The way I learned to butcher was by watching a surgeon. Not many people can say that. But some of my fondest memories as a kid (when I was too young to hunt) was getting an anatomy lesson in the garage by a man who had dedicated his life to fixing human bodies, Dr. Jefferey C. Zerby (my dad). Being able to watch the steady hands of a surgeon dissect and describe every organ, muscle and tendon in a deer coupled with their function is nothing short of genius. The ability to “break down” an animal in a sanitary and efficient fashion is a true art form and something that should not be overlooked. This exposure is where I gained a huge level of respect for purposeful hunting, the food chain and where exactly food comes from. In our modern society, people have no concept about how food makes its way to their plate. The video below is of Dario Cecchini, arguably the best butcher in the world. One thing clearly shines through for me about this 8th generation butcher, passion. Passion for his craft, the meal and the animal. We should all take a lesson.
The most life changing meal I have ever had was in Panzano Italy at Antica Macelleria Cecchini. My wife Amanda and I were on our honey moon. After reading a book titled Heat by Bill Buford of the New Yorker I was hooked, we had to go. We were about four days into our honey moon when we decided to make the trek out to Dario’s place in the Italian country side. After a few wrong turns and an argument or two… we finally stumbled on the place. I tiny butcher shop in the middle of nowhere, how exciting. I was so excited that I parked the car literally in the middle of the street, jumped out and declared that I must go inside. Everything that was written in the book was perfectly described. The steady hum of the place while Dario presided over the counter with Opera playing in the background. The smells, the people and the food was all I could focus on. Beautiful pieces of meat that had obviously been handled with great care. Now what? We had no grill, no oven or fire to cook on.
All of a sudden I feel a tap on my shoulder and in perfect English I hear ” you look a little lost, would you like to come and have lunch upstairs?” It was Dario’s wife Kim. “Of course I replied,but I literally left my wife and a running car in the middle of the street!” After a very brief explanation to Amanda about what was about to go down, we were upstairs in the really unique well crafted open seat dining room that just happen to have a wood fire grill in the middle. Dear God, thank you! The dishes were amazingly simple.
Root Vegetables w/ olive oil and sea salt- the vegetables had a depth to them that signified that they were just pulled out of the dirt that morning.
Steak Tartar (as featured in the video above)- raw meat with olive oil, lemon and sea salt
Porchetta– pork loin rolled in herbs and slow roasted to perfection
Bistecca alla Fiorentina- a very large cut of meat that is roasted over the wood fire coals to perfection, lemon, rosemary, olive oil
Enough about my life altering meal, lets talk about how you can get started creating your own, BOOM!
In the last post I promised that we would show you some basic knife skills, so lets talk about how to use those newly sharpened knives to help you become better in the kitchen.
If you haven’t noticed already, almost every recipe starts with the holy trinity. Celery, Onions and Carrots. If you can learn how to cut those three… you are already ahead of the game! Watch this video, grab an onion and start practicing. There is no better way of learning this new skill than watching someone demonstrate and practice! Thanks Mario Batali for your easy to follow videos.