By, Chef Adam Zimnisky
I have a confession to make…. I’ve been cooking ever since I was a young teen, learning as much as I could along the way to becoming an Executive Chef, and I’ve been hiding one big secret! I let my oven do all the work. I’ve been building an obsession recently involving cheap cuts of food, and no it’s not about the money. It’s about the ability to completely transform a “Cheap” cut of protein into an amazing fall apart, melt in your mouth; I would die for it, type dish. With everything from pork butt to top round, braising slow and low is the way to go.
While cruising the isles at your local grocery store it’s easy to get overwhelmed by some of the prices of proteins. There is a big difference between $2.50 per pound and $18.99 per pound. But with the help of our little friend, the oven, there doesn’t need to be any difference in the final dish. Take pork butt for example, pork butt runs around $2 to $4 per pound. As opposed to pork loin or tenderloin that may be in the $4 to $6 range. What if I told you, you can take that pork butt, cube it up, and some leeks, carrots and celery. Fill up a Dutch oven with pork stock, bourbon, honey and black peppercorns and spices and braise away in the oven for 8 hours. Some of the best honey bourbon pork butt you will have ever had.
How about beef…. Top round runs at about $1.50 to $3.50 per pound. As opposed to sirloin or rib eye that is around more than 2 to 3 times as much. Again, do not be intimidated by that cheap tough meat. Let’s take that top round, cut it into 2” cubes, throw it into again, a Dutch oven or pot and braise away. For a great dish throw in some canned tomatoes, Mexican spices like cumin, chili powder, oregano, etc. Add some chopped up onions and assortment of peppers and again let it go slow and low in the oven for about 6 to 8 hrs. This will be some of the best braised Mexican beef barbacoa you have ever had. Add some fresh tortillas and you are all set!
I love when the house becomes full of flavorful smells. Of course you can also use a crock pot instead of an oven as well. Please don’t feel as if price is the deciding factor when it comes to tenderness and flavor. Many parts of the world survive on transforming cheaper cuts of meat into amazing dishes. You are substituting money for time, but remember most of that time is the oven working…. Not You!