Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

The "Bronx chop" -- birth of a new cut of veal


Ellen Shapiro
 Share

Recommended Posts

On Wednesday, February 18, Fat Guy dragged me to the Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the Bronx -- at 7am. He was doing research for his book. Specifically, he was investigating the creation of a new cut of veal.

It occurred not at all to me why this would be a big deal, but when you think about it they've been butchering veal for gazillions of years and it's pretty impressive that at this late date someone could come up with a different way to utilize a part of the animal.

Hunts Point is big. It is according to the Hunts Point Economic Development Corporation the world's largest food distribution center. There are 20,000 people employed at Hunts Point, and the facility occupies an outcropping of land in the South Bronx. On your way there from Manhattan you can get almost anything imaginable done to your car: you can damage it in a pothole, you can get it repaired, and you can get it washed afterwards. New hubcaps, used hubcaps, you name it. Also should you feel the need to visit a "gentlemen's club" there are several options en route.

The facility itself, however, is modern and divorced from the dodgy neighborhoods you pass through on approach (although of course it benefits those neighborhoods greatly by bringing a steady flow of traffic through along Bruckner Boulevard). The whole Hunts Point operation is about three times as large as you might guess the world's largest food distribution center would be. If you saw any one of the three subdivisions (meat, produce, fish -- the Fulton Fish Market is in the process of relocating to Hunts Point and should be up and running there by fall) you would think it was the world's largest food distribution center. All three together, overwhelming.

Our destination was David Mosner Inc., a veal specialist (technically a "packer") in Stall E-8. By "stall" they mean something the size of a small warehouse. And by E-8 they do mean that there are also buildings A through D (and also F) and that there are several of these warehouse-size operations in each of the buildings. Overall, the meat part of Hunts Point alone is more than 38 acres, and there are 700,000 square feet of refrigerated warehouse-size rooms.

I should say I had a lot of reservations about visiting a veal butcher. I'm a recovering vegetarian and I haven't gotten up to eating veal yet. I'm still very much influenced by the notion of the poor little calves being confined in boxes. Spending some time with the Mosners, however, softened me considerably or at least helped me recognize that there are people in the veal industry who care very much about agricultural practices. The Mosners -- three generations of the family have worked there since the late David Mosner founded the company in 1957 -- specialize in hormone and drug free veal that has been raised with space to walk around, a method called loose confinement. The calves, mostly from Quebec but also from the Midwest, are larger and their meat is to my eye healthier and more robust looking than typical. Most of Mosner's calves have carcasses that weigh around 300 pounds.

Chef David Burke, formerly of Park Avenue Cafe and the Smith & Wollensky restaurant group, has recently opened his own restaurant called davidburke & donatella. One of the items on the menu is called the "Bronx Style" filet mignon of veal, or the "Bronx chop" as they refer to it at Mosner. There is currently no other restaurant serving this cut, because David Burke invented it. This whole early morning adventure of ours was a result of Fat Guy not being satisfied with an explanation of the cut: he wanted Burke to show him how it is actually butchered.

This could have been a 10 minute visit -- the actual butchering of the cut is only the final stage of a lengthy process that starts with a whole carcass. But the Mosners were extremely hospitable and offered to demonstrate the entire process. They offered to start with a carcass and end with a Bronx chop. How could we say no?

I must say the Mosners were the nicest people one could ever hope to meet. And obviously smart businessmen. The president of the company (Michael Mosner, son of David Mosner -- he has a degree in agricultural economics from Cornell) gave us a general overview of the business, after which Ben Mosner, grandson of David Mosner, took us on the first half of our tour. David Burke and Philip Mosner (another son of David Mosner, his degree is from University of Georgia) joined us later for the actual fabrication of the Bronx chop (Philip is the guy who figured out exactly how to butcher this cut).

~~~~~

We start in the intake area. All the areas on the main level (the offices are upstairs) are refrigerated to approximately 36 degrees, so we have to wear warm coats under our butcher's coats.

The veal carcasses get delivered into this first room, covered in plastic sheeting. The room can hold hundreds of them and often does. The deliveries come three times a week or more. Much of the butchering for this day is already in progress but we still have our pick of several dozen carcasses. Ben Mosner starts to point out the various cuts of veal on the carcass and then asks butcher Robert Ross to butcher an entire carcass. We pick a nice 285.5 pound one.

dm1.jpg

dm2.jpg

dm8.jpg

dm9.jpg

Robert begins by removing the "foresaddle." This is the beginning of the process of getting things down to a manageable size that can actually be lifted and handled by an individual butcher. At this point, everything is suspended by hooks. The Mosners have had a special hook system designed for them that contains a hook on a lift, so that when the foresaddle is removed it doesn't take three men (as it used to) to lift it up onto another hook.

dm3.jpg

dm4.jpg

dm5.jpg

dm6.jpg

dm7.jpg

He then removes the center part of the carcass, which can be carried by one person, leaving the two larger sections (the ones with the fore and hind legs attached) on the hook system (the hooks slide on tracks on the ceiling -- they are not stationary).

dm19.jpg

dm20.jpg

dm18.jpg

All these pieces get moved around and kept track of somehow.

dm21.jpg

dm16.jpg

dm17.jpg

dm22.jpg

Before we move on to the Bronx chop, Robert shows us how he creates a rack.

dm23.jpg

dm24.jpg

dm25.jpg

dm26.jpg

dm27.jpg

dm28.jpg

dm29.jpg

dm30.jpg

dm31.jpg

Philip Mosner and David Burke join us in the butchering room, where several butchers are working on different cuts of veal with very sharp knives. There's a cool conveyer belt in the middle of the table that transports the meat away. The cutting boards, knives, and everything else all get repeatedly cleaned -- it's quite immaculate everywhere in the Mosner operation.

dm32.jpg

dm33.jpg

dm34.jpg

dm35.jpg

Chef Burke notices a blue plastic tub full of veal skirt steaks and starts to stare off into the distance -- he's trying to figure out how he can use them, and quickly decides he'll put them on the tasting menu today. Philip Mosner bags them up and we later take them, along with several Bronx chops, back to the city in our van. Normally, of course, the deliveries get made by truck by Mosner -- Chef Burke doesn't visit Hunts Point often, and indeed most chefs have never been there at all, no less for the purpose of actually working with the butchers to create a new cut of meat.

dm36.jpg

Finally it's time to create a Bronx chop. Philip Mosner and David Burke explain that, if one buys a whole hind leg of veal, there is a beautiful piece of meat at the top of that section, at the bottom of the tenderloin near the hip. Usually this section goes with the whole leg, but it is usually wasted by being cut up into medallions. Chef Burke felt this was arguably the best meat on the whole calf, though, so he implored the Mosners to help fabricate it into something that could be served as a chop. By inverting the leg and butchering it in an unusual manner (it is quite a contortion when you watch it), Mosner's butchers are able to extract this cut. It's a lot of work -- it starts on the butchering table and then there are several passes through the band saw to get to the Bronx chop.

dm37.jpg

dm38.jpg

dm39.jpg

dm40.jpg

dm41.jpg

dm42.jpg

dm43.jpg

dm44.jpg

This final piece of meat will be further trimmed by David Burke's prep cooks. He actually gets two pieces of meat out of it: a big chop from the bottom, with the whole bone attached, and a smaller boneless piece from the top, which is served at lunch.

There are only two of these Bronx chops per carcass (one per leg) and Chef Burke is currently serving around 180 per week, with pistachio ravioli and wild mushrooms.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Amazing stuff, Ellen.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cool pictures. Have you sampled one of these? What is Chef Burke charging for them?

I've sampled two of them. The dish is $36.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Did you take any pictures of Hunt's Point market itself?

There isn't really a "market itself." It's just a bunch of long warehouse buildings that look the same as warehouse buildings anywhere, and there's no shared space where you can see bunch of vendors in one place -- they've all got their own spaces behind closed doors. If you got up in a helicopter, you could get a photo of a lot of warehouse buildings all in the same place, but from ground level there's nothing to photograph. Each vendor is separate and indoors, and to take photos of any one of them you need to make an appointment and get the appropriate permission. It took several weeks just to set up this one visit, and the Mosners are actually unusual in their willingness to be photographed and allow access.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They don't work with sides of veal the way a beef butcher works with sides of beef -- they work with whole carcasses and do the splitting on individual sections later on. So when they count their daily output, they count carcasses not sides. Their daily production varies but I think they said they can do a couple of hundred carcasses if necessary. That's a lot, but it doesn't put them in league with a big industrial veal packer. I think there are places in the Midwest that bang it out in the thousands of carcasses per day and ship it shrink-wrapped to supermarkets all over the country. This is a much more upscale, artisanal, regional, family-run operation. They select each carcass by hand for each customer, and they supply places like Lobel's -- at the absolute top of the market. So while it's a really big company compared to any retail butcher shop, it's not really a mass producer.

(I'm answering for Ellen because she's not around at the moment.)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Absolutely. If you're willing to go up to Hunts Point and pay the $3 to enter and park your car (the best parking deal in the city!) most of these places will be happy to do cash-and-carry business with you. They're not particularly well equipped to provide retail-style customer service, but you can call ahead and order whatever the heck you want. Most of their cash-and-carry business is with local folks in the Bronx, but if I ever had a big dinner party and needed really good veal for a dozen people I'd consider putting in a call and making a pickup.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

FG and Ellen, top notch work by both of you as usual. I hope that Ellens great work both pictures and prose can be put together in some way (other than bits and pieces,) in a coherant collection i.e. a book about the book. I would be delighted to buy both. Tank you both and I am delighted ttom have the chance to see the workings of such a great project.

colestove

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From what I can see in the (excellent) pictures, it looks like the "Bronx chop" comes from the pelvis side of the hip joint and that the "socket" part of the joint is cut away with the band saw. Is this more or less the case? Is the bone that remains in the cut the pelvis bone?

--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They didn't use that terminology, but it's probably correct. The Cattlemen's Beef Board has just gone through the process of "recognizing" this cut (it's the main story in their Fall/Winter 2004 newsletter -- Michael Mosner reluctantly let me have his copy) and the technical description is that it's the "butt tender of the veal leg." But that of course doesn't give a name to the bone.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ellen, thanks for another fabulous photo-essay.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Really fascinating.

It really is a new cut.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmmmm... I wonder if we could get them to sell us a few racks of veal? :smile:

Absolutely . . . if I ever had a big dinner party and needed really good veal for a dozen people I'd consider putting in a call and making a pickup.

When you two get back, we're putting this idea to the test, my corpulent friend! :cool:

--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow! Those are some sharp knives. This is just fascinating (and I say this as a fellow recovering vegetarian); I have about a million questions... What does it smell like in there? Is it super noisy? I envision lots of squealing saw noises. Are the white gloves they're wearing protective or just for warmth? Are they still getting the animals from Quebec or has the BSE shut that down for now? Where are the heads?

Okay, I could think of many more, but I'll spare you. Thanks for the great glimpse into a world few of us know anything about.

Julie Layne

"...a good little eater."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...
Did you take any pictures of Hunt's Point market itself?

If you got up in a helicopter, you could get a photo of a lot of warehouse buildings all in the same place,

A "helicopter"? Okay:

gallery_564_1543_50532.jpg

:smile:

What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...