Sunday, January 10, 2010

Get to know your butcher

Always at the end of the year Stacy and I reflect on our journey for the past twelve months and make plans for what we want to accomplish in the year to come. The exercise seems to bring us closer as a couple and helps us keep on track together as a family. In my reflections this winter I am appreciating the many relationships that spice up our lives. The people we rely on and those that rely on us in the fabric of our community whether it be our neighbors that lend a hand occasionally and their friendship all of the time, or the folks that we have shared our home with during our meetups, to friends that have opened their homes to us for parties and get-togethers, and the folks like Chris at Golden Gate Meats or George at Hog Island and many other local farmers and shop owners whose businesses we frequent to procure the food that sustains our bodies and to build the relationships that enrich our lives.

Last night Stacy's birthday dinner featured a standing rib roast from Golden Gate Meats where we buy most of the meat I cook. Golden Gate Meats is a family owned and operated business with Chris, the proprietor, at the helm and many members of his extended family working in various roles at the shop at the Ferry Plaza. This holiday season Chris and his family cut two turkeys that we served for Thanksgiving, a drop-dead-gorgeous crown roast of pork I cooked for our family Christmas party, hanger steaks for Stacy’s holiday luncheon I prepared for her and her colleagues at our home, a standing rib roast we devoured with our friends Jacque and Dale for our annual Christmas Eve dinner, beef short ribs that I braised and offered in our New Years Eve progressive dinner with our neighbors and friends, and the standing rib roast that Buda and I served with sautéed red cabbage as the entrée for Stacy’s birthday dinner.

Everything we buy from Golden Gate Meats seems to taste fresher and better than meats we buy anywhere else. It pays to get to know the butcher behind the counter because there is so much more available from the shop than what is visible in the case. For example, they keep an array of rubs that they will apply to your purchase if you just ask. For very special occasions we absolutely love aged New York steaks. While there are excellent steaks in the case, they sometimes have exceptional cuts in the back if you ask for them. The standing rib roasts we had were the most beautiful prime rib I have ever had. Chris told me he had asked his providers for high quality roasts for the holidays which they specially selected for the store. Chris took the cuts over the top by adding rub and then coating the entire roast in suet to keep the meat from drying out during the cooking process. After we tried the first one Christmas Eve, Stacy declared that was what she had to have for her birthday which I was happy to provide. When I went in to pick up the roast yesterday, I chatted with Chris about chicken which is the primary protein in our day-to-day diet.

I only like chicken if the bird is less than three pounds with two-and-one-half pounds as the ideal size. A chicken of that size is still relatively juvenile, so the meat is tender and succulent without being stringy. Chris agreed with me and mentioned that the shop keeps an ample supply of birds that weight in a barrel of brine. They rotisserie cook the birds on-site then offer the them for sale at their deli counter that faces the main Ferry Building hallway. They also sell brined and uncooked chicken from the barrel. Brining chicken tastes best but can be a hassle for a home cook to do regularly depending on space in the refrigerator, so having them available all ready brined is a real advantage. And they sell them for the same price as what is shown in the case. All you have to do is ask! As we wrapped up our conversation, Chris showed one of the birds to me and then gave it to me for free to try it. I broke the bird down as I normally do into boneless breasts and thighs, legs and wings, then roasted the pieces alongside the carcass for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees. It was delicious. From now on I plan to buy all of my chickens from them out of the barrel of brine in the back, please.

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