Monday, August 22, 2011

Culinary Tip Week 6 Pork the Magical Animal

Culinary Tip Week 6

Thank goodness for the pig and the magical animal that it is. I don’t really care which part you are serving me I will happily eat it. I am a total utilization food girl. And yes deep-frying is cheating; you can make it taste good in many other ways.

Even though the fat on the back of the shoulder is called the clear plate and the fat on the loin is called the fat back, it is used interchangeably. Pork fat is an awesome thing because of the flavor and the melting temp. It is the fat used mostly for sausages and many other tasty adventures. I think duck fat might be catching up a little, but it still has miles to go before it’s as popular as pork fat for cooking.

Let’s break it down

The Boston Butt you will see called a myriad of things, boston shoulder, shoulder, butt shoulder, butt roast, shoulder roast. Then to make things a little more complicated the Picnic Shoulder is right below it and that’s called a variety of things too and many times you will see them package together as one big piece of meat (ok maybe only at Costco).

Boston Butt: shoulder chops, country style ribs (anterior region of the loin ribs), shoulder roast, boston roast, ground

Don’t worry about trying to keep them separate they are so similar in make-up that it will make very little difference in how you cook them. I used to tell students that you can tell which one is the picnic because it can’t pick up the basket the arm is missing. That sounds a little disturbing but I bet you won’t forget it now. Look for the arm bone and you are good to go.

Other things coming from the Picnic Shoulder: arm roast, arm steak, picnic roast

Loin: full loin, loin chops, sirloin chops, tenderloin (different from the loin), rib chops, crown roast, sirloin cutlet, top loin chop, country style ribs, back ribs, Canadian bacon, loin roast, sirloin

The loin itself is very lean so brine it, marinate it, and don’t over cook it!! Thank goodness they just lowered the cooking temperature of pork to 145°. Please please pull it at 140° it’ll continue to cook and you won’t have tough dry meat. Blech.

Leg or Fresh Ham: it’s not a ham until it’s been cured and/or smoked. leg roasts

The picture isn’t great the belly is the entire section of the both the Fresh Bacon and the Spare Ribs. The ribs are lying on top of the fresh bacon, so once those have been peeled off you have the two individual pieces. Salt pork also comes from this area

The hocks are almost always cured and smoked and great for flavoring soups, stews and beans of course.

Pig’s feet or trotters are full of collagen a connective tissue that breaks down with most heat cooking and adds wonderful flavor and body to stocks. Besides the classic pickled pigs feet, many chefs will split the trotters lengthwise and use them in stock.

The same goes for pig as beef, the high motion areas of the animal are going to be tougher. Pig has a lot of collagen in the should region that makes it ideal for braising and slow low heat cooking because of all the tenderness and flavor it imparts, that’s where we get our beautiful pulled pork.

The last thing is the jowl and if you ever see bacon ends and pieces in a grocery store that’s what you are probably getting, it looks and tastes exactly like bacon especially if it’s been cured and smoked. In fact I just made some jowl bacon last week. Guanciale is something that is a fad right now at least in Portland. It’s the unsmoked and dry cured jowl that’s an Italian classic. Now you know. If you see it on a menu, order it!

Cooking Tip Week 5ish Taking the Mystery out of Meat Cuts!

Let’s talk about meat. As a teacher first and foremost I get really irritated by the packaging in grocery stores. It gets more and more confusing trying to figure out what’s what in the meat department with all of the marketing terms that they use. It seems like it’s meant more to fool you than to help you to make a decision about what you want to put on your table for your family.

Now that there are dozens of cuts that you can get you really have to know your stuff, or you just stick to the things you know really well and don’t venture into the land of strange names. Fair enough I don’t blame you one bit. There is a lot out there so I am going to tackle as much as I can and see if we can’t answer some of those burning questions I’m sure you’ve been dying to ask.

First let’s start with the cow. Anything that is in the high motion areas of the animal are going to be tough pieces of meat. Tough but flavorful! Tough, flavorful and CHEAP! So if you know how to cook them or prepare them properly, you are going to be able to have tastier and cheaper meat. Sounds like a win-win to me.

This is the first part, knowing where the cut comes from. If you know that the chuck, brisket, plate, round shanks and flank or tip come from the high motion areas you’ll know these cuts either need to:
1) Marinated or tenderized
2) Sliced very thinly (across the grain) or ground
3) Use a moist heat cooking method or long, slow cooking (roasting, smoking, BBQ)

For the rib or short loin, tenderloin, or parts of the sirloin you can use dry heat cooking methods. These are where your grilled steaks come from.

Now not to throw a wrench into the situation but there are a few exceptions to the rule and that comes with knowing that if a piece of meat is tucked up next to a bone sometimes it’s going to be tender without coming from the sedentary parts of the animal. That’s a whole other chapter I promise to cover later.

Here are some of the cuts you’ll see in the grocery store and where they come from

Chuck: chuck short ribs, chuck roast, chuck steak, stew meat, ground beef.

Rib: rib roast, rib steak, rib eye steaks, prime rib

Short Loin: loin steaks, T-bone steak, porterhouse, top loin steak, NY steak tenderloin

Sirloin: sirloin steak, wedge-bone steak, boneless sirloin, sirloin roast

Round: round steak, top round steak, bottom round steak, eye of round, heel, ground beef, rump roast

Shanks: cross cut, stew meat

Brisket: typically fresh or corned

Short Plate: short ribs, skirt steak, stew meat, ground beef

Flank: flank steak

Tip: tip steak tip roast (the tip is at the bottom of the sirloin into the round it’s not on the above picture)

If you are looking for the best tasting steak you are going to have to go to a butcher who actually cuts things up instead of pulling fabricated cuts from a box.

Ask for the chuck end of the rib you are getting closest to that high motion area and still having a tender piece of meat.

This is going to rub some of you wrong that really love that cross hatch on your steak, but if you really want a juice steak, flip it often, ever minute or so. I know I know it’s not going to be aesthetically pleasing. Put a pat of blue cheese butter on it and get over it. If you flip it often the meat doesn’t have a chance to dry out and overcook on the outside. If we had our way we’d have the same color all the way through rather than a brown ring all the way around.

All right that’s all for now, next time we’ll cover pork and a little more about the cooking of meat in general. Enjoy meat and please if you have any questions we’re happy to answer them!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

PCW Cooking Tip Week 4 Burnt Pan Be Gone!

Sorry I’m a couple days late, it took a couple days to recover from Teen Week, but we had a total blast and so did they. It’s nice to know that we helped a few kids learn some valuable life skills. If you missed it, it was so popular we scheduled another for Aug. 22-26th Sign up now before it fills up!

So this is a quick tip though highly valuable. If you are anything like me, the more I multitask the worse the individual results. I have to rely more and more on timers and reminders and the really messed up part is I even need one to remind me that I’m filling the wash sink. What??! It’s full of bubbles people, it doesn’t make any noise! I don’t remember until I hear the water pattering on the floor.

It wouldn’t be a surprise then that I have burned a pan or two in my lifetime. On of the best things I ever found out about is that if you put water in your burnt pan with a healthy shot of baking soda and put in on the stove to boil for a few minutes it takes most of the black off the pan like magic. Sometimes I run a scratch pad over it and then boil it so it has a few scratches in the carbon to gain a foothold. It really is a fabulous trick.

We hope you don’t have to use it but just in case you do, we hope this makes the job a little easier. See you next week for your next tip!