Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Whole Cow

My inspiration for whole animals began while I was working at Revel and learned to butcher them for "The Shack" during summer months. It opened a new world of ideas for utilizing the whole animal and seeing the array of benefits to a small business and our clientele. This inspiration spread through the culinary crew, our guests, and it immediately fostered a desire to continue this tradition into my own practice someday so that I could share it with those around me.

It seems obvious, but whenever possible local is best, and our beef is no exception.  We are working with Jerry Foster, a third generation family farm that is running a 600 head operation in Curtis, Washington.  His grass fed and finished beef are pastured on the fertile ground of the Chehalis River drainage.  The grass has an extended growing season, as well as the ability to grow haylage* to be fed in the winter months.

*Haylage is a grass crop which is cut, harvested, and stored for feeding animals. It is made from the same crops as normal hay, but with higher moisture content.  With proper equipment and storage techniques, this method increases food value and decreases losses for the crop.

Sourcing local beef is more financially sustainable for all parties.  The farmer receives a fair market value without a middleman and in doing so, the restaurant receives a better price, and ultimately we pass along those savings to our guests.  Not to mention shorter travel for delivery, keeping money in the area we live, and training our chefs so they can continue this tradition.

In addition, we have teamed up with Heritage Meats, an amazing local butchering company, that is supplying us a quarter of the cow at a time and dry aging the remainder in between deliveries.  This allows me to cut the meat exactly how I want it and sometimes that can be unconventional.  You can expect to see cuts that you wouldn't likely find in the average butcher shop.

Benefits to dry aging are remarkable and change the beef in two main ways.  First, moisture is evaporated from the muscle and creates a greater concentration of beef flavor and taste.  Secondly, the beef's natural enzymes break down the connective tissue in the muscle, which leads to more tender beef.

Having this flexibility allows the cuts and preparation to be highlighted and is an important part of why I am using the whole cow.

USDA Cuts
The first thing we usually receive is the drop loin, sirloin, and flank, which comes in one piece. This part of the cow has some of the most tender and succulent pieces of meat. The main ones that I use are the tenderloin, strip loin, tri-tip, culotte, bavette (inside flap), flank, top sirloin, hanger (only one per cow), and the skirt. The newest I am using is the spider steaks, located in the hip socket of the sirloin with only two per cow.  Most of the cuts from these parts are best served rare to medium-rare because the fat that is located in this part of the cow melts at low temperatures, which if over cooked, tend to dry out more easily.

A new technique we have been using is taking the kidney fat (aka suet) and grinding it down before rendering.  Once it is melted, we keep a portion of it warm during service to rest the steaks in helping seal in juices and add flavor.  Only some steaks benefit from this as the ones with a wet cure or slow cooking don't benefit from this practice.

From the whole chuck and brisket we get a lot of different muscle structures which means we have to tenderize, brine, dry rub, slow cook, BBQ, or different combinations of these. We also have this part of the cow dry aged for at least 21 days before we receive it, which also helps with the tenderizing process we use. There is a lot of trim and extra fat, which is ground for "Family Meal" burgers on Sunday night.

From the rib and rib plate we get a few different types of meat.  We get more of the skirt steak from the interior which we marinate in a wet cure that has Asian pears, garlic, ginger, onion, mirin, sake, salty water, and kasu (the residual paste from the making of sake).  We also get the short rib which we can do a couple of different ways.  We can either use a wet cure with a boneless version and serve it medium rare or we can cross cut it bone on with a dry rub and slow cook or BBQ it.  My wish list has a band saw on it for more efficient cutting practices.  Then there is the rib roast which I like to dry rub, smoke, and serve as rare to medium-rare slices.

The last part of the cow we receive is the round and hind shanks.  By the time we receive this part of the cow, it has been dry aged for at least 28-32 days. This part of the cow is the most load-bearing and as a result is among some of the toughest cuts so we tenderize and brine it to ensure amazing flavor and texture.  Another benefit are the marrow bones and in this portion are among the largest allowing us to make some amazing butter and serve it with the round.  I really hope that everyone gets as excited as I do when the round is available because of all the added flavor.

We are just at the beginning of our new beef program at B&H and it's already taking shape. I am thrilled to see where we can take it and look forward to having you come down to try this amazing product.

Thank you for your continued support!

Chef Mike

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