I like to think of the steak I’m eating as previously a happy cow (or deer), wandering the open range, munching on grass, toning its muscles for me to enjoy that firm, meaty texture. When I think about it this way, I feel good about eating meat. The animal lived a good life and when it was over, I reaped the benefits.
In Brooklyn, I’ve found my meat grocer: the Union Market on Court Street. Their beef, lamb and pork products, although expensive, are grass fed and free range. I can see and taste the difference. Their steaks are a deep, meaty red to purple color and much more flavorful than a regular store-bought steak. For Christmas dinner this year, I tried their lamb chops and was not disappointed. They were so tender and flavorful with a rich purple color and an underlying lamby earthiness. Served in a mustard-rosemary sauce, it might have been the best Holiday dinner I’ve ever prepared.
|Happy Montana Cows|
Photo courtesy of www.meatmt.com
When I first moved to Brooklyn from Montana, I searched through the local grocery stores, seeking some quality of steak I was comfortable with cooking. I found all varieties of altered, genetically modified, hormone fed meat. With its pale pink to grayish color and squishy texture, the labels are marked with ambiguous phrases like, “No hormones added.” Does that mean to the steak? To the cow? What about color? Cornstarch? Antibiotics?
Then I found the Union Market. I usually make my rounds first, buying everything I need for a meal at other shops around the neighborhood, and then stop in specifically for meat. It’s not that they don’t have other quality products; it’s just that Union Market is expensive. I can’t afford to buy my other groceries there, but for a good steak, the prices are worth it. I buy one large steak, sear it and then slice it, providing about four slices per serving. This also helps to limit cost.
|Steam rising from a London Broil|
This trip home, he didn’t disappoint, breaking out the grill, in the snow, for the first Barbecue of the year to char an enormous London broil and several savory venison steaks to perfect temperature, with a smoky crust and tender red middle.
Not being a grill-master myself, I asked about the charred outside and how he does it.
“Use a lot of charcoal,” he said.
I’m used to creating a sear in a frying pan, then finishing the steak in the oven but this technique also applies when grilling. Get the coals really hot, and then place the grate directly over the coals, as close as you can get it, causing the meat to sear, and also, the charcoal to leave that perfect, smoky crust on the steak. In cold weather, the even, high heat is difficult to achieve, so use fresh briquettes, not the ones that have been sitting in a pool of water under a tool bench in your garage.