Using Your Head
We feel deeply compelled to harvest all we can from the beautiful animals grown naturally and killed for our meat business. Rather than pay lip service to the notion of whole animal usage, we make a point of selling and sharing the underappreciated off-cuts, bones and organs with chefs and friends who appreciate rustic old country recipes. Sometimes we give them away in the spirit of collaboration, building market demand for all parts of these special beasts. Scott Mickelson from Paragon at Foxwoods slow roasts and caramelizes our tails, creating “meat candy” that often doesn’t make it out into the dining room.
Tim McGrath from Waterman Grille in Providence told me he would take our grass-fed oxtails every day over tenderloins from Sysco. This past week we had the opportunity to gift the heads of two 8-month old weaned pasture calfs from our “rose veal” program to Chef Tim Sousa at Newport’s Tavern on Broadway for a special he will prepare next week.
Farm families have known for centuries that the head, neck and feet provide good home cooking while the prime cuts go off to market. It is interesting how many people reject some of the best meat on the animal due to fact that it doesn’t meet their vision of “prime” and they don’t want to know the body part from whence it originated. Chefs know better. The collagen and connective tissue within these tough and incredibly tasty portions can deliver a luscious, silky, “not-of-this-earth” mouthfeel when given proper attention – cooked slowly with wine, garlic, herbs and aromatics. Many of Europe’s top destination restaurants have created lifetime “bucket-list” dishes out of these humble cuts recalling a purer simpler time when people lived close to the land. No dish is more famous in this regard than braised grass-fed beef cheeks, falling apart tender and served on risotto or polenta to drink up the wonderful sauce.
Tim will cut out the veal cheeks and jaw meat, trim the silverskin, and marinate overnight in 4 cups of Madeira and red wine, garlic, bay leaf, rosemary & peppercorns. The meat will be patted dry, seasoned with salt and pepper & seared to golden brown in a deep cast iron pan in hot oil. It is removed to a side plate while onions, celery & carrots and garlic are softened in the pan until they sweat clear and take on some color. The marinade will be strained (discard solids) and placed in the pan. Boil and skim any foam. Reduce to simmer, add meat, tomato paste, water, mix of paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper, thyme & oregano. Simmer gently on stove top or in 300 degree oven for 4 1/2 – 5 hours until tender and easily shredded. Serve over creamy polenta.
Respecting the Protein, PMB