I was out riding my bike in the woods the other day and I came upon a huge patch of Chanterelle mushrooms. What does this have to do with butchering? Well I began thinkinag about how we eat and how much of our food is "arranged" for us by stores. I brought home a handful stuffed into my emptied water bottle and thought about lunch. I scoured the fridge and found I had some hamburger, home smoked bacon ( from Bob Schneller) a lttile crusty end peice of Tol Epi Swiss cheese, a half of a Vidalia onion, a cheapo roll and some fresh picked red leaf lettuce from the garden. I was foraging through my own fridge to make a super burger. Oh yeah, I had some homemade, fremented garlic dill pickles too! I sauteed the mushrooms and onions, fried off the bacon, grilled the burgerand melted the cheese over the top. I had successfully foraged some great mushrooms ( I later went back on foot and harvested overr 12 lbs!!) but I also had "foraged " through my fridge to make the combination. This is an act that many of us do all the time. Instead of planning a meal we look at what is in the fridge and pantry and concoct something.
Butchery?? Where is the connection here? Well at the CIA we are starting a new concept restaurant that will focus on local, sustainable foods. The meat components are partially my responsibility in that we will no longer be receiving HRI type cuts that are in the bag but instead, whole carcasses of locally raised pork, lamb and beef. It will be easy to sell the high end middle meat cuts such as the racks, loins, high end steaks etc. but what do we do with all of the rest? Only about 20% of the beef carcass is ribeye, striploins, tenderloin, sirloin. The rest are big bulky cuts from the chuck and round as well as the fatty cuts from the plate and brisket. How can a chef sell these cuts? It is a challenge. The menu might need to change often and things may be 86ed throughout service. Dishes might need to be planned using interchangeable cuts. A braise? Does it need to be a specfic cut? It makes it alot more difficult to recreate the same dish with different cuts that may cook slower or faster than others but this is the exciting challenge that chefs that choose to use the whole carcass enjoy.
I like the idea of the fridge forager. What do we have left? Think on your feet, create 20 portions of this or that and when they are gone move on to the next cut. You have to explain this to the waitstaff and communication will need to be instant. The chalkboard updated! You also need to train the customer to trust the kitchen in that whatever is on the menu will live up to their expectations. And, oh yeah.... you can always grind a variety of cuts to make that ever popular dish that was featured on the cover of Saveur recently....the burger.