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Bronx Chop


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<img align="left" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1121826086/gallery_29805_1195_1221.jpg">The Daily Gullet proudly presents the second of five exclusive excerpts from Steven Shaw's upcoming book, <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060737808/egulletcom-20">Turning the Tables: Restaurants from the Inside Out</a></i> (HarperCollins). Find part one here. -The Editors.

Special to the Daily Gullet, by Steven Shaw

“When David Burke came up with the Bronx Chop, nobody in the industry knew what the hell he was talking about.” Philip Mosner, representing the middle of three generations of Mosners in his family’s veal-packing business, grabs one of several dozen veal legs suspended from the ceiling on stainless steel hooks, hefts it onto his shoulder, brandishes a foot-long, curved butchering knife, and gestures for us to follow him to the cutting table. In an attempt to avoid being struck by the arcing leg as Mosner turns, I back into the front half of a veal carcass. It feels like a firm pillow, or maybe I just wish it does: I got up before six in the morning to make this meeting. Mosner moves rapidly and I scurry to keep up for fear of getting lost in the 700,000 square feet of refrigerated meat lockers at the Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the South Bronx.

The invention of a new cut of veal—the “Bronx Chop,” a signature dish at chef David Burke’s New York restaurant davidburke & donatella—may not immediately strike the carnivore community as significant. But in the meat business, it’s one of those seemingly unattainable achievements, like cold fusion, perpetual motion, or the fountain of youth. Veal Dish, the veal industry newsletter published by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, devoted an issue almost in its entirety to Burke and Mosner’s collaboration. In the short time I spend in Michael Mosner’s office (Philip’s brother, Michael, is president of the company), a call comes in: it’s a chef (and Veal Dish subscriber) in Pennsylvania asking about the Bronx Chop.

As Chef Burke and I lean in to watch Philip Mosner carve the Bronx Chop out of the veal leg, a group of other butchers gathers around to observe. I’m a bit excited as well, so much so that I briefly forget how cold my feet are: it’s 36 degrees in the Mosner Veal facility—a piece of data that hadn’t been provided to me when I set up this appointment. The butchers are wearing insulated boots and down coats under their white aprons; I’m wearing a cotton sweater and Sperry Top Siders.

“Every time I see a veal leg,” enthuses Burke as Mosner puts the leg through a series of contortions designed to remove a softball-size piece of meat from near the hip joint, “I notice this great piece of meat right at the top. And it’s totally wasted: most places just cut it up into cutlets.” Mosner pulls a hunk of flesh out of the leg and holds it up like the triumphant father in The Lion King, while I marvel at his ability to be so upbeat at seven in the morning. He then takes it over to a band saw and starts cutting away the extraneous bones and fat. Finally, the Bronx Chop emerges: it looks like a colossal filet mignon, but with a primeval bone attached, reaching for the sky. There’s only one Bronx Chop per veal hindquarter—two per whole calf—and Burke serves 180 of them in his restaurant each week. “People are going to eat this at my restaurant,” predicts Burke. “They’re going to remember it, and they’re going to come back for it.”

<img align="right" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1121034075/gallery_29805_1195_11679.jpg">Philip Mosner and David Burke aren’t the only people toiling silently to bring you that Bronx Chop. The tender veal they butcher, distribute, cook, and serve is a result of careful breeding and agricultural research. The specific calves used by Mosner are raised on a farm in Quebec, where a group of small farmers in Charlevoix are pioneers in the humane raising of excellent quality veal. The calves have room to move about and interact with one another, they are fed no hormones or sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics, and the care with which they’re treated is evident on the palate—the meat isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it. The calves are processed (a nice way of saying slaughtered) at the Abattoir Bellerive, also in Quebec, at which point they receive a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection stamp—USDA inspectors are on hand to certify meat that is destined for cross-border shipment. At this point, the logistics industry enters the picture, moving the veal carcasses overnight by truck to Mosner’s receiving room.

Mosner’s multistage operation begins with whole carcasses and, step by step, breaks them down into the various cuts of veal a restaurant or local butcher shop might buy: shanks, shoulders, top rounds, 5- to 8-bone racks, whole breasts, tenderloins, and, of course, the Bronx Chop. Mosner has its own fleet of delivery trucks, but it sells most of its meat to “jobbers,” which are small delivery fleets that service local restaurants and butchers. Once the meat reaches Burke’s restaurant, his on-site butcher further trims the Bronx Chop into two portions: the large, dramatic piece that will sell for $36 on the dinner menu, and a smaller boneless cut that will be served at lunchtime. By the time a waiter carries the Bronx Chop to the customer’s table, it has passed through two different cooking stations and in the process has picked up some pistachio ravioli, wild mushrooms, and a sauce.

This is the second of five parts. Part one is here.

<i>

Steven Shaw (aka <a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showuser=1">Fat Guy</a>) is executive director of the eGullet Society. He has been known to do other things on occasion.

Photograph by Ellen R. Shapiro.

Copyright 2005 Steven A. Shaw. Reprinted by kind permission of the author and HarperCollins Publishers.</i>

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Bourdain and Shaw both in the same week? Egad!

I do have to say that my biggest objection by far to the Bronx Chop is that the restaurant involved feels they have to use lowercase letters for their name. :smile:

Ellen's picture is priceless, by the way. I've seen Steven with that look before too. Usually when he's trying to figure out how to make a fast getaway. He's looking for a quick exit, and the place was probably a few Bronx Chops poorer when he slipped out the door.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Sounds pretty labor intensive, isn't this the one where the butcher usually keeps this richly marbled cut for himself: provided the bucher works out of a two hundred square foot meat locker at the shop.

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the place was probably a few Bronx Chops poorer when he slipped out the door.

Actually we left with four cases of veal skirt steaks, but David Burke took them all for the restaurant and didn't even leave me one piece. He did feed me a Bronx Chop at the restaurant, though. I too think the lowercase letters thing is a bit too '80s for my tastes (sex, lies, and videotape anyone?) but the food there is excellent.

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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isn't this the one where the butcher usually keeps this richly marbled cut for himself

I'm pretty sure that's the beef hanger steak, also known as the butcher's steak. Demand for those is so high now, though, and there's only a handful of real butchers left out there, so now it's just "hanger steak, $27" at your favorite restaurant.

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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isn't this the one where the butcher usually keeps this richly marbled cut for himself

I'm pretty sure that's the beef hanger steak, also known as the butcher's steak. Demand for those is so high now, though, and there's only a handful of real butchers left out there, so now it's just "hanger steak, $27" at your favorite restaurant.

Or "onglet, $31."

--

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How did I miss that initial thread? Great job there and with this excerpt.

I was surprised to read that the veal comes from Canada. Is veal excused from the restictions on importing Canadien beef into the US?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Beats me. When I visited Mosner in February 2004 I don't know that there were any such restrictions in place.

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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That was David's question too. Neither of us had ever seen veal skirt steaks in such profusion. He was planning to "do something with them" and serve them as a lunch special that week.

(Edited to add: Checked my notes, and actually what he planned to do was serve them as part of a tasting menu. Also, it was only one box of veal skirt steaks and three boxes of Bronx chops that we left with.)

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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isn't this the one where the butcher usually keeps this richly marbled cut for himself

I'm pretty sure that's the beef hanger steak, also known as the butcher's steak. Demand for those is so high now, though, and there's only a handful of real butchers left out there, so now it's just "hanger steak, $27" at your favorite restaurant.

Or "onglet, $31."

Ha ha ha, he called it something french and squeezed out another four bucks.

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Just to the right and below the center of that image, there are three long buildings. Mosner is, I believe, in the top one towards the left end of the building.

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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My favorite veal cuts are all the ones that, in beef terms, would be the tougher cuts for braising or thin-slicing. These tend to have the most flavor, yet they're more tender than their beef counterparts. I think my favorite has got to be veal breast.

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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isn't this the one where the butcher usually keeps this richly marbled cut for himself

I'm pretty sure that's the beef hanger steak, also known as the butcher's steak. Demand for those is so high now, though, and there's only a handful of real butchers left out there, so now it's just "hanger steak, $27" at your favorite restaurant.

Yeah. I'm an ex-lawyer working as a Garde Manger for the last week at a contemporary French restaurant in Brooklyn - in France, they call it Onglet. It is next to the diaphram (skirt) and as I understand it, it is a muscle not much used (by the cow, that is).

It is amazingly underrated, or at least has been up until now in the USA.

I'm experiencing a real culture shock, made a little less shocking knowing that I'll get to read ahead of time some of the things I will be experiencing as a cook. This is HARD work folks.

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My favorite veal cuts are all the ones that, in beef terms, would be the tougher cuts for braising or thin-slicing. These tend to have the most flavor, yet they're more tender than their beef counterparts. I think my favorite has got to be veal breast.

I agree. A stuffed veal breast, when done right, is hard to beat.

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