After the extravagance of Christmas and New Year, January is a good time to explore some of the unsung, humbler cuts that tend to be neglected when we’re all in full party mode.
The reality is that on any day of the year when I’m asked what I recommend for a dinner party or family get together I start with some ideas that fall within this category. A slow cooked roast, stew, braise or pie all benefit from some or all of these great attributes:
Flavours - these intensify during a longer cooking process. Whilst prime cuts aren’t great for this, less expensive cuts, especially those on the bone, or with fattier qualities, such as shoulder and leg demand it.
Texture - That very special texture where the meat “falls off the bone” can only be achieved by slow cooking of these types of cuts. There is no better eating experience (in my humble opinion) than pulling apart a slow cooked morsel of pork, beef or lamb and enjoying the soft yet textured mouthful smothered in its own intense gravy.
Greater economy - whilst demand remains as high as it is for what are deemed to be prime cuts, all good butchers will have plenty of the less sought after pieces that they need to shift. These will be priced in order to sell quickly so the butcher can make use of the whole carcass, nose to tail.
Stress free cooking – whereas the more expensive joints and steaks require a degree of precision the slower cooking process is far more relaxed. Timings are more flexible and the cooking can be done and checked when it suits the cook. Walk the dog, go to the pub, watch a film! You’re not tied to the pan or the oven.
The king of cuts for slow cooking includes my favourite; Blythburgh Pork Shoulder, on the bone. Ask our butcher to score the skin deeply. As with all meat cooking leave the joint out of the fridge for an hour or so until its at room temperature, rub olive oil and coarse sea salt deep into the skin and the place in a very hot oven at 220 for 30 minutes. Watch as the skin becomes crackling then cover in foil, reduce the oven temperature to below 150 and take the rest of the day off! Come back with friends when ready, enjoy the crackling with a cold beer whilst the pork rests under foil then just shred the meat onto a fresh ciabatta bap with Dijon mustard and a slice of stuffing.