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Michael Symon’s 'Carnivorous Dinner' for the Ages

Michael Symon’s 'Carnivorous Dinner' for the Ages

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The chef prepared a world-class dinner at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival

Dan Myers

Michael Symon's Dinner

On Saturday night of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, chef Michael Symon (best known for his Iron Chef status and Cleveland restaurants, including Lola) took over the dining room at Miami’s Red, the Steakhouse and served a meat-centric feast that was fit for a king.

He teamed with Red’s chef Peter Vauthy, and together they served a five-course dinner to a couple hundred lucky guests. Symon and Vauthy each prepared two dishes, and Vauthy took care of the dessert.

To start, Vauthy served a beef carpaccio, with pickled vegetables and a ginger-citrus vinaigrette. Symon then really kicked the meal into high gear with cured and smoked pastrami-style beef shortribs served alongside an orange and fennel salad that was so tender it could have been eaten with a spoon. Symon followed that with an equally delicious lamb Bolognese with house-made cavatelli. Vauthy then returned to serve a 40-day dry-aged prime strip, with a fingerling potato and asparagus salad and bone marrow butter (left), and for dessert, a chocolate banana torte with raspberry and banana anglaise. All the beef was Certified Angus, and each dish was paired with red wines that complemented them nicely.

For folks who haven’t had the opportunity to travel to Cleveland, this was a prime example of Symon’s bold, take-no-prisoners style of cooking. The flavors are big, but the style is delicate, letting individual flavors come through while not letting one overpower any others. For those who were able to experience it, it will be a meal not soon forgotten.

Meat Man Michael Symon Does Meatless Monday (Really!)

He's a star on The Chew, a beloved Iron Chef and one of the most passionate carnivorous chefs out there, with restaurants like Roast in Detroit that serves BBQ pork bellies and beef cheeks.

So why is celebrity chef Michael Symon doing a Meatless Monday cooking demo at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic in June?

Chef Symon fills us in on how he's embracing his inner veggie and shares two favorite Meatless Monday recipes -- Swiss Chard Ravioli and Eggplant Dip with Homemade Flatbread.

Peggy Neu: You have a well-known love affair with meat. You even sell a T-shirt that says "eat more meat." So what's up with Meatless Monday?

Michael Symon: I was born and raised in the Midwest, so meat was a large part of my growing up and a large part of my diet. That being said, when it comes to cooking and eating, I always try to preach that life is about moderation. Even if I'm having beef for dinner, it's probably going to be a 3-4oz portion with heaps and heaps of vegetables.

Because I'm so known as a meat-chef, when I talk about Meatless Monday some people look at me like I've lost my mind. I'm like, look, I'm not saying beef and pork is bad, I love it and I eat it six days a week, but one day a week - and quite frankly given my schedule, it's not always Monday - I just remove meat from my diet. I think it gives the earth a second to breathe and gives my body time to do what it needs to do.

So when did you start doing meatless days?

When I met my wife 20+ years ago, she was a vegetarian, so I was the closest thing to the devil that she had ever met. She was like, "All you eat is meat! What is wrong with you?" Her diet was more vegetable and plant-based and my diet was more heavily meat-based, so we found a middle. It just became part of our life routine.

How did you even woo her?

After years she just gave in. But I found her beautiful and interesting, so if I had to eat vegetables 5 days a week to get another date, so be it!

What's your advice for how die-hard carnivores can make vegetables exciting?

No matter how great a chef or cook you are, if you start with a bad product the chance of putting out a great meal are very limited. In Cleveland, I'm so fortunate that we're surrounded by farms with an endless variety of beautiful vegetables. For me, I always eat very tightly with the season, even if the season is only six weeks. Like right now we have ramps and I can't eat enough of them and in six weeks I'll be kinda bored with them, but that's okay because a new season will start with new vegetables. I think you can also keep it exciting by using different legumes and interesting grains like quinoa and farrow.

We really loved The Chew's episode on Meatless Monday. What's it like working on the show?

It's just horrible! I don't know how I do it every day! But honestly, I love it. My co-hosts are fantastic people. Mario and I have been friends for a long time. I've gotten to be great friends with Clinton, Daphne, and Carla. That they actually pay me and this is a job is an incredible blessing. I love to go to work every day.

We saw that your upcoming book is called A Modern Day Meat Bible. Is the next one going to be A Modern Day Vegetable Bible?

Actually, in the meat book I talk a lot about vegetables. There's a whole section of the cookbook devoted to vegetables and grains just as there is for beef. I also talk a lot about portioning and cooking the right meats that are better for the environment. I'd rather see people eat a small portion of sustainably raised and organic meats than a 20oz portion of whatever you want to refer to that other meat as.

Can you give us a sneak peek on what you have in mind for Aspen?

It'll depend on what's in season. I'm a pretty fly by the seat of my pants cook. I'll go, see what's in the markets, then I'll cook. It just always works best for me that way.

Is there a home for Meatless Monday in your restaurants?

We've talked about it. Lola and Lolita we could probably do it relatively easy. My other restaurant is Roast in Detroit, and it really wouldn't work there.

That being said it's still something I believe in very strongly and when I tell people they look at me like I'm crazy! They say "you own a restaurant that cooks animals on spits and specializes in hamburgers, why would you ever promote not eating meat for one day a week?" For me, it's just a choice that I make, not only for myself, but also the Earth that I stand on.

Chef Symon Meatless Monday recipes

Swiss Chard Ravioli

Ravioli Filling
2 pounds swiss chard-cleaned, chopped
1 pound sheeps milk ricotta
1 lemon--juice and zest
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic-minced
1 shallot-minced
salt and pepper to taste

Sweat out shallot and garlic until translucent, add swiss chard and keep stirring until chard is broken down and cooked. Set aside until cool than add in ricotta, lemon and olive oil. Mix really well and check for seasoning.

Ravioli Topping
4 tablespoons toasted almonds-crushed really well
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons lemon zest
Mix altogether

5 pounds Egg Pasta Sheets
6 eggs for egg wash
4 tablespoons of butter for sauce
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Lay down a sheet of pasta, spread the egg wash across, put down filling and lay another sheet over top. Form the dough around the filling and cut out the ravioli out of the dough. Set aside.

In a saute pan put 4 tablespoons of butter in on medium heat and cook until butter is melted and starting to turn brown. Set aside. Drop the ravioli in salted boiling water for roughly 2 minutes. Take out and put in browned butter, toss gently with chopped parsley. Put the raviolis in bowl, pour some of the browned butter over top and finish with almond crumble on top.

Eggplant Dip with Homeade Flatbread

Charred Eggplant Dip
Makes about 4 cups
3 large eggplants
1 jalapeno
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion (1 cup ), small diced
2 cloves garlic (1 teaspoon), minced
3/4 cup feta
2/3 cup mascarpone
Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt, to taste
Cumin Seeds, toasted for garnish (optional)

Begin by blistering the Eggplant and Jalapeno on your grill until heavily charred and softened. You can also use your gas stovetop burner by turning on the heat to high, then placing the eggplants and jalapeno right on the flame. Char for about 4 minutes per side until blackened and softened. Place in a covered container for 5 minutes. In the meantime, sweat the onion and garlic in the olive oil with a pinch of salt until tender, about 3 minutes. Split the eggplant down the middle lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, being careful not to get any black bits from the skin. Peel the jalapeno, removing and discarding the seeds. Mix together the eggplant and half of the jalapeno with the onion and garlic mixture. (You can add the whole jalapeno if you would like it a little spicy.)

In a blender, puree the eggplant mixture with the feta, mascarpone, salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest, adjusting with salt if necessary.

Serve with toasted cumin on top with flatbread or warmed pita on the side.

10 cups pizza flour
2 1/4 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons fresh yeast
3 1/2 cups water

In the bowl of your mixer, bloom the yeast in the water by mixing it in, breaking up any lumps, then letting it sit until it becomes slightly foamy and the water is cloudy, about 5 minutes.

Combine the flour and salt and then add to the bloomed yeast mixture. With the dough hook attachment for your mixer, mix on medium speed for 11 minutes. The dough should come together as one mass and begin climbing the hook.

After the dough has been mixed, turn it out into a lightly oiled mixing bowl, and let it proof until it is doubled in size. This should take a few hours, depending on how warm the air is. You should also have this bowl covered with a damp cloth or plastic wrap during this process so it doesn't dry out.

After the dough has risen, portion it into 7-8, 9 oz. balls. Place the portioned dough on a sheet tray with a piece of parchment paper that has been lightly oiled. Cover the sheet tray really well with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The dough will be rested and ready to use the next day.

Press dough out and either grill or bake in the oven to desired doneness.

Michael Symon's Speedy Dinners: 8 Made In 5 Minutes

"On weekends when I was growing up, my father would become Mr. Sandwich, whipping up all sorts of (mostly) delicious concoctions. This is one of his triumphs &mdash a perfectly balanced handful of zesty salami, sweet basil, and melty cheese. Make sure to allow the salami to really crisp up in the pan that is where all the flavor and texture come from." &mdash Michael Symon

One of Michael Symon's favorite pastas, this features some standout ingredients that hold their own in a bowl full of all-stars. It takes closer to 6 minutes, but it's entirely worth it!

Growing up, Michael Symon's Greek family always dipped their grilled meat in yogurt, a habit his friends found strange. Cooking with yogurt has become mainstream &mdash you find it in all sorts of sauces. He's still convinced it's best on grilled meat like these kebabs, though.

For some reason, poaching eggs scares some people. Probably because when they&rsquove tried to do it, they ended up with loose and wispy eggs instead of nice, tight bundles. There are a couple tricks to doing it right. First, adding vinegar to the water helps the eggs to set more quickly. And second, swirling the water and lowering each egg into the middle of the vortex helps keep them together until they set up.

"Thanks to its robust flavor, salmon is one of the few types of fish that can stand up to rosemary, an assertive herb that typically is paired with meat. Along those lines, this dish also can handle a good amount of heat, so I tend to go heavy with the red pepper flakes. Feel free to tone it down to accommodate your heat tolerance." &mdash Michael Symon

In spring, sweet garden peas are at their peak of flavor &mdash and Michael Symon makes every effort to incorporate them into his recipes, like this one. For good reason, peas and pancetta are a classic pairing: a duet of sweet and salty. Sure, you can substitute frozen peas if fresh aren&rsquot in season, but he&rsquod rather wait until April or May and celebrate their arrival with this light, spring-y pasta.

Make sure you're careful in removing all the skin and pith of the grapefruit so you get a perfect bite of citrus to offset the onion and smoky shrimp.

Fresh, bright peaches are the perfect companion to rich pork and the combination is one of Michael Symon's favorites. Look for peaches at the peak of ripeness for that irresistible sweet-savory combination.

Bobby Flay and Michael Symon Rehash Their Competitive, Yet Loving Friendship

Bobby Flay and Michael Symon go way back. Friends for more than 20 years, the pair rose to fame together on the Food Network and stayed close, and because of that they’ve have always been hesitant to compete against each other in the kitchen — until now.

The chefs are starring on the network’s new series BBQ Brawl: Flay v. Symon where they each mentor a team of pitmasters, and face off against each other for advantages throughout the competition in Austin, Texas. In honor of the show — which gets heated at times and is filled with Flay and Symon’s hilarious digs at each other — PEOPLE sat down with the stars to discuss their friendship, family, and of course, barbecue.

Symon shares a unique grilling tip that Flay calls an 𠇊mazing idea,” and Flay opens up about just how proud he is of his 23-year-old daughter, Sophie, as she continues her career as a journalist on ABC. Read on for the full interview.

Why did you guys decide to do this now?
Bobby Flay: Well, we’ve been good friends for a really long time and it was something I had been talking to the network about in terms of like a barbecue competition. Obviously competition shows have been incredibly successful for over a decade now. I just thought it𠆝 be fun to do something. Basically, my rule is I just want to shoot and work on TV with friends of mine, or my daughter. Just people I really like to hang out with. So I asked Michael if he was available to do this, and he agreed. And so, we thought that Austin would be a good place to start out a series like this just because Texas is so well known for barbecue and it’s kind of in the center of the barbecue belt.

Michael Symon: We compete with everything, like off camera we compete in golf. Everything else is some kind of random battle, like, ‘I’ll bet you ten bucks I can make that in a jar.’ But we’ve never really competed on cooking on TV. And when we originally talked about the show we were just completely going to mentor or coach ten great pitmasters. And as the show kind of developed, then they were like 𠆌ould you guys cook against each other in a couple little competitions throughout it, to get advantages for your team?’ It’s competition, but we have fun with it.

Can you dial it back to how you first met? How long ago was that?
MS: I know exactly when we met. We met briefly through [chef Jonathan] Waxman a long time ago. But the time we really met was in, I want to say 1998 or 99. I had a show on Food Network called The Melting Pot with Wayne Harley Brachman, who was Bobby’s pastry chef at Mesa Grill. We were in the middle of filming first season and you came in the studio because you had just won against Morimoto on the American Iron Chef. And that was the first time I really met you. That was 21 years ago.

BF: I remember it.

When did it more develop into a friendship?
MS: You know, the chef world’s so intertwined, but I would say especially in the past 12-15 years.

How often do you guys get to see each other?
BF: We see each other all the time and like 10 years ago we started traveling together. Vacations and stuff. And then I had a house in the Hamptons and he and his wife would stay at my house all the time. Then I said, ‘Get out.’ [Laughs] And then he bought his own house.

Is there anything you guys disagree on?
BF: We disagree about what’s good and what’s not.

MS: We actually do. Like restaurants. I’ll be like, ‘This is great!’

BF: Michael loves everything! Michael has great taste, he’s a great chef, and he’s a great friend, so I always take what he says for real. But every once in a while, I’ll go, ‘What? Did I come to a different restaurant?’

MS: I only say spectacular when I think it’s truly spectacular. Last night we went out to dinner and I was like, ‘It was fine.’ But sometimes we do have different tastes.

BF: He gets very enthusiastic. It’s nice, he’s very positive!

MS: Even in fancy restaurants, sometimes I like the most humble of dishes. When they’re done well, I don’t know what it is, it really excites me. I don’t think those excite you quite as much all the time. You like it when you see something you haven’t seen.

BF: We just don’t always agree.

Bobby, your daughter is a budding Food Network star herself, right?
BF: She’s a journalist first. She did The Flay List with me as a favor to me. She went to school for broadcast journalism and she graduated in May. She’s got this job at ABC now as a Community Digital Reporter. She’s getting great experience doing it, but she really cares about hard news.

MS: I remember she was 10, 11, 12 years old coming here for Iron Chef and her sitting at the couch doing homework.

What about her are you most proud of?
BF: First of all, she’s eclipsed me already in many departments. I dropped out of high school in 10th grade she’s a college graduate. She went to this well thought of broadcast journalism school, USC. Most people that come out of that school, if they can get a job, it’s in market 112. She was like, ‘No, I’m going to stay in Los Angeles and I’m going to get a job in the #2 market.’ It doesn’t happen. She did it all on her own. She’s not interested in me helping her one bit. She wants to create her own lane. I can’t imagine how many times she’s been asked in her lifetime, 𠆍o you want to cook for a living? Do you want to be a chef? Do you want to be in the restaurant business?’ That would be an obvious question for people if they know who I am and they know she’s my daughter. She’s like, ‘No, we have that covered in my family, I want to do something else.’

BF: It’s great. With that said, she’s a huge fan of food in general. Food is obviously really important to her she grew up being exposed to all different kinds of food and that’s why she’s such a great eater today.

MS: Sophie loves to eat.

BF: She loves to eat, but she wants to make her own mark. I’m very proud of her.

What are you guys grilling for at home?
MS: We grill a lot of whole fish lately.

BF: Most people will not do that.

MS: I know, they freak out. It’s the easiest way to cook it the bones keep it moist, it doesn’t overcook. It’s a little bit more work to eat.

BF: It does stick to the grill sometimes.

MS: You know what I’ve been doing? I’ve been buying chicken wire and brushing the chicken wire and fish with oil and wrapping the chicken wire around the fish.

BF: Oh, so the wire sits on top of the grates.

MS: It still grills, it gets all the smoke and the char and all that stuff. Then I can pick up the whole thing and flip it. Then I just bring the whole thing off into the kitchen, I open it up, and it’s done.

BF: No, seriously. That’s an amazing idea!

MS: Thanks buddy.

BF: But I really mean it. [Laughs]

BF: Where𠆝 you buy the chicken wire? The hardware store?

MS: The hardware store.

BF: I’m doing that this weekend. I’m serious, that’s amazing.

You just learned something from Michael, but did you guys learn anything from the competitors on BBQ Brawl while you were filming?
BF: First of all, let’s get this right. These people are world class barbecue experts, okay? Basically, the way that I was mentoring/coaching/prodding them, was keeping their enthusiasm up, taking notice of things that they didn’t when they were cooking something. Also, making them think about how the judges are going to take something when they cook it in a certain way. Just kind of monitoring their progress. They don’t need us to teach them how to cook, that’s for sure. They are 100% professional. They are battle tested. They win all these crazy trophies and awards.

MS: We’re just guiding them a little bit. You give your opinions on things. In one episode, I felt terrible because I felt strongly that one of my competitors should try this thing and it didn’t work. The judges didn’t respond to it and that’s on me. They were awesome, really talented. It was fun to work with them.

If you were watching it, would you be shocked by the winner?
BF: Surprised.

MS: Yeah. I think there were a lot of surprises.

BF: I’ll say pleasantly surprised.

BBQ Brawl: Flay v. Symon airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Food Network.

Michael Symon siblings: sister

Nicole Symon Westinghouse (sister born to same parents)

Date of Birth: January 27, 1972

Zodiac Sign: Aquarius

Nicole, who is more often referred as Nikki, is younger than her stellar brother. She is an accountant and a director of federal taxes. Nikki is married and is a mom of two children. Like her parents, she appeared on Michael’s show Symon’s Suppers. She lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Kielbasa with Beer and Onions MICHAEL SYMON

3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1 pound smoked beef Kielbasa (cut into 4 equal portions)
1 large onion (peeled, thinly sliced)
2 Granny Smith apples (cored, sliced into 1/8-inch thick slices, divided)
1 teaspoon ground coriander (divided)
1 bottle IPA-style beer
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard (plus more to garnish)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Slice each Kielbasa portion lengthwise down the middle, stopping just before cutting through to the other side.
In a large saute pan over high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and warm through. Add the Kielbasa, cut side down, and cook until it begins to brown, about 1-2 minutes. Flip the meat and move the pieces to one side of the pan. To the open space, add the onions and half of the apples and season with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and apples begin to soften and caramelize, about 1 minute.
Deglaze the pan with the beer and allow to reduce slightly, about 1 minute. Stir in the mustard and season with pepper.
In a medium bowl, add the remaining apple slices, season with remaining tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of coriander. Toss to combine and set aside until ready to assemble.
Remove the Kielbasa pieces to a large platter, top with sauteed apples and onions, dollop with more whole grain mustard, and finish with the raw apple salad. Serve!
Tip: If your local butcher doesn’t carry Kielbasa, Italian sweet sausage makes an excellent substitute.

Recipe Summary

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped country ham
  • 3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth, warmed
  • 1 cup of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish
  • 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion an a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderately-high heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and the ham and toast for 1 minute. Lower the heat to moderate and add 1/2 cup of the chicken stock, stirring frequently, until it is nearly absorbed. Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring constantly until it is nearly absorbed before adding more. The risotto is done when the rice is tender and the liquid is creamy, about 15 minutes. Transfer the risotto to a bowl and let cool completely in the refrigerator.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. When the risotto is cooled completely, fold in the 1 cup of parmesan, the egg, egg yolk and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Fill a small bowl with water. Using wet hands, form 2 tablespoons of the risotto into a ball. Make a small indent in the ball and place 1 teaspoon of the diced mozzarella in the center. Pinch the risotto closed around the mozzarella and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining risotto and mozzarella. You will have about 16 arancini.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of canola oil to 350°. Spread the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Roll the arancini in the breadcrumbs until evenly coated, shaking off any excess. Fry the arancini until very golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Garnish the arancini with parsley and more parmesan and serve immediately.

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Cleveland's Michael Symon's ⟊rnivore' and everything you ever want to know about meat

Lisa DeJong, The Plain Dealer The week before the release of his latest cookbook, celebrity chef Michael Symon chats with us about one of his favorite subjects -- meat.

It's a taste as old as time.

Our fondness for meat is practically primordial. Think cavemen on the hunt, soon after discovering fire. Were they all that much different from modern guys and gals, gathered 'round the Weber? (OK, apart from the patio furniture and craft brews . . . )

Meat has sustained us, nourished us and provided infinite pleasure through the ages -- and our taste for a thick, juicy cut runs unabated. Granted, today we may consume less of it: Chalk that up to changing eating habits, health concerns, and economic and moral factors. But whether it's pork chops on the grill, a rump roast in the slow cooker or a holiday leg of lamb, meat has our undying allegiance as what's for dinner.

So in tribute to a perennial favorite (and with a new book from Cleveland's Iron Chef, Michael Symon, debuting Tuesday), let's have a look at beef, pork, lamb and veal. Chefs and butchers from around Northeast Ohio share their advice on how to get the most for your protein dollar.

And make your meals all the more memorable.

  • Beef: Top cuts, preparation techniques & more
  • Pork: Tips to make it moist and tender
  • Lamb: Roasting and other cooking tips
  • Veal: The crown prince of meat is delicate, tender and subtly flavorful
  • Save money with these cheap meat cuts
  • How to use a meat thermometer and other safety tips
  • Recipes for chuck roast, rack of lamb & more

Even before Michael Symon's first book, "Live to Cook," appeared on shelves in 2009, he was already jazzed about another title he had in mind.

"Iɽ like to call it ⟪t More Meat,' " he said while noodling ideas back then. "I just think people don't appreciate meat the way they should, and there's so much to know about the subject -- how to shop for it, handle it, bring out its best flavors . . ."

Three years later, that book has arrived. Though his working title didn't make it onto the cover, Symon's "Carnivore: 120 Recipes for Meat Lovers" (Clarkson Potter, $35 releasing Tuesday), written with Cleveland freelancer Douglas Trattner, pretty much achieved what he was aiming for.

"I'm just so excited about it," he said recently during a telephone interview from his flat in New York City. "I love my first book, but I love this one so much more. It's a great cooking book, and I think it's going to answer a lot of questions about cooking meat."

And with that, he jumped into the conversation, answering questions that ranged from which are his favorite cuts to whether it's really heresy to salt meat ahead of time.

So . . . devil's-advocate question: Isn't it kind of unfashionable to declare yourself a carnivore nowadays?

No! Meat will always be in style. I think it's unfashionable to love meat that was maybe raised improperly, slaughtered inhumanely and pumped with hormones. But the meat we talk about in the book and the way we eat it -- smaller portions of higher-quality meat, with big portions of vegetables -- is a smarter way to eat meat.

Why is it -- despite all the health reports, food-safety concerns, animal-rights issues and all the rest -- that we still love meat?

It tastes delicious! That's the No. 1 thing that drives [what we eat]. It's mainly driven by taste, and our natural instinct. Man has been living on meat a long, long time. It seems to be born into us. Maybe it's our Midwestern roots, but I've never craved asparagus -- but I do crave a pork chop, spaghetti and meatballs, a steak.

What are some of the biggest mistakes or misperceptions about cooking meat?

The biggest thing is to understand the cuts and to understand how the cuts are best prepared. That, and how long to cook it -- the general temperatures. A great steak really isn't at its best when it's cooked well-done. I mean, if you like it that way, fine but what I always say to people is, if you love well-done meat, you should eat a short rib -- something that's been cooked for hours and braised to succulence.

What are your absolute favorite cuts of beef, pork, lamb and veal -- and why?

For beef, it's rib-eye and hanger steak. I think they just have that perfect amount of fat-to-flesh, and the right amount of chew to them. I don't want to gnaw on steak, but it should have some chew.

The belly of any animal is magical, but pork . . . wow! First, there's bacon. But there's also braised pork belly and pancetta. And with pork shoulder or butt -- there are so many techniques that make it incredibly delicious. It has the right amount of fat it's just by the bone, which gives it more flavor. That's an amazing cut, and right now it's really cheap.

I love lamb. Being Greek, a leg of lamb is one of my greatest pleasures. And the chops -- lamb is one of the few animals where the chops are incredible. Cook ɾm on the grill, hit ɾm with a little bit of salt and pepper. It's food with a handle you don't even need a fork!

Veal? I like the shank. And either a sirloin or tenderloin for scaloppine. Cooked in a pan, it's a great preparation for veal. It's good, it's quick, and it takes to a sauce really well. And I grew up eating osso buco in restaurants you get the meat and the marrow . . . [groaning sounds].

What's your best how-to-shop advice for buying meats?

Whether you shop at a farmers market, a grocery store or a butcher's shop, the better relationship you build with that person behind the counter, the better quality you're going to get.

Second, I NEVER, EVER go to the grocery store and buy meat out of the coolers pre-cut and pre-wrapped. I either want to talk with the person behind the counter and have them cut it for me, or have them wrap something on display [in the service meat case]. It usually doesn't cost you anything more to buy something from the butcher's counter instead of from the case. I've gotten great steaks at Heinen's, Giant Eagle, Whole Foods -- but I look at the meat, talk with the guy or gal behind the counter, see what they've got, then choose.

And I don't go to the store thinking "I want to cook rib-eye today." I say "I want to cook beef" -- then I ask the guy behind the counter which steaks are the best today. THEN I decide.

If all people take that attitude when shopping, they're going to end up with a better product and maybe save money. Because if [a meat manager] is running long on strip steaks and they're just not selling, maybe they'll be bumping down the price.

Can you really save on meat purchases, especially when all the talk about this summer's drought seems to indicate that prices are going up?

Well, again, a supermarket is always going to have things they fly through and other things they suddenly realize they'll have to move. It's why lamb is so expensive at Easter, steaks in grilling season.

There's nothing wrong with buying in bulk, whenever you can. One great thing about meats is that they do freeze better than seafood, vegetables, all those other things. So if you go to the store and see, say, chicken thighs are a really good buy that day, I see nothing wrong with loading up, wrapping them correctly, dating them and then using them as you need them. Just don't wrap them in a big bundle: If you know you'll use six pieces, wrap them in six-piece increments. [Wrapping or double-wrapping in heavy-weight freezer storage bags is one safe approach Symon also mentions electric vacuum sealers, which enclose foods in a heavy plastic film and eliminate air that contributes to "freezer burn," as an active way to freeze meats for longer periods.]

And don't be afraid to eat the "pieces-parts." There are a lot of other cuts out there -- pig ears and tails are delicious some of those longer-cooked cuts are remarkable. You have to take a leap of faith and try them. We're from the high-off-the-hog generation: We want rib-eyes, baby backs and other expensive cuts. You know something? Beef heart is amazingly delicious, far cheaper, and you get all the protein and nutritional value of beef, and at a quarter of the price.

It's a question that makes people crazy, I know, but when and how do you think it's best to salt meats? And is it different when you're seasoning thin cuts, like chops or steaks, versus thicker roasts or stewing meats?

My answer's always the same. I always season ahead of time. And depending upon the size, it could be overnight for a larger roast or a thick-cut steak, or an hour or two [before cooking] for a thin-cut chop or scaloppine. It's an old-wives' tale that if you season ahead of time, it dries up the meat. Rather, it breaks down the cell structure a little bit, so it almost explodes in your mouth, and the flavor permeates the meat. Now, you don't want the outside of a prime rib to be salty and the inside bland. Overnight refrigeration, maybe even 24 hours, lets the salt get in there. The most delicious chicken is kosher chicken, and the reason is because it's salted in advance. You shouldn't be afraid to salt. Sometimes time limits you, but if I plan ahead, salting ahead of time is a game-changer, flavorwise.

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