Verslag van een (Engelstalige) cursist
The fourth lesson of our cooking class was -I’m sure-. the day that some of the guys (I know at least that is true for my guy…:)) had been waiting for: the famous meat lesson.
As usual the morning when we came in there was already a stack of various meats lying on the kitchen counter, some of them still sealed, others in their ‘bare’ form, some quite recognisable (oh nooo, those are brains!!) and others not.
The purpose of today was to learn how to remove the membrane from pieces of meat and prepare them for further cooking, baking, grilling or whatever you want to do with meat. Rob was showing us why a big red piece of meat is not necessarily the best meat. I find it almost incredible if you hear that the good meat that is produced in Holland is being shipped to all sorts of other countries across the world and we then import other meat, I mean there’s no point in that. Talking about food miles!!. If you slaughter an animal there a stress-hormone is produced which means that the meat is not edible for about 36 hours after it has been killed. Unlike fish, meat is not at it’s best when it is fresh from the cow or pig as that hormone needs to disappear first (also the reason why halal meat is not the best, as the animals are much more stressed when being killed the halal way) plus the longer the meat is hanging the better the taste becomes. In general good meat hangs for about 2-3 weeks before it goes to the better butchers and it may hang for up to 4 months. The reason is that it starts to decompose a bit meaning it gets tastier and softer. The moisture inside of the meat also evaporates shrinking the meat to about 20% of the initial body weight.
The meat we can find here in the supermarkets is usually really young meat. Cheaply produced and still containing lots of water.
The story of the chicken is also true for cows and pigs. Young cows that are able to run around freely develop muscles, meaning their meat becomes rose instead of white. Here in Holland we -thankfully- don’t really have white veal anymore and the cows are treated in a more animal friendly way, but in Italy one only wants white meat for veal. Which is really strange as more developed muscles also give a different bite and better taste.
Anyway, the meat we buy in the supermarkets doesn’t really have a lot of membrane attached to it, so not much work to do before you toss it into the pan. The better pieces of meat however do have lots of fat (gives a nice flavour) with the membranes still being there. So our first job of the day was to practice removing all the membranes and tendons.
I had quite a large piece of meat. No idea how it is called in english but it was called a ‘longhaas’ in Dutch. When we prepared it later it took a little bit of getting used to as it was more stringy then I am used to but after 2 little pieces I started to like it more. I suppose we’re really conditioned to like the meat we buy in supermarkets as that is the only meat we get to eat really, but there are other meats out there!
We prepared the meat in various ways. Some pieces of veal where flattened to be used as saltimbocca and schnitzel (oh, we had one with a lovely parmesan crust…, love it!!!) and the larger pieces of meat where prepared in the oven or in the pan depending on size and, well, what we wanted really.
We also prepared a lamb’s rack by putting in garlic and rosemary and thyme into the skin, popped it in the oven for a while and.., delicious! Rob had also bought a couple of regular porc chops and well, I suppose everyone kind of knows how those taste. I’ve never liked them as they tend to be hard and dry and pretty uneventful. But then we also prepared a large piece of Baambrugs pig, which is an organically farmed pig that gets good food and is quite famous. It’s prepared meat is lovely moist, soft and tasteful. Amazing what a difference quality can make!
So next… offal!…. There was a selection of heart, kidneys, brains, lungs (!), liver and sweetbreads (or thymus gland) Now I know the French for example eat just about anything and everything from an animal, as do people in many other countries, but here in general we eat liver and a few eat kidneys but the rest (sweetbreads as an exception) is more or less regarded as dogfood. Apart from the brains and lungs I tasted everything once prepared, but the only two tastes that I liked where liver and heart. Quite surprised to find that I liked the taste of heart, it has a bit of a livery taste to it. I did NOT like the kidneys and I also think they were still too raw (for my taste anyway), sweetbreads are OK, although it really depends on how the’re prepared. Tom tasted a bit of brain and told me I probably shouldn’t. He kind of knows what I really don’t like so I trusted his judgment and didn’t take any.
I am not really a big meat eater in the sense that I hardly ever have large chunks of meat on my plate. and after all the meat that passed through my hands I could really not stand another bite… It was just too much! It’s not only the tasting you do throughout the whole day but the scent of the cooking as well. You’re basically standing in the kitchen for 4 hours and that’s enough to fill you up!
Maybe no big surprise that we ate pancakes that night…:) I was just in desperate need of something meatless and sweet.
Upstairs (our group is split into two, one part is cooking upstairs and the other part is cooking downstairs) they also made saté (tasty!!) and other things, while we focused more on the basic techniques… At the end of the lesson we took our fabulous group photo!!