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July's Feature: Chef Alan Lazar, M.Ed., CCE
Chef Alan Lazar is an associate instructor at Johnson & Wales University's North Miami Campus, where he serves as the lead meat-cutting instructor.
A Butcher's Workshop - Craft Butchery
The meat industry has been in a silent revolution that is getting louder every day. According to the 2017 National Restaurant Association (NRA) culinary forecast survey, locally sourced meats and seafood are among the Top 10 Food Concept Trends for 2017. This trend seems to be continuing in many cities such as New York, San Francisco and Miami, and has been getting stronger over the last few years.
The owner of Florida Fresh Meats in Summerfield, Florida, Jan Costa, had mentioned to me at a culinary meeting that he would like to sponsor a beef workshop for our students at Johnson & Wales University, North Miami, to cut and taste a local beef still on the bone. The side of beef was an Angus steer, grass-fed and dry aged for 28 days. It brought back memories of the old days before we had boxed meat and plastic bags. To hang it up and bring it into our meat lab was an event. The steer weighed 550 lbs. and was cut into forequarter and hindquarter. The temperature of the side of beef received was 36 degrees Fahrenheit.
Several students attended the workshop and learned about farm to table beef fabrication. We fabricated the front part of the steer, the chuck/rib section. The first piece of meat we took off was the skirts steaks. The skirts steak was the steak in which my grandfather, Paul Lazar, would cut into to judge the intramuscular fat of the animal. In the 1960s to the 1990s our family owned and operated some of the largest and most profitable Kosher butcher shops in the New York City area. The skirt steak skin was dried out from aging, but it looked nicely marbled and, once we tasted, was very tender and flavorful, not chewy or bland.
The side of beef has 13 rib bones. There are five on the chuck, seven on the rib and the lucky 13th on the loin. It is an industry standard method. We separated the chuck and rib by counting down the five rib bones and separating them with a knife cut, then sawing it. The chuck swings a little (that is why they use to call it swinging beef). It is made up of the neck and shoulder meat, which is separated by a blade bone. The shoulder contains the Petite Tender (Lazar steak), the Flat Iron and the Ranch cut, besides other muscles that we will use for stew or chopped meat. We also took off the Brisket (Pot Roast, Corned Beef or Texas Style BBQ) and one of the students boned it out (took the meat off the bone).
We boned out the neck and made stew/ground beef from it. The rib was made into Cowboy steaks, short ribs and top rib for pot roasting. Remember on a rib there is a large end (connected tissues) and a small end (loin side). The plate is for pastrami or chopped meat. The pictures below are a rib sectioned off into short ribs and plate. The middle picture is a rib of beef and the last picture is the top rib, we use like a brisket of beef for moist cooking methods.
The beef round was fabricated hanging from the stand, which made it much easier than on the table. We use natural gravity in fabricating the round. There are four roasts on a beef round. They are the bottom round (moist cooking method recommended), eye round (moist), sirloin tip (dry cooking methods) and the top round (dry).
In this picture, a student butcher is taking off the top round from the femur with the aitch bone still attached. Look at this technique of pulling with the hook and cutting with a breaking knife.
Just about ready to separate the top round from the femur and then work on taking the shin meat off the bone. This is the top round trimmed and split. The middle picture is from the hind shank; look how cherry red it is. The last picture is a sirloin tip roast.
The next and last primal was the loin, the most flavorful piece of meat. We decided to bone it out and taste the beef tenderloin, and compare it to the top loin steaks (New York Strip); both were boneless.
We cut off a few steaks to taste, and ground up some trim from the chuck and the round. The meat fresh off tasted so much fresher, even through this animal was aged. The meat reminded me of what it tasted years ago without Cryovac packaging, which started in the 1960s.
Flap meat can be grilled or rolled to make into pin wheel steaks. The beef Osso Bucco is cooked using moist methods as it is a tough piece of meat and needs time to break down the connected tissue. It is very flavorful.
We started the fabrication at nine o’clock in the morning and we cut, packaged, labeled and stored the beef by 1 o’clock. We compared the ground beef from the chuck to the round and found it to be very flavorful. The steer was grass fed and did not have very much fat. This was good because we are paying for the protein in beef, but intramuscular or marbling fat does add flavor. The aging of the beef provided a nice flavor; big change from a store purchased, grain fed beef. We did not do a chemical analysis or nutritional (we were hungry). It reminded me of the beef that I grew up with in Brooklyn many years ago.
The cost factor of the piece of beef is important. The steer weighed 550 pounds (6 dollars a pound = $3,300, and after trimming and tasting we had 490 pounds, which is an 89% yield). The cost is now $6.74 per a pound, which is a nice price for this Florida angus that has been dry aged. It was great to taste what beef used to taste like from past years.
It was fun to return for a few minutes of really fabricating a side of beef. To smell the freshness, see the true color of cherry red meat and not just open bags of plastic. The students enjoyed this workshop and one of them headed out west to cut meat in Wyoming (you can’t get better than that, so much cattle out there beside bison). The beef is a little more expensive because of the handling, feed and processing, but these are choices we make in life. Of course it all comes out on the plate!
More about Chef Lazar:
Chef Lazar is an associate instructor at JWU's North Miami Campus, where he serves as the lead meat-cutting instructor. Chef Lazar remains active in the culinary field and is a member of the American Culinary Federation (ACF), which has certified him as a culinary educator and approved him as a culinary evaluator.
A past vice-president of the local ACF chapter, Chef Lazar has advised the ACF student chapter since 2000. Other ACF achievements include being named the hospitality chair for the 2002 ACF Southeast regional convention and receiving the ACF Greater Miami Chapter's Achievement Award and 2003 Chef of the Year.
Chef Lazar continues to increase his skills by working summers and breaks for the USDA/AMS as a meat certification specialist in the Miami area. A firm believer that students come first at JWU, he was selected in 2004 by the culinary faculty to receive the North Miami Campus' Vollrath Faculty Award.
For an interview with Heather McDowell of Tickle Water, CLICK HERE.
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