By: Brigit Binns
Publisher: Weldon Owen
Publication Date: September 2011
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: September 1, 2011
Have you ever prepared what you hoped would be a wonderful steak (or pork, lamb, veal) dish only to find that the meat was overcooked/undercooked, tasteless, fatty, or gristly? Was it your cooking or did you select the wrong piece of meat? This wonderful new cookbook will answer (and solve!) that question for you because it blends great recipes with sage advice from some of the country’s top butchers.
This cookbook with a twist is broken into four main sections. There is a chapter on beef, pork, lamb, and veal, as well as a short segment devoted to salads, sides and toppings. A brief overview – “about meat” – at the start gets the ball rolling and a butcher directory, listing butchers included in the book, along with their contact information, specialties, favorite cut, as well as a brief paragraph about their shops, nicely rounds out the book.
We like to test several recipes from each cookbook that comes in for review and with this book it was hard to decide what to make. The photographs were lovely and made the meat look absolutely mouth watering. Would the real-deal be as tasty as those photos made the meals look? Happily, yes, everything I prepared came out tasting great. However, I took the time to carefully read through the selection/preparation tips spread throughout the book before I got started.
Did you know that most hams sold are either a “butt-end” ham or a “shank-end” ham? What’s the difference, how do you know which one you’re buying, and which will produce a juicier meal? How about choosing a flank steak? Which recipes would this steak be best for? You'll be able to answer these questions after reading The Cook and the Butcher. How many of us overcook pork to avoid any risk of trichinosis? Then the pork is tasteless so we never cook it again (or maybe it’s just me?). The section on pork discusses this fear, what is/isn’t true, and how to deal with it and still enjoy juicy pork dishes. The butcher tips, “a note from the Butcher,” as well as “FAQS for the Butcher,” are numerous and provide a wealth of helpful information for meat preparation. They go far beyond a few tips here and there from a cookbook author that many books offer. I found these suggestions quite helpful and interesting.
This is not the sort of cookbook to use when in a rush to prepare a quick meal at the end of a busy work day for screaming kids. While most of the prep times weren’t terribly long, you can’t rush meat preparation. With instructions such as “remove the meat from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for two hours,” and “let ham rest for 20-45 minutes,” most of these recipes are best saved for a wonderful weekend meal with family and friends. Or perhaps a late-night, romantic meal with someone special…
Quill says: Delectable recipes and a primer on meat selection and preparation make this cookbook a winner!