Sunday, April 11, 2010
Let’s Hear it for the Local Butcher
Last time, I talked about my ever-evolving food philosophy. I spoke about how I’m trying to cut down on meat consumption and switch completely to organic and ethical meat sources. I said that I was buying my meat from Whole Foods and PCC, both of which offer organic meat options. Whole Foods, once a smaller organization, dedicated to local and sustainable foods, is now a huge corporation who uses their “green” focus to overcharge customers for products they are made to feel are morally superior to those from the Safeway down the road. By reading the labels on many of their products, indicating places of origin everywhere from California to Australia, they seem to be far less committed to local products than they once were. Now, this is not to say that Whole Foods is not a store worth going to: they do offer great variety and quality in many of their products, especially fish, meats, and cheeses, and if you know where to look, you can get some local and sustainable products. PCC Markets is much smaller than Whole Foods: they have a total of nine locations, all in the Seattle area. They are similar to Whole Foods in their focus on organics, but they seem to be a lot more dedicated to local products, and a better bet for meat that is local, organic, ethical, and sustainable.
Both of these options have their advantages, but neither can beat Bill the Butcher, the awesome butcher shop that just opened up two blocks away from my place. I’m not going to lie: I am ridiculously excited about this place. Their meat is all very local, organic, ethical, sustainable, and, just as important, of very high quality. I’ve been on the hunt for a place like this: a small, local shop where I can go in and talk to the (knowledgeable) butcher about what I’m buying. I’ve been in there three or four times since I’ve discovered it, and every time I’m greeted by an enthusiastic butcher who can’t wait to tell me about what they’ve got in this week, whether it be the exquisite grass-fed beef tenderloin on display, or the impressive wagyu rib steak that just came in.
Last time I went, the new excitement in the shop was the bag of morel mushrooms that just came in. When I say “just came in”, I don’t mean it came on a big refrigerated US Foods truck with a bunch of other produce from California, Mexico, and Chile. These morels arrived in the hands of a man who goes foraging for them in the nearby woods and the mountains and then goes around, selling them to local shops. The butcher, described him as quite a character.
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Sausage and Morels
¼-½ lb. fresh morel mushrooms, or 1.5 oz. dried morel mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water and drained
½ lb. green beans, rinsed and trimmed
1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
1-2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, if necessary
1 tbsp. butter
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
If using fresh morels, soak them in a large bowl of cold water for 30 minutes to one hour to remove dirt and any critters in the caps. Do not skip this step! Remove mushrooms gently and dry well with several paper towels. When mushrooms are dry, slice them.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water, and then drain. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage to a separate dish and tent with foil to keep warm. Add olive oil to the hot pan or remove dripping as necessary to equal two tablespoons of fat in the pan. Add the butter and let it melt. Add the mushrooms and sauté until browned and softened, 4-5 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper, remove from pan, and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium, and add olive oil, if necessary, to equal one tablespoon of fat in the pan. Add the shallots and sauté until beginning to soften, and then add the garlic. Sauté one minute, then add the green beans. Sauté another minute, then return the sausage and mushrooms to the pan. Stir to combine, and then add the cooked spaghetti to the pan. Toss for a couple of minutes until all ingredients are well combined and heated through. Remove skillet from heat, and stir in the Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.