Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Budget Cuts: Jolly Good!

A friend once described me as a geographic void. That's because I've never been able to remember if Kentucky is north or south of Tennessee, or the order of those teeny tiny states on the Eastern seaboard. And let's not even bring up the Midwest, okay?

I have the same problem with cuts of meat. Yes, I've seen (and even tried to memorize) that diagram of the cow that looks like a map, with the state of flank in a perpetual border dispute with brisket, and top and bottom round arguing over positions at the negotiating table.

But I've learned that no matter where they're located, the best way to learn about cuts of meat is to eat them. Which is how we discovered the top round (often referred to as London Broil, which is actually a preparation, not a cut of meat), beautiful red hunks of meat more than an inch thick sitting right next to the steaks in the meat case.

It's a very lean cut, with almost no marbling, and the price, usually below $4 a pound, made me leery of its ability to perform on the grill. But since Dave was in the mood to 'cue and the week's grocery budget was a little thin, we decided to give it a try.

And we're so glad we did. A hot fire, about eight minutes over the coals with only salt and pepper as seasoning, and this baby was good enough for company. The flavor reminds me of hanger steak, with a deep, beefy taste, and the texture is tender enough to cut with a table knife, dense without being tough, and even though it's not fatty it has plenty of juice.

So if you want to venture outside your usual boundaries and have some good meat without busting your (very) local economy, give the top round a try. Who knows where the journey might lead?

Look for other recipes in the Budget Cuts series: Stuffed Pork Leg Roast with Kale and Pine Nuts;  Chile-Marinated Pork ShoulderPork Tagine with Pistachios, Almonds, Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins and Pork Leg Roast with Lemon and Prosciutto Stuffing and Roasted Vegetables.

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