How to choose the best cuts of meat? An exclusive with Le Marais
I was really beginning to question my sanity. The streets of NYC were covered in snow and frozen slush, and at every curb there were ice-filled puddles that looked like they were at high tide. Yet there I was, leaping over them, trying to get to one of my favorite restaurants, Le Marais , to learn “How to Choose the Best Cuts of Meat” – and on a Friday no less! Anything for my readers and a good story; at least that’s what I told myself. And, as I turned the corner on 46th Street (right into a gust of Nordic blast), I saw the famed iconic sign for Le Marais and all thoughts of turning back disappeared. I’m glad I hung in there, because the frigid weather outside was no match for the warm greetings awaiting me as soon as I walked in the door and was greeted by chef and owner, Jose Meirelles, and the butcher, Dominique Courbe. After offering me a cup of tea, Jose and Dominique sat down to talk to me and tell me their secrets to consistent great food.
Jose, pronounced Joe-say, now a very successful chef and restaurateur came to the United States from Portugal over thirty years ago. His first job in America was as a private driver for a family in NY. It turned out the family also needed someone to cook for them so he began cooking their meals and discovered that he was not only a good cook but that he enjoyed it. Jose then pursued his culinary passion at the French Culinary Institute. He has subsequently owned a number of successful restaurants in the non-kosher world. With all the challenges that come with opening a kosher restaurant, I asked him what made him explore the kosher option.
He had been approached many times to consider opening a kosher restaurant, he explained, but he resisted. The tipping point came when he discovered that kosher butchers were not aging the meat properly (or at all), creating meat cuts that were tougher and had less flavor. That was more than he could bear and gave him the opening he needed. If Jose knew anything, it was how to age meat and what that meant to the flavor of a meal. The second ingredient in creating success at Le Marais was partnering with Dominique, his butcher extraordinaire. Dominique comes from a large family of butchers and uses French techniques in cutting each piece into the gorgeous cuts you see behind the counter at Le Marais (GKC can’t wait to share the video we created with Jose and Dominique on cutting the perfect pieces of meat and selecting the right type to prepare- it’s coming soon).
Le Marais uses both dry and wet aging techniques to intensify the meat flavor and ensure a perfect texture. I got to see first-hand the stages of aging that the large racks of meat rest on. The longer the meat is aged, the more intense the flavor. In the aging process, the outer parts of the meat become extremely dry creating a cocoon for the flavorful piece on the inside. The dried exterior becomes the most amazing beef jerky you have ever had (buy it at Le Marais and taste for yourself) and the interior is cut into extraordinary pieces ready for grilling, braising, pan-searing, or any easy preparation. Jose recommends simple pan-searing with olive oil, garlic and kosher salt or very slow braising in wine, shallots, and chicken stock.