By Herb Gardener –
Depending on the context, a butcher can be “one who slaughters and dresses animals for food or market”; or, it can refer to “a bungler.” The Art of Beef Cutting (ABC) by Kari Underly emphasizes the finer points of butchering techniques, bovine anatomy, merchandising and the like in order for meat professionals, culinary students and the ardent amateur carver to avoid the latter definition.
The author is a third-generation butcher with 25-years industry experience. Her meat marketing firm, Range, Inc., specializes in research, education, and integrated marketing for fresh meat purveyors. Cheerleading for particular cuts in ABC, such as top strip loin —“This is a great sales booster and can cover many plates!”— belies her background and day job.
Layout and design supports the book’s function as a textbook or guide. Ring binding allows any page to lay flat on a work surface, and the landscape orientation and ample white space complement diagrams and photos.
Do you know your rib from your round? The meat of ABC is its literal and figurative breakdown of a beef side into primal (seven large sections of musculature) and subprimal (end products in the megamart meat case) cuts. Shoppers seeking value by purchasing larger subprimals receive instruction on how to effectively cut and portion at home for tenderness and specific cooking applications.
Home cooks will also benefit from introductory chapters on fundamentals, tools and cutting techniques. Beef typing and grading, selecting and sharpening knives, removing connective tissues and other butchering basics will improve the beginner’s knowledge and skill. The last third of ABC is pitched to industry professionals and is better cherry-picked for information. Of interest to me was a series of charts matching English-language cuts to Latin American and French equivalents.
Is it easier to learn to tie a roast by watching an Internet video, or through following photos and text in a book? My vote is the former. That said, ABC’s great contribution is not in specific details; rather, it succeeds as a one-stop resource that circumferences the art of beef cutting and the business behind its marketing and promotion. Suffer the corporate speak and sales pitches and you will be rewarded.
“Classic carpaccio is finely sliced raw beef served with a light mayonnaise of dressing,” explains chef Gordon Ramsey. In the following appetizer recipe from Gordon Ramsey Makes It Easy beef tenderloin, cut from the psoas major and psoas minor muscles starting at the 13th rib, receives an umami punch from Parmesan and a peppery kick from arugula salad. Punches and kicks, yes, but no pounding in this genteel preparation.
Olive oil to brush
2-3 tablespoons black peppercorns, freshly crushed
1-pound 2-ounce piece of beef tenderloin, well trimmed
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon honey, warmed
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2/3 cup olive oil
Handful arugula leaves
Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
Brush a piece of foil with a little olive oil and sprinkle the crushed peppercorns in the center. Roll the beef tenderloin in the pepper and coat completely. Wrap the beef in the foil and secure ends tightly. Rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Place a heavy skillet over high heat and sear the foil package for 20 to 30 seconds on each of the four sides. Let cool, then return to the refrigerator for at least one hour.
For the dressing, put the honey into a bowl and whisk in the lemon juice, wine vinegar, and mustard, followed by the olive oil. Unwrap the beef and roll in the chopped parsley, then cut into very thin slices, using a razor-sharp knife. Toss the arugula in the dressing and arrange on individual plates. Pile the arugula into the center and scatter the Parmesan shavings over. Serve at once.
(The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professionals Guide to Butchering and Merchandising by Kari Underly. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2011. $50)