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Ellen Shapiro

When cheaper is better

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I'm a great fan of chicken livers, which are really cheap.

Chicken hearts are also dirt cheap. The only place I can reliably get them in London is Selfridge's swanky Food Hall, but I think that by weight they must be the cheapest thing in the store. I think they're something like £2 a kilo. And sooooo good, grilled with salt and chillies, and eaten as a snack.

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The dark meat versus light meat situation pops up with respect to chicken, turkey and most other birds. There are reasonable people who prefer one or the other for various reasons, but it's a good example of a place where having a contrarian palate presents an opportunity. And in this instance, I'd hazard a guess that while the Western population at large favors light meat, the majority of those in the gourmet subculture prefer dark.

So does this mean Im not a member of the gourmet subculture? I grew up prefering dark meat, but my tastes changed as I got older. And quite frankly, legs just gross me out. All that sinew and whatever else its called on the leg. Ick. I dont eat red meat either, so maybe that has something to do with it.

As Archie Bunker famously said, "I don't eat chicken legs, do you know where that chicken's been walking"? :laugh:

I have to say, I'm a dark meat man myself. This thread's moved on to chicken livers, and I believe that some people don't like dark meat (especially thighs) because they have a hint of liver flavor. I love it and I like the inexpensiveness and the forgiving nature of the dark meat. Overcook it some, no worries!

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I think Prime versus Choice is a situation where more expensive is better. Allowing for some variation from specimen to specimen, and all other things being equal, on the whole a Prime New York strip is going to be better than a Choice New York strip. Some things are priced according to quality by the market, and to me the grades of beef are one of those things.

So what did you think of that marketing move where the USDA renamed the grade below Choice? It was "USDA Good"; now it's called "USDA Select"--and I see this grade more often now in supermarket meat cases. I vaguely recall the change was promoted as a way to get people to eat leaner meat (there's less marbling in Select meat than in Choice or Prime).

Other things, however, are assigned high prices for reasons that don't seem to have anything to do with flavor. A filet mignon is one of the most insipid steaks imaginable. I can only assume it commands a high price on account of some combination of 1) tenderness misinterpreted as quality, especially by the subculture of rich people with uninspired tastes; 2) limited supply, because all other things being equal you'd have to charge more for filet mignon than New York strip because there's less tenderloin than striploin in a carcass; and 3) some sort of historical mistake and undeserved reputation perpetuated by marketing and ill-informed conventional wisdom.

Probably all of the above. Filet mignon is rather sweet and not terribly beefy-tasting. A good braised or barbecued brisket is much more satisfying.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I also buy "store brand" cream cheese when using it for spreading on bagels. I have yet to detect a difference between that and Philadelphia brand although some insist there's a difference.

I can tell a difference among brands of cream cheese. The Super Fresh (A&P-family) store brand, America's Choice, is sweeter and firmer than Philly. Some other brands I've tried -- Smithfield, for instance -- are a little saltier. The old Genuardi's store brand stank--too soft and too salty; I don't know whether it's improved now that Safeway owns the chain.

My own taste preference runs towards America's Choice.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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The dark meat versus light meat situation pops up with respect to chicken, turkey and most other birds. There are reasonable people who prefer one or the other for various reasons, but it's a good example of a place where having a contrarian palate presents an opportunity. And in this instance, I'd hazard a guess that while the Western population at large favors light meat, the majority of those in the gourmet subculture prefer dark.

So does this mean Im not a member of the gourmet subculture? I grew up prefering dark meat, but my tastes changed as I got older. And quite frankly, legs just gross me out. All that sinew and whatever else its called on the leg. Ick. I dont eat red meat either, so maybe that has something to do with it.

As Archie Bunker famously said, "I don't eat chicken legs, do you know where that chicken's been walking"? :laugh:

I have to say, I'm a dark meat man myself. This thread's moved on to chicken livers, and I believe that some people don't like dark meat (especially thighs) because they have a hint of liver flavor. I love it and I like the inexpensiveness and the forgiving nature of the dark meat. Overcook it some, no worries!

Heartily agree with you DTBarton (and w/Fat Guy)...I have never been able to understand why so many people (here in the U.S.) shun dark meat, especially as I consider it tastier, and as you point out, almost always moister. Gotta love that liver taste!

Jeff


Mr. G.

"Pray for whirled peas"

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The dark meat versus light meat situation pops up with respect to chicken, turkey and most other birds. There are reasonable people who prefer one or the other for various reasons, but it's a good example of a place where having a contrarian palate presents an opportunity. And in this instance, I'd hazard a guess that while the Western population at large favors light meat, the majority of those in the gourmet subculture prefer dark.

So does this mean Im not a member of the gourmet subculture? I grew up prefering dark meat, but my tastes changed as I got older. And quite frankly, legs just gross me out. All that sinew and whatever else its called on the leg. Ick. I dont eat red meat either, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Yes, please turn in your credentials at the door on your way out.

Seriously, though, what I think it means is that you're probably not in line with majority opinion within your subculture. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Somebody has to be in the minority.


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)

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I'm a great fan of chicken livers, which are really cheap.  They make excellent pates and spreads when sauteed in a bit of duck fat, simply seasoned and pureed with a little bit of leftover wine.  This is the basis for all kinds of great terrines that you can mix together and press into ramekins, serving them at aperetif.  Chicken livers are wonderful simply seared and served on a mound of braised celery root.  They are great in rice (aka dirty rice). 

I totally agree from a "when cheap is good" standpoint, but I'm now thinking about the "when cheaper is better" angle on this. To me, chicken livers are the cheap alternative to foie gras, and there are a lot of times when I'd prefer, for example, chopped chicken livers (Jewish appetizing style) to a pate or terrine based on foie gras.


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)

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I'd much rather eat lobster at a New England lobster shack, sitting outdoors at a picnic table dressed in jeans and teeshirt, than in any fancy white-tablecloth restaurant. Not only is it likely to be cheaper and fresher (not always, but often), but it's much more acceptable to make an unholy mess while you go for the gusto! (Plus there's all the childhood summer vacation memories invoked...)

Dark-meat poultry lover here--turkey as well as chicken. Turkey or chicken wings, necks, and backs have long been my go-to items for stocks and soups. And the prices I often see for chicken legs is just crazy-low!

One year when I was laid off and living on unemployment checks and community food pantry offerings (thank you, dot-com bubble :rolleyes: ), I became a self-taught expert on cheap meats. Offal and butcher's trimmings became my friends! (Even moreso than previously.) But even when I managed to climb back on the corporate behemoth again, I didn't much return to the more expensive stuff. A lot of meat just tastes really insipid to me these days--dunno if the supply as a whole has "dumbed down" a lot flavorwise since I was a kid, or whether it's just a matter of aging taste buds, or both. But I find myself just really preferring the flavor and texture of those cheaper moist-heat-needing cuts, let alone the stronger flavors and more interesting textures of organ meats.

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Chicken livers and hearts are great, but what about gizzards? My grandmother used to make them...

*runs to the phone to get the recipe*


Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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How could anyone forget that the Safeway equivalent to Tater Tots® are better than the Ore-Ida® original. (BTW, I see from the Tot Spot that they are now 50 years old. Who knew.)


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I have to admit, I also prefer white meat to dark, the texture is just much better to my tastes.

As far as when cheaper is better: I am all over cheap cuts of beef and marked down meat as opposed to paying top dollar for prime cuts or super-fresh items. I love red meat, and almost any cut will do it for me, so, hey, why would I pay $25 a lb for lobel's strip steak when a Safeway london broil at a tenth of the price will make me just as happy when it is done? Especially when it is a day before the expiration date (or a day after) and it has a $2 off sticker on it.


He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I thought I was the only one that thought the lox cream cheese spread had more taste than the lox slices with cream cheese separated. Of course, you could just load on more slices of lox but there is something about the taste of those bits of lox that definitely does spread in the cream cheese that is better than the sum of its parts. Also, it doesn't fall out as you eat it.

I buy live crab from the Chinese/Viet markets when in season. I cannot believe people would ever buy those dead, cooked crabs from the Western style markets, for like twice the price or more. God knows how long they've been sitting in the case.


I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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Is grade B syrup actually cheaper?  I agree that the maple flavor is more pronounced than with grade A, and for that reason I prefer it for pancakes, etc.  But I seem to remember that (at TJ's, at least) the two are the same price.
Some maple syrup prices from PiecesofVermont.com:

Vermont Fancy Grade $43.98/gal

Grade A Medium $39.98/gal

Grade A Dark $37.98/gal

Grade B $34.98/gal

And by the quart, from Trader Joe's (the way I usually buy it), it's $9.99 for grade A, and $9.49 for grade B. Cheaper, true, but the difference is trivial.

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I too prefer chicken thighs, and really like dark meat. A skinless chicken breast has got to be one of the most bland, wimpy pieces of meat ever. Bleck.


"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

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Agree on the lox and cream cheese.

I like to buy the nova pieces and whipped cream cheese seperately,

and make my own ratio of nova to cream cheese. Unbelievably

inexpensive and so flavorful.

Its corned beef season (for me its always corned beef season), and

I much prefer what is sold as "thick" cut for 99cents/lb. over the healthy

flat cut for 2.99 or more per pound. The 2nd or thick cut has loads of

that heart healthy corned beef fat vs. dry, taste like dessert sand, flat cut.

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You are so right about the corned beef. About this time of year I have to have my corned beef. I have a heck of a time finding the point cut. Last year, I did find some and smoked it. It was so good. The price was about what you report as well. If the smoker isn't fired up, I braise it with a coating of whole spice crab boil and it comes out like butter. The fat could be spread on a cracker to make deliciousness. Why oh why is it so hard to find?


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Fifi:

I live in Sussex county NJ and find the second cut,

thick cut, point cut in local Pathmark supermarkets

for 99cents per pound. The Acme chain has really good

large corned beef for 1.19 per pound as we "speak".

I usually buy a few and hold them for a month to two

and simply boil, drop to a simmer and I am good for

a few days of great corned beef.

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Zabar's offers another excellent trimming: sturgeon tails. They always have them in cryovac at the far left of the smoked fish counter. There's a fair amount of skin and fat, but the flavor is excellent, at a tiny fraction of the price for sliced sturgeon. The fat keeps them from being dry, as sturgeon often is.

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