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 jalapeƱo
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!

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