When my local butcher, Main Street Meats, called me up and asked if I wanted to create something delicious together for the launch of their new cooking blog, of course I said yes. One of the driving forces behind this blog is a the belief that sustainable, locally sourced food is good for both body, community, and soul. Since a hog is at the heart of southern cuisine (albeit with a garland of vibrant produce around its neck), I wanted to not just cook pork, but to cook a cheap cut that isn’t familiar to a lot of people: pork osso buco. Which is fancy for pork shank. I’m not one who’s body or spiritual path precludes me from eating meat, but I do make it a habit to only cook meat that was sustainably raised, preferably locally. It’s clean, fresh, and flavorful, and animals that are provided with and allowed a diverse diet contain far more nutrients than their ill-starred factory farmed relatives. Cooking & eating is a spiritual enterprise; it’s that moment in which we take from earth the energy, the life force, we need to live, love, and create. That might sound flaky, I get that. But it’s the literal truth. As such I aim to do both with mindfulness, reverence, and gratitude whenever possible. I’m not in a brilliantly evolved head space every time I sit down to eat, but at the very least, I thank the beings that gave their force for mine.
I wanted a closer look at the process. It’s my opinion that, since I’m an omnivore, I owe the animals I eat an acknowledgment that they were in fact fauna that roamed the earth. It’s easy to disconnect the vacuum packed parcels from the beasts, and for me, it’s a disservice to try to forget the life they led. If I’m going to eat meat, I’m going to acknowledge the full spectrum of that process. So early in the morning I met Moby, Amy, and Milton at the shop and we watched Milton break down half a hog from Sequatchie Cove Farm. It was art, and I’m grateful that Chattanooga is blessed with people who care enough about the food we eat here to put in the time, energy, and talent to do it right.
As a matter of fact, Main Street Meats is the only butcher shop we have here in Chattanooga, TN. Before it’s inception, we were butcherless and you could only find good meat at the markets a few times a week. Now all you have to do is pay them a visit to get local meat for your family any day of the week. Beside that they’ve got housemade sausages, bacon, local cheeses, house made dishes like their famous Chicken Pot Pie (lard crust, y’all), and so much other goodness (including nice leaf lard for baking pastries!) So, after getting a first hand look at the process, Moby & Amy went with me to the farmer’s market to get some produce to cook along with it, and then they joined me in my kitchen to cook up a spring braise.
Yes, a spring braise. Eating from the butcher shop means branching out into cuts that might not be as familiar as ye olde filet, ribeye, and strip. But they’re often more affordable and flavorful. So, we wanted to show that the cuts of meat that benefit from low and slow (and largely hands off!) cooking aren’t just for the cooler months. And paired with grassy fennel, bright citrus, a splash of dry white wine, and meltingly tender leeks, that’s exactly what we achieved. You can find the recipe along with the sides we served it with, cheese polenta & spicy bitter greens on their brand new blog! They’ll be updating it with recipes for the various cuts of sustainably raised meats they carry, tutorials, and information on upcoming workshops like the one tomorrow, Sausage 101: sausage making & tasting with a beer pairing (with craft beers graciously provided by The Flying Squirrel). It’s all sold out, and I’m so excited about it and about their future endeavors. If you missed out, you can follow them on instagram and twitter to remain abreast of upcoming events and posts.
So, if you’re local and you haven’t stopped by Main Street Meats, do. It’s the best source of meat in town, and once you stop in, you’ll be there every week. There are really no words for how much it’s worth making an extra stop. I know we’re all busy, and it’s tempting to want to do a one stop shop, but if we embrace the older way and support our local butcher, we’ll be rewarded. Just like we were when we took our first bite of this braise. You won’t look back.