Kitchen 411: A Cut Above

12.5.2010

By Joshua David Stein

There are some things -- like matching festive sweaters -- the holiday season could do without. A big meal is not one of them. For a lot of us, hosting a feast involves serving meat, which nowadays presents not only the question 'What do I serve to satisfy everyone in my family?' but also 'How do I do it in an ethical way?'

These were questions faced by Erika Nakamura (above left) and Amelia Posada -- the partners behind Lindy & Grundy's, a new Los Angeles butcher shop focusing on local and sustainable meats -- when they planned their nuptials in Santa Barbara, Calif., last year. Nakamura, a Tokyo-born, L.A.-raised sculptor and chef, and Posada, a Mexican-American community activist'cum'floral designer, were committed to entertaining their 125 guests in the most sustainable way they could. Instead of the standard wedding fare of filet mignon or New York strips, the happy couple chose to use the entire rib and loin section of one steer. 'Two tables got burgers, two got ribs, two got hash,' says Nakamura. 'It was completely sustainable. Amelia and I even butchered the beef two days before.'

You may not be up for butchering your own side of beef (though butchering, it should be noted, means 'breaking down,' not 'slaughtering'), but Nakamura asserts that choosing your cuts of meat wisely makes a big difference. 'If you're throwing a holiday party and you're doing 30 pork tenderloins, you obviously aren't doing it sustainably,' she says. That's because there are only two small tenderloins to a pig, while some of the larger cuts -- like butts, which are actually shoulders, or hams, which are the hind thighs -- can feed more people with less animal. Likewise, for beef lovers Nakamura suggests turning a top round or bottom round into a roast beef or braising it into a stew. 'The meat will be super tender,' she says. 'And braising is perfect for cold weather. It's comforting and delicious.'

The Ethical Roast

Ginger garlic glazed char siu (pork butt roast)

2-pound boneless pork shoulder (butt)
1/2 cup coarse sea salt
2 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 Ziploc bag

Serves up to 10 people
Preparation time: 2 days

Combine salt and sugar into a bowl and mix well. Place roast in a container and dry rub, first using the garlic and ginger, then thoroughly rubbing the sugar/salt mixture. Transfer the roast into a large Ziploc bag, then tie the bag to the interior of your refrigerator so the roast hangs without touching the surrounding surfaces. Allow the rubbed roast to stand for 48 hours. Preheat your oven to 365 degrees. Place roast in the center of a roasting pan and cover it with a tent of foil. Bake roast for about an hour. The exterior should be crisp, the interior pink and supple. Pull roast out of the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before cutting into it. Serve thin slices on a platter as a ramen garnish or to accompany any other dish.

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