What To Cook When It’s Colder Than A Gravedigger’s Backside

RecipesSanagans
You know those people who say they hate winter? You know the type; walking speedily and angrily through the icy streets of Toronto all bundled up in two wool sweaters, knitted scarves, long johns, enormous wool coats, and toques with those silly flaps that cover their ears. They are walking speedily because they HATE being outside as soon as the weather dips below 5˚C. Cold weather is like the Death Star to these people. As soon as you think it’s gone for good it pops right back up again. They are walking angrily because they are upset with themselves for continuously choosing to live in this climate. They know they can move somewhere else, like Vancouver, where the temperature is a little more moderate (unfortunately it rains all the time and three quarters of the population have grow-ops in their sheds – FACT), but they choose not to. It could be because their families are here, or their lovers, or their butcher – who knows. All I know is once December’s first frosty night rolls around these people are speedily and angrily walking around saying poetic things like: “arrrgh, this weather sucks” or “why do I live here again?” Well, I’m gonna tell you why you should still live here and why the cold weather DOESN’T suck. Braised meat. There are a lot of reasons to enjoy winter in the city. You can go crazy sledding down the hills at the St. Clair Reservoir (be verrrry careful though…my dad almost got himself killed going down those slopes). You can have a skate and hot cocoa at Nathan Phillips Square. You can build a kick-ass snow fort and battle little kids in Withrow Park. And you can braise meat. This is, in my opinion, the single best thing about the colder weather. Summer is great and all, with its banana hammocks and grilled sausages, but when the temperature cools off a little and the sweaters come out, I crave stews and braises. (I also crave a bourbon, a little Ella & Louis on the hi-fi, and my sweetheart wearing a Snuggie® and a smile, but that’s a story for a more adult blog.) In fact, I have a beef shoulder in the oven right now, swimming in simmering liquid flavoured with onions, carrots, celery, red wine, and beef broth. That’s how I roll when it’s raining and ten degrees out. Ain’t no thing. But it can be. I can be a pompous jack-ass sometimes, as can most people who already have the power of cooking on their side. People who know how to cook should share their knowledge with people who can’t, but not in a way that is condescending, patronizing, or elitist. This attitude will just turn people off cooking. So I’m going to turn the jack-ass knob from ten down to like, four. I hope it works because I really want everyone to enjoy a nice bit of braised meat. Everyone should have at least one braised dish under his or her belt; a dish one can dream about while looking out of one’s office window watching the rain/sleet/snow/Armageddon-Hail fall. Question: What is braising? Answer: Braising is searing, and then simmering a piece of meat in flavoured liquid until it is tender. Question: How is it different from a stew? Answer: Quite simply put, you braise a big piece of meat and you stew little bits of meat. Really, that’s about it. Question: Why do we need to differentiate the two? Answer: Well, I guess we don’t really, except it’s kind of like saying a sunflower and a daisy are the same thing. They aren’t. I love a stew. A properly made bœuf bourguignon is probably one of the most delicious things ever. But there is something a little magical about taking a big, hard, tough, rugged muscle and turning it into a luxurious, soft, fork-tender pillow of protein. You know that feeling you get when watching an old movie at Christmastime? You know what I mean – that warm, reflective, teary type of movie that reminds you about what it was like to believe in Santa? That’s how a well-made braise makes me feel. It takes a long time to make, but once you open the oven and remove the pot lid it’s like revealing a bit of heaven. It’s probably what the Nazis were expecting when they opened the Ark of the Covenant. But a good braise will only melt your face in the same way a wicked Slash solo will. In ecstasy. Common Braising Cuts: Beef: Boneless Blade (Best for pot roasts) Chuck Short Ribs Brisket Shank Oxtail (It’s not from an ox; it’s from a cow) Cheek Tongue Pork: Anything from the shoulder – Boston Butt or Picnic Ribs – Back Ribs, Side Ribs, even Spare Ribs Belly Shank Cheek Chicken: Drumsticks and Thighs Lamb: Shank Ribs Boneless Shoulder Neck One thing all of these cuts have in common is that they are the hardest working muscles on each animal’s body. Shoulders especially, as they not only have to share the load of the animal’s back with its hind quarter, but the shoulder also has a big heavy neck and fat head to carry around. A lot of work that is, so the muscles are pretty tough cookies. You can’t just go and grill these cuts, as you’ll just be chewing for decades. These cuts need Tender Loving Care. Braising in Seven Easy Steps: 1. Choose a cut of meat from the list above, season it with salt and pepper, and brown it all over in a deep-sided pot. (I like using equal parts of butter and vegetable oil to do my browning). Remove the browned meat from pot and put it aside for a second. 2. Slowly caramelize flavourful vegetables IN THE SAME POT. Flavourful vegetables can be (but don’t have to be): onion, garlic, carrot, celery, parsnip, turnip, peppers, or anything else you like that has a sweetness to it. Starchy vegetables like potatoes don’t really do much here. 3. Deglaze the pot with a bit of flavourful liquid. After you have caramelized the flavourful vegetables you will notice there are brown bits at the bottom of the pot. If you add a liquid this will come off and add to the overall flavour of your braise. Liquids I like to use are: red wine, white wine, vinegar, beer, orange juice, etc. You can use whatever you like. The point is the liquid you deglaze a pot with will add to the flavour of the whole braise, so it’s best to use a strong, flavourful liquid here. 4. Add your flavour enhancers. Fancy talk for herbs and spices. Anything goes here, from bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns (classic French) to lemongrass, ginger and star anise (a little more Asian perhaps). 5. Put your meat back in the pot, and then almost cover it with more liquid. The liquid used here is more neutral, perhaps chicken, beef, or vegetable stock. Or just water. No one will judge you if you use water. Besides, if you have a nice amount of flavourful vegetables, wine, enhancers AND meat you’re basically making a broth if you add water anyway! When braising, it is important to barely cover the meat with the liquid. This will keep the meat moist while cooking without making a big pot of soup. 6. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then put a lid on the pot and put it in an oven that has been pre-heated to 325˚F. Check it once and a while until it is fork-tender. This basically means what you think it does – if you can easily stick a fork in the meat and it gives no struggle on its way out, it’s done. Depending on the cut you choose, this can take anywhere from two to four hours. 7. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!! Let the braised meat cool a bit in the liquid before taking it out and slicing it. If you take the meat directly out of the pot that came out of the oven, then sliced it, any moisture you worked so hard to keep in the meat will be lost in a puff of steam. Wait at least thirty minutes. Even better to wait a few hours to let the meat cool in the liquid. Gently reheat the meat and slice it before serving, and then thicken the braising liquid (maybe by puréeing the cooked vegetables in the liquid and straining the results) and have it stream over the meat like a nice sauce should. Yeeeeahhhh!!! That’s what I’m talking about!!!! Ca-Na-Da! Ca-Na-Da! I dare anyone who “hates” winter to deny themselves the most pleasurable of all winter’s pleasures. Hey, a cold day can totally suck. Anyone who has had to walk through the snowy streets with a hole in his/her boot can vouch for that. Slush is a pain, especially on the stairs down to the subway. Driving behind snow ploughs ranks pretty high on my “things I want to shoot myself in the foot before doing again” list. But just think of that delicious braise you made on Sunday–the one you just have to heat up after work that will fill your kitchen with the lovely smells kitchens are meant to smell like; the braised meat that could even defrost Mr. Freeze. Think of that braise and I promise you winter won’t feel like the worst time of year. That would totally be those two weeks in July when it’s so hot you could fry a duck egg on the hood of a Toyota Yaris.
Thanksgiving When You’re Broke and Alone

Thanksgiving When You’re Broke and Alone

RecipesSanagans
Ah Thanksgiving. I love this time of year – leaves are turning into dried ornaments, the night chill turns us into a nation of scarf-lovers, low self-esteem based on poor body image is all but forgotten under big woolly sweaters. It’s a time when leafy green salads are tossed aside to make way for slowly braised beef ribs. Grilled corn on the cob and seared sea bass with tomato salsa sound great when it’s thirty degrees out and short-shorts are in vogue, but by the time October in Ontario rolls around, that corn is now in a creamy chowder laced with bacon and that sea bass is now swimming in a bordelaise sauce with puréed potato and sautéed chanterelles. At least that’s how it goes in my house. (By the by, no matter how many times I try, I still look terrible in short-shorts. True.) Canadian Thanksgiving (also known as “real Thanksgiving”) also comes at an interesting time in the university student’s life. I never went to university, as pursuing the dream to become a chef didn’t really allow for that frivolous nonsense, but I meet quite a few students due to the shop’s proximity to the University of Toronto. They usually check out the shop, in awe of all the goodies they never saw at the A&P back home, and buy a sausage or a few slices of bacon. Some shopkeepers might see these customers as not very important but I see awesome young adults willing to “try new things” at an age when that statement is most often applied to bisexuality and hard drug use. These students may eventually become regular customers, or they may not, but they will remember the time they bought and ate something they normally wouldn’t because they’re broke. I feel a lot of people with steady jobs and an apartment forget what it was like to leave your parents’ house for the first time. You have no real spending cash, other than whatever your cruddy part-time job gives you for your hard work. You wear clothes that don’t fit properly or have holes in them and pass them off as “hip”, which we all know is not true. You are broke, and that’s okay. That will (by the grace of God) change, and with any luck you can be a tax-paying slave to the dollar in a few short years. On top of being broke, most students are as lonely as Pepé Le Pew in a cat lady’s house. You yearn for companionship, but it is SO hard when you don’t know anyone and everyone seems different from you. Except that no one is really that different. You’re all broke and alone, for now. If for no other reason, that should bring a couple of you guys together in solidarity…which could be a very good thing this time of year, because Thanksgiving can truly suck if you’re a student. Most students have been in classes for about five weeks by the time Thanksgiving rolls up. Some lucky students will use this time to go home and see their families for the first time since Labour Day, and excitedly engross the whole family with tales of new books and clubs and professors over a delightfully big turkey. Other students, especially those who aren’t from the city and have to work to pay for some of their tuition, may choose to just stay in town and wait until Christmas for the big reunion. I admire these students, because no matter how you slice it, they are grown up enough to face what could very well be a miserable weekend. But it might not be. Ok, so here’s the deal. If you are a student, all broke and alone this weekend, and you have even a little energy to try new things, this post is for you. When the rest of us are shoving our heads into the turkey-filled feedbag, you can try something a little different, yet still reminiscent of what this season is all about. You don’t need much money to cook this plate, but you do need a little patience and just one friend. That’s right: a friend. This part I can’t help you with, but I do suggest you find someone else in your situation – perhaps a dorm-mate, or a study-buddy, or that cute boy/girl who works the cash at Tim Horton’s. You can cook this for yourself, but that doesn’t defeat the “lonely” part. I leave that in your hands. Now, I’ll be doing some fancy knife work and cooking here, but you can do all of this with just one kitchen knife, a pot or two, and a baking tray. If you don’t have these things, go and get them. Because that’s part of being a grown-up. And by the way, if you are nineteen and you don’t know how to do laundry, punch yourself in the thigh. You owe it to the 35-year-old version of you to learn this stuff now. So here’s the dish. Ballotine of Chicken with Apple and Sage, Gingered Squash Mash, Roasted Potato, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Cranberry Reduction Pretty good, eh? Maybe you SHOULD invite that boy/girl from Tim Horton’s. That’s the one good thing about not going home on a holiday weekend: no parents cramping your style with the old “open bedroom door” rule. Here we go. You’ll obviously need some ingredients. I bought the vegetables from an organic market near my shop. Some people would think that this trip would have cost me a lot of money, but it was only $5.46 for: one smallish squash – this one is called “delicata”, but any old squash’ll do one apple a few dried cranberries an onion – even though I’m only using a quarter of it a little knob of ginger one clove of garlic two smallish Yukon gold potatoes like, twelve Brussels sprouts Then I went to a cruddy convenience store and bought some Cranberry juice. It cost waaaaay too much at $2.25 for 250ml, but whatcha gonna do? Finally I went to my store and picked up a chicken leg and two slices of bacon. That cost $3.45. Well, it would have if I didn’t own the shop. Stuff I already had at home was some breadcrumbs, grated Parmigiano, and three to five tablespoons of butter. I also had salt, pepper and fresh sage and thyme (from my garden, silly). First I butchered the chicken leg. I drew my knife along each side of the bone until I freed enough of it to slip my knife underneath the bone. Gradually I cut the bone away from the leg. I made an easy brine by mixing a quarter of the cranberry cocktail with a healthy pinch of salt and a sage leaf, then put the boneless leg in that brine and soaked it for about an hour in the fridge. In the meantime, to make the stuffing, I finely diced some onion and garlic and sweated them out with one slice of chopped up bacon and butter in a pan. I cut the seeds out of the apple and chopped it, sliced the sage, and added that to the pan once the onions were caramelized. Once the apples were starting to mush I added about 2 tablespoons of cheese and 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and took the pan off of the heat. I mixed everything well and put it aside. For the squash, I peeled the delicata, cut it in half and seeded it. I peeled and sliced the ginger and put that in the squash where the seeds were. I added a bit of thyme and knobs of butter (about a tablespoon’s worth), and sprinkled it with salt, pepper. The oven had been preheated to 350˚F and I put the squash in on a baking sheet. After twenty minutes I flipped the squash so it could caramelize on the other side, cooked it for another ten minutes then removed it from the oven. I transferred it into a bowl and mashed it with a fork while it was still warm then set it aside. I then turned the oven up to 400˚F in anticipation of the chicken leg. To make the potatoes I peeled and quartered them, then placed them in simmering salted water for about twenty minutes, or until they just felt tender. I cooled them in a strainer before tossing them with butter. For the Brussels sprouts I cut off the nasty ends, halved them, then scored the core. I blanched them in simmering water for about seven minutes, then drained them. I sautéed onions and garlic in butter and the other slice of bacon (chopped up), and when caramelized I added the sprouts with a little salt and pepper. I cooked them until browned and set aside. To make the sauce, first I browned the bone from the chicken leg in a clean pan. That took about five minutes per side on medium heat. I poured the remaining cranberry juice into the pan with the browned chicken bone and added the dried cranberries and some thyme. I reduced it by four times so the juice was syrupy and added a knob of butter at the end to give it a little body. To make the chicken, I took the leg out of the brine and lay it flat on my cutting board, skin side down. I put the stuffing in the middle and rolled the chicken around it to make a fat cigar. I tied it up with some twine and seasoned it with salt, pepper, and butter. I put the ballotine (that’s what it is now) on the baking sheet next to the buttered potatoes and placed them in the oven (remember, now it’s at 400˚F). After about forty minutes, the chicken and potatoes should be golden and ready. I took the twine off of the chicken and sliced it into six even pieces. Now I was ready to plate. I put a dollop of squash on my plate, and used a spoon to mush it down. I scattered half of the Brussels sprouts around, and then added the potato. I put three slices of chicken on top of everything, and then finally drizzled it all with the cranberry sauce. Done. I realize I wrote this recipe using a first person narrative, but I don’t really expect you to follow this to a T. The point is to expose you to something you may not have tried before, and that can only be a good thing. This plate cost me about ten bucks to produce, and that left me a few bucks to spend on wine, which is a great thing. So even if you are broke and alone you can get full on food and drink, perhaps with a new friend. At a time of year when everyone is being thankful for what they have, let’s be thankful for what we don’t yet have. Sometimes discovering new things can be more exciting than knowing the same old hat.
My Very Own Sausage Party

My Very Own Sausage Party

Product InfoSanagans
As many people know, the Meat Locker has a Twitter account. When I signed up for it I didn’t really understand Twitter. My sister told me “it’s a great way to immediately hear thoughts from a bunch of people, then immediately forget those thoughts”. She also told me that John Mayer is hilaaaarious on it. After a pitch like that, I couldn’t resist. So I linked my Facebook page to my Twitter page and the rest is history, or at least as “historical” anything on a social medium can be these days. Like most Tweeters, whenever I log on, I check @mentions to see who’s saying stuff about my store. Perhaps this is #self-obsessed, but I do find out what people like or dislike about the shop. And the other day the following tweet popped up. IanKiar wrote: FOR THE 4th TIME IN A ROW ALL YOUR GODDAMN SAUSAGE CASINGS BUSTED 3 MINUTES AFTER PUTTING THE GODDAMN SAUSAGES ON THE GODDAMN BBQ! @sanagans Wow! All caps means I’m being yelled at. The G-Damn is pretty emphatic; I get the dude’s mad. And you know what? So would I be. I don’t want my customers to pay for a perfectly good, well-seasoned sausage and have it blow up like an over-pumped bike tire whenever they cook it. So Ian Kiar, this is for you. I’m going to attempt to explain why this occasionally happens, and how the customer can avoid it from occurring, at least 99% of the time. First, I’ll explain how we make our sausages. We make our pork sausage fillings from primarily shoulder and belly meat, with added back fat if necessary. We also use the trim from the loins and leg cuts, as long as we keep a good 25-30% fat content, necessary for a moist sausage. This meat is well chilled before being ground, after which it is seasoned with whatever tickles our fancy. As flighty as this part sounds, we have actually solidified about ten good recipes and rotate through these, with the occasional new one popping up from time to time. Now the sausage is ready to be piped. We use all natural casings from hogs and lambs. These are the intestines of said animals that have been washed out and packed in salt. There are different types of natural casings; beef is used for salamis for example; but we just use hog for big sausages and lamb for small, thin ones. You must fully rinse the salt out of the casings before using them – this takes about half an hour. The sausage mix, or “farce” as it’s commonly called – goes in the sausage stuffer. The casing gets fed onto a cylinder that is attached to the stuffer and a hand crank is used to coax the farce from the stuffer into the casings. The sausages are then twisted, pricked for air holes (which relieve pressure from the farce when it gets cooked) and separated before going onto trays into the display cabinet. I would prefer to air dry them in my locker for at least six hours before the display stage, but demand and real estate doesn’t allow me this luxury. It is VERY IMPORTANT to realize we use only natural casings. Most commercially prepared sausages are made with collagen casings, which actually aren’t as bad as they sound. Collagen casings are processed from cattle hide. They are thinner and stronger than natural casings. They don’t break as easily, and they don’t have that same “bite” as the natural casings. By “bite” I am referring to the toughness that sausage casings can have after they’re cooked. Collagen casings also don’t produce that natural curve to the sausage that ours do. I chose to use hog and lamb casing because I wanted to produce a sausage that was a made with the least processed ingredients, and something your grandparents would have made. I’m no enemy of advancements, as can be witnessed by my (eventual) acceptance of Twitter, but when it came to the sausages, I wanted to go with the intestines. If the Egyptians did it, so could we. Unfortunately natural casings have the disadvantage of bursting when being cooked. This can be due to a couple of reasons, but the two I feel are the most responsible are tightness of the stuffing and the method of cooking. One reason is our fault, and the other is not. We conduct spot checks to ensure the sausages are being piped properly and are not over-stuffed. If I feel they are too taut, they are to be re-done. They should feel like a man feels in his loins when he is making time with his lover. Sorry, I should have preceded that with “earmuffs”. (“Earmuffs” is what I say to the younger staff at the shop when I want to have “grown-up” talk with the other adults. Borrowed from Old School, I know, but it’s useful in real life too.) The sausages can’t be too hard or too soft. As Goldilocks would say… So if the sausage bursts because it is over-stuffed, I blame myself. The cooking, though, is up to the cook. We have been telling our customers to cook the sausages over a low heat for a long period of time, but I think there is still some confusion. What I have been telling people is to cook the sausages slowly and evenly and the chances of splitting are minimal. I thought that was enough but obviously I was wrong. Ian Kiar’s Tweet proved that. Maybe I wasn’t being heard, or perhaps people are so used to cooking Johnsonville Brats that they forget our sausages need a little more of a tender touch. So I want to be more clear. I decided today to make a tutorial showing no fewer than four different methods of cooking sausages that we made fresh today. So without further blabbering, here is how it went down. First – Lisa made these beautiful Italian sausages. Pork, toasted fennel seed, chili flakes and fresh garlic. I took home four. Second – I have prepared four cooking methods. I preheated my oven to 350˚F. I preheated my barbecue to 400˚F. I turned a pan onto medium-low and poured a tablespoon or so of olive oil into in. And finally I put a pot of water on to simmer. (That’s right, a Broil Mate!) Notice the element is set to 4. Do whatever the equivalent is on your stove. Third – I set my timer to twenty minutes and put each sausage into its hot prison. The poached sausage simmered, the pan-fried sausage sizzled, the oven-baked sausage roasted, and the barbecued sausage grilled. The poached one is pretty straightforward. I left the heat exactly the same and didn’t really do anything, other than turn the sausage over in the water at around the ten-minute mark. The oven baked on was the same. I flipped it once at the ten-minute mark. The grilled one required a little bit of thought. I didn’t want the grill to be too hot, so after it was pre-heated I put the sausage on an indirect area of the grill and left the lid open. I turned the sausage a couple of times during the twenty minutes to ensure even cooking. The pan-fried sausage was pretty straightforward. It started to sizzle after four minutes and I turned it after ten minutes. I turned it once more at the fifteen-minute mark to get a little extra colour on the one side. And here are the results. In terms of appearance, the poached one looks kind of dry; the grilled one didn’t achieve the colour I wanted, so I think it could have used a little higher heat; the baked sausage also didn’t have the desired caramelization; the pan-fried one did, though, and looks the most appetizing. And now for the taste test. I found the poached sausage to be a little dry, which I totally predicted. The grilled sausage wasn’t even fully cooked! I put that one back in the oven to finish. Next time I’ll leave it on the grill for another five to ten minutes. The baked one was very good, less dry that the poached sausage but not as browned as I like my sausages to be. But the pan-fried one – oh snap! That was daaaamn tasty! The caramelized exterior somehow made the interior taste better. It was juicer, saltier and more satisfying than the others. I think I need to give the grill another chance, but for the purposes of this experiment, let’s just say the pan wins. Now, at the end of the day the sausages are just one part of the meal. I chose to slice the sausage and eat them with a smoked ham and kidney bean thing I made a while ago. Delicious.. And then I just ate more sausage on a cutting board with mustard. Because I’m a fat pig. Oh and guess what. THEY DIDN’T BURST! I COOKED THE GODDAMN SAUSAGES FOUR GODDAMN WAYS AND NONE OF THEM BURST! Having properly made sausages are the beginning of any well-made meal. I hate to hear that something we produced turned an otherwise delicious mealtime into a sad affair. So I will continue to have properly stuffed sausage in my display case. I hope this tutorial helps you have properly cooked sausages on your table.

Stock, Broth, and The Importance Of Knowing The Difference

GeneralSanagans

When I first started cooking school I had a class called “Food Basics One” taught by a crusty old German chef who had no time for disinterest. His first lecture sounded like this: “If you don’t want to be here, don’t come. I don’t care. If your mommy or daddy paid for this education and you don’t come, take it up with them. I don’t care. If you are paying your own way for this education and you don’t come, you’re an idiot. But regardless, if you DO come, absorb and learn and maybe one day you will become a chef.” Needless to say, if I was going to stay I had better shut up and actually pay attention. One of the things I’m glad I paid attention to was how to make stock – probably the most essential thing to know how to make. I don’t care if you’re a master grill cook, or if you can carve a potato in such a way that it forms a chain-link (admittedly very cool); if you can’t make a decent stock or broth, you didn’t listen that first day, and you probably aren’t a chef now.

But you don’t need to be a chef to make an excellent stock or broth. It’s the easiest thing in the world, because even at it’s most basic it’s just bones and water. It can be much, much more than that of course, but even a university student can find enough couch change to make a simple broth; sustaining themselves long enough to get through their next “World of Warcraft” session or whatever it is university students need sustenance for. I do want to clarify the difference between a “stock” and a “broth” here though, because I do think there is some confusion about the two.

Stock is what you make when you want a neutral base of flavorful liquid to accommodate a lot of different recipes.

Broth is what you make when you want a more assertively flavored liquid that will eventually probably become a soup, but not necessarily.

At the end of the day, the main difference is salt. Salt enhances the flavour of anything. Eat a raw carrot straight up. If it’s a well grown carrot it will probably be tasty, somewhat sweet. Now lick that carrot and sprinkle salt on your lick stain. Now eat that carrot. Effin’ delicious. Now, knowing salt’s effects, you must be judicious when using it. Especially in a stock that might be reduced by twenty times it’s volume. If a stock is highly salted originally, it will be gross when reduced that much. Science, right?

Because a stock is made to be a lighter base, the flavours don’t have to be aggressive. My favourite is chicken stock. Sooooooo versatile it’s ridiculous. I use it in almost everything. Instead of sautéing vegetables in oil I will lightly poach them in chicken stock. I will boil cauliflower in chicken stock and a touch of cream before puréeing it to velvet smoothness. I’ll reduce chicken stock down in a hot pan, add a stem of thyme and a chopped shallot, and at the last minute just before the stock completely evaporates, I’ll whisk in a little cold butter and a squeeze of lemon juice for a delicious pan sauce. I really don’t want to sound fancy, because it’s NOT fancy. Homemade macarons are fancy; stock is grade school.

Here’s a recipe that you’ve probably seen a variation of in every cookbook, but whatever. One more won’t hurt.

Chicken Stock

1 chicken carcass (it’ll probably be about 1.5 lbs, depending on the size of the chicken. Get two if you think they look small. Get your butcher to chop it in, like, three pieces or so. If you don’t have a butcher, leave it whole. Or come to my shop.)

Put the chicken carcass in a pot that will hold it and cover the bones with water, just about an inch above the top of the bones. If you have a whole carcass and it’s sitting awkwardly in the pot, almost cover it with water. If you start feeling stressed out at this stage, have another glass of wine. I think I forgot to mention you should be drinking something before you even start. Anything will do. (Please drink responsibly.)

Put the pot on a medium heat and add a pinch of salt. Just a pinch. Then add:

1 small onion – cut in four with the skin on
1 medium carrot – peeled and cut into four pieces
1 stalk of celery – washed and cut into four
2 bay leaves – fresh or dry
Like, 5 peppercorns
3 cloves of garlic
Let the water come to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to just over low. A bunch of crap will rise to the top of your stock (mainly coagulated proteins and fat). Take a ladle or a spoon and try to skim that crap off before it muddies your stock. After the stock has simmered for an hour and a half, turn the heat off and let the stock “steep” as it gradually cools. It is very important to let the stock rest this way. It might not do anything actually, but I like to believe it solidifies the stock’s flavour profile.

Now strain the stock through the finest strainer you have. A wire mesh one is great, but a salad spinner basket will do.

And you’re done.

See that!? My eight-year-old niece could do that, and she hasn’t even finished Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire yet. I’m not saying you have to do it, but at least know how to do it. Make it once and stop being such a little princess.

And now broth. When I worked in Italy we would make a broth to use as a base for everything. Similar to stock, except it had more flavour, more oomph, more balls. It was the best when used sparingly, like when reheating a ragu of rabbit for example. Put a little of the refrigerated, pre-made ragu in a pan, add a quarter cup of broth and bring to a simmer before tossing it with your cooked pasta. Even better, add the pasta when it’s not quite cooked and let it finish in the brothy ragu. Add a knob of butter and some freshly chopped parsley, toss to combine everything and plate. Beauty Clark!

Broth is used when making risotto, because the intense aroma will encapsulate every grain of that rice and hug them in an embrace of deliciousness. Also it adds flavour to rice. Broth is the best base for soups, as a well made broth only needs a garnish and perhaps a little more salt to be eaten as is. It is a restorative, giving strength where stock gives sustenance. I know it seems like little difference, and when you get down to the nitty gritty, when making this at home you would probably make some kind of hybrid stock-broth and leave it at that. But that little difference means the world to a chef. A stock just isn’t as hardcore as a broth. But half the time you only want soft-core. That’s just how it is.

A broth is usually made with meatier bits than just the bones. Bones are there, sure, but so is meat. Remember, meat has more flavour than bones on their own. Give a dog a marrowbone and she will love you. Give her a shank bone with the meat attached and that dog will be your bitch for life. On that note…

Meat Broth

2 chicken legs
1 beef short rib (about a pound’s worth)
1 pig’s foot, split (if this is too hard to get, forget it, it’s not worth crying about)
Put all of the meats in a roasting pan, liberally season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with oil and place in an oven that is preheated to 400˚F. After about twenty minutes the meat should be browning nicely. Remove them from the roasting pan and put in a pot. There will be a bunch of caramelized bits of meat on the bottom of the roasting pan. Pour enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and put it back in the oven. This will help “loosen” those little flavour bits. Meanwhile cover the meat with cold water and put the pot on a medium heat. After a couple of minutes take the roasting pan out of the oven and using a wooden spoon scrape the bits off the bottom, making a type of meat slurry. Pour that deliciousness into the stockpot. Now add:

1 big onion, skin on and cut into four
2 carrots, peeled and cut into four pieces
2 stalks of celery
6 cloves of garlic
6 bay leaves, fresh or dry
A small handful of whole peppercorns
A generous pinch of salt
As with the stock, as soon as the broth comes to a simmer a bunch of crap will rise to the top. Use a ladle or spoon and get rid of it. Turn the heat down to just above the lowest setting and simmer for two or three hours. Taste the broth. It should taste like yummy soup. Perhaps a slightly under-seasoned soup. No worries, you can always add salt at the end. Turn off the heat and let the broth steep for an hour before straining it.

So this was a little more complicated, what with the roasting pan and all, but still! If you can ride the bus by yourself, you can make this. And you will be happy. Maybe not the big chef you want to be one day, but a damn good cook who is welcome in my kitchen any day.

And this is the point of knowing the difference. Cooking can be just a necessity, but it can be much more than that. With a little push, Kraft Dinner can be Baked Pasta. Cream of Mushroom soup doesn’t have to come out of a can every time. Sometimes it’s awesome to indulge in premade garbage. Peanut butter on Saltines is the shit. But with every hot dog, have some broth. Your grandmother would be proud.

Oh Balls

GeneralSanagans
I’ve made a new friend, and her name is Jennifer McLagan. Back when I was a nobody chef (prepping for six hours, service for five hours, scrubbing the insides of ovens for two hours) I loved going home and reading cookbooks on my downtime. Still do actually, and you can find a selection of my favorite “meaty” ones perched on my display cooler in the shop. Some of you have grabbed one and flipped through it while waiting your turn. Some of you put your coffee on them and forget it in the shop. Cookbooks have become very much in vogue – giant glossies weigh down many a coffee table (I’m assuming so it doesn’t float away) – but my favorites are still the classic, informative reads. The Fergus Hendersons, Nigel Slaters, Jane Grigsons and Anna Del Contes of this world have kept me reading and learning. Their books gave me ideas and recipes, always keeping me excited about my chosen field. A few years ago I added a new author to that list: Jennifer McLagan. Her books about fat and bones are clearly written for the diners, and treasured by the cooks. I enjoy reading a book that doesn’t pussyfoot around sensitive topics. They might not be bestsellers (though I think that may change soon enough) but they are honest, well written and informative. So you can imagine my glee when Jennifer started to shop at the Meat Locker. I remember it well. Soon after I had opened a certain Food Network Host came in to check me out. I don’t want to name-drop, but Laura Calder apparently liked what she saw, noticed I had copies of Jennifer’s books on my shelf and decided she MUST inform her friend of her find. I guess they chatted at a dinner party (I imagine they ate roasted squab perfumed with Périgord truffles while debating the merit of truffles from Oregon – but I digress) and the next thing I know Ms. McLagan was in my shop, asking if I ever got in beef heart. By the grace of God I had some in my locker, so as if I was a cleaver-wielding Fonzie I cooly replied, “of course, who doesn’t?” I guess she liked that response and has been a frequent customer ever since. Jennifer has recently completed and published the final chapter in her trilogy on meat. Odd Bits, not surprisingly, is a great read, full of interesting tidbits and cool recipes that are approachable. This is very important because the subject matter is sometimes unapproachable. Not too many people like brains. Even fewer enjoy lungs. I for one have turned my nose up at testicles, claiming: “hey, war’s over, onto steak.” One of the reasons I liked reading Odd Bits is it feels like Jennifer has said that very thing once or twice before, but has spurned that attitude now and adopted a more adventurous one, happily taking us by the hand and walking us through a thick forest of offal, bones and fat. It might not be for everyone’s tastes, but I think it’s important to recognize the worth of these ingredients. Like Kanye, I’m not here to convert atheists into believers, but I’d love to smack some knowledge over a newbie’s head. And Jennifer feels the same way. I say bravo madame, bravo. However, I still don’t want to eat balls. You can read Jennifer Bain’s awesome interview with us here.
Two Years Late, or How I Can Interact With My Customers Whilst At Home

Two Years Late, or How I Can Interact With My Customers Whilst At Home

GeneralSanagans

Almost exactly two years ago I asked my parents for more money than I thought I ever would. It wasn’t an obscene amount mind you, but enough to buy a nice small car. Perhaps a pre-owned Mini Cooper. They were gracious enough to lend me the money and I was thrilled to begin work on what would become my best job ever. Sanagan’s Meat Locker has stood the test of two years now, long enough to sneer at the bankers who originally laughed me out the door but not quite long enough to become the institution I hope to be one day. Give me another fifty some odd years and maybe that dream will come true.

I want to thank all of our regular customers who have supported us, even when we were consistently selling out of things like chicken and sausage. Now I kick myself when that happens. What kind of butcher shop sells out of chicken for crying out loud? It has been quite the learning curve but people have stood by us, and every week we meet new faces, peeking in the window and asking themselves, “why is there sawdust on the floor”, “how the hell do you cook rabbit”, “what’s a Meat Locker”, or “just where is South 50 Farm anyway”?

These questions, as well as my self-indulgent desire to have an online voice, have led to this blog. It won’t be the most elaborate blog, but that’s the point. I want people to be able to easily navigate the site, find the information they need, and leave to go eat or something. Because let’s face it, you’re here because you love food, drink and merriment. So let’s get on with this then.

Peter Sanagan