It is a sincere pleasure to see predictions come to pass. Back in 2007 just before the butchery trend-craze-fad hit I had myself already transcended this path. I predicted “a future trend that would have more chefs becoming familiar with and creating stronger relationships within the meat industry” in Meating Place News Magazine (2007). It happened! Now, a lost culinary practice has risen back to its rightful place and the results are here to stay! Chefs, cooks and enthusiasts alike are seeking to revive what was once everyday practice… people wanting to educate themselves about traditional food and food systems, more specifically butchery and meat-centric preparations.
Recently Denver’s own chef Justin Brunson (an Iowa transplant), owner of Masterpiece Deli and the (opening soon) Old Major project delved into their passion for pork feet first. Old Major will practice an extensive in-house meat program. Brunson armed himself with an SOP and HACCP plan that would rival most USDA inspected small plants practices including fresh meat, dry fermented sausage, not heat treated NRTE and a heat-treated not shelf stable program to allow him to safely and effectively craft meats in-house. Most health departments cringe at the mention of “house cured” “house made” salumi/charcuterie, or in-house meat programs. Brunson (Old Major) recognized this and respectfully wanted to do it right and proper as it relates to practice as well with the local health department officials.
Also recently, Brunson developed the Denver Bacon Company. Just as I did with Il Mondo Vecchio initially in 2006, Brunson started by outsourcing the services of a local USDA plant and familiarizing with production protocols. Small and medium sized plants can provide services such as private label contract business. We used to do similar contract business for the likes of Frasca, Canyon Ranch Spa Resorts, Vesta Dipping Grill, Cure Organic Farms, Oskar Blues and Black Belly Catering to name a few. Doing so allows Brunson to make his delicious artisan crafted Denver Bacon Company Bacon products under USDA inspection and bring it to market for wholesale, retail, food-service and grocers. For the small – medium plant it is an opportunity to generate more revenue streams and diversify their business model for profitability.
MEANS + IDEAS = STRONGER LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS
From a purely economic standpoint this is truly a win-win situation for locally produced products, sustainable food systems and the possibility of becoming a local food staple supported by the general public:
- For the USDA plant this allows opportunity to tap into revenue stream of simply manufacturing, packaging and possible storage and/or distribution or sales.
- For the Chef, this allows the creative expertise of artisan-chef crafted products to go into commerce without the cost of starting up an entire USDA plant with employees and all the other costs associated with an entire plant.
- For the Community, it provides opportunity for more local to local business interactions strengthening local commerce and local economy. Be it from farm to table, from field to fork or whatever other “buzzword” is appropriate. Outside the fancy talk, it is simply smart business all around.
Here is a recent recipe I created one evening at home utilizing Brunson’s DBC-Bacon. This dish also incorporates use of leftovers sitting in the fridge: roasted chicken thighs I’ll be candid… I love my refrigerator “Quick Fire Challenges” it’s like I am on a Bravo TV or Food Network show. So here is my Denver Bacon Company Quick Fire Home Refrigerator Challenge outcome:
Smoked Pimenton Broth Poached Vegetables with Chicharron of Chicken Thigh and DBC Bacon Lardons with manchego-truffled croutons.
THE BROTH & VEG
- 1 TBS Olive Oil
- 2 Cloves Garlic Sliced
- 1 Small Yellow or Sweet Onion (diced ¼ inch)
- 3 Tablespoons Smoked Spanish Paprika (Pimenton)
- ¼ Cup Yukon or Red Potatoes (diced ¼ inch)
- 16 Ounces Poultry Stock
- ¼ Cup Orange Cauliflower Florets (sliced thin)
- ¼ Cup Baby Carrots (sliced 1/8th inch thick)
In a small sauce or soup pan over med-high heat add olive oil. Add garlic and onions, cook until translucent. Add paprika and incorporate well. Add potatoes.
Add stock, bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Allow it to simmer until 25% of the liquid evaporates. Add the potatoes and simmer until cooked through: “al dente”. Turn off the heat and place in the remaining vegetables.
1 tsp Fresh Parsley Chopped for Garnish at time of service.
- 2 each Chicken Thighs, skin on, pre-cooked (roasted) a great way to use leftovers (shred off the bone into small pieces)
- 3 each slices Denver Bacon Company sliced into thin strips (julienne lardons)
- 2 TBS Olive Oil (not E.V.)
Over low heat in a heavy bottomed skillet place the chicken and bacon strips. Allow to fry slowly and cook crisp. Allow them to get golden brown and crispy. This may take up to 15 or 30 minutes…do not rush it, slowly crisp over low heat.
To serve, pull out of fat and place on dry paper towels to absorb excess oils. Keep warm and place over the broth and vegetables.
CROUTONS (these can be made in advance):
- 1 cup Bread preferably sour dough or rustic cibatta bread (diced ½ inch)
- 2 TBS Manchego Cheese (fine shred)
- 2 TBS Olive Oil
- 1 TBS White truffle essence olive oil
Toss all ingredients in a bowl to coat lightly. Adjust seasoning with hint of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Spread out the croutons on a sheet pan and toast in oven at 350* until light golden brown and crispy.
Simplicity in execution and complex with tastes, textures, flavors and diverse cooking methods lend a velvety vegetable and broth with smoky notes of pimento, crisp fried bacon and chicken thigh meat/skin finalized with the classic flavor bombed crunch of a simple crouton.
Kudos to Chef Brunson, please join me in congratulating his current and future endeavors as well his respectable leap into the world of meat industry from production to plate and everything in between!