Butchers People, Butchers!
“The term venison once meant all hunted animals, but now refers mainly to deer and antelope.” Harold McGee
I am a Whole Foods lazy shopper. I hate to admit that, I hate that it’s true, so I am in the process of changing that. I have already changed my shopping to try to get as many ingredients as possible from farmer’s markets. Obviously, that means that I am pretty well covered on local veggies, fruits, goat products and eggs, but meat remained a bit of a mystery. I got online and looked up all the local butchers in a radius that I could bike to easily, in other words no more than 5 miles away, and the first butcher I went to was Jeffery Ruhalter, of Jeffery’s Meat Market in the Essex Street Market on the lower east side. He is pretty famous, there was a blurb about him in the June/July issue of Saveur and if you type his name into www.Youtube.com several video clips of him come up from T.V interviews, to clips of him butchering a whole pig, to teaching people how to save money on meat. I am going to try to not repeat what everyone else already is saying but let me say this: the gentleman is a small miracle, a gem of delightfulness, and a shining beacon of meat knowledge. He is a fourth generation butcher and takes his product very seriously. He essentially carries anything that walks, flies, crawls or can otherwise be cooked and eaten. Venison? He has it. Elk? You betcha. I found him extremely helpful as well as personable, his pride and love for what he does is extremely evident. I nearly shed tears when he ground a leg of lamb up in front of me for a recipe that is coming soon. I was able to buy an organic hormone free local chicken for $2.99 a pound and a local Long Island duck for the same price. Honestly, it was a surprise how much less money I spent at Jeffery’s (as in several dollars a pound) than I usually do at the grocery store. And the palpable taste difference was stunning. My advice: hug a butcher. Hug as many as you can find.
Thai Inspired Crispy Duck Salad
2 large duck breasts
2 tablespoons 5 spice powder
I got the cooking method of the duck from Jamie Oliver’s website: www.JaimeOliver.com.
½ head (about 4 cups) chopped Romaine lettuce
4 scallions, chopped on the diagonal
¾ cup cilantro/coriander leaves roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, julienned
1 large ripe mango
1/3 cup sesame oil
2 tablespoons Rice vinegar
½ cup roasted cashews roughly chopped
1 red jalapeño
Put the roughly chopped romaine lettuce, cilantro, scallions and julienned carrots in a bowl. Peel and cube the mango and add to the veggies. Add roasted cashews. Clean (remove all seeds and pith) and thinly slice the jalapeño pepper and place in separate bowl. Juice your limes over the jalapeño peppers. Add your rice vinegar, whisk ingredients together, while continuing to whisk, slowly add your oil, so it blends well.
Rub the duck breasts with the 5-spice powder. Place skin side down in a medium/hot frying pan and cook for 4 minutes as the fat begins to render and the skin turns a nice shade of golden brown, turn the breasts over for another 3 minutes. Remove from pan. Slice the breasts; they will be rare to raw in the middle. Now, discard most of the fat from the pan, leaving yourself a tablespoon or so. Place the pan back on the heat and add back in your sliced duck. Cook until a beautiful dark brown, turning the slices like bacon. Be careful not to burn them. Remove duck from pan and add to your salad. Whisk your dressing if it has started to separate, and pour over salad. Simply delicious.