Oct 17, 201309:24 AM
Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
The Latest from Thrive Foods and a Few Words on Meat
A butcher slices meat at Whole Foods. The store's meat department is currently carrying Sierra Cut Chuck Steaks.
When I first talked to Peter Menge about Thrive Foods, he told me that the plan was to stock prepared foods at multiple locations around the city. Thrive weathered a few storms over the last six months or so, but the plan appears to be on track, as you can now pick up ready-made meals from the Laurel Street Bakery (Laurel St. location) whenever it's open. The menu for the next two weeks looks pretty good to me, and I'm not saying that because they're paying me. They said something about how that would be “unethical,” and “I can't believe you'd even ask,” and “what is wrong with you?” “Why are you carrying a knife? Is that a butter knife? What. Is. Wrong. With. YOU?”
It's cool. I get it. People are intimidated by me.
Still, the freedom to just pop into the Laurel Street Bakery and check out what the Thrive kids have on offer is a swell thing. If you're like me, and I hope to God you aren't, you don't plan ahead too far when it comes to meals. That was always the downside to Thrive for me; I liked the food I tasted, and while Peter Menge is almost certainly some sort of vampire-werewolf-pixie-type creature, I figured it didn't matter if the food was good.
And the food I tried was good, including a dish that involved brown rice. I am not a fan of brown rice, generally speaking, so when I enjoy a dish with brown rice as a major component, I take notice. Point being, take my advice and give this stuff a shot. Just don't look Menge in the eyes if he's at the bakery when you stop in.
In other news, at Whole Foods the other day I ran across a cut of beef I don't remember seeing before. “Sierra Cut Chuck Steaks” is how they were advertised; what caught my eye in the first place is that they looked like long, thin tri-tips. The cut, which I later learned is something that the National Cattlemen's Beef Association came up with a few years ago, is well-marbled and really does remind me of a miniature tri-tip sirloin roast.
If you follow the link above, you'll see that the beef industry is (or has been) trying to maximize profits by re-naming certain cuts that would otherwise be sold as ground meat and selling those cuts as steaks. The incentive for the industry is that while ground beef might sell at $1.99 a pound, when you separate out some of the cuts that would otherwise go into the grinder and sell them as steaks, you can charge more like $6.99 a pound.
I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I like the idea that I can buy some of these cuts as steaks; most of these cuts are flavorful and if you cook them properly they're better than the best fillet you've had. But on the other hand, I've seen the price for lamb and goat offal spike dramatically at Rouses over the last six months. I can't even consider buying the “prestige” cuts Rouses sells, but when they started charging $6.99 per pound for kidney and heart?
It breaks my heart – speaking of – because I like my local Rouses. But I don't much care for the selection in the meat department these days, and I haven't been impressed with the seafood over the last several months either. Don't get me wrong, it's a hell of a lot better than Winn Dixie, but then that's not saying much, is it?
So the Sierra Cut steaks I bought at Whole Foods turned out to be delicious. I seared, then braised the steaks in my pressure cooker, adding stock and onion, garlic and ginger before I put the lid on. After 20 minutes, I released the pressure and added some thickly sliced carrots, then let it go for another 10 minutes.
I've cooked enough beef that I had a pretty good idea how it was going to turn out, but given that it was, technically, a new cut, I was pretty happy it worked out as well as it did. I could see cooking a Sierra Cut on the grill, and serving it rare, but I was pretty happy with the sear/braise I did the other night. I don't know how widespread the distribution of this cut is at the moment; Whole Foods is the only place I've seen it, but I'd encourage you to try it out if you see it on sale at a local shop.
That's it for me this week. You kids try not to set yourselves on fire until the next time we chat, and if you can't manage that, at least don't blame me when the Fire Department arrives.