the St- Paul Meat Shop

The Meat Shop Reuben // Now With Beef Tongue!

reuben_email Before we opened the St. Paul Meat Shop, a group of us went on a reuben sandwich tour around the Twin Cities. It was a great bit of staff bonding and an opportunity to assess the reuben landscape. Unlike the pastrami and the chacarero, I have no emotional tie to the reuben. It’s a classic, it’s delicious, but it’s one of those sandwiches that can turn into a greasy mess of muddled flavors very easily. This was going to be a sandwich that we turned on its head a little bit.

reuben_collage

We’re a whole-animal butcher shop, so of course, we use every little bit of the animals we source. We wanted at least one of our sandwiches to really reinforce that message, and that sandwich turned out to be the reuben! Beef tongue is a magical cut and it seemed perfect for this sandwich because, once pickled, it is incredibly similar to corned beef. In fact, we think it’s richer and more tender than most corned beef, without all of the extra fat that comes along with brisket. Beef tongue adverse? Don’t be scared, this sandwich will help you conquer your fears!

The other big change we made to the classic reuben was serving it at room temperature. Is a reuben really a reuben if it's not served hot? You can decide that for yourself, but we love the creaminess of the unmelted raclette next to the crunch of the fermented cabbage. Textural bliss. And finally, our Russian dressing has just the right amount of sweetness to pull off the tricky balancing act of salt, acidity, and savoriness. I hope you'll give it a shot!

Ask A Butcher // What's the Lamb American Roast?

ask_a_butcher This will be a regular series, in which our St. Paul Meat Shop butchers, Scott and Peter, answer your questions about meat! Sign up for our emails and never miss a post.

Q: What is the Lamb American Roast and how should I prepare it?

A: The Lamb American Roast comes from the same place on a lamb as it does from a cow (namely, the chuck section). The big difference is that the lamb version is a smaller 1-2 person roast, while the beef version can feed 3-5 people.

This cut has loads of rich lamb flavor. It's really well marbled and great for slow roasting. As usual, we recommend cooking this guy to medium rare.

Each Lamb American Roast weighs about 3/4 of a pound and there are only two per animal. That means we only have two of these roasts a week in our meat case. Plan ahead for this one!

Meet The Chacarero

chacarero My first job out of college was working in an office tower in downtown Boston. As a carefree 22-year-old with a salaried job, I had zero concern for packing a lunch. Lunch was eaten on the streets of the Boston financial district and, more often than not, at a Chilean sandwich counter called Chacarero.

The original Chacarero was a window in the side of the old Filenes at downtown crossing in Boston. By noon the line would be 20 people deep. You paid in one line and then moved to the next line where you’d wait again until it was your turn to customize your sandwich exactly the way you wanted. The protein options were chicken, beef, or vegetarian and then you went down the line with your sandwich picking your various toppings.

It’s the green beans that make the Chacarero iconic. Blanched green beans on a sandwich? Kinda odd. Then there’s muenster cheese, tomato, cilantro-avocado spread, salt, pepper, and a secret spicy sauce. A small sandwich is enough to make you sleep, a large one means you don’t need to eat dinner.

The Chacarero (which interestingly translates to “farmer”) we serve at the St. Paul Meat Shop begins with brined and roasted pork shoulder. We knew we wanted roast pork on a sandwich and the Chacarero seemed like the perfect place to put it. The green beans are exactly the same as the original Chacarero, but for cheese we went with Comté (c’mon, we run a cheese shop after all) to bring a little sweet nuttiness to the sandwich. Instead of avocado we have a bright chimichurri, which brings the cilantro without getting in the way of the Comte’s creaminess.

Every time I eat one of our Chacareros, the flavors are just reminiscent enough to make me instantly homesick for that little sandwich window back in Boston. We’ll never be as good as my memories, but for sure I feel we’re paying a respectable tribute to the sandwich-slinging folks on the east coast.

--Benjamin Roberts, Manager-In-Chief

In Praise of Minnesota Produce

Strawberries In our humble little cheese shops, we’re not trying to change the world. We’re simply trying, the best we know how, to make scrumptious food and send you home with it. It's no coincidence, however, that one mission can accomplish both. A mission to support our endlessly dedicated farmers brings us the tastiest ingredients. A need to pay homage to the tastiest ingredients roots our cooking in tradition, simplicity, and the elegance of native-grown produce.

Think about the last time you ate a fresh garden tomato or a summer strawberry. Maybe you’re naturally green-thumbed and have had the pleasure of growing it yourself. Was it so juicy that it seemed to spring a leak when you bit into it? Did its deep ruby shade and bright, bursting flavor beg you to enjoy the moment just a second longer? Perhaps it caused an involuntary “mmm…” or “whoa!” to escape your lips. Now compare it to its cloned, out-of-season grocery store counterpart. Maybe the inside was white and spongy or mealy, like it was part edible sand. Maybe there was simply nothing lovely enough about it to be memorable at all.

If we can agree on the beauty and intense flavor of a tomato and a strawberry at their most delicious, we certainly don’t need to ask the question, “Why local?” It isn’t surprising that something grown near us, picked at its peak of ripeness, sugar development, and water retention, packed carefully and driven across town to be used in the following days (not weeks or months) is overwhelmingly more delightful than the alternative. I think I’d be bruised, battered, and lifeless after an international flight, too. A walk around the block is much simpler.

Minnesota Produce

The massive and obvious difference between homegrown fare and the shipped-in variety inspires all kinds of wonder. A small, but palpable phenomenon occurs every time we infiltrate the Cheese Shop kitchen with any neighborhood-procured bounty. Mouths water at the sight of dazzling beet jewels. Questions abound watching garlic scapes being snake-coiled inside pickling jars. Ideas trickle in from unlikely sources and grandmother’s recipes long forgotten. Hilariously-shaped irregular carrots make the rounds to give everyone a snicker. The entire staff anxiously awaits spring greens as their memories of last year's spicy greens already fading like a wispy dream. Text messages proclaiming, “These strawberries are BLOWING MY MIND. They are so red all the way through!”, and the shock and awe of a significant other noticing, “This celery tastes salty and… green? Normal celery tastes like crunchy water.”

It’s hard not to love the people and communities who work tirelessly to bring us such delight. They are often covered in dirt, dressed like camp counselors, a little stinky and sweaty, and smiling from ear to ear when they appear in our kitchen. The pride in offering their life’s work in a cardboard box and sharing it with their community is contagious. It is impossible to say no to the prettiest kale or butter lettuce when it's presented by the guy who tended and picked it. And how could we not order bushels of peaches by faxing an order form and deposit to a farm that still does mail-order?

Our dedication to capitalizing on the heartbreakingly-short Minnesota growing season isn’t always all warm fuzzies and happy days, though. It typically means hard work and long hours. When ripe tomatoes hit and can’t wait patiently for our attention, we bring in hundreds of pounds a day to can, stew, roast, dry, and purée. Then we play Freezer Tetris to try to store it all for use in our roasted tomato risotto throughout the fall. Cases upon cases of Honeycrisp apples overtake our walk-in coolers, prep spaces, hallways, and lives as we feature them in house-made strudel or a signature honey, blue cheese, and apple sandwich, and pair them with cheese plates. Occasionally, you’ll hear the distant mad cackling of a kitchen employee who’s putting away the world’s silliest-looking pile of rhubarb or someone asking, “Are you absolutely sure you want to order $500 worth of ramps?!”

Anyone who’s tried gardening and growing, whether on a small or large scale, can sympathize with how frustrating, back-breaking, and rewarding it is. The committed individuals we’ve gotten to know over the years, not picking machines or shipping companies, are trading their time and energy for your delicious plate. Let’s enjoy it, and thank them by acknowledging (and paying for) the difference between a December tomato and a backyard beauty.

*At the France 44 Cheese Shop, the St Paul Cheese Shop, and the St Paul Meat Shop, you’ll find local produce featured in every way possible, and pick up a local fruit pie every Friday in the Meat Shop! **Special thanks to Afton Orchards, Stone’s Throw Farms & Shared Ground Farmer’s Cooperative, Hidden Stream, and the Minneapolis, Kingsfield, and Fulton Farmer’s Markets

On Managing a Meat Shop

nick_blog_star Here’s an interesting etymology: the word “manage” comes from the Italian “manèggiare,” or, “to put a horse through its paces” on the “manège,” a training area particularly for racing horses. What’s it been like managing a meat shop? I feel like I’ve had to learn the rules of horse racing, the regulations of horse training, the basics of horse physiology, and the philosophy of what it means to race horses, all while on horseback (though I’ve had lots of help). It’s been invigorating and fun, though I’d be lying if I told you my head wasn’t spinning. I think I like the way the horse training etymology works as a metaphor. Managing a meat shop, training a racing horse—mostly, what you are being asked to do is to take care of something that is important.

The role that I play as the general, day-to-day manager of the St. Paul Meat Shop is one of ensuring the soundness of its operations, and the delivery of the highest-possible quality of customer service. This latter item is something that I, personally, have cared about for a long time (of course, we are nothing—we are less than nothing—without being really, really on top of our day-to-day basic stuff!). I remember as a child growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, walking into Zingerman’s Delicatessen, being greeted by workers there who treated my family as if they already knew us, and then being given transcendentally delicious food to eat—the kind of food that, after the first bite, you just know is better than almost everything else you’ve ever eaten. The completeness of that experience is rare and special. I think we offer it at our cheese shops already: you can walk in, have somebody who is really nice in a basic human way offer you an artisanally-crafted, mind-blowingly tasty piece of cheese, and then be transported somewhere else by way of your taste buds.

The vision we have for the Meat Shop is very similar. We believe that you can raise animals for meat in an artisanal way—this goes beyond buzzwords like organic, local, sustainable, grass-fed, although these are all awesome principles and necessarily a part of what we do. The big idea is that there are some producers nearby who are really passionate about delicious meat, and have the know-how to make it happen. In theory, it’s not so different from affinage, or the art of aging or finishing a cheese. “Finishing” an animal on grass is an art, and “grass-fed,” on its own, simply isn't a guarantor of taste. We’ve found four farming partners who are doing great stuff, and we’re proud to be a market for them.

Returning to our horse racing metaphor, I’m only a trainer. The Meat Shop is the product of the passion of many people, starting with the farmers who raise their animals the way they believe is right, even in the face of a market that doesn’t always reward that conviction; continuing to our management and butchering team, whose collective belief in what food should taste like and what a retail experience should feel like is what animates our existence; and our amazing owner, who cares about good food, good wine, and about creating special opportunities for people to pursue these passions.

My part in this is to ensure we’re a reliable and friendly place to get awesome meat, but much of our shop’s functionality and personality is owed to our high-functioning and personable group of jockeys behind the counter, whom I would gladly buy meat from, but would also, were I in the neighborhood, perhaps just pop in to say hi to and maybe even consult for general advice. Managing a meat shop has been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work so far—now that we’re off to the races I hope you’ll come by and say “what’s up” to us soon!

--Nick Mangigian, Manager of the St. Paul Meat Shop

Meet Our Butcher // Scott Filut

scott_blog_star Meet the St. Paul Meat Shop's lead butcher, Scott Filut! He's the passionate, grinning guy behind the good things you see in our meat case. Scott spends most of his time butchering at our kitchen in Minneapolis, but you can catch him now and then behind the counter on weekends.

Where are you from? Eden Prairie, MN

How did you become a butcher? I became a butcher when we opened a butcher shop! Haha.

In actuality, butchering is a skill used in every kitchen I have ever worked in. Most places bring in smaller pieces of meat that are trimmed and portioned for a dish, but a few places would receive whole animals that I was able to learn from. While most of my education has happened on-the-job, I've also done plenty of studying with different books and online butchering groups, especially over the last 6 months as we prepared to open the St. Paul Meat Shop.

What intrigues you most about butchering? I like butchering because it’s one of the first steps between the farm and the table. I get to work directly with small farmers who care as much about the final product as I do, if not more, and I'm able to pass along a great product to customers. Also, the art of butchering is a dying trade. I like being a part of keeping it alive.

What is the most challenging part of your job? The hardest part of my job is really understanding the structure of all the animals I work with. Every cut counts. If it's done in the wrong spot, we can't give customers what they want.

The best part? The best part of my job is passing knowledge along to others. Whether it's our staff or customers, I really enjoy helping others understand the technical side of my job, and how I do it differently than some other butchers. The taste testing isn’t bad either.

What's something we might not know about butchering? While butchering any animal, it's always my goal to not cut each piece of meat, but rather cut between the pieces and then go back to trim the meat up later. The structure of each animal is laid out for me, and it's my job to not mess up that structure.

Any book recommendations for meat lovers? The most comprehensive book I have found about butchering is The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat by Cole Ward. There is a PowerPoint that comes with the book which is very detailed. The way Ward breaks down meat isn't the way I do it, but it gives the reader a great idea of what to look for when approaching animals. There are many other great books by whole-animal butcher shops around the country, like The Meat Hook Meat Book by Tom Mylan or Whole Beast Butchery by Ryan Farr.

What's your favorite cut of meat to cook? My favorite cut of meat is a hanger steak, cooked to medium rare in a cast iron pan, seasoned only with salt and pepper. There is only one hanger steak per cow, but it’s delicious!

Favorite thing about the Twin Cities? My favorite spot in the Twin Cities is either Target Field or any golf course.

What's your spirit animal? My spirit animal is Natalonies (my dog)!

Any big summer plans? My summer plans include making big pieces of meat into small pieces of meat.