Retail beef prices are up about 16% over February 2014, when they were already high. In times like these, getting the most out of your meat budget is critical, so I have an important tip for you.
Keep as much of the animal as you can.
I know it seems obvious, but be honest; how much of the animal do you discard when you order custom meat? The slaughterhouse tells me that most people throw out the tongue, the tail, the bones, the fat trimmings, and all the organs except the liver.
The next time you order a steer from your friendly neighborhood farmer, tell the slaughterhouse you want to keep the bones, organs, fat, tongue, and tail. This will increase your yield dramatically, and give you the opportunity to make some fantastic dishes you hardly find in the USA anymore.
I recently ordered half a steer; he was 1300 lbs on the hoof, 75% D’Aquitaine, grass fed the first half of his life, then hay and grain finished. I kept most of the stuff, but I wish I had kept even more. I don’t especially like sweetbreads and kidney, but I’d like to try my hand at some Vol-au-Vents or a typical kidney pie. If I had kept the stomach I could prepare some tripe tacos, and from the caul I’d make a beef version of Atriaux.
Get some practice making dishes like this. Then, when the crash comes, you’ll know how to make tasty meals without wasting anything.
Beef Consommé Recipe
I did keep all the bones that were trimmed out from the cuts I specified, and with this I made a beef broth by roasting the bones at about 200 for several hours in a turkey roaster, then simmering them in a turkey frier about 24 hours. This broth now gives me the opportunity to make a particularly rare, luxurious dish — beef consommé. This is a clarified beef broth flavored with vegetables and spices, then poured over shaved raw beef. It is hard to find except in major urban restaurants, and it is quite expensive. It is typically presented at the table with the raw shaved beef and chopped parsley in a bowl, and the liquid on a burner to keep it boiling. It is then plated at tableside.
Do not be fooled by the fact that this is a clear broth; it is full of protein and is truly satisfying. It is typically served as a starter, and you can easily fill yourself up with it, so be careful.
In the video I took a couple of shortcuts to save time, but here I’m going to give you the full recipe.
- 10-12 egg whites
- 2 lbs lean ground beef
- 1 lb sirloin tip or round steak, shaved
- 1 large sliced onion, caramelized in beef fat
- 1 large finely chopped onion
- Finely chopped carrots and celery, same amount as the onion
- 1 large diced tomato, or 1 can
- 5 quarts beef broth
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 cinnamon stick (opt.)
- 10 pieces whole allspice (opt.)
- 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 tsp salt
- Place beef broth in refrigerator well ahead of time. It will clarify best if it is cold when added to the pot.
- Caramelize the sliced onion in beef fat (preferably) or butter.
- Whip egg whites until frothy.
- Combine mirepoix (chopped onions, carrots, celery), thyme, ground beef, egg whites and tomatoes in a large stockpot.
- Add the cold beef broth
- Add spices and salt
- Stir gently, then bring to a simmer — DO NOT BOIL
- Once it is mixed, do not stir again — you want a raft to form on top. When it does, cut a hole in the center so you can monitor the simmering and clarifying.
- Simmer gently for 90 minutes to 2 hours.
- Scoop out the raft, then run the liquid through a cheese cloth.
- Place in fridge to cool, then skim the hardened fat.
- Bring consommé back to a boil, and serve hot over shaved beef and parsley.
- Add salt and black pepper to taste.
In lean times, I wouldn’t make this dish; there’s too much waste involved in the process of clarifying the broth — all the contents of the raft are discarded. I give it to the chickens and get the eggs back, but still, this is a luxury dish, not a survival food.
Nonetheless, even in lean times people splurge occasionally. Knowing some fancy foods is good for morale, and knowing how to use every part of the animal is nearly as satisfying as the dishes themselves.