Cows and Chicks: Grrls Beef Camp

“Hang on: I’m gonna come over and feel your rump.”

So spake Master Butcher Kari Underly at last Monday’s Grrls Beef Camp (she meant a rump roast, I might add), a one-day, hands-on educational event for women in the meat business in and around the NYC metro area. I am neither (a) in the meat business nor (b) in the NYC metro area, but I am a woman with a keen interest in meat-cutting and willing to travel, so I was allowed to take part (thank you New York Beef Industry Council, Northeast Loves Beef, and the South Dakota Beef Industry Council for letting me crash this meaty party!).

Now *that's* a knife!

Our group of twelve grrls gathered on Monday morning in the kitchen at Astor Place, a little caffeine deprived, perhaps, but full of beefy gusto. Among my cohorts for the day were chefs, culinary students, meat cutters…in essence, eleven women who had more right than I did to be there, but who were fantastically supportive despite my gooberish-ness and a heck of a lot of fun. We learned a bit about raising beef cattle, the nutritional profile of various cuts, and gathered some cool recipes for America’s favorite protein. We heard funny/not-funny stories of the sexism rampant in the meat world (Seriously, people: it’s 2013. Women can butcher. Get over it, or at least keep your chauvinistic traps shut.) But mostly: we cut meat.

Check out all this cool swag! Including Kari's James Beard-nominated book!

And did I mention we also got hats and aprons? Thank you Susie Strassburger!

Kari led us through cutting the large sub-primals, specifically top sirloin and ribeye, into serving size portions, and introduced us to creative cutting options. Sure, a mess of Flinstone-style ribeye steaks is great (better than great, the husband would contend), but isn’t it also cool to think that that same sub-primal could produce petite ribeye filets, unctuous ribeye cap kebabs, and succulent ribeye sandwich steaks? With deft hands, mad knife skills, and a quick wit, Kari made us all feel like meat rock stars. Under her warm and confident tutelage, the hours flew by, and I watched in awe as we all fabricated fancy-dinner-worthy portions from the huge mounds of beef before us.

This massive hunk of top sirloin...

...yielded these beautiful sirloin fillets (plus lots more).

Kari's ribeye fabrication.

My (ahem) slightly more ghetto ribeye fabrication.

It was the kind of experience that makes me want to think BIG about my life. It was the type of experience that makes me realize I need to get a freaking PLAN and I need to get cracking on it NOW.

Grrls at the grill creating beefy deliciousness.

Big thanks and meaty hugs to Kari Underly for being such a bad-ass woman in the male-dominated world of butchery; to Jean O’Toole, Christie Brown, and Valerie Van Dyke for organizing and presenting us with much food for thought; to Cindy Chan Phillips for her nutritional insights; to Chef Melissa Doney Sheridan for her leadership in the kitchen; and especially to the other GRRLS, who enriched me with their experiences and gave me some fantastic role models in this world of butchery! I can’t wait to do it again!

I made full use of my thirty-six hours in New York. In addition to the butchery extravaganza, I stayed at the super-hip Ace Hotel The room was appointed so thoughtfully and with such great humor—instant ramen in the snack box—it will likely become my home base on future overnight trips. Truly, though, on the bell curve of hotel guest hipness, I was totally in the bottom quintile, if you know what I mean. Nonetheless, while there, I ate a much anticipated dinner at The Breslin, where I consumed a scotch egg that will forever haunt my dreams. Chef April Bloomfield is a devious genius. I also scored some cool bitters and salt at The Meadow, snagged some disturbingly cheap cashmere sweaters at Joe Fresh, and watched Casablanca on the side of a building in the Flatiron district.

No question about the size of my room at The Ace; April Bloomfield's Scotch Egg; Ilsa & Rick.

Through it all, this tune ran through my head. I love New York always, but autumn is particularly special.

Soup, meet Sartre

NOTE: More drivel from the archives. This one was inspired by a rather plain-Jane batch of tomato soup I made with end-of-the-season tomatoes. Recipe, in all its completely unremarkable glory, at the end.

“As far as soups go, it is not what they are that interests me, but what they can become.” – Jean-Paul Sartre (Not really. Well, kind of.)

Physically tomato soup, metaphysically in crisis.

What am I?

How’s that for an existential dilemma, eh? I mean, who would expect a simple jar to question its place in the universe?

I am a jar of pretty decent tomato soup. Truth to tell, though, I’m kind of plain. Like that LBD you have in your closet.

What can I be?

Aha: this is where the fun lies. Because when you apply your imagination to me, I have the feeling I’m gonna be great.

Dress me up with a little cream and some slivered basil, and I’m Sophia Loren.

Hit me with some chopped spinach, a little crumbled feta, and a black olive or two and I’m Jennifer Aniston (hey: she’s Greek!).

Let me canoodle with some red chile paste and little coconut milk, maybe some cilantro, and I’m Padma Lakshi.

Or, make me cozy with some pureed guajillo or chipotle and I’m Selma Hayek.

A little creativity and I’ll become the best tomato soup you ever made!

Tomato Soup

  • Olive oil & a knob of butter
  • A large onion, chopped
  • Several cloves of garlic, minced
  • A big pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 4-5 cups tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded, and chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 cup of white wine or vermouth, entirely optional but delicious
  • 2-3 cups or so of chicken stock
  • Black pepper, red pepper, herbs, or anything else you fancy.
  • Perhaps a teaspoon or so of sugar

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil and butter in a soup pot until well-cooked (translucent is fine, but I like it a little brown). Add the salt early on to help soften everything.  Plop in the tomatoes; sauté for a few minutes and add the wine or vermouth. Give that a couple of minutes or so to reduce a bit then add the stock. Start with 2 cups for now. Let this all bubble away quietly for about 10 minutes then whiz it all with a hand blender until it is pureed (alternately, use the real blender or the food processor…just make sure to leave a way for steam to escape while you are pureeing). Too thick? Add more stock. Taste. Too tart? Add the sugar. Then, add whatever seasonings will make it delicious.

Walking, and How I Eat Cake

NOTE: I recently discovered a file of old essays, many of which I forgot I wrote. Inspired by Kate Lowther’s recent post on (appropriately) inspiration, I’ve decided to revisit a few of them here, in the hopes that they will inspire me to write some more. This one, from about five years ago, grew out of my inability to dance the Argentine tango.

Gorgeous tango shoes, alas, never worn for dancing.

I have walked for well over forty years. I don’t mean to equate myself with Moses or any of the faithful who wandered through the desert seeking honey and milk, but in my forty-some-odd years I pride myself in having developed a certain finesse in self-ambulation. I have spent peripatetic days in major world capitals. I have clomped down (and clambered back up) hundreds of flights of stairs to view subterranean sewer pipes. I even regularly stride on the moving walkways at airports, reasoning that such a modern convenience is better suited to getting me more quickly from point A to point B than to offering me a thirty-second en route respite.

Twelve-step programs, yoga teachers, and therapists counsel us to “walk through” our grief or pain in order to have a happier or more fulfilling life; running coaches advise marthoners to walk through the water stops to ensure that the water ends up in the runner’s gullet and not up his nose. Even St. Jerome counseled Solvitur ambulando, which sounds a little like a spell Hermione Granger may have incanted, but is actually Latin for “To solve a problem, take a walk.”

Apparently all these folks figured out long before I did that walking is more than just forward motion, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, point-A-to-point-B business.

My cruel introduction to my inadequacies as a walker came in Argentine tango class. Dancing is just walking to music, others in my class would tell me as I took tentative and clumsy steps across the floor.  

Devour the floor, they said. Do not ask the floor to accept you.

But, this is not possible for me; I am always, in one way or another, asking someone or something for acceptance. My movement lacks confidence: I am a knee locker, a heel rocker, and a random talker (and if I were Pat Benetar, I would sing, “Don’t mess around with me”)

I have looked with longing at other dancers doing twirly things with their bodies and legs. I have seethed with envy at their sinuous travels around the dance floor

Those things don’t matter, my teacher says. They are just embellishments. Merely icing. Only walking matters. Walking is the cake.

He doesn’t understand that I love icing. In fact, I regularly eschew cake in favor of its embellishments. When presented with a birthday or wedding slice, I excavate between the layers of cake to surgically exact the ribbon of buttercream or ganache therein. I sweep the artfully piped borders with my fork and I call dibs on the corner roses. I consider presenting this information to him but check the impulse. I’m pretty sure he won’t be impressed.

Screw the cake. This is what I want.

New Playlists!

Lo and behold: I taught a couple of spin classes this weekend, and verily did I create new playlists. It’s been too damn long! I was humbled by the challenge of crafting a good riding mix: this thing which previously came to me so naturally.

Nonetheless, we rode hard and we rode with gusto, valuing each drop of sweat as a well-earned badge of bad-assedness.

For the first class, I began with the delightful Avicii/Aloe Blacc collaboration “Wake Me Up” (get the remix below) and ended with Phosphorescent’s “Song for Zula” off the splendidly transcendent Muchacho. I was late to discover this album, but I have made up for my tardiness in sheer obsession. It’s been on constant repeat on my iPod, in the car, in the house…everywhere. I did not think it was possible to wring even more emotion out of June Carter Cash’s lyrics (“Some say love is a burning thing/and it makes a fiery ring”) than the Man in Black, but  Matthew Houck and his band bring 21st century pathos with the follow-up sentiments (“Then I saw love disfigure me/into something I am not recognizing.”)

Class two brought forth some vintage Kanye (liked him much better before the Kardashian connection, thankyouverymuch), a zippy remix of the Lorde track that is enjoying some zeitgeist, my beloved Bowie/Queen collaboration, and Sleeping at Last’s gorgeous cover of the Proclaimers’ iconic “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”.

Full playlists and links follow!

Saturday:

Sunday:

Get some music:

Happy riding!

One Damn Thing After Another

Life is just one damn thing after another.

This was the sentiment on the birthday card I gave my wonderful husband last week. The quote is attributed to Elbert Hubbard, an American writer, publisher, artist, businessman, anarchist, and libertarian socialist philosopher. I’ve got to hand it to Elbert: despite (because of?) his avocational promiscuity, he had a pernicious grasp on the obvious.

Jay’s birthday always reminds me that summer will soon end, and, yep, I didn’t make the most of this one. Again.

Still, his birthday also gives me a good excuse to get in the kitchen and have some fun. Each year, I make the perfunctory ask: “What would you like for your birthday dinner?” And, having been married to me for a quarter of a century, he has the good sense to respond: “Why don’t you just choose what looks good at the market.” So smart, that one.

This year he made a tiny mention of fish that I latched upon. What kind of fish? Prepared in what way? Were shellfish out of the question? “You choose,” he said.

Deconstructed ratatouille, ready for the oven.

At the farmer’s market, I spied a healthy-sized tautog. Its dark grey skin glistened and its eyes shone. We kind of had a moment, so I invited him home. I also snagged a handful of Matunuck’s finest oysters, a robust snarl of basil, and some other stuff to complement last week’s CSA bounty of squash, tomatoes, onions, beets, and cucumbers.

The scene when I arrived home went something like this:

Him: What the hell is that?

Me: It’s a fish! A black fish! For your birthday dinner.

Him: Weeeeeelllll…okay.

Me: Um, yeah. I need to clean it, and I’m not really sure how. Can you show me when you’ve got a minute?

Him: You’ve got to CLEAN it? That’s gonna be a huge mess.

Me: OK. You don’t have to help. I’ll just find a YouTube video or something.

Him: Give me that fish right now. Give me some paper grocery bags. And a knife. And go away. I don’t want you hovering over my shoulder.

Me: Leave the head on, OK? Walt says the cheeks are the best part.

Him: How do you even remember that? That was 25 years ago!

So, I went away as much as I could, which was hard because I really wanted to see the procedure. He muttered several things under his breath, but I could only make out “YouTube video, my ass” and “un-f*%#-ing-believable.” Five minutes later, he was done. Lightning speed! Those Arkansas boys can clean some damn fish, let me tell you.

Pre-dinner diversions.

As I set about to prepare dinner, we received a call from one of our dearest friends, Walt—he who made the fish cheek proclamation 25 years ago—and who with his son Conor was driving through Providence on their way home to Richmond, Virginia, where they now live with their gorgeous and brilliant wife and mother, Anna Kim. They agreed to help us devour this monstrous fish.

I stuffed the fish with lemon and basil, wrapped it in more basil, and encrusted it in salt (5 pounds!). I roasted it at a high heat until the internal temperature read 135 (but actually I missed the mark, because I let it get to 150, and it was ever so slightly overcooked). When one looks at the unattractive mess I made removing the salt crust and getting the fish on a platter, one will be surprised to learn that I do have opposable thumbs. It wasn’t pretty, but by that time, we had drunk bracing martinis out of super cute tiny glasses (from Stock, of course), and had thrown down on a few oysters, so cosmetic issues seemed less important.

Fish au naturel, being encased, and full-on fish igloo.

I served the fish with a roasted tomatillo* and avocado salsa, corn and scallion fritters* with sour cream, a deconstructed ratatouille*, a big salad*, and a mess of homemade pickles—beets*, carrots*, and radishes*. We drank a zippy Grüner Veltliner, which was delicious, but I think a Sauvignon Blanc, especially the MacLeod, would have been even better.

*All stuff from the CSA box!

The boys!

After dinner, we ate chocolate sent from Switzerland by my delightful friend Cynthia and drank port and whiskey. Then Jay ate his birthday pie* (we don’t go so much for cake around here), filled with juicy blackberries from our backyard.

Birthday pie!

*Walt and Conor both eschew wheat, so Jay had the pie all to himself. This makes them even more valuable as friends. BTW: super cute pie pan, from Stock, of course.

So, life: just one damn thing after another. But sometimes those damn things are surprise visits from well-loved friends and gorgeous New England food, which means there are infinite damn reasons to be grateful.

A (Lamb) Shoulder To Cry On

I’ve been pretty low lately. The type of low in which popular songs on the radio bring me to tears*. Work is kicking my ass (and biting my ankles and just generally pantsing me). I’m trying to keep my chin up, reminding myself that (1) I am lucky to have a job, (2) I am not caught in a natural or man-made disaster, nor do I have a terminal disease, and (3) most rough patches eventually pass. If I’m being honest, though, I am very rarely comforted by (1) or (3).

(*And we’re not talking Radiohead or Elliott Smith or anything else that might justifiably produce a sniffle or two. These days, I will straight up cry at Usher. Shameful, right?)

At times like these, I need a project. Thankfully, I still had two primals left in the freezer from my Valentine’s Day lamb, so out came the shoulder quarter for a Saturday afternoon of butchery practice.

Shoulder quarter

The shoulder works hard in an animal: forward motion, bending to graze, and all that. Hard work generally means flavor, but at a price. The price is substantial amounts of connective tissue and intramuscular fat: a dynamic duo that respond best to low-n-slow cooking. The shoulder quarter also has some funkily-placed bones in it (perhaps not funkily-placed if you are a lamb), meaning that more than once I muttered (exclaimed) below (above) my breath, “Well, what the #$%@ is that?” The cats, bless ‘em, pretended not to be scandalized by my unladylike language.

Clockwise: Ryan Farr's excellent exegisis on butchery, semi-boned shoulder, boneless shoulder chop.

Once again, I turned to Ryan Farr’s “Whole Beast Butchery” for guidance. I removed the foreshank, and then separated the shoulder into two halves. The first part I rubbed with toasted cumin, coriander, fennel seed, S&P, as well as a dash of my homemade Worcestershire sauce (pats self on back for making Worcestershire sauce) and braised in a low (290F) oven with at least a thousand cloves of garlic for four hours*. The collagen melted into a delicious, sticky, saucy mess and the meat shredded with just a pointed gaze in its general direction.

Fall-apart tender lamb shoulder. 

I made some very unattractive corn tortillas, whipped up a batch of guacamole, and we feasted on delicious, if ugly, lamb tacos with quick pickled onions and a side of Rancho Gordo beans (simmered for hours with a chunk of my house-cured ham**). A bottle of Le Telquel, a Gamay and Grolleau blend from the Loire, redolent of cherries with a little barnyard funk, paired pretty damn nicely. Thank you, Campus Fine Wines!

(*This aroma will induce full-on whorish displays from hungry cats.

**Full disclosure: I let this ham over-dry, so it’s not much good for snacking on—it’s kind of jerky-ish, and not in a yummy way—but it works great for simmering in beans!)

 

Who can be blue when there are tacos?

The other half of the shoulder I made into an embarrassing amount of merguez. You should all come for dinner and help us eat it. We’ll discuss that later.

So: blue mood forgotten, albeit temporarily, but all in all, a triumph of gluttony over gloom.

What’s great shoulder-cutting music? I went for pure psychic joy: the soundtrack from the 1982 masterpiece “Valley Girl.” The Plimsoles, The Clash, Men at Work, and the adorable Josie Cotton, whose “Convertible Music” I listened to nonstop for an entire month one summer. Totally tubular.

 

Maybe This Weight Was a Gift

I taught my final spinning class at Gold’s Gym this morning. A 6 AM class, surrounded by some of the coolest, nicest, hard-workingest rooster rock stars you could ever hope to meet. I taught the first group exercise class ever at the Pawtucket, RI Gold’s—seventeen years ago (clutch the pearls!)—and one of the first cycle classes fourteen years ago. These folks have seen me through some highs (they got my class named “Best Class for a Music Lover” by Rhode Island Monthly magazine) and some lows (Jay’s cancer, my mom’s death, my dad’s lengthy rehab, my brother’s cancer). I will certainly miss them.

Perhaps nothing (healthy) has defined me as much in my adult life (other than my marriage) than being a fitness instructor. Weird, right? That I should identify with something so frivolous? I, who claim to value intellectual rigor so deeply? But, at the end of the day, I don’t think about my education, or the hours I spend tinkering in the kitchen, or the finish lines I’ve run across. I consider myself a success or a failure to a great degree by whether or not I’ve given a kick-ass class. Were my participants smiling and sweaty? Did anyone complain about the volume or choice of music? The lumination or the temperature of the room? Did they simultaneously love and hate the time we spent together? This all matters to me.

And now, this huge chapter of my life has come to an end. I would lie if I didn’t admit I grieve over this.

According to my husband, my particular Five Stages of Grief are

  1. Anger
  2. Denial
  3. The one he can’t remember
  4. Shopping
  5. Drinking

I have a new Prada skirt and several half-empty bottles of wine as evidence that I am fully exploring all these stages as my Gold’s tenure comes to a close.

My final playlist consisted of songs, some old and some new, I love and find meaningful. One that made the 65-minute list, but not the 45-minute class, is Nada Surf’s delightful “Do It Again,” from their 2005 album The Weight is a Gift. The song is full of boyish sincerity, jangly guitars, and swoon-worthy harmonies, and I’ve always been enchanted by the lyric, “When I accelerate, I remember why it’s good to be alive.” It captures, to me, the moment on the bike when the shackles of the day fall away: it’s just me, the bike, the music, the breath, the sweat, the magic. As I put this playlist together, however, I was drawn to the line, “Maybe this weight was a gift.” I started to think about the weight we all bear as human beings and how our responsibilities to one another—our encumbrances with one another—bring us our greatest gifts—our most wonderful, horrible, soul-crushing and life-affirming gifts. To paraphrase Coach Eric Taylor, having other people depend on us isn’t a burden, it’s a blessing.

So, to my Gold’s Gym riders: It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to ride with you, even though the early hour sometimes clouded my view of it. Thank you for all the gifts.  

Here’s the playlist:

And the song that made me think:

Sheep Thrills

I’ve been mired of late in a particularly trenchant existential crisis. Of course the EC in and of itself is nothing new to me; I spend approximately eighteen hours of every day drifting in and out of some form of one, but for any number of really sound reasons (end of winter, family health issues, aging, increasing impotence at my day job, mounting frustration at my fitness gig, lack of adequate running and yoga, inability to tell a freaking German Riesling from an Alsatian one, yadda, blah, et cetera) this EC has transformed from a quotidian crisis to a veritable miasma. Amorphous. Nebulous. Globby.

It tempts me to plop on the sofa, clutch the remote like a desperate clutching thing, and give myself over to the entropy of my expanding butt.

I know, however, that the only way to combat the second law of thermodynamics is with a good mental ass-kicking. Schlumping on the sofa never really makes me feel better, only productive activity will do that (one of the chief frustrations I have with my 9-to-5 gig is the lack of product: I organize, I coordinate, I attend, but I don’t really make anything). So, I knew it was time to take on a project:  to look for some thrills.

Are you fat-phobic? Then look away. Quickly. Direct that browser to iloveseitan.com, tempehrules.org, or absenceofflavor.net. Trust me: it will be better for all of us.

Did they leave? Good: now it’s just us lard-lovers. Praise the lard!

As you may recall, I still had a freezer full of lamb parts, and with the dual influences of ennui and Easter, I felt compelled to tackle another of those primals.

This time, I moved down (up?) the animal from the rib section, that produced the amazing lambchetta, to the loin section. This is the part of the lamb that gives us those cute mini T-bone chops, and just like on a cow, the larger bit of the T-bone is the loin and the smaller bit is the tenderloin. The section also includes the flank (which I think will be awesome for some lamb fajitas or gyros) and a mess of glorious fat that previously served the important function of protecting that little lamb’s kidneys.

The loin section, with glorious fat cap and flank attached.

The loin section, with glorious fat cap and flank attached.

 

The underside of the loin, with even more gorgeous fat.

The underside of the loin, with even more gorgeous fat.

I separated the section into all these gorgeous parts. Because I’m still not great at this butchery stuff, I ended up with a decent amount of scraps, which will make fabulous (and expensive) sausage. The fat I’ll render and use to confit something (because what won’t taste amazing slow-cooked in lamb fat, right?) and the bones I’ll use for stock.

Butchery done! L to R: fat, bones, scraps for sausage, flank, loin roast, tenderloin.

Butchery done! L to R: fat, bones, scraps for sausage, flank, loin roast, tenderloin.

For Easter, we enjoyed the loin roast, marinated in some lovely Tempranillo and aromatics, seared and roasted, and served with a piquillo pepper pesto (piquillos, garlic, pinenuts, olive oil, S&P). I made an onion panade—essentially a solid form of French onion soup (full props to Michael Ruhlman’s Twenty), and some sautéed asparagus. We had a Tempranillo battle (a Rioja from Spain vs. a wine from the Alentejo in Portugal), but both wines performed well against the food, so we called it a delicious draw.

Our loin roast, resting.

Our loin roast, resting.

 

And sliced.

And sliced.

 

Piquillo pesto and onion panade.

Piquillo pesto and onion panade.

The activity, at least temporarily, distracted me from my miasma. Also distracting: singing along very loudly to the 80s Australian pop-rock quirksters Men at Work. I love the Celtic-infused guitar solo in this ditty. (Thanks to Chef Matt Jennings for reminding me of this delicious ear-worm of a song!)

 

I Lamb What I Lamb

A few years ago I took at class on beef butchery at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. It was very cool. And by cool, I mean downright cold because the class took place in what (I assume) is essentially a meat locker for the CIA. My fellow classmates and I had to wear hard hats to shield our noggins from the suspended sides of beef, and our chef instructor—who had grown up in a family of butchers on the Lower East Side of Manhattan—encouraged us to use the hot plate at our disposal to cook up bits we hacked off the cow so we could gain an appreciation of the tastes and textures of the different muscles. So, even though I spent most of the time shivering and I ended up with a very unattractive case of (hard) hat head, I learned a lot. I also put a healthy bit of fear into my husband, because, you know, I can butcher.

Fast forward to last year when Chef Matthew Jennings hosted a dinner at his drop-dead-awesome restaurant Farmstead for Chef/butcher extrodinaire Ryan Farr. Chef Farr owns 4505 Meats in San Francisco (and concocts a chili dog with homemade fritos that is so transcendent it will make you question your own worthiness to stand in the man’s presence) and authored the I Ching of cutting up animals, Whole Beast Butchery. That night, he broke down a 350-lb pig in under an hour, carefully explaining each cut along the way. His demo and his demeanor inspired me.

Fast forward (again) to last month, when I took a lamb butchery class with Michael Dulock of M.F. Dulock through Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge. Again: nuanced approach to the animal, no waste, and extreme respect. I left with more inspiration and an itching for some action.

Here’s my dilemma: a cow is really big. A pig is pretty darn big, too. I don’t have a workspace large enough nor a freezer with enough capacity to deal with a cow or a pig. But a lamb? A lamb I could probably handle. A half-lamb I could definitely handle. What? 30 lbs? My purse weighs more than that most days.

The fine folks at Persimmon Provisions procured a gorgeous lamb half for me (delivered on Valentine’s Day, no less! Because, really: what says “I love you” more than a half carcass?), and handed it over the counter to me in a black plastic garbage bag. I loaded it in the back of the MINI and prayed that I wouldn’t get stopped by the cops (“Honest, Officer, I have this garbage-bagged carcass in my car for entirely SALUBRIOUS reasons.”).

Thirty pounds of gorgeous lamb!

Thirty pounds of gorgeous lamb!

The lamb and I arrived home. I gathered my tools and set him up on the kitchen table. (Jay came downstairs in the middle of all this—I had neglected to tell him about my planned activities—stopped short, said “Oh my God,” and high-tailed it outta there. He came back moments later and begged me not to use the cleaver unless he could be around to ensure I didn’t lose a digit.) With some help from my reluctant husband using the hack saw, I spent the next two hours breaking the carcass down into primals: neck, shoulder and foreshank, rack, loin, leg, with Ryan Farr’s glorious tome guiding me every step along the way.

Leg, loin, rack, shoulder, neck, plus a little skirt steak.

Leg, loin, rack, shoulder, neck, plus a little skirt steak.

I boned out the ribs and backbone from the rack, leaving the belly attached, for a lambchetta—the lamby version of a porchetta. I scored the interior, rubbed it up with a healthy schmear of rosemary, garlic, parsley, olive oil, S&P, rolled it up nice-n-tight (abeit with a rotten tying job—more work needed here, obviously).

 

Rack & belly: ready for deboning.

Rack & belly: ready for deboning.

Ignore the embarassing tying job.

Loin, wrapped in belly, tied as if by a pre-schooler.

 

Seared the hell outta the outside and then roasted it very low (275) for a couple of hours to an internal temperature of 135. Gorgeous, right?

LAMBCHETTA!

We ate this bad boy sliced on ciabatta with some roasted red pepper aoli and potato chips fried in duck fat. Many times that evening, I said to Jay, “Can we just talk for another minute about how freaking amazing that lamb was?” I also reminded him that he should still be a teensy bit a-scared of me, ’cause I’m taking this butcher-thing to the next level.

Duck fat fried potato chips. Why the hell not, right? Gorgeous copper pot from East Coast Tinning.

Thanks so much to Matthew Jennings, Ryan Farr, Michael Dulock, and Champe Speidel, who collectively served as my Yoda, my Obi-Wan, my Qui-Gon Jinn, and my Han Solo as I worked my way through my first four-legged animal (even though I only had two legs of it).

I can’t wait for future adventures using the remaining primal cuts!

What’s a good butchery soundtrack? Beats me, but I listened to the new Matt Pond album, “The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hands,” twice while I worked. It’s delightful, and features MP’s signature reedy voice and extended use of a metaphor (hands, nature, rivers). Give it a listen if you need to cut up a lamb, or even if you don’t.

 

New Playlist: 10-20-12

What an amazing class this morning! I had the good fortune to sub in for the irreplaceable Charlie; his Saturday morning spinners welcomed me heartily and put their sweat on the line. What great effort, what great spirits, what great fun! And what great voices: the sing-along to “Refugee” was pretty damn epic.

Brand new stuff from Morning Parade and Adele, old favorites from the Von Bondies and Florence.

How ’bout some free music? Get the Adele remix here.

Happy riding!