When my roommate decided to buy a side of grass-fed beef from a co-worker 10 years ago, she came home with a single sheet of paper in her hand.
“What is it?” I asked, holding the sparsely typed page gingerly, noting where we were to indicate our preference for steaks or roasts or ground beef.
“The farmer says it’s a cut sheet.” she shrugged, “I guess we fill it out.” She pulled down the old Joy of Cooking from above the fridge, saying, “This book has some diagrams in it, maybe it will help.”
We struggled with the cut sheet for a few hours before coming to any decisions. We also bought a second-hand freezer as well, because we thought it might be a good idea to have some extra room for all of that beef. It was a very good idea. We didn’t know what we were doing, but after tasting the quality of the grass-fed meat, we were hooked.
Ten years of buying sides and shares of beef and lamb, CSA shares of pork and whole chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks have passed since then. I’m married now, with a growing family to feed, a second freezer and yet I still struggle with filling out a cut sheet.
Thrilled I am, indeed, to find Deborah Krasner’s recent book, “Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat”. In this book, what was perennially intimidating has been laid out for me, in one book, clearly and with lots of diagrams – just the way I like it.
Ms. Krasner has organized her book into sections dealing with each animal, how to source them, what cuts come from which primal, how to ask for what you want, and how to cook the cuts you get to the best advantage. Diagrams, color photos and clear instructions lead each chapter, even before the recipes begin.
The recipes I tried were delicious. My husband said of the Sirloin Steak with Red Wine, “This tastes like something you’d get in a restaurant!” What home cook doesn’t secretly want to hear that! For lamb, I loved the Merguez Sausages, saving half the recipe for the freezer to put into a cassoulet later. Black Bean Soup with Smoked Hocks and Sherry introduced me to this wonderful cut. As a result, I’ll always have some on hand in my freezer.
From the Poultry section, our favorite has become the Roasted Cardamom, Oregano and Garlic Chicken Thighs. So aromatic, I think there is nothing more lovely than the smell of this chicken floating through the house.
For those who do not eat meat, Ms. Krasner has also included a large section on eggs and other side dishes, among which the Vermont Cheddar Souffle and the Clementine, Fennel and Olive Salad are standouts.
Even beyond the increasingly important issues of grass-fed vs. commercial meat: nutritional, environmental, good animal-husbandry, etc., the book reminds those among us who eat meat to look with honesty and clarity at where our meat comes from. She gives us the tools to access this world without too much stress. I know this for sure, thanks to “Good Meat”, I’ll never be anxious about filling out a cut sheet again.