Editor's note: Our Tom Mylan worship knows no bounds here at Serious Eats: New York. Alaina went to his pig butchering class at The Brooklyn Kitchen, Erin went to one of his pig roasts, and now Tam has followed suit by attending his lamb butchering class. Here's her report.
If you fetishize carnage the way I do, the Brooklyn Kitchen is the place to get your bone saw on. Watch Tom Mylan break down an animal with his sexy growl and his dark, dark sense of humor. Truly, the way to anyone's stomach is a bloody heart.
There’s something appealing about this DIY aesthetic. Taking a more active role in the disassembly of an animal forces you to appreciate the animal you eat, and the odd beauty of its parts. And once you see how steak and guts come from the same gore, you realize there’s no reason you shouldn’t make them both delicious. What’s helpful about the class is that Tom tells you how.
In the 2-1/2 hour lamb butchering course, Tom hacks his way through 96 pounds of Fleisher's grass-fed, organic meat using a knife, cleaver, and bone saw. Each student walks out with roughly 8 pounds of meat, so for a class fee of $100, you’ve paid $12.50/lb. The seduction is bonus.
(A dog sniffs at Tom’s bag. Tom shoos it away. A conversation between Tom and Taylor from the Brooklyn Kitchen ensues.)
Tom: I had so much blood on my jacket today; I was actually embarrassed to wear it.
Taylor: You should have just worn it.
Tom: True. That’s what people have paid to see! Blood.
Taylor: I can give you a clean apron.
Tom: But it doesn't show off the blood. Not nearly as cinematic.
At the upstate slaughterhouse Tom uses, animals are taken to the facility early to give the animals the opportunity to get acclimated before the killing. (An excess of adrenaline can make the meat taste “off.”) Animals are stunned in the head with an electric current that scrambles the brain. This makes the animal unconscious to the slicing, hanging, and bleeding to follow. (The animals actually die from the bloodletting.) After slaughter, the carcass is hung to dry, with fans and plenty of ventilation. This draining and drying of the meat helps concentrate its flavor.
Animals slaughtered at the end of summer have more flavor as they’ve been allowed to graze on nature’s bounty. The lamb used in the class I attended was nine months old. At an age bordering on mutton, this teenage-lamb has a good bone-to-meat ratio and is likely to be less gamey. (The more vaunted spring lambs, slaughtered at two-months old, look like “skinned rats” and are in reality mostly bone.)
Tom proceeds to disassemble at a jolly, whisky-fueled pace while offering these tips:
Kidneys: When harvested from a younger animal, kidneys are delicious pan-seared. As long as the animal is young and you don’t overcook, the kidneys won’t taste "pissy."
Bones: Bones can be used to make stock. Just break the bones to expose the marrow and slow roast them in the oven first.
Suet Fat: Most of a lamb’s gaminess comes from its fat. For people who don’t prefer an especially gamey flavor, just trim the excess off the muscle. In beef and sheep, this hard fatty tissue around the loins and kidneys is called suet. In pigs, it’s referred to as leaf lard. The fat can be rendered, strained of fibers and membrane, and used as a cooking lard. Or you can grind it into a mix for sausage stuffing.
Shoulder: Sometimes known as picnic ham or Boston butt, shoulder can be smoked, cured like a proscuitto, or braised low and slow at 325º to 350º F.
Sirloin: Sirloin steak can be stuffed with suet and herbs, rolled up, and tied as a roulade. Brown the log, then throw it into the oven. Roast at 325º to 375º F for about 30 minutes and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
Belly: Belly steak can be also be rolled into a roulade. Or if you have a smoker, you can make your own lamb bacon.
Loin: Loin steak can be made into a roulade. It’s delicious the way a good prime rib can be. It’s great for an “I butchered my own animal coming-out party… a meat lover’s Debutante Ball.”
The next class is scheduled for Tuesday, November 18. Slake your bloodlust with Tom Mylan at the Brooklyn Kitchen.