The Cook and the Butcher: Juicy Recipes, Butcher’s Wisdom, and Expert Tips by Brigit Binns
Weldonowen for Williams Sonoma, 2011, 223 pages, more than 100 recipes, many beautiful color photos of the dishes.
Four chapters: Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal. A lifetime of incredible recipes for cooks who are bored with the same old same old.
Brigit Binns is simply amazing. She is the author of more than two dozen cookbooks, many of them for Williams-Sonoma, including this one. She knows so much and is so inventive.
Binns shares more than 100 recipes and, on almost every page, weaves through the book tips and quotes from butchers across the nation. An example from Frank Castrogiovanni of Ottomanelli Brothers in NYC “Select a flank steak that is short and thick with some of the white fat remaining. The longer flank steaks are usually chewy”. I didn’t know that!
The recipes are a mix of indoor and outdoor, and they are beautifully photographed by Kate Sears. What stands out is the creativity. For example, Steak Au Poivre. As Binns explains “This classic French preparation is a luxurious combination: the cooked meat, as tender as butter, is finished with a bracingly piquant and creamy pan sauce. While some recipes call for the peppercorns to be ground and pressed into the meat before cooking, I prefer to season the steaks simply, with a sprinkling of salt and black pepper, and to feature the green peppercorns in the easy pan sauce.” Well every recipe I’ve ever seen says to coarsely crack the peppercorns, smask them into the meat, and then panfry. The problem is that you end up with serious pepper overload, you can barely taste the meat, and it is almost impossible to get a good flavorful sear with all those huge chunks of pepper holding he meat above the hot pan surface. That’s one reason I quit making this dish. Until now. Binns’ approach, which boils green peppercorns and uses them in a pan sauce of shallots, butter, Cognac, heavy cream, and beef consommé, is so much more sensible and elegant. Just like the lady herself.
Then, on the next page, she turns Philly Cheese Steaks from caterpillar to butterfly. Other recipes include Oven Browned Spareribs with Lemongrass, Honey, And Soy; Roasted Flank Steak Stuffed with Olives and Pecorino; Maple Brined Pork Chops With Pear Chutney; Pork Shoulder Braised in Milk; Double Cut Lamb Chops Stuffed with Prunes and Pine Nuts; Grilled Veal Chops with mustard Tarragon Aioli. Among the salads, sides, and toppings are Mango Salsa; Sun Dried Tomato Jam; Lime, Cabbage, and Jalapeño Slaw; and Onion Rings.
The menu sounds like a 4-star restaurant, but the recipes are easily managed with the help of a good butcher, a well stocked kitchen, and the guidance of a great cook, like Binns.