or -, but didn’t really get into butchering whole animals and larger cuts until about 10 years ago. Up until that time, most of the restaurants that I worked in used prefabricated portions, but at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons , Chef Raymond Blanc had a vision that included vegetables grown right on the property and whole animals (for everything except beef and veal) from local farms that raised animals specifically for Le Manoir. It was a serious change of operation watching the sous chefs leaving vegetable requests with the folks in charge of the garden and calling farms directly to get the meat order. It dealt with building relationships with people that you know are working just as hard as you are to produce amazing items, and supporting those people to make sure that those animals are looked after from paddock to plate.

Later on I went back to work with the iconic New Zealand chef Peter Gordon. The sheer size of the kitchen at his restaurant (or lack thereof) didn’t allow for whole animals but definitely taught me respect for the more unusual cuts and offal. His philosophy and support of farms across the UK, along with farms (and the personalities) in Australia and New Zealand gave me a better insight into trying to work with great people doing great things with food instead of painting yourself into a corner of hard core “local” product. Many of the operations I work with may not be local, but they have a small scale and sustainable outlook that is amazing and should be supported.

What do you think about the current media hype and attention on butchery, butchers and meat in general?

It means I can finally give up the hard hours and retire, right?

It’s definitely a good thing, and anyone that says otherwise is a loca enchilada. There is a chance to change the slippery slope of American nepotism towards the shrink wrapped boneless, skinless, and flavorless flesh. The media almost has to be a part of it to make it work.

What do you believe is the role of butchers in the movement for a sustainable food system and what do you see as the biggest impediment to a truly sustainable meat industry?

I think the ideal role of a butcher in a sustainable movement is to be able to desensitize their customers to the cut of an animal on offer and to celebrate the flesh itself. The insight that a meat professional can offer on guidance to meat selection and cooking technique is invaluable. This would use a seriously suggestive sell (with tons of advice) on how to use the cut.

The biggest impediment is preconceived notions, personal history, lack of information, and anything else that keeps folks from buying the whole beast.

What does being a member of The Butcher's Guild mean to you?

Hopefully it means that many of the decisions I made way back when were good ones. Its an honor to be amongst the best in the business and I’m just looking forward to helping in any way possible.

Your absolute favorite cut and preparation method/recipe:

That’s like asking me to pick my favorite family member! There are too many great choices, each with their own cool and quirky reason for being chosen. I’ll narrow it just a little, but don’t tell anyone I’m playing favorites…

Deboned pork neck “steak”-simply lubed up with EVO and seasoned with Maldon salt and a quick grind of pepper- thrown on the grill till medium, rested, and passed across the line while we are in the middle of a busy service at the restaurant. It helps to make the whole night look a whole lot better. No shit- I am literally eating a super delicious one (post service) as I type this. I always hear folks recommending to cook this bit of deliciousness in a braise or slow and long roast, but I think that just squeezes the personality right out of it.

Wagyu tongue- I’m a huge fan of this. It takes all of the (ridiculously slim) willpower that I have to resist the temptation of sampling the goodness while prepping it between the poach and grill phase - some of those succulent back slices may never make it. We usually cook this one in a slow poach (super aromatic and acidic broth) till tender, peeled, portioned, and grilled.


Thanks to Brad Farmerie! Have a great weekend, and if you are in NYC, head to Public for Brunch!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meet The Butcher's Guild!

Matt Jennings
Chef/Owner Farmstead & La Laiterie at Farmstead
Providence, RI

How long have you been a butcher and where did you get your start? Have you been working with sustainable meats the whole time and if not, what precipitated your shift in practices?

I've been butchering since I was 16, as a prep and line cook. Everyday has brought new challenges, and I continue my "education" in butchery by way of self-teaching and seeking out talented Chefs and Butchers to work with. In 2000, while visiting Italy, I was able to work with Dario Cecchini in Chianti for just a couple of days- this was when I was 'bitten by the bug'. Picking rosemary and lavender and being enveloped by the love for craft that Dario brings to the table, was a life changing experience and it was then that I realized how much I respected the craft. Since then, I have been completely self-taught, reading a lot and working even more to perfect the skill of proper butchery. In my restaurant, I source 100% naturally raised meats, and we are a 'whole animal' restaurant- so everything gets broken down on site. Now, I have the ability to teach my cooks- bringing the next generation into the story. So many culinary students and young cooks these days are taught that meat comes in pretty shapes, cryovaced in plastic and all they have to do is open a package and throw it on the grill. We all know this is not the case, so being able to instill knowledge and passion into a younger generation of cooks is paramount for me.

What do you think about the current media hype and attention on butchery, butchers and meat in general?

Meat is hot right now. I think it is a good thing. It's good for restaurants like mine- showcasing house butchery is important and displays a level of dedication and commitment that few places have. The 'butchery trend' is great for consumers as well- it's about time we 'took back our food' and actually learned the old ways and the heritage behind where our food comes from and how it is prepared. Knowing your food on this intimate level, ensures you care more about what you put into your body and ultimately, allows the consumer to 'vote with their fork'- educating each other and pushing for more knowledge and information from their meat purveyors. I've won the Northeast Regional Cochon 555 the past three years in a row, and I can tell you from experience that this movement is not slowing down. People are hungry for more (pun not intended), and that means they want more knowledge of where their food comes from, who is preparing it and how they can cook some of the lesser known cuts at home.

What do you believe is the role of butchers in the movement for a sustainable food system and what do you see as the biggest impediment to a truly sustainable meat industry?

Expense. Good (humanely and responsibly raised and slaughtered) meat is more expensive. People need to understand this. Consumers need to be ready to pay a premium for the skill set a great butcher brings to the table, coupled with the high caliber of product that responsible shops and restaurants can provide. On my end, distribution is a huge issue. I think the Chef who is involved with a higher end butchery model, needs to be flexible and has to be able to adapt to the market- learn how to utilize the 'lesser known' cuts, how to cook head to tail- waste not, want not! Work with your distributors- tell them what you want and what you are looking for. It will take strong voices and a determined professionals to keep moving the needle forward. I'm honored to be one of these people.

What does being a member of The Butcher's Guild mean to you?

Everything. I'm honored and thrilled to have been chosen to represent such an integral part of our industry. Change is in the air. It is an exciting time to be a Chef. We are all learning together- the learning curve with proper butchery is huge, and BG creates a very important and necessary forum for like minded professionals to be able to reach out to each other, share ideas, concerns, thoughts, values and vision. Proper butchery is one of the things that I pride myself on, and I think something that makes my restaurant and businesses stand out. We need to continue to promote this skill, honor the craft and all those who came before us, and most importantly, empower and teach the next generation of butcher. Passing the torch is the ultimate goal. We cannot let this art die. We will not.

Tell us your absolute favorite cut and preparation method/recipe!

Wow. That's a tough one. There are so many. Right now I'm obsessed with tongue. Smoked. Pickled. Braised. Fried. I can't get enough. Likewise for any type of offal and organ meat. We have an extensive in-house charcuterie program at La Laiterie, and I pride myself on my attention to detail and commitment to classical charcuterie technique. I've been considered as one of the original 'offal experts' of this new generation- bringing up the rear of a speeding train that includes my personal heroes and friends like those who are included in the BG- Chris Cosentino, for example, is a friend and someone I look up to as a leader. Ditto for Chefs like Jamie Bissonette and April Bloomfield. We all love those naughty bits that require more in depth thought on their utilization, the numerous techniques required to treat offal with care, and make it sing on a plate. Long live livers and lungs!

Thanks, Matt, for another great introduction to the shining faces of The Butcher’s Guild!

I’ve got a really special combo BG charter member introduction/Friday Feast planned for this week! We’re also gearing up for the Carolina Meat Conference, so expect to hear much more about that as the week goes on. Happy Monday!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Last Day to Register for NC Choices Carolina Meat Conference

Registration for NC Choices Carolina Meat Conference closes TONIGHT at midnight!

Click on the title to this post to be directed to the online registration form and check out the promo video in the sidebar! We are all looking forward to this conference, it's been a long time coming and will be a great opportunity for exchange of information, research, techniques and movement building. Take a look below for the various classes and other events that the guild is leading.

Fri, March 25th 2-5 pm & Sat, March 26th 9am-12pm
Butchery Craft in Your Home Kitchen
Whole lamb, pig and chicken carcass breakdown with every participant taking home $100 worth of local, pasture-raised meat, a boning knife and Butcher's Guild tote bag.

Tia Harrison, Co-Founder-The Butcher's Guild, Owner-Avedano's Meat Market and Executive Chef-Sociale, San Francisco, CA
Marissa Guggiana, Co-Founder-The Butcher's Guild, President of Sonoma Direct Sustainable Meats and Author of Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers
Berlin Reed, The Ethical Butcher, Portland, OR
Craig Deihl, Executive Chef- Cypress, Charleston, SC
*advanced registration is required; see registration package.

Sat March 26th 3:30-5pm
Facing Ethical Issues in a Growing Market: The Importance of Transparency in Sourcing & Production
A panel discusses the importance of consistent and accurate messaging to consumers regarding product sourcing and production methods.

Scott Marlow, Rural Advancement Foundation International
Berlin Reed, The Ethical Butcher
Ben Bergman, Fickle Creek Farm
V.Mac Baldwin, Baldwin Charolais Beef
Moderator: Casey McKissick, Coordinator, NC Choices

Sat March 26th 8-11pm
Butcher's Guild Mixer at the Speedway Club

Sun March 27th
Artisanal Butchery and Whole Animal Utilization for Professional Chefs
A meat cutting class geared toward those in the industry, chefs will glean new methods for utilizing whole animals.

Tia Harrison, Co-Founder-The Butcher's Guild, Owner-Avedano's Meat Market and Executive Chef-Sociale, San Francisco, CA
Marissa Guggiana, Co-Founder-The Butcher's Guild, President of Sonoma Direct Sustainable Meats and Author of Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers
Craig Deihl, Executive Chef- Cypress, Charleston, SC