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That time of year


Well, it's that time of year. People are putting together their year end lists. This year has been the hardest for me. I've made and amended my top ten list several times throughout the year, thinking that would help me not get caught off guard and write one that I'm not pleased with (like last year for example). I could have easily made a top 25 or top 50, but the best part of a top ten is making tough decisions.

1. Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger (Warp)
2. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! - S/T (self-released)
3. Constantines - Tournament of Hearts (Sub Pop)
4. Decemberists - Picaresque (Kill Rock Stars)
5. Fruit Bats - Spelled in Bones (Sub Pop)
6. Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary (Sub Pop)
7. John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt (Barsuk)
8 Common - Be (Geffen)
9 Caribou - The Milk of Human Kindness (Domino)
10. The Hold Steady - Seperation Sunday (French Kiss)

1. Colin Meloy - Sings Morrissey (Self Released)
2. Silversun Pickups - Pikul (Dangerbird)
3. Bell Orchastre - Recording a Tape the Colour of the Light (Rough Trade)
4. Iron and Wine/Calexico - In the Reins (Overcoat Recordings)
5. Pit er Pat - 3D Message (Thrill Jockey)

Deer hunting helps the troops, supposedly.


Meatnews reports that a Michigan area meat processor donated over 500 pounds of deer meat to be shipped overseas to the troops.

Get out your flags, and get up on your crosses, because I think this is fucking retarded. A little deer jerky is going to lift their spirits? The article says that troops have asked for jerky (most likely because it will keep and they can take it on convoys), but I have a hard time thinking that this needs to be done considering the money being spent. Surely between Rumsfield, the Bushs or the Chaneys (or anyone else in the GOP for that matter) someone owns stock in a company with jerky holdings.

Ultimately, what's ignored is that there are excellent programs all over the country, such as Share the Harvest here in Missouri where hunters can donate part or all of their bag to homeless or needy families who don't receive enough protein in their diet.

Let's see, who could use the meat more, a soldier getting 3 squares a day, or a family of 6 on food stamps and welfare and WIC?

Pumped pork finds its way into meat cases

Last week I wrote a counter point to Ms. Black's article in Smart Money about the meat industry. In it I wrote that outside of pre-packaged meat, saline addition didn't occurr. To my horror today, as I checked in a shipment of pork, I saw that the warehouse shipped "Always Tender" sides to me. Always Tender is Hormel's brand name for their line of pumped pork. Before now, I had never come across this in anything other than case-ready product. A quick call to the warehouse verified that this was a substituition, and not a permenant replacment.

This is discouraging to say the least. It means that a meatman without a sharp eye could accidentally (or unscruppulously intend to do so) sell pumped pork as fresh, non-water added pork and the consumer wouldn't know until they cooked it. However, it seems like most wholesellers distribute both the Hormel AT and non AT pork, and the same with Farmland, et. al., so you should request that your butcher start carrying only non-pumped pork. As far as I can tell, all non-case ready beef is still prevented from being pumped, but I will keep my eye out.

More good news for US Beef

Japan has opened their borders once more to North American Beef imports, to the relief of both the US and Canadian beef industries.

What are the effects for US consumers? You should see a dramatic increase in price of USDA Prime and Choice beef loins and ribs, but the bottom will fall out on the Chuck and Round items, as well as USDA Select primals.
Filed under:

In need of sourcing help!

I desperately need your help! I need to find a source for some bone frills, those little paper hats that you place over exposed bones in Crown Roasts, racks, and standing rib roasts. None of my suppliers have any idea what I'm talking about let alone any idea who else might have them. A google search so far has turned up nada.

Thanks for everyone's tips. A bit more digging has turned up that Murcott might supply them in boxes of 250 or more. Their website seems to be down right now, but I'm awaiting an email from their customer service.

Flat Iron Steak, hype or heart?

The Flat Iron steak. You see and hear about it in TGI Friday and Chili's commercials. You've seen it on some 1 and 2 star restaurant menus lately. What is it? Why haven't we heard about it before now? Is it a worthwhile cut of meat? I'm going to answer all of these questions.

What it is: The Flat Iron steak is a relatively new cut of steak. It is rather untraditional, as it takes a defter touch while cutting, cooking, and serving. Also, because of the anatomy , there are only 2 to 4 flat iron steaks per head of cattle, so butchers didn't traditionally place these cuts in the meat case, as there wouldn't be enough to display.

More specifically, the Flat Iron is from the Top Blade, which is off the shoulder of the animal. Here is a boneless shoulder, the top blade is the part that has been removed and is next to it.

Click Here to see Full Size

Normally this muscle is cross-cut into top blade steaks. However, these steaks are tough and full of connective tissues (gristle). Instead, Flat Irons are cut from the two layers of the top blade and have all of that connective tissue removed. When sliced thin, on the bias, incredible marbling is apparent.

Why haven't we heard about this cut until now?: Well, as previously mentioned, this is an non-traditional cut. But, in 2002, the National Cattleman's Assc. used the Checkoff Program, (a very cool program itself) to commission a muscle profiling study. In this study between NCBA’s Center for Research and Technical Services in partnership with the University of Florida and the University of Nebraska where every major muscle of the animal was analyzed separately for flavor and tenderness. The reason behind commissioning this study was to find better, more efficient cuts from the Chuck and the Round for both retail and food service uses. The results were pretty surprising. One of the most surprising things the study found was that the Flat Iron is in fact, the second most tender cut of meat from the steer, after the tenderloin. This cut then became the center star in a new promotional push by the NCA entitled "Value Cuts".

Is it a worthwhile cut of meat? The Flat Iron is, in this butcher's mind, one of the most versatile pieces of beef. It takes to a marinade like no other, it's tender beyond belief, and you can cook it with much success in many methods. Plus, it's cheap. Since it is from the shoulder, it can be found for as little as $3/lb here in the Midwest, and probably not much more than that elsewhere. You can grill it, use if for stirfry meat, use it for fajitas, braise it, fanfry it. Really, it is a great little cut that hopefully you will want to go out and try. If your butcher doesn't carry it, ask them to do some for you. IF they dont know how, refer them to the NCA's site, beef.org, or explain to them what I just showed. It will be worth your time.

Shown after removing the outside connective tissues and the fat layer.

Nose blocked off

Using a meat hook to help remove the internal connective tissue.

Look at all that amazing marbling!
Filed under:

World Cup draw...

I was going to post a lengthy discussion of the 2006 Fifa World Cup draw. I'll just say that the USA got placed into the hardest group in the tournet including Ghana (the strongest African team represnted) Italy, and The Chezch Rep., and despite this the journos are saying that group C is the "Group of Death" including both the Arggies, the Dutch, but Cote de Ivoire and Serbia and Montenegro make up the last two teams, and are laughably weak compared to Ghana and the USA. I just can't figure out how a team who had to be put into a special pot and a weak African team can both be in a group and it still be labeled a Group of Death.
Instead of going further into this, I'll let some of the usuals weigh in:

Top Round; for budget friendly roast beef

Today's intended post has thrown me for a loop. I left for work this morning, in the bitter cold only to find my car's battery nearly dead and unable to start. So, we'll have to modify our plans, as I'm not making it to work today. On the upside I can watch more Champion's League action this afternoon. The line on the ManU/Benefica game is 1.6/3.3/4.5 and I'm really tempted to take both the draw and the Benefica win, for the combined odds (my bookie doesn't take "Draw, No Win" bets). Too bad 'Pool didn't pull away yesterday as I took a flier on their 6/1 odds vs Chelsea. I'm not excited by any of the odds on tonights NCAA action, but I'm tempted to parlay a couple moneyline bets, but I'm going to refrain.

Enough about gambling. This week I have Top Round beef on sale, which never sells well, so I thought I would take time to talk about this cut for a minute. Also known in the industry as inside round, it is, as the name implies, from the topside of the round, above the femur bone from your bottom round/rump. Typically, most consumers only see this in the deli case, as it's the cut of choice for shaved roast beef. Regardless, this cut really demands some respect from cooks, esp. those of you, like me, on a budget.

The piece you really should be looking for is from the back half of the sub primal. There are no connective tissues here, assuming the butcher has removed the cap, which is ideal for high-temp roasting. Also, the grain runs in one clear direction, which adds to tenderness and ease of slicing. The cut has a respectable amount of marbling, but does suffer a bit from the round plague of not having a ton of natural flavor. However, it takes to flavors very well, and strong marinades and rubs will not take anything away from your roasts. Cook at high temp until medium rare at the most, and carve thin slices. Serve with a horseradish sauce or other, and use leftovers for French dips, warm roast beef sandwiches, etc. Very tasty, very easy on the wallet.

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Setting it straight

Kate at Accidental Hedonist linked to a piece in Smart Money regarding "the truth" about meat cutting in America. Unfortunatly, this reads just like another scare story, and seems to be very poorly researched. Kate asked for a point/counterpoint, so head on over to her blog for my response.

Goat Slaughtering Part 2: Butchering

Sorry for the long break, as you can imagine, with the holiday season upon us, it's hard for me to find free time to post.

Anyway, so we have slaughtered the goat, known in French as Chevron and Spanish as Cabrito. First I aged it by hanging the carcass in my walk-in cooler for 6 days at ~30 degrees F. Once dry and aged, we begin the butchering.

The removal of the legs has been done, and I split the carcass into sides by sawing with a bandsaw down the length of the spine. And this is what we're left with:

click on picture to full size

The first thing I do with a side is to remove the tenderloins from the underside of the spine. You could leave them on if you want loin chops, but I prefer to cook them seperately, esp. for a smaller ruminant like goats and lambs.

click on picture to full size

Then we section it. I cut down the length of the side, breaking the ribs into half. The top will be our rack and loin, the bottom will be our spare ribs, and the chuck end will be our short ribs, or stew meat, more likely. Then we separate the top loin from the rack right between the last two ribs. The piece left over is the shoulder clod, to be used for braising or stew meat.

click on picture to full size

Now the primals are ready to be divided however you please. I boned and butterflied on leg to stuff, and kept one whole. I kept the fore shanks for braising, one shoulder clod for braising, and cubed the rest of the chuck for stew meat, which I will utilize for a Jamaican Curried Goat recipe. I kept both slabs of spare ribs whole and I will probably BBQ those. I left both top loins whole for roasting, as the chops would have been too small to cook properly, and I Frenched and kept whole the two racks for a very beautiful roast. Unfortunately, it was at this point that my camera stopped working.