I am grump – again. Its the meat thing

I am so grumpy again… its a meat thing

This is a beef/meat/butcher grump, I am worried. My family honor is at stake, my grandfather’s ghost will rise and harras me, the corned beef I slow cooked and lovingly attended was, not to put a fine point at all, vile. I even made a proper mustard cream sauce, it was still vile.

I was assured by the polite butcher from a shop of some repute, that this was indeed done in house, mind you the criovacing and number of layers maybe should have alerted me. And clearly it, along with the pickled pork, was bought in. Not even slightly happy. What happened to the great vats of meat brining away and the large sort of pumping injection thingie that my father would make sure the brine went all the way through the large chunks of beef with???

I am just not coping with all this, I am becoming neurotically nostalgic. I find myself more and more longing for the values, tastes and feelings of the past. This may well be a sign that the spirit of my grandfather has entered my being and is taking me over. In this case I will soon be as bald as a codger and with a tummy that is wayyyyy too big, I will wear a brown trilby or fedora, shout constantly at all and sundry, call everyone boy, smoke craven A cigarettes (cork tipped) and rarely rise from my sitting position. Oh dear!

The list of what butchers now cannot do is growing, I am beginning to become worried that such things as sausages, good lamb cuts (Forequarter of lamb, a rolled loin now seem to be a thing of the past unless a bloody celebrity chef happens to cook a rolled shoulder of lamb with a recipe ensorscelled from some hapless desert dwelling tribe of Arabian mutants! No offence Arabia.) My dears, how many of you have been able to get a bit of pork that actually tasted like pork and why oh bloody why do they now cut all chunks of meat into small pieces? Is it the cost, I would assume so since the cost of meat has been increasing wildly in the past few years. Its no wonder we are turning into a tribe of vegetarians.

Lets take a look at this bit by bit.

Sausages were once a familiar and favoured meal on the tables of all, Luscious things that were made from meats that we all knew, a beef sausage, a good pork sausage, both available thick or thin. And my loves, with a tug of the forlock by way of respect, until we got invaded in this country by well meaning folk from all over the planet, that was that. Then things started to change. Butchers had not the slighest idea how to make Lamb sausages from the Maghreb, none that I knew had even the faintest notion about the many many many pork creations from Italy. No one in my family knew how to make a Kransky, or indeed any of the German/Polish creations. They could not even make ham let alone any other small goods. But they did make a dam good sausage of the plainer variety and one that sold millions.

When it came to anything else, whole new industries sprung up and started creating all manner of small goods that were, in most cases quite good, but in other cases appalling. No one knew what meats went where, no one knew what techniques were involved, many did not know how to cook them and cooking them was different, the sausages with the whole chunks of meat could not be fried or grilled, that would simply make them tough and difficult to eat. Do you know even today, how to cook a Chorizo? I didnt think so. And as much as the quite often dispised food inspectors may have thought they were saving us from nastiness, its just not true. They succeeded in destroying the few great makers that were actually doing authentic and genuine product. Now a butcher is so dam confused they do not even make their own beef or pork sausages, those along with the thirty or so varieties it is de rigeur to have on sale, are all purchased in, at who knows what standard.

Beef is amongst the most confusing of all right now. I recently went to Sydney where I was able to spend some time with some absolutely dedicated butchers who sold meats that were impeccable, dry aged and lovingly cared for, grass fed etc. It was a revelation. Yes its true that many could not afford this kind of product because it is not cheap, but dam it, it is good. What I find bewildering is the array of beef slaughtered for the table, top end stuff, providing that hamburger joints dont waste it. Black Angus, Belted Galloway, Chianina and on and on. Do you actually know any of them? I would doubt it. But I ask you, how many of you have even asked a single question of your butcher… is it grass fed? what is the breed? has this been aged? can I get you to dry age some beef for me? why is the fat so white and the meat so pink? I thought so! The peak bodies of these organisations have won. Do you know that a commercial food magazine that is sent to every chef in this country, had its editor go to a beef feed lot and write an article eulogising the wonders and benefits of these vile places.

‘The fecal matter is down the back being allowed to bubble away to kill off nasty bacteria.” Oh MY Goodness… how stupid can he be, the bloody stuff is a festering pool of horrendous pooh that is belching nasty gasses into the air. What could he have been thinking. He went on to say that the cattle which enter the feed lot at 300 kilo (a bit above a calf) have been happily gambolling away and munching grass for the first few months of their life and… upon entering the feed lot, are then fed a diet of grains until they reach ‘killing’ age of 600 kilo. Pooh by the way, is cleaned up at least once a week. We manage to feel nauseated by the prospect of Hitler gassing the Jews, why would we be happy to eat the meat of animals that have clearly suffered. We also howl in protest at the way animals are treated in Indonesia abotoirs.

Farmers markets and indeed farms seem to be taking a run at the whole question of beef quality at the moment and there is in essence nothing wrong with that, I have long loved to be able to buy direct from the producer and there can be nothing better than being able to have a one to one conversation with a grower and to ask the questions you may want to get answered.  That said I also want to see that Mr & Mrs Joe Public who will never ever ever go to a farmers market or to farm gate, but stick relentlessly to the local chain store, is also treated fairly and is given access at least to the best that is available. The choice of whether to part with their hard earned dollars to buy it, is their decision. This does not mean that a chain can slap an organic sticker on the products, even if they are organic, and sit back thinking that the work is done, it just isn’t. It is beholden upon the buyers and managers of the chains to ensure that this product is genuine, that what ever the history of the animals slaughtered is, that their products represent the absolute best available in price, taste and hopefully humane practices. Education of the public has been left in the hands of self seeking peak bodies who have been incredibly successful in pursuading the public to think and act the way that is best suited to their members ambitions and methods.

We will not get general changes in the beef situation until we all rise up, demand more and better standards and refuse to eat the nasty meat they now peddle to us. It is in the end, up to us.

Lamb is not lamb for nine months of the year, it is hogget or two tooth, but not lamb. The chain stores and perhaps even the peak bodies of the meat industry have convinced us that a cut that weighs a certain amount is lamb simply because of size. It isn’t, these poor benighted animals are dieted down to a weight that is reckoned to be a lamb size, slaughtered and sold as lamb. It may even be argued that the term sheep has now been subsumed as lamb and the name is generic. Dont accept this either, this is not right, sheep dieting feed lots is not a fine and noble thing and neither is a deception. I was a great lover of the standard every day lamb chop, it was always full of flavour and delicious. Now they are tough, tasteless and in our house, often left uneaten where as in the past there would have been many battles to be able to eat the tasty tails that yes indeed, did have some fat, but more, had a lot of meat too. We must not relent when it comes to quality and honesty in marketing. Open and honest, not using spin doctors to make the unbelievable, believable.

I am sure that my rantings on Pork are by this stage, well known, but nothing has changed and nothing will change until we make it. I urge you to push and push to get the sort of foods you desire and deserve.

Since I have devoted a bit of time to beef, I am going to put a couple of recipes down that I urge you to try. They are based on my own unseemly desire to experience again that simple bistro favourite of a great grilled steak, sitting high and proud on a fried crouton and napped with a delicious Bernaise sauce, excellent chips on the side and for a bit of added extravagance, some fried onion and maybe a fried mushroom or two.

Steak… my own personal preference is a dam fine thick thick piece of rump, but for those of you who have some issues dealing with a steak this large, then perhaps select an export fillet and for those who are going to be extravagant, no matter what, the butt end of an eye fillet is delicious.

Prepare your steak by placing it into a bowl, a splash of good olive oil and a grinding of salt and pepper all well rubbed in and massaged. There are those who will tell you that salt will allow the meat to sweat as it cooks, if the heat is high enough, this will not happen. I like to let the meat stand for a ciouple of hours on the bench, I never like to cook cold or chilled meats.

The cooking utensil should be a heavy based pan and one for preference that you can place in to a dam hot even. It is preferable for the pan not to have sides that are too high, 2 – 3 cm is maximum. I also am not that fond of the pans with the grill lines, it does not taste as good. Place this pan onto the heat until it is very hot, remove the steak from the oil and place in the pan and step back… let it cook well on the one side and when a nice brown colour, flip it over and the same to that side. This should take 3 minutes per side (approx).

Have your oven preheated to as hot as it will go, my oven takes about 20 minutes to reach that point so remember to do this before you start to cook. Take the pan and put into the hot oven, for rare, maybe 2 – 3 minutes, for medium 3 – 5 minutes, for well done 5 – 7 minutes. Take the steak out of the oven and remove from the hot pan onto a cool plate, cover with sopme foil and allow to rest for 7 – 10 minutes if possible.

I love a croution, these are most well suited to round steaks such as export fillet or eye fillet, but serloin can also sit on a crouton. Rump is just too big. It is good if the crouton is about the size of the steak and has been lightly oiled and fried to a crispness. Place this in the middle of the plate.

Make this in advance and keep it warm, but not over direct heat, it will split.

Basic Béarnaise Sauce

for 250 mil of sauce

175 gr (5 1/2oz) unsalted butter

45 mil (1 3/4oz) white wine vinegar

45 mil(1 3/4oz)  dry white wine

10 peppercorns, crushed

3 shallots finely chopped

1 tblspn tarragon

3 egg yolks

salt and pepper

1 tspn chopped parsley

Melt the butter and allow to cool.

Boil the vinegar, wine, peppercorns, shallots and tarragon until reduced to one tablespoon, add 1 tblspn of water to cool the mixture, add the egg yolks whisking and proceed as for hollandaise.

Blender béarnaise is simple, follow steps, melt and cool the butter, boil the vinegar, wine, peppercorns, shallots and tarragon until reduced to one tspn.. Strain the liquid into the processor, add the egg yolks and process for 20 seconds, with the machine running add the melted butter in a steady stream until the sauce emulsifies.

Warm the plate for serving, place crouton on the plate and top with the steak, take a good spoonful of the Bernaise Sauce and nap the steak with it.

Chips or Pomme Frittes… up to you. I now see that some ‘experts’ clearly with very little to do with their time are cooking the chips three and four times, the first cook is in fact steaming. I think a chip, steamed first and then dried and fried in a good oil (peanut is good) until golden and crunchy is sufficient. To be very French Bistro, serve with a green salad and a dam fine glass of red wine.




~ by peterwatson on June 2, 2011.

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