Article originally published by Edible Rhody
The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat
by Joshua and Jessica Applestone and Alexandra Zissouis (Clarkson Potter, 2011)
The Butcher’s Guide is like a storybook for adult ethical carnivores. It has a chaotic beginning, heroes, villains, pictures, trials, adventures and a happy ending. And, of course, a whole lotta meat in between. It is the story of how a vegan and a (mostly) vegetarian defied the odds, helped rescue a lost art and succeeded in their quest to become butchers of sustainably raised animals.
Part memoir, part political diatribe, part cookbook and part study of a dying occupation, this butcher-centric version of the green movement is equally fascinating, moving, shocking and appetizing. Flipping through the two photo-only sections of inyour-face images of meat hanging in freezers, intimidating tools and mouthwatering finished products is like being inside the shop itself.
The Applestones are decidedly not P.C.—quotes like “we don’t work with these vertically integrated factory-farm monster operations” let us know exactly how they feel about conventional meat production. They’re also unafraid to write things like “Pork is the sexiest of all meats … a meat so purely sensual that it has become a verb,” or describe the off-gassing of carcasses in their shop as “farty.”
Oh, and the information. With its small stature and page count (240), The Butcher’s Guide is like an encyclopedia disguised as a bathroom book. Diagrams, info-graphics, sidebars, glossaries, step-by-step how-to manuals and, of course, recipes load each page. It is, in a word, meaty. There are instructional guides for everything from rendering fat to sawing bones to making rubs to organizing a driveway pig roast. All of this beefs up the compelling narrative of the American people’s toxic relationship with meat and Fleishers’ small role in helping fix it.
Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal
by Jennifer McLagan (Ten Speed Press, 2011)
I will never forget the first time I tried grilled beef brains. Prepared by young chefs at a backyard barbecue in Argentina, their perfectly spiced, rich succulence and smooth texture begged the question: Why don’t Americans eat more parts of the animal? In her new book Odd Bits, author Jennifer McLagan attempts to bring such overlooked organs back onto our plates. By challenging us to stop wasting so much of the animals we eat, we can rediscover what it means to eat nose-to-tail and the diverse textures and flavors it brings.
With recipes for ears, hearts, lungs, brains, kidneys, feet, tongues and even testicles, this is varsity-level cooking. To contextualize the unfamiliar cuts, McLagan—two-time winner of the James Beard and IACP Cookbook of the Year awards—peppers the pages with interesting asides detailing their historical, multicultural and practical uses. She also includes imperative informational sections like “How to Choose” and “How to Prepare and Cook” before the actual recipes.
The recipes themselves are a healthy mix of Old World traditions and contemporary twists on odd bits. Mischievous titles like Headcheese for the Unconvinced, Cheese and Just a Little Brain Fritters or Son-of-a-Bitch Stew are woven in with less scary Whole Lamb Neck with Lemons, Olives and Mint and Grilled Liver with Red Currant Sauce. The photographs are gorgeous, though too few—accompanying images for every recipe when they’re this adventurous would be helpful. But for cooks both brave and sustainability-conscious, this is the manual for you.
Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat
by Deborah Krasner (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010)
Good Meat is born of twin desires: to inspire more creativity and environmental consciousness in the way we cook meat. In the introduction, Krasner writes that she is “struck by how quickly we’ve lost our ability to cook anything more than steaks, burgers and chops.” Krasner (a James Beard award winner) sticks to the more straightforward, through diverse, cuts of muscle on various animals. With a foreword by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Good Meat sets out to explore the relationship between sustainable, humane agriculture and delicious meat.
The book is extremely organized and methodical, dedicating one chapter each to the anatomy, raising, processing and preparation of beef, lamb, pork, rabbit, poultry and eggs. The photos and diagrams that precede the recipes swiftly demystify the differences between sirloins and short loins, rounds and flanks. Practicality and realism are Krasner’s strong suits, and she addresses the prevailing challenges of cooking sustainably: time and planning ahead. She recognizes that not everyone can buy and store an entire sheep in their freezer or slow-cook a pork shank for seven hours, and gives helpful suggestions for overcoming these constraints.
Dishes like Roast Turkey with Ancho Paste and Maple-Coffee Sauce, Spice-Rubbed Chuck Roast with Whiskey, and Beer-Braised Goose with Apples all conjure up visions of harvest feasts and holiday merriment. Krasner also includes plenty of side dishes
(Vermont Cheddar Soufflé), appetizers (Clementine, Fennel and Olive Salad) and desserts (Lavender Crème Brulée), knowing that meat isn’t always the main event. eR