Lobel’s Prime Cuts - Review
The Best Meat and Poultry from America’s Master Butchers
When was the last time you bought meat from your local butcher? Chances are you don’t have a local butcher, or even one at a decent distance. Lucky folks have Lobel’s. While glamorous is not an adjective you’ll find next to the word butcher, this place might be the exception. Their location is Madison Avenue, their clientele well-heeled, and their selection and quality of meats is spectacular — with service and prices to match. Lobel’s is a longstanding carnivore’s nirvana. Any food establishment that can survive the rigors of Manhattan for sixty years is doing something very right, which is why we were interested in checking out their latest venture — a new cookbook entitled Lobel’s Prime Cuts: The Best Meat and Poultry from America’s Master Butchers.
Like the fabled butcher store, Lobel’s Prime Cuts is a family affair, written collectively by two generations of the Lobel family, fathers Stanley and Leon, and sons Evan, Mark and David. It’s a straightforward book about meat — how to buy, prepare and enjoy it, with an updated approach. Most of the dishes are departures from that Sunday roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy dinner. Instead, consider Roasted Breast of Veal with Pancetta and Sage Stuffing and Fingerling Potatoes, or Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Yellow Tomato Relish.
The good news is that there are 130 interesting recipes — the ones we tested were easy to prepare and delightful to eat. There is nothing contrived, yet there’s enough going on for adventure-seekers. Rediscover those ham steaks you always see but never buy — try Southern Pan-Fried Ham Steaks with Grits, Wilted Greens and Peach Relish. There are a few steps involved with this one, but it’s worth the time.
You can go as simple as Standing Rib Roast with Savory Sweet Potato Souffles or Brisket Pot Roast with Heirloom Vegetables, or as elegant as Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Pistachio Crust. Go ethnic with Roasted Five-Spice Duck in Rice Wrapper Rolls with Spicy Hoisin Dipping Sauce, Stewed Chicken Legs with Chorizo and Black Beans, and Lamb Chops with Minted Raita and Saffron Rice.
Plenty of space is devoted to traditional meats, but Lobel’s Prime Cuts doesn’t skimp on poultry. In fact they devote two chapters to all things winged — Chicken, Turkey and Cornish Game Hens, and then Game Birds and Game. The bonus is that you can flip a few pages and advance from Braised Pheasant with Honey-Glazed Pearl Onions and Old-Fashioned Spoon Bread to Venison Osso Buco with Black Olives. On the simpler side, however, there’s always Chicken and Dumplings.
It’s always nice to have a focused book that takes decades of experience and turns it into great food that you can actually imagine cooking and eating without jumping through hoops. What we found a little puzzling, however, was the lack of a basic cooking guide. Sure, the Lobels tell us everything we need to know about selecting, handling and freezing meat. There’s a chart of internal temperatures, so you’ll end up with a perfect medium-rare or a fully cooked chicken. And we’re certainly happy with the recipes. But, what if you just want that basic roast beef. What cut do you buy? How do you cook it? How many minutes per pound should you expect before the thermometer tells you it’s ready? Not a big deal, but these guys are the experts, and this is good information for most home cooks to have at their fingertips.
Lobel’s Prime Cuts is all meat all the time. The authors are not shy about celebrating the joys of indulging in beef, veal, lamb, pork and poultry. You won’t find any desserts here. Side dishes, while successful, are merely a part of the bigger picture — they are not provided in stand-alone fashion. The handful of soups, such as Kale and Potato Soup with Spicy Pork Meatballs, make for complete meals if you toss together a salad and maybe include some good, crusty bread. There’s a sandwich or two, and a few wraps, but we’re happiest when confronted with a decadent hunk of red meat — how about Stuffed Beef Rolls with Grainy Mustard Sauce tonight? Tomorrow we’ll shift gears and try that Maple-Glazed Turkey Breast with Corn Bread Stuffing.
At www.lobels.com you’ll find even more recipes and more about meat. But, best of all, it’s where you can order and purchase everything from American Wagyu Beef and Kurobuta Pork, to Veal Porterhouse Chops — express delivered to your door, fresh.
Reviewed by Kevin Schoeler
(Updated: 07/15/11 BH)