Meat

There are some advantages of having a top end butcher as a friend. (There are plenty of disadvantages too, but that’s for another story.) One of the great benefits is having access to stock bones without having to demean myself by asking for “a few bones for the dog” as some are reputed to do. In chatting with said butcher, we got to talking about the possible difference in stock quality by using bones from a Wagyu carcass. The conversation led to an experiment. The rest, as they say is history.

So this post really should be titled “Don’t forget to photograph the sauce”. That is as close to an admission of stupidity as I am going to get. You will note one or two pouring shots further down. One of peppercorns and one of smoked paprika. The sharp eyed amongst you will notice that they are both poured into the same pan and they are both going into the pan empty. The truth is, I was playing around with a couple of lighting approaches. I wanted to be able to really freeze the stuff mid-air. A blur in a pour is a failure. So, I spent about an hour getting the two shots, picking peppercorns off the floor and out from under the fridge as well as cleaning the oven dish repeatedly. I think I got there in the end. However, I should have spent my time thinking about what I was doing. I was preparing Smoked Bourbon Beef Short Ribs and that needs a sauce. It had one. It was delicious. But, I don’t have a picture to prove it. Damn!

There is a lot of China bashing going on right now. This may be because of fear of the Covid 19 virus or it may be because of fear of a Chinese ascendency in a globalised world, or both. For now, sitting here in Ireland, half way between the US of A and China, I really don’t care which is the cause, give it a rest please. We are here to try a delightful dish inspired by the flavours of Sichuan, particularly the Sichuan peppercorn. It really is not a peppercorn. It doesn’t add any heat to dishes. But, it adds a fantastic flavour combined with a lip numbing effect. Lovely! So, with the politics out of the way, let’s get on with the cooking.

“What is the old fool on about now?” “What’s with the +1?” I can hear you thinking to yourself. Give me a chance to explain. We have all heard people saying “It tasted even better the second day”. At least you should have heard that if you ever made a decent curry or spiced stew. If you haven’t been subjected to such praise, perhaps you don’t know how to cook in the first place. Then all the better for you because I am suggesting that when you cook this delightful spicy lamb and apricot stew, you leave it for 24 hours, reheat and enjoy. It really is so much the better for the day of melding flavours.

Let’s face facts, many of the burgers one encounters in the big, bad world, are pretty bloody awful. Most of you see the sun come out, rush to the convenience store and buy a box of frozen patties (Who is Pattie and what did she do to deserve this treatment?). Then it’s home to the garden, to wipe the cobwebs off the barbecue. Then you take the wire brush to the grill. Next you fire it up and burn off last season’s leftovers. You throw the frozen patties on the grill along with some jumbo sausages, ribs, bacon, cofti, chicken wings and pork chops. You take pictures of the whole lot burning on the too-hot grill and share it to your social media. You swill a few cans of beer, over-eat, get the “meat sweats” and retire to snore through the worst excesses of your piggery. But….., there is a better way. Better for you and better for small producers creating great product sold through independent butchers who know their trade. The way forward is the Way of the Wagyu.

If you are looking for elegance, look somewhere else. If you are looking for subtlety pass by, my friend.  This dish is not such a preparation, it’s like being hit in the face with the all ingredients from an Oriental grocery store, all at once. Don’t get me wrong, it is delicious and you won’t regret making it. Just be prepared for a flavour explosion in your face.

I had a conversation with my friend, James Lawlor, who runs the butcher shop that bears his name (on the Upper Rathmines Road in leafy south Dublin). It was over the counter while he was putting my weekly order together. He mentioned that he had some Wagyu beef at the end of his 21 day dry ageing process. I am a sucker for a nice Wagyu, so James fetched the side from which to cut the rib that you see in the picture.

There are short ribs and then there are short ribs. One can’t blame the average butcher for trying to sell as much of the animal as possible. But, many go too far and end up harming their own businesses by selling bits of the animal that should really be put to other use. The humble short rib or Jacob’s Ladder is such a cut. The very best of the short ribs comes from high up the ribs, towards the front of the animal. As one goes lower and back, the ribs get thinner, the meat gets likewise and the connective tissue to meat ratio goes up. Having said all that, I was stunned by the quality of the short ribs I used for this recipe.

This recipe is a celebration of being involved in a great organisation, the ISVA. For me, it’s a huge honour to be included in the Champions of Sous Vide cookbook published by Mike and Jason of the International Sous Vide Association. I decided to celebrate by cooking some delicious Spiced Wicklow Lamb Shanks (in the sous vide, naturally enough). Wicklow lamb really is some of the very best in the world. If you get a chance to try it, do so. This recipe is simplicity itself. I have included a full instructional video for your convenience.

These little tasties are a great example of international cooperation. The finest Irish lamb is combined with some delicious spices to give us Indian Style Lamb Chops. They were perfect with the Spinach Dahl I posted last week. They are delightful and I prepared plenty. There were three of us sitting down to eat. Three chops is plenty for one person. There are eight chops in a rack. You know what I did. 

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