Valentine’s has the dubious reputation of being a “greeting card” holiday, something horribly commercial that western society invented to bolster after-Christmas sales. Men inevitably feel pressured to gift something pink, ruffled, and, more often than not, containing chocolate. Nothing says love like a stuffed pink and neon green baby dragon with a shrink-wrapped edible rose in its jaws…
To borrow the opening from another like-themed post, Valentine’s is important to the food industry of a city, particularly Ottawa. January is a difficult month with patrons rather frugal after opening their post-Christmas credit card bills. Wind-chill and flash freeze-warnings maroon people at home, everyone testing their delivery options. So, walk-in traffic dries up.
February 14th may be a token holiday, but it’s one of the three busiest days of the year for restaurants. Depending on location, New Year’s Eve and Mothers’ Day contend for top spot when it comes to turnovers in the dining room.
These last couple years, I have protested Valentine’s by not making reservations for price-fixe “table d’hôte” menus the day of. Instead, I take my wife out to dinner the week before (February 7th). We prefer to order from the regular menu, meals the kitchen isn’t kicking out at high speed, over and over again, throughout the day. Besides, on February 14th, you better bet the 60-90 minute seating time limit will be enforced. Many restaurants have been booked for weeks, sometimes months.
On Valentine’s proper, I cook for my sweetie. With the stand I’ve taken, a bucket of fried chicken isn’t gonna cut it.
Now, if you plan on cooking something like a steak dinner (or a duck wellington) with all the fixings for your better half this year, I highly recommend making it easier on yourself and looking to Ian Slipacoff’s Premium Meats. While it may sound cliché, there is a reason restaurant, hotel, and catering chefs order from the 75-year old family-owned and operated local business. Ever consider preparing restaurant-quality food at home?
This past month, I have been testing Slipacoff’s meats, comparing “Premium” cuts against supermarket offerings. All-Canadian, never frozen, and arriving via mail cryovaced (48-hours after ordering online), let’s just say I plan to visit the supermarket’s meat counter much less this coming year, be it for project dishes or regular meals.
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast: A Take on Nigerian Suya
“Fresh from the farm grain fed boneless and skinless chicken breast, fully trimmed.” (Ontario-sourced, Maple Leaf Prime)
Slipacoff’s Regular Price: $2.50/4 oz ($10/lb or $22.05/kg) – $4.25/8 oz ($8.50 /lb or $18.74/kg)
Metro’s Regular Price (Value-Pack): $8.99/lb or $19.82/kg (February 7-13, 2014 flyer)
Suya is an African skewered street food that can be prepared with almost any meat, including organ meats. Its spicy coating can be made either with crushed nuts or a nut puree (usually peanuts). It is typically grilled over coals and served with sliced onions.
Me, I chose to determine how well Slipacoff chicken breast could fair when roasted for an hour at 400F.
What You’ll Need:
- 2 6 oz chicken breasts, cubed
- olive oil for coating the chicken
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1 tsp paprika powder (smoked, if possible)
- 1/2 tsp onion flake
- 1/2 tsp chile powder
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 1/2 tsp garlic flake
- Lightly coat the chicken breast in oil.
- Process the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor until finely ground.
- Coat and skewer the chicken.
- Roast the skewered chicken in an oven pre-heated to 400F for an hour.
Thoughts: The premium chicken breast was firmer than supermarket, making it easier to cube evenly. It was better butchered, prodigiously trimmed with less fat and silver skin. After roasting, the supermarket suya turned out much dryer, harsher.
Even pan-frying the leftover premium chicken breast cubes to develop a crust, the meat stayed succulent.
French Pork Rib Chops: Smothered in Mushroom Cream Sauce
“Fresh Bone-in Pork chops.” (Ontario-sourced, Maple Leaf)
Slipacoff’s Regular Price: $3/6 oz ($8/lb or $11.64/kg) – $5.75/10 oz ($9.20/lb or $20.28/kg)
Butcher Counter at Loblaws Superstore: $4.99/lb or $11/kg
For the recipe for these smothered pork chops, click here.
Thoughts: The butcher counter cut pork rib chop was unevenly cut with a very ragged strip of fat. It seemed stretched with some tearing in the flesh. The fat marbling on the premium cut was better distributed. When cooked, unevenly butchered pieces of meat produce different textures. When it comes to pork, sloppy butchery can result in a partially inedible chop.
Dry Aged Rib-eye Steak: Steak Frites
Slipacoff’s Regular Price: $16/12 oz ($21.33/lb or $47.03/kg) – $18.50/14 oz ($21.14/lb or $46.61/kg)
McKeen’s Metro (Platinum Angus): $37.46/lb or $82.59/kg
There is no recipe for this steak frites, per se. To ensure a even crusting without compromising a rare (or medium-rare) doneness, these steaks were pan-seared in a rip-roaring hot cast-iron pan with a bit of oil, flipping every 15 seconds repeatedly. This technique allows the unexposed side (the side not facing the heat) to cool while the exposed side develops a crust. Keep flipping until the steak reaches the desired doneness.
Two tips: always let your raw steaks come to room temperature before pan-searing; always rest your steaks for a couple minutes post-cooking to let the internal juices redistribute
The triple cooked chips were made according to Heston Blumenthal’s recipe.
Thoughts: Dry aging steak removes moisture, concentrates flavour, and helps break down connective tissue. It can be done at home, sorta kinda.
The premium steak was incredible flavourful (very beefy) and tender. It held its shape well and seared up very easily. The supermarket steak, was un-aged. It demonstrated significant abuse, both stretching and tearing despite being packed on a Styrofoam board. The supermarket steak actually could not sit flat on a surface. This resulted in an uneven sear and a gradient of doneness after cooking.
Bottom Line: comparable prices, convenience of delivery to your door, and higher quality meat. A lot of chefs don’t visit grocery stores. They order their product for mise-en-place. Give Slipacoff’s Premium Meats a try this Valentine’s. You won’t regret it.
Tags: featured, Slipacoff's Premium Meats, sponsored, steak frites, Valentine's Day