Q & A With Bruce Aidells: The Great Meat Cookbook, CSAs + a Pig Named Dinner
BA: It certainly can if you let the salt really penetrate. But those are pretty short term, at the bare bone minimum of time and saltiness. I haven't found that that happens. Particularly pork chops, where it's easy to make a pan sauce after you sautÃ© them off.
SI: You make a great case for joining a meat collective. How can the average person join forces with fellow carnivores?
BA: You don't have to go that far. A lot of smaller producers are doing meat CSAs, which are just a box of cuts. A cow share is usually a whole side and you go in with four families or something like that. That tends to be more popular in rural areas where they're actually raising the cattle. Sometimes the guys who show up at farmer's markets having several ways of selling meat -- they have CSAs, cow shares and pig shares and an internet site. There are also sources in the back of the book. General sources can lead you to CSAs and stuff like that. In L.A., you'd have to find someone who is coming in to a farmer's market. You'd have to drive too far otherwise.
SI: On the face of it, your argument for making your own lard is surprisingly convincing: It is lower in saturated fats and higher in monosaturated fats than butter and if it's homemade it has none of the unhealthy trans fats that the supermarket variety contains. Still ... rendering your own pork fat? We can't decide whether it sounds insanely time-consuming or super-easy.
BA: You're just melting fat. The hardest part is getting it ground up. The best thing to use is a meat grinder.
SI: Solve a meat mystery please. Many of your recipes call for 7-bone chuck. In Los Angeles, that cut is practically extinct. Why?
BA: You can buy parts of it -- the flatiron, which is the most tender part. You can get underblade. You know how with the 7-bone chuck there's a long part and then a little knob where there are two eyes of meat? The underblade would be the part that is under the long blade bone. They usually sell it without a bone and call it boneless pot roast. I agree with you -- I used to always see 7-bone chuck on sale. But now the flatiron has become super popular. What [butchers] are actually doing is breaking the 7-bone roast down into some of the individual muscles in order to get the flatiron which they can get a lot more money for.
SI: When you are invited to someone' s house for dinner are they too intimidated to prepare something meaty?
BA: [laughs] They're usually too scared to serve us anything. Period. Do you think we get invited very often? Our social life is pretty much Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone -- and Lisa Weiss has lots of parties. Otherwise we don't get any invitations.
SI: When you do get invitations do people ever expect you to do the cooking?
BA: That happens. The worst thing when they say, "Well, here it is!" and then walk out of the kitchen.
SI: That has really happened to you?
BA: Many, many times. I don't do this much anymore but [in the past] I'd go over to people's houses and they'd be making something they really didn't know how to make so I'd have to go to the kitchen and cook it. Otherwise, I knew I was going to eat really, really badly.
SI: As the author of The Great Meat Cookbook do you feel it is your responsibility to eat any and every kind of meat?
BA: [pause] I'm trying to think if I've had iguana.
SI: Have you eaten monkey?
BA: Never had monkey. In China I had little birds where you eat the whole thing.
BA: You know, I didn't have dog. I was in Vietnam and I saw it. The closest I got was something called "Mock Dog." It was a pork roast that was shaped like a dog carcass.
BA: I don't see cat on menus much.
SI: Do we detect a grumble in your voice? Monkey is fine to ask about, but cat is on the secret forbidden list? Is cat "a meat too far"?
BA: [voice brightens] I did have some squirrel recently. That was awfully good! This friend of mine who is a retired professor from Santa Cruz is a Cajun. He can't help himself - he likes hunting things. So there were squirrels on his property and he brought me about eight of them. I took lots of carrots, Moroccan spices and harissa and made a tagine. It was really delicious.
SI: Thanksgiving is upon us. What do you suggest for those who are totally sick of turkey?
BA: In the past we have done other things than turkey for our own Thanksgivings or [served] a roast [along with] the turkey. My first choice would be a bone-in pork rib roast such at the double rack of pork on page 334. I also love the dry-salted fresh leg of pork -- and another great choice is the standing rib roast, such as the one with bacon and rosemary jus and yorkshire puddings on page 102.
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