Growing up, a good friend's father ate more meat more regularly than anyone I knew or have known since. He would devour a half-pound of bacon for breakfast, eat burgers cooked in butter for lunch, and put away a hearty steak at dinnertime. Occasionally, he'd take us out for a meal. My friend and I would have to get burgers, but John almost never passed up the opportunity to grab filet mignon.
Once the server brought him his slab of protein, John would reach into his pocket for a small silver pill box from which he'd take a couple of pequin peppers, tiny little fellows he grew himself that are seven to eight times as spicy as jalapeños. He'd cut them up with his pocket knife, his chunky sausage fingers working far more delicately than you'd think possible, and then put a tiny slice on each bite of filet.
And that is the only way a filet should be eaten. If you've got the brass attachments to eat them with something so hot that it will kill a good-sized wolverine,
go for it. I'm certainly not getting in your way. Otherwise, I'm siding with a chef friend who thinks they're overpriced, underflavored, overplayed, and in general an
excuse to charge way too much money for a slab of meat that
can't hold a candle to oxtail flavorwise. They need to go.
though, isn't alone in its need to be 86'd from restaurant menus. Creative chefs are working up dishes with everything from beef cheeks to pig's feet, so there's no reason to go for boring, flavorless cuts any more.
prime rib, for instance. Over lunch the other day with a local chef and
his wife, this choice started a heated argument between the married
couple (he likes prime rib, she's with me). Here's the problem: you
just can't get around the fact that it's used ubiquitously and poorly
at every crappy catered affair that wants to look upscale but can't
spring for lobster.
It looks like a huge chunk of cow on the
table, it's rarely cooked with any skill, and it's just too damn easy
to cop out and offer one. For that reason alone, if I never see another
one of those big bastards sitting on a cutting board with a pseudo-chef
wearing a paper chef's hat standing in its shadow holding a slicing
knife, I'll be a happy camper.
Then there's steak au poivre.
It's not that I have an issue with steak, obviously. And I do love me
some pepper. But this bad boy is so clumsily done at most places that
it's just got to go. Somehow, delicious meat with a tasty peppery sauce
has become a throwaway that most cooks just phone in. Make a thick
reduction, jam some crushed peppercorns into the steak, grill it and
Too many chefs use the fact that the pepper is so
front-and-center as a green light to dump whatever sort of sauce they
want on there, with nary a care about making something with any
subtlety. It's almost lowest common denominator Applebee's-style
cooking, and until chefs start to give a shit about it, it's off the
And sirloin burgers? Look people, if you haven't yet
figured out that this is the total poseur burger, you're reading the
wrong column. They're served at parties by people who want to look like
they're on top of the latest fad -- burger and beer, for those of you
who haven't hit South Beach lately. The same people who buy ground
sirloin also pay extra for expensive-yet-crappy beer. But burgers are
about flavor, and we all know the flava's in the fat, so sirloin burger
is just an oxymoron.
If you want a burger, make it from market
ground beef and enjoy the hell out of it. If you're amped about fat
content, then try a boring slab of white meat turkey and take a photo
to give your cardiologist at your next checkup. Either way though, the
sirloin burger is as useless as tits on a bull.
The list isn't
comprehensive, but it's a start. I'll take beef cheeks, oxtail, beef
heart, or pig feet tamales (coming soon to these pages, by the way) any
day over any one of these dogs. They're an insult to meatists
everywhere, and mock us from menus at otherwise decent restaurants.
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Bradford Schmidt is The Meatist. He's also author of the blog Bone in the Fan.
He lives in northern Palm Beach County and wants to grow his own pequin
peppers, just in case he bumps into a filet he's forced to eat.