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What Your Grandmother Always Knew…

Wandering through the meat department of a local kosher grocery, I stand back and watch for a while. A woman leans over, peering over the many plastic-wrapped packages of red meat, each neatly stacked and labeled, one not too dissimilar from the next… a sea of confusion for the average cook. She stands there for a while. Picks up one package, and then puts it down. Picks up another, then returns it to its place. She just doesn’t know what to buy. Lots of different names and cuts abound, some with duplicate names. Distinguishing the cuts and how to prepare them is hard enough, but at least sometimes there are clues to guide us…words like rib, chuck, neck…hints as to which part of the animal the meat came from. That’s not always the case though, especially with certain cuts that have become common in American kosher butchery and referred to by a unique nomenclature. Being a bit farther removed from the slaughtering and butchering than in our grandmothers’ day, we have to put in the effort to ask questions and become educated consumers…we should at least know what it is that we’ve chosen to purchase and prepare!

What in fact is a “deckle” or rather, where does it come from? That’s one I always wondered about. “Deckle” is actually a Yiddish word for “covering”. The deckle is the fatty covering over the side of the rib. It is a tough, cheap cut, perfect for pot roasting. Similar to a brisket, the deckle is a long, flat piece of meat; however, its irregular shape (it has a small section with the grain running in the opposite direction from the rest of the cut) and extra connective tissue make it less select than the coveted brisket. Less select, but not less flavorful. When treated right and given a good slow cook (and lots of love!), the deckle can make a tasty beef supper, especially when on a budget. Be sure when slicing to watch for the change of grain – and always slice against the grain!

Besides the slow cook, acidity also helps to break down the connective tissue and tenderize the meat. That’s why wine or tomatoes are so commonly used in pot roasting. In the following recipe, I use tomatoes and beer. Be sure to serve with mashed potatoes for a very satisfying meal. That’s what I advised the harried woman in the market, anyway…it’s always good to lend a hand!

Beer-Braised Deckle

A modern pot roast redux, this recipe can also be made with top of the rib, brisket, etc.

Serves 6

Spice Mix

½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. dried mustard
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. cornstarch or flour

Deckle

1 (3-lb.) Deckle
3 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil, divided
2 medium onions, chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (12-oz.) bottle beer
5 tbsp. mild molasses

Combine all spice mix ingredients together in a shallow dish, whisking to blend. Dredge deckle in spice mixture, rubbing spices to evenly coat on both sides (you may have to cut the deckle in half if very long). Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over high heat. Place deckle in pan and brown, turning once, about 2 minutes per side (repeat if necessary with other half of deckle). Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-high and add the remaining tablespoon oil to the pan. Add onions, celery and garlic, stirring to blend. Season liberally with kosher salt. Sauté for about 4-5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, beer and molasses, stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil and return deckle to the pot. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2½-3 hours or until tender (meat is done when fork pierces and releases easily). Remove from heat and cool slightly.

To serve: transfer deckle to a cutting board and slice meat against the grain with a sharp carving knife. Transfer slices to a platter. Skim any excess fat from the surface of the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon sauce over meat and serve.

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