Although we share a common language (allegedly), it can be something of a linguistic safari to scan British newspapers and magazines, even when they cover topics germane to the meat industry.
Exhibit A: An excerpt from the current Meat Trades Journal, a UK business pub that covers—as you’d expect—Great Britain’s meat trades:
“Early September saw a tonne of locally sourced meat cooked up over fresh charcoal at the Tobacco Dock in London, for the launch of the one-day American-born meat festival Meatopia,” the story began. Along with “butchery demos” and live folk bands, the article noted that, “Visitors were presented with a range of meat cuts, including ox heart, hog belly, deck steak, pig’s head and other quality obscurities.”
Can you imagine that sentence being printed or posted in the USA? Much less expecting Americans to react favorably to the description of a festival featuring ox heart, hog bellies and pig’s head?
Not likely, guv’nah.
“A sold-out show in the sunshine with 3,500 smiling people sharing personal experiences about the best chefs and the most exquisite BBQ creations on the planet,” UK Meatopia creator Dan O’Neill told the magazine. “Throw in craft beer, bourbon and dancing and what do you have? Meatopia.”
Wait a tick. Beer, bourbon and dancing—with or without barbecue or any other meat product—can pretty much carry just about any “festival” you care to create, so contending that “exquisite barbecue” was some sort of special attraction may be a bit of an exaggeration.
And like many festivals jammed with visitors, not everything went according to plan. True to form, the magazine’s report noted that, “As the evening continued, food eventually ran out, which was expected as the organizers had warned visitors that this could happen in advance. Mid-festival, £50 steaks [that’s about $80 bucks] were thrown on egg-shaped barbecues to entertain visitors who were waiting for Chef Turner, who failed to show up to his own demonstration.”
Clinching by any other name
Apart from what the article described as “the endless queues, change of programme and disorganised staff changing the prices of cider as the afternoon continued,” the festival was apparently well-received by the meat-loving segment of the public.
In fact, one featured entrée caused quite a stir: A recipe for Dirty Tomahawk Steak, which incidentally, earned one Marcus Bawdon the title of “King of Meatopia.”
Not a bad notation to add to one’s résumé.
According to the British Country Wood Smoke website, this past British barbecue season (didn’t know it had already ended) had gone all “dirty,” meaning that the hottest new trend—no pun intended—is roasting/cooking/grilling what was described as “big joints of dry-aged beef cooked straight on the coals.”
First of all, dirty grilling’s nothing new on this side of the pond, having been introduced several years ago as “clinching.” In fact, among the more well-received cookbooks published in the last couple years, “Charred & Scruffed: Bold New Techniques for Explosive Flavor On and Off the Grill,” by so-called “Grilling Guru” Adam Perry Lang, explores in detail he technique of cooking meat directly on hot coals.
Not sure why Lang decided that clinching, which describes how boxers grab and trap each other’s arms when they’re fighting in close, is somehow synonymous with cooking meat, but a recent review of Charred & Scruffed suggested that “when a moist steak hits sizzling hot coals, it similarly will hang on for dear life.”
But what’s equally interesting is the Tomahawk Steak itself, which Country Wood Smoke described as “a dry-aged Aberdeen Angus ribeye steak, with the full rib bone trimmed and kept long” (see photo).
The blog post noted that, “Each steak was placed straight onto the coals and brushed with a baste made from two cloves of garlic, three sprigs each of rosemary, thyme and flat leaf parsley, rock salt, one tablespoon of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Blitz these up in a blender to a bright green paste. Brush liberally onto the steaks as they cook a few minutes each side on the coals, and then place to one side of the BBQ to smoke with the lid down for 20 minutes until they reach the desired 120 degrees F.”
Other than what seems like a rather cool food-safety temperature, at least as far as USDA would be concerned, the process seems like a terrific way to prepare a dry-aged steak, tomahawk or otherwise.
Along with plenty of beer, bourbon and dancing, of course.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.