Butcher Class at Urban Famer

I won’t shop, cook or cut meat quite the same from now on.  I had the pleasure of attending a Butcher Class at Urban Farmer recently.  They went above and beyond to teach, answer questions and arm attendees with the information and know-how they’d need to select the best cuts of meat, and best utilize less popular, yet more economical cuts.  

Head Butcher and Urban Farmer Sous Chef, Vincent Delagrange, lead the class.  He’s been professionally cutting meat since 2011.  He knows his stuff.  He whizzed through the prepared Beef 101 slides, covering the basics, like “What is a steak?” (2″ thick or under with a quick cooking method) and “what makes it tender?” (It’s inversely related to the amount of work a muscle has to during the life of the animal).  Fat is flavor, and the fattier the beef, the beefier the flavor.  This is an equation I can study. 

Here’s what I learned: 

Delagrange also touched on U.S.D.A. grading, explaining that most meat we see in a butcher shop of the meat counter is Prime (highest designation, less than 2% of cattle) or Choice (less marbling, but widely available), occasionally Select (lean and less available, potentially tough).

And then there’s is Wagyu.  It’s the Cadillac of cows, people.  It has a high percentage of marbling which far exceeds that of USDA Prime. Yes, please. And get this: “Kobe” beef isn’t really Kobe beef unless it is from Tajima breed cows raised in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan, and you’re eating it in Japan.  They don’t export it.  So all those times you THINK you’ve purchased or been served Kobe beef…you were duped. How about that?!


We did a blind taste teste comparing the Prime cuts they source at the restaurant, versus a Choice cut offered at a large (unnamed) grocery chain.  Not a tough call.  

Delegrange was happy to answer all kinds of questions the group had about shopping for beef too.  Like “What day is best to shop for meat?”  Answer: find out which day of the week your local butcher or grocer gets their shipments.  And that’s the day!  Likely Friday morning is good.  For large chains, Delegrange suggests checking their ads.  The first day sales take effect you’re sure to find the freshest product.  And for markdowns…try Sunday evening, or Monday.  What I was surprised to hear was those markdowns haven’t been sitting there for days…only a couple of hours.  So scoop them up, check the freshness or sell-by date and save!

I learned that you can identify high quality meat by look and touch. There should be exterior fat (remember, fat=flavor!).  Press on the side of that fat.  You’ll want it spongey, or to bounce back, not firm.  And you’re looking for a good balance or ratio of interior or marbelized fat to exterior fat.  


Delegrange also suggests secondary cuts to satisfy your beef craving and your budget.  Swap Ribeye for Chuckeye, Tenderloin for Sirloin and Strip Steak for Coulotte.  The idea is to buy a piece of meat that can be grilled and sliced to serve a larger number of people.  The guy has four kids at home.  I trust his advice!  He also favors the flat iron, tri tip, Babette and ribeye cap.     


The group also got a first hand look at how dry aging is achieved and how animals are broken down at Urban Farmer’s in house butcher shop.  And get a lot of their charcuterie program! Meat me, please! 


We were given a handful of great recipes from Delegrange, plus some helpful handouts to help decider between corn-fed, grass-fed and dry-aged beef for the purposes of shopping and ordering at our favorite restaurants.  And BONUS: there were swag bags with “Beefy” t shirts (which I admittedly had my eye on at the hostess stand) plus some seeds to start our garden this season.  


If you’d like to sign up for one of these comprehensive classes, their next butcher class is Saturday, June 17th from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. This one is a showdown between the Carolina’s versus Texas BBQ.  Event details here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/urban-farmer-butcher-class-carolina-versus-texas-bbq-tickets-31904464111?aff=erelpanelorg

Advertisements

Fall flavors that won’t quit

Ok…I can’t stop.  I just love the flavors of fall.  They inspire me.  So after I recently tackled trio of fun fall recipes for She in CLE, I still have more to give, and cook, and eat.

How about Pumpkin and Sausage Soup?  Or a Caramel Apple Martini?  And, since nobody can get enough pumpkin this time of year…Pumpkin Sage Risotto.

pumpkin-sausage-soup

Pumpkin and Sausage Soup

2 links Italian sausage

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely copped

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

2 T. butter

1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped

2-3 fresh sage leaves, julienned

2-3 c. chicken stock

4 T. pumpkin puree

pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon

1 T. heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the sausage from its casing and brown in a hot pan, breaking up with a wooden spoon.  Set aside.  In the same pan, lower the heat to medium/high and add the onion, garlic, and 1 T. of butter, then season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until the onion softens, then add the sage, rosemary and pumpkin.  When the pumpkin and herbs become fragrant (3 min or so) add the stock and whisk until combined.  Season again. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the heavy cream, cooked sausage, nutmeg and cinnamon, and last 1 T. of butter.  Cook another 5 minutes.  You can thin it out by adding stock, if desired.  Or make it more creamy, by adding more heavy cream.

pumpkin-risotto

Pumpkin Sage Risotto

3 T. butter

1 T. olive oil

1 T. garlic, minced

1/3 c. onion finely chopped, or a whole shallot, minced

1  c. Arborio rice

1/4 white wine

4 c. chicken stock

1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

3 T. pumpkin puree

handful of sage leaves, chopped

1 T. chives, chopped optional)

Pour the stock in a large sauce pan and keep warm.  Heat 2 T. of the butter and the olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add the onion/shallots and the garlic and saute at medium high until vegetables are softened, season with salt and pepper.  Add the rice and cook until the grains are toasted.  Pour in the white wine and let the alcohol burn off.  Add a couple ladles full of stock and stir frequently, until the rice absorbs it.  Repeat several times, continuing to stir frequently until the rice is fully cooked.  Lower the heat and add the last tablespoon of butter, cheese, pumpkin puree and one or two chopped sage leaves.  Garnish with chives. Serve.

For a variation, heat a small saute pan on high, and pour in about a 1/2 inch of canola or vegetable oil.  Fry the sage leaves whole and garnish your risotto.  Or, top with grilled sausage, sliced into discs.

caramel-apple-martini

Caramel AppleMartini

1 part/2 oz. caramel vodka (salted caramel if possible

2 parts/4 oz. regular vodka

2 oz. of apple cider

pinch of salt

handful of salter, roasted peanuts

1 T. caramel sauce

Pulse the peanuts in a food processor until fine.  Pour the caramel topping on to a small, shallow plate.  Pour the peanuts on to a similar plate.  Coat the rim of a martini glass in the caramel, then in the peanuts.  Leave the glass upside down on the plate while you shake the drink.  Combine both vodkas, the cider, salt and about 6 ice cubes in a martini shaker.  Shake about 20 times.  Pour, enjoy, repeat.

I’m in the business of collecting great recipes that incorporate these ingredients.  So, please send, or share some that are working for you!

Slovenian Sausage Festival

It doesn’t get any more “Cleveland” than this.  A Slovenian Sausage Festival, put on by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame & Museum, at SNPJ Farm in Kirtland.  Being invited to participate in this event means a lot to me…I’m half Slovenian.  My grandmother would argue…the good half.  And when your mother’s maiden name is Tomsic, you don’t turn down an opportunity to listen to polka music while crowning the next King of Klobasa.

It’s the biggest event of its kind in the nation, and with the largest Slovenian population outside of Slovenia, you can see (and smell, and hear) why Cleveland is the natural host for such a party. 

Polka and sausage fans were invited to dance their calories away to the music of more than fifty accordionists and musicians brought in to perform. Guests got to taste sausages from several makers and then pick their favorites. There was definitely some lobbyin going on. 

Prizes were awarded by People’s Choice and the juried Best of Fest.  And here’s an honor: the winning sausage-maker becomes the official supplier to the three-day Thanksgiving Polka Weekend at the Cleveland Downtown Marriott Hotel.  Who needs the “Sausage King of Chicago,” Ferris Buhler.  We’ve got our own king!

sausage-party

For my role, I served on a jury with other distinguished judges, like the Lady Butchers from Saucisson, a Slovenian diplomat and fellow food writer, Debbie Snook, of Cleveland.com. So as not to be pursuaded by preconceived notions or family favorites, the tasting was blind. Truth be told, we did discuss the make up of the five contenders a bit.

It was interesting to taste it and examine the texture, color, seasoning and overall tastes, instead of just devouring them pretty quickly like I’ve been doing most of my half-Slovenian life.

In the end, to my delight, my long time family favorite, Azmans (of Euclid) was crowned the judges’ favorite. So glad to see these fine butchers and old world artisans rewarded.

It was a real treat to return to the retreat location enjoyed nearly every weekend by my grandparents and my mother, as a child. And I was tickled to watch my two year old eagerly finish her first Slovenian sausage, like she was born to, and see my girls enchanted by the magic of button box music like I used to as a little girl. Anybody who is old school Cleveland, or old world American, can certainly relate.  And, dig in.

The Lady Butchers get a home

If you haven’t yet heard of Cleveland’s glamorous “Lady Butchers” let me be the first to e-introduce you.  Penny Barend and Melissa Khoury have been making waves in the form of sausages, in the traditionally male-dominated world.  And these ladies kill it.  They are well-respected, skilled artisans.  And they’re ready to take their business, Saucisson, to the next level.  The pair recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help them fund the renovation of their long-awaited brick and mortar shop.  Let’s talk meat!

Cheftovers: For those unfamiliar with your “body of work” tell me about your specialties, and skill sets.

Saucisson: “Penny and I both are classically trained chefs, attending rivaling culinary schools. I am a graduate of Johnson & Wales and she is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. We both traveled the country working in restaurants that had whole animal butchery programs, allowing us the opportunity to hone our skills and develop our passion for butchery and charcuterie. Our product line is all made of locally raised animals from small family farms. We don’t add any nitrates or preservatives and are very transparent in our labeling, telling you literally everything that is in the charcuterie items we make. The flavor profiles that we typically stick with are very Mediterranean and we are constantly testing new recipes. We choose to make things you are more likely to find in a restaurant, but because we are Chefs we can help the average home cook come up with a fun new recipe with our products.”

saucisson logo

Cheftovers: Where have you been selling your product and where can people find it this summer?

Saucisson: “We have been selling at local farmers markets and to a few local restaurants since we began.  Please check our website calendar for pop up events and farmers markets.”

Cheftovers: Why make the move to open a brick and mortar place?

Saucisson: “We finally made the leap on a brick and mortar for several reasons, most importantly to change our licensing with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, from Division of Food Safety to Division of Meat. This will allow us to expand our wholesale business, without limitation from the State. The space will also be a lot larger than any of our previous temporary homes, allowing us to increase production. We also need to have a home base for our retail reach, it has been a huge challenge over the past 2 and a half years when explaining our business to new customers. Most people don’t understand how we can be butchers without a butcher shop.”

Cheftovers: Why launch a Kickstarter campaign and what are the challenges associated with that?

Saucisson: “Deciding to do a Kickstarter was a challenge in itself, because it is difficult for both of us to ask people for money. Running the campaign is a full-time job, on top of our already packed schedules. We asked our current regular customer base if they would be interested in pledging to a Kickstarter if we launched a campaign. The resounding answer was Yes! We have a very loyal group of customers, knowing that they would be behind us helping fill the gap in funding was a huge push to actually getting the campaign up and running. The first day we launched the response was huge, we are very grateful for everyone’s interest in pledging and reposting about our Kickstarter on social media.”

saucisson space

 

Cheftovers: Why the Fleet neighborhood and this particular space?

Saucisson: “It was really important for us to find a neighborhood we could be a part of, one that needs some rejuvenation. One that wasn’t over saturated and provided us with easy access to the highway for restaurant deliveries. It’s a very romantic idea for us that we are taking over a space that used to be a butcher shop. The neighborhood was once filled with butcher shops. Slavic Village is a neighborhood that so many Clevelanders have fond memories of, it’s a place so many people want to see come back. Also the City is in the process of finishing a $9 million streetscape. It will be the first certified Green Street in the City of Cleveland, with lots of green space to act as sponges to pull water from Lake Erie.”

saucisson rendering

Cheftovers: What needs to be done to the space?

Saucisson: “Unfortunately over the last 10 years it operated as a transient retail space so upkeep was minimal. We are basically building out a full meat cutting facility equipped with a full commercial kitchen and a small retail front. Power had to be beefed up, bathrooms needed to be brought to code, and quite a bit of wallpaper has to come down. The hardwood floors have to be refinished. Obviously quite a bit of equipment has to be purchased including a very large exhaust hood.”

Cheftovers: Besides your choice cuts of meat, what else will you prepare and sell in the space?

Saucisson: “We have a full line of sausages, lunch meats, and all the charcuterie items we currently produce. We try to stay seasonal with our offerings which will be available on a rotation. We will also offer soups, stocks, sandwiches & charcuterie boards. We will work into fresh cuts as well. Eventually we want to add sausage making equipment and different casings for sale for the home sausage maker. Finding these things is quite a challenge in smaller amounts for the home charcuterie enthusiast.”

Cheftovers: What other plans do you have?

Saucisson: Our plan is to keep that space as active as possible. Classes for adults & children, workshops, wine tastings, beer tastings, pop up dinners, and community cookouts.

saucisson incentives

Source: Facebook

As of the publishing date for this post, with 24 days left in their Kickstarter campaign, The Lady Butchers were nearly 50% funded by 124 backers.  If you’d like to contribute to their cause, they’re offering a variety of incentives, including lower level rewards like t-shirts and bumper stickers, and larger ones, like several pounds of sausage and even charcuterie items and a meat of the month club.  The project won’t be funded unless $25,000 is pledged by May 1, 2016.  Click here to support them.

Chef’s Table: Date Night at Flour

Old friends are the best.  Old friends, and good food…now that’s a great night!  My husband recently reconnected with a childhood friend (through a chance encounter I had with him during one of my cooking segment shoots).   They quickly caught up over the phone and decided to plan a night at the restaurant where he is a chef, Flour.  We scored the Chef’s Table on Saturday night so that we could chat up Brett and enjoy the incredible menu the place offers.  

Flour Salumi 

Seems only fitting in a restaurant labeled an “Italian Kitchen” that immediately after being seated, Brett greeted us with a stunning Salumi plate (complete with delectable selections like mortadella, coppa picante and salametto framani)

Flour cheese plate

And before we could even look at the menu, I was won over by the cheese plate that had fresh sliced turkey figs, Calabrian pecorino. langherino, humboldt fog and aged gouda.

Flour Allison and Andy

We had the pleasure of dining with another couple of old friends of the chef, Allison and Andy.  They too were ready to indulge in all that the menu offered, toast, taste and celebrate the success of their childhood buddy.

When I mentioned that we were coming to Flour, a friend who dines there often recommended one of the appetizers.

flour big a$$ meatball

“I have dreams about the Big A$$ Meatball at Flour,” she said

Didn’t take much to convince us.  We ordered a pair of these softball sized portions, which were placed on a rich whipped ricotta and topped with fried sage.  Heaven indeed.  We also tried the chorizo stuffed dates and a plate of mussels.

Flour Mussels

Since Brett is the self-proclaimed pizza master of the kitchen, we had to try one of the wood-fired pies that people rave about here.  Didn’t need to hem and haw about this choice…it was the potato carbonara for us and we were not disappointed.

Flour carbonara pizza

This killer pizza incorporates potatoes as part of the base beneath the aged provolone, egg and pancetta.  You’d think that was enough food…but once again our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we decided to order three entrees to share as well.  We went for the Mediterranean Branzini, a tagliatelle with a bolognese, and the show stopper, a lobster strozzapreti with pancetta, bone marrow and cream.

Flour Lobster Pasta

This was a noodle new to me, and worth every single calorie.  Just when we thought we were done, Brett brought out dessert, a cereal panna cotta, sweetened from Frosted Flakes!

We shared a couple bottles of wine, plenty of memories, more food than we should’ve eaten, and some good laughs.  That’s a good date night no matter what your taste in food, or friends!

The Feast! Food, Faith, Family. Little Italy’s Feast of the Assumption

I’m stuffed.  And so very happy.  The Feast of the Assumption is my favorite food festival of the year.  It’s the marquee event of Cleveland’s Little Italy.  

the feast-madonna

It is a sacred event, commemorating Mary being taken up to heaven.  But you kind of feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven when you stroll down the street, taking in the delicious atmosphere and mouth watering food.

The Feast-Murray Hill

I count down the days until The Feast every year.  If I was smart, I’d fast in the time leading up to it.  Instead, I psych myself up like a competitive eater at Coney Island on the 4th of July.  In the end, since I can’t really pack away as much food as I’d like…I prefer to graze and share…graze and share.  That way I can sample, and experience, as much as possible.

The Feast-pizza and sausage

I always start at the “church lady” stands adjacent to Holy Rosary Church, the focal point of the four day event.  Italian sausage wrapped in a slice of pizza (as a bun) and topped with peppers and onions.  That I won’t share!

The Feast-natalies pizza

My girls opted for simple and classic slices of cheese pizza…which they ate in between turns on the carnival rides behind the church.

The Feast-ride with natalie

For a second course, I like to share a couple dozen steamed clams dunked in drawn butter.

The Feast-clams

Usually we sit outside on a patio, listening to Italian music sung by the same trio of crooners and button box player who appear on the corner of Murray Hill and Mayfield Road every year.

The Feast-italian singers

But this year…we were also treated to something special.  My brother’s fiance and her family invited us to her Great Aunt Sue’s home, just a stone’s throw from the church at the center of all the action.  She cooks for two weeks leading up to this event.  Friends and family chatted outside, sipping generous pours of the family’s famous home made wine.

The Feast-home made wine

The fun surprise of the evening was when the The Italian Band of Cleveland came to play a private set for the guests congregating in Aunt Sue’s driveway. (a testament to her own commitment to the neighborhood, and stature among those who call it home)

The Feast-Italian bandThe Feast-TubaThe Feast-Italian tuba

Full yet? Nope! Next it’s on to cavatelli and meatballs.  By this time, my eyes are usually bigger than my stomach.  But I can’t leave without diving into a bowl of this classic.  My girls didn’t argue.

The Feast-julias cavatelli

If the timing is right, in between courses (or during) you can catch a couple of tunes from folk singers on the street, dance to music from DJs, or tap your feet to live bands in tents behind some of the restaurants on the block.

For several of the restaurants in Little Italy, The Feast represents their year of profits.  And estimated 100,000 people attend.  They go all in for the event.  Beer tents are up, bands are blasting crowd-pleasing anthems, meatballs are served by the thousands, and pasta sauce is simmering in pots big enough to swim in.

The Feast-bocce

At the end of the street, you can hear the distinctive sound of bocce balls colliding and slamming in to the wood-framed courts at the Alta House.

Teams of four encased in clouds of cigar smoke and Old-World Italian accents.  Drink it in.

Couldn’t help but notice the juxtaposition of a statue of “The Madonna”  sitting solemnly in front of a rock band setting up on a ledge there.

The Feast-madonna at Alta House

Time for dessert.  Did you think we were done?  This I never falter on.  The sweet finish to this incredible feast must always be the tiramisu at Presti’s Bakery.  Of course there is cannoli, cassata cake and lemon ice at various booths.  But for me, dessert begins and ends with the best tiramisu in the city.

The Feast-tiramisu

I always leave The Feast of the Assumption full, in both stomach and spirit.  It makes me proud to be an Italian American and a Clevelander.  Mangia!

Snowbird Special

Now is the time of the year when my Snowbird parents leave the frosty mid-west for sunny California.  They close up their house for the winter and spend it in a much warmer climate.  Part of their annual process is emptying the fridge, freezer and cupboards…and our household is the lucky beneficiary of the contents.   Now, what to make with it all?

Among the items I had to work with, chicken sausage.  It’s not one of my favorite ingredients but it’s lighter and healthier than beef or pork.  I immediately start thinking about a pasta dish.  My parents freezer is never short of frozen varieties, and I found some ravioli…perfect for a cream sauce.  Let’s do this!

I put a pot of salted water on to cook the ravioli and got started on the sauce.  I chopped up some garlic and sauteed it in some olive oil, then reached for one of my go-to’s in my own cupboard, a can of crushed tomatoes.  I let those hang out together for a bit and seasoned it with salt, pepper, dried basil and oregano. (a pinch of crushed red pepper might be nice here too)  Then after a few minutes on the heat, I added some of the frozen spinach that had also come from my folks’ defrosting freezer.

I figured the chicken sausage would work well as the protein for this dish, as the ravioli were only cheese-filled, and the chicken sausage itself had some spinach in it.  So I sliced and browned those up while the sauce developed.  And lastly, I added a couple tablespoons of heavy cream to make this tomato sauce a tomato cream sauce.  Go as heavy or as light with it as you’d like.  Half and half, or whole milk would work here too.  I’d avoid skim milk or 1%, it won’t really have the effect you’re going for here.  I let the cream sauce sit on the heat (medium) until it thickened up.  When the consistency was where I wanted it, I tossed the browned sausage slices in with the sauce and poured in the cooked ravioli.

This Snowbird Special made great use of a seemingly disconnected collection of groceries, and it was a quick fix for a weeknight dinner.  What’s lingering in your freezer that needs to get eaten??