Saturday, November 22, 2014

Frenched Rack of Lamb. The Breakdown.

In response to the holidays, I've decided to do a post on Frenching a Rack of Lamb - Here in Austin, Rack of Lamb is hugely popular, for Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I'll admit, I don't care much for Lamb, but I really enjoy how tedious it is to process. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have! 

This is a whole, uncut Lamb Rack - and this is the Loin-end. 

This is the Rib-end, also known as the Large-end.

This first step here is removing the Thoracic Vertebrae. You could certainly cook this piece whole, just like this, but it'd be hard to carve and for most people the eye-appeal just isn't there. So, as a merchandising fiend, I'm going to take this to the next level. 

You could remove all these with one swipe if you wanted to, but I enjoy taking my time with it - especially since I'm doing this at home.

Almost done. Also, cutting away the vertebrae one at a time increases your yield. 

View from the Large-end. 

This yellow, rubbery tissue is inedible and needs to be removed, no matter what animal we're talking about. The only purpose this guy serves is holding the animal's head up - since we've already cut that off, it's useless to us. 

That's more like it!

The bit of cartilage that we're going to remove now is the remainder of the sheep's shoulder blade. 

On an animal this size, you could essentially just pull it out with your fingers, but you run the risk of tearing the meat, also damaging some of the meat you want to leave on the rack. Use the tip of your boning knife to outline the cartilage and then pull it out. 

Nice and clean!

Now to remove the cap. 

This is a piece that pulls away fairly easily, on Lamb, I doubt you'd need a knife until the very end, but each animal is different. 

Cut away with you knife and safe the Cap / Lifter for later. 

Score the top of the rib from eye to eye, all the way down to the bone. 

Cut the meat from the rib off. 

I've changed my methods quite a bit since these pictures were taken, but this way works just fine! Score the length of the bone with your knife to split the tissue that surrounds the rib. 

Start pressing the tissue away from the bone with the tip of your knife. 

Once you've got each bone facing relatively clean, you should be able to pull the meat away pretty easily!

Pull / push / karate chop the meat all the way down until you've reached the line you originally drew from eye to eye, then cut the meat away in a perpendicular fashion. 

Until your rack looks like this!

That's it for this post. Next up will be a Breakdown of a Dry Aged Shortloin into Bone-in Tenderloin steaks. I've posted that before but with some crappy Instagram photos that I was never happy with - I just relocated the original pictures, so once I've made the new post, I'll delete the old one. The post following the Bone-in Tenderloins will be a massive (probably two-part) post on the Best Butcher Contest I was involved with last year - there are hundreds of photos to go through, which is a fairly slow process. Thanks again!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Veal Loin and Rib. The Breakdowns.

Let me start by apologizing for not keeping this blog going over the last year and a half. I've been very busy, and less than inspired. Since my last post, I competed in Whole Foods Market's Best Butcher Competition, where I placed second, nationally. The experience was amazing, and the outcome was quite humbling. I've refocused on the finer details and have continued to hone my skills. The next time they have a competition, I definitely plan on entering.. this time, I'll be completely ready. 

Aside from Whole Foods, earlier this year I had the opportunity to work at Salt and Time Butchershop and Salumeria here in Austin. There are some amazing things happening at that shop on a daily basis, beginning with the overall quality of the meat they're bringing in. All the butchering is done while the sides and quarters are still hanging on the rail, and learning that aspect of the trade blew my mind. Easy, yet difficult. 

I have plenty of pictures from these experiences and hopefully I'll have the gumption to post something more meaningful about them. Until then.. here we go with the Veal:

Frontal view of a Split Veal Loin. On the left is the Tenderloin, on the right is the Striploin. Both would yield fantastic cuts by themselves, but with veal, it's best to keep them together. 

Another view of the Loin.

First off, start peeling the fascia away from the Loin Tail / Flap. 

This isn't very difficult, but if you're having a hard time grasping the fascia, use a towel for extra grip. 

Now that the Sirloin Flap is exposed, start clumping the Suet together for separation. 

To remove the suet, pull away from the ribs, towards the porterhouse-end - this should be pretty easy. If you need to snip some of the tissue to ease the motion, use the tip of a boning knife. 

Veal Sirloin Flap. 

Now for the T-bone Chops. Feel around for the empty space between the vertebrae, they will be equally spaced out. 

I'll usually feel out the first two to give myself an idea of the space between them, then I'll cut through the meat, all the way down on both sides. 

The reason I knife between the bones instead of taking the whole piece to the saw is simple: It takes more skill and the meat doesn't get town up on the saw. Also, this will inevitably extend the shelf-life. 

After you've made your cuts, take the primal to the saw and split between each chop. 

To help with presentation, I like to lay a sprig of Rosemary on the silverside of each chop, then tie.
Easy enough. Now for the Rib!

This is what's referred to as a Hotel Rack. There are 6 ribs for a rack of Veal. Each animal is treated a little different: For a rack of Lamb, there will be 8 ribs, For beef - 7, Pork - 13. These are the Center Cuts of each respective Loins. 

To start the Frenching (which the French call American-style), score the meat from eye-to-eye, all the way down to the bone. 

Score the inside as well. 

Next, score down the length of each bone. The goal here is to cleanly remove all the tissue on the bone, leaving it as clean as possible. 

Once you've scored each bone, start pushing the tissue away from the bone, beginning from the loin, down the bone. 

After you've done this for each bone, put down your knife and press the meat off the bone with your fingers. I like to get the first inch or so of each bone bare, then start working the entire piece. 

If you've done the first few steps well, the rest should be pretty easy. 

Clean as a whistle. Try to make your cuts between the ribs as square as possible. There's a million and one tricks for accomplishing this, learning them requires practice. Note the Veal McRib to the left :)

Now to tie the ribs.

Work your twine under the roast, aligned with the bone. Keep the 'free' end in your right hand, and the end of the twine still attached to the roll in your left. 

Bare with me here, for this is not an easy task to explain.. Each rib has a 'J' shape to it. Most butchers I've worked with will have two knots per bone to keep the meet from flopping over or working it's way out of the knot. You've tied a successful chop if, when you pick it up by the rib, horizontally, the meat does not sag. The know I'm about to try to explain is singular, but works from both sides of the bone. It's beautiful, and functional. Time saving, and simplistic. 

Starting from the hook side of the bone, work the string around the rib until on the way back, the twine crosses the 'J'. 

Now for the hard-to-explain part. keeping the free end of the twine on top, clamp the two ends together and move the free end underneath and around the anchored end. Release the knot, and...

Repeat the process again, but don't let the two knots get too tight, otherwise it won't slide. 

Next, slide the knot firmly into the meat, but not tight enough to cut into the meat. 

Close off the knot and snip the ends. Repeat. 

Repeat this process for each rib.. Marvel at its beauty!

Cut each chop between the ribs to yield six Veal Chops, ready for market.

I'll have to get a video put together for how to tie, because I doubt any beginner will be able to learn from the description I just put together. Sorry!