Because of geography, interest and dumb luck, I know a good number of butchers. I also know a number of good butchers. But let me tell you about some of the things that help to make a good butcher great.
- Understanding the customer is a great thing. But understanding on its own will not a great butcher make.
- Product knowledge helps when cutting steaks, yet it won’t cut the mustard in the greatness stakes.
- Stocking the unusual is in itself unusual and is a great help.
- Enthusiasm and passion are essential ingredients too.
When you come across all of the above, you know you are dealing with greatness.
While in my local Stillorgan Shopping Centre (what my American friends may call a “District Mall” and Ireland’s oldest shopping centre) recently, I popped into Fenelons Butchers. I was served by my friend Declan. Exhibiting all the points above, he presented me with some delightful Venison Cutlets. I quizzed him on provenance. He could tell me the name of the hunter, when the shoot took place and how the meat was hung and butchered. I was sold.
So I took them home and tried to reflect the difference between good and great as I cooked Venison Cutlets Sous Vide. I won’t bore you with a list of what makes an average Joe into a great cook. But, I can tell you that this recipe will get you most of the way.
- 7 or 8 venison cutlets
- A small handful of juniper berries
- 3 cloves of good garlic
- 3 or 4 sprigs of rosemary
- A teaspoon of black pepper
- A teaspoon of sea salt
Peel the garlic, chop up the rosemary into small pieces. Then place all the ingredients bar the cutlets into a mortar. Give them the sort of treatment you would like to give to anybody in retail who gives poor service. You should end up with a rough paste that will have a fantastic aroma.
Side note on poor retail staff: Do go easy on anybody working in retail. They are having a hard time of it. The Internet is disrupting their lives and making their employment less and less secure. On a daily basis, they have to deal with the great unwashed (as well as having to deal with you and your whinging) and that can erode their enthusiasm for bright, knowledgable customer engagement.
Smear the paste on the chops. Vacuum seal them and give them an hour in the water bath at 54ºC/130ºF. Take them from the bath and give them a quick sear on a cast iron skillet.
Serve them with some rustic vegetables and a fruit sauce. This sauce was the star of the show when I cooked it with some duck recently. Recipe is here and well worth reading.
I served it with some roasted potatoes tossed in oil and black pepper as well as some roasted baby turnips. Perfect partners they were too.
The venison was spectacular. It was a pleasure to cook and I hope it reflects the great experience I had when buying it. Butchers – more of this great service please.