Monday, April 16, 2018

Hand-Ground Meat: A Lesson in Economy—and Deliciousness

Years ago my mother gave me a meat grinder that she found at an auction. I'm not talking a mixer attachment-kind of meat grinder. I'm talking an OLD-school meat grinder. The kind that clamps onto a table and you crank chunks of meat through it with a big, long handle.

Here...this is it:

Old-fashioned meat grinder in box

So, for years that grinder has sat in my cabinet. Like, in the back of the cabinet. I completely forgot it existed.

And then the other night,  as I stared at Bon Appetit's latest photo of larb in their April 2018 issue, the words suddenly came to my head:


Seriously. They did. Just like that:


Maybe it was the texture of the ground pork in the photo that jarred my brain. I mean, it looked so...meaty. It definitely did not have a smashed-meat-paste-dumped-from-a-styrofoam-tray look to it.

Anyway, regardless of how it all happened, the next thing I knew I was telling Chef Reiton that we should just grind our own pork when we make the larb recipe, and he agreed wholeheartedly. I mean, why not? We had that lonely, ill-used (as in not used) grinder just sitting there, waiting...

So, we did. We took our boneless pork chops, cut them up into chunks and put them through our old-fashioned, crank-that-handle grinder.

Hand-grinding boneless pork chops for making larb

How's that for an action shot, huh? And look at that texture! Perfectly sized meaty bits of pork that will still have a tender bite when browned to perfection. 

As I was grinding away, I was reflecting on the simple beauty of being able to see the chunks of meat going into the feed chute and knowing exactly what kind of pork I would be eating in my larb. I don't know about you, but whenever I buy ground meat at the store, I have fleeting thoughts that I don't  really having any idea what pig parts went into this ground pork package in my hand... The company isn't required to say. As long as it comes from a pig, it's labeled "pork," so—I'll leave you with that thought. 

And here's the BONUS big deal that I realized as I was grinding that beautiful meat: when you go to buy ground pork the next time you are at the grocery, take a look at the price of boneless pork chops or country-style ribs vs. the ground pork package. Pound per pound, the boneless pork is typically cheaper. And if you are grinding it yourself, you don't need to buy the pretty pork. You want to buy the cheaper, fattier, ugly, boneless cuts. They will make your ground meat more flavorful. Win-win for you and that ugly pork. I can tell you firsthand: the flavor of the larb with our hand-ground pork was PHENOMENAL.

So now I'm thinking of all the other meats I can grind. Cheap-o, skin-on chicken thighs for my little Middle Eastern chicken patties? WAY cheaper than ground chicken mush. And all that deliciously fatty skin that will actually add FLAVOR to the dish? Oh, heck, yeah! 

And how about ground beef for my burgers? Hand me those cheap, nobody-loves-me cuts of beef, baby, and I'll grind them down to a luscious mound of beefy goodness. 

All because of the new love-of-my-kitchen-life: my meat grinder.


[Cue sappy music and fade out]

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