Monday, March 2, 2009

Neighborhood Butcher

Here's my five star review of our new neighborhood butcher: San Francisco Meats & Delicatessen. (Check out more rave reviews on Yelp!) My friend June, who lives on Ocean Ave. just a few blocks down from them, told me about the new shop, so I went and checked them out. Joe, the owner, used to work at a hoity-toity meat counter in Pacific Heights but always longed to open up his own meat shop in...Ingleside! We're lucky he did, and I bet we appreciate his friendliness and top quality all the more over here in lowly Ingleside. I have to say, I didn't just embrace SF Meats without subjecting the shop to a few tests.
Test #1: Did they have family-sized, home-style cuts like pot roasts, london broil, etc. that require a bit more cooking knowledge than just throwing it in a hot pan? Yes! I bought a very nice roast that Joe said he uses for their roast beef sandwiches, and another time an "Ingleside broil" (his name for it). He also has the ubiquitous steaks and chops.
Test #2: Did they have knowledge about how to cook the pieces of meat they sell? Yes! When I was drooling over their rotisserie ribs, Joe suggested that I buy a rack of ribs and cook it myself. I told him that my smoke alarms went off whenever I tried to roast ribs, and he wrote down his very own special ribs recipe in which you cover the ribs and let them braise rather than roast. It was delicious.
Test #3: (Most important) Did they know how to prepare specially ordered cuts? Yes! I called them up and asked Joe if he could make some braciole for me out of pork shoulder. There was a short silence. I asked if he knew what that was and he said no, but nicely. So I described it and he said he could do it, and he did. I may be imagining it, but I think I saw a new light of respect in Joe's eye when I came to pick up the braciole. He asked if I wanted to inspect it, and I said no, I trusted him. And I do. And here's some rare good news amidst the economic grimness all around: another customer came in when I was picking up the braciole and asked him how business was. Joe said, "Business is awesome."

Here's how to make braciole:
Ask the butcher to prepare 3 pounds of pork cutlets sliced from the shoulder and pounded approximately 1/4 inch thick. Sometimes these turn out to be squarish, around 6"x6". Joe's turned out to be long strips, about 5" by 10-12". It doesn't really matter, as long as they are thin, and not too lean or they will not be flavorful.
Other ingredients:
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. minced garlic, plus 8 large whole peeled garlic cloves
2/3 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2/3 cup grated aged provolone (or other semi-hard cheese; I used Manchego)
2 28-oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes, good quality
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cutlets up on a clean work surface. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with garlic, cheeses and parsley (I like to mix all these together, then sprinkle them on.) Roll a cutlet, starting at one of the shorter ends, into a tight log. Tie with twine as shown below. Repeat with all cutlets.
2. Puree the tomatoes, one can at a time, in the food processor (you can also use canned puree but sometimes the tomato quality is better in whole tomatoes). Reserve.
3. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat and add oils. When oils are hot but not smoking, add the braciole and sear, rotating every minute or so, until browned all over. You can do this in batches if all braciole don't fit. Remove braciole to a deep-sided roasting pan. Saute whole garlic cloves for 2-3 minutes in the skillet, then add 1 cup of the pureed tomatoes and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom. Turn off heat and pour this sauce over the braciole. Add remaining pureed tomatoes to the braciole, completely covering them. Cover with foil and bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, until they are very tender.
4. Snip off twine, and arrange braciole whole or sliced on a warmed platter, with some sauce spooned over. The remaining sauce can be used for a pasta to accompany the braciole. Pass Parmesan at the table.
(Recipe from the New York Times, adapted from Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli)

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