My favorite cuts of meat*:
- pork neck- Forget the pork chops. The best bits of pork rest close to the bone where the meat is very dark and rich. Put it in a pot with good things and liquid and just barely simmer until the meat falls off the bone. Need a recipe? Try pozole! Honestly, pork neck is one of my very, very favorite cuts of meat. Especially in stew season.
- beef chuck- While not exactly pork-neck cheap, beef chuck is definitely one of the more economical roasts of beef, and by far the most flavorful. I love it cubed and stewed in wine, I love it slow cooked until very tender. But if I have an excellent chuck with a good marble that has been dry aged, nothing makes me happier than to roast it with salt and pepper in a 350 degree oven and serve it medium rare. It is not too tough, and I prefer it to most steaks I have tried (which admittedly aren’t very many).
- uncured pork hocks- see pork neck. These cuts are quite similar.
- chicken backs and necks and feet- I love a whole roasted chicken, and if I am buying one from someone selling backs, necks, or feet, I can rarely resist them. For what? Chicken stock, of course! One can never have too much chicken stock (the bones from our roasted chickens alone can’t keep up with our stock-consumption).
- beef soup bones- I don’t know what to say about these, other than that I love a beef stew, and the soup bones usually come with big rings of marrow, which, on toast, make an excellent snack for the cook (and I am a cook that needs snacks!)
- pork shoulder/butt- While not the very cheapest part of the pig, the pork shoulder is flavorful, low-maintenance, and all-around amazing. Barbecue? Tacos? You should have no trouble finding ways to cook it. Just keep it low and slow.
- home-rendered lard- While not exactly a cut of meat, I have become a real lard enthusiast after rendering the fat from a half-hog two years ago. The fat was free, and it kept us in fried potatoes and rice and beans for a full year. If you never have tried beans (or any other Central American/Caribbean food for that matter) cooked in lard, they are about twenty times more satisfying than the same beans made with oil.
Cuts I have my eye on:
- Lamb/mutton neck- I am crazy for all sheep-meat, but rarely purchase it outside of special occassions, as it tends to be somewhat pricy. But the Norwegians make an amazing stew out of lamb (originally the lamb’s head!) and cabbage. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since tried it nine years ago (as a very skeptical teenager, I might add). I think it is time to try it in my own home.
- Pork cheek- I have this in my freezer as we speak from the half hog I purchased this fall. I have no idea what to do with it, but I am excited about it.
- Pig “trotter”- What isn’t intriguing about a pig’s foot? I have yet to find someone to sell a few to me.
*No, beef tongue isn’t one of them. I hate to say it, as everything about the tongue is, theoretically, nice: good flavor, tender meat, etc. I just can’t get over the fact that I am eating a tongue. Hopefully someday I will get past this. I like to like things.