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The Bookshelf: Betty Fussell



September 15, 2009


Raising Steaks Tomorrow’s Beard on Books brings us Betty Fussell, a passionate carnivore who will discuss her new book, Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef. Fussell approaches this tough and proud American industry with an open mind, profiling the many men and women who help bring steaks from the ranch to our plates. She knows her cuts of beef, and that’s why we asked her to tell us her five favorites and how to prepare them. Rib-eye: Why? Because of all that marbling, otherwise known as fat. And because you can get it cut thick and on the bone. Thick means you can cook it crusty on the outside and rare within, and bone means flavor. Put on lots of salt and pepper, throw it on that hot grill or grill pan, and do not overcook! Let it rest eight to ten minutes before slicing. Flatiron steak: This is a new name for a top blade (shoulder) cut, and it’s a bargain. It's fairly small, but thick, and it may have a small line of gristle down the middle, which can easily be trimmed away. It's very tender, so you can just grill it the way you would with a rib-eye or other more costly steaks. Flank steak: It's wide and thin, cut from the belly, and used to be called London broil. It's the best cut for fajitas and requires a bit of marination to make it tender. After marinating it for at least three hours in a blender-mixed paste of onion, garlic, chipotle, olive oil, and orange and lime juices, I sear it quickly to keep the inside rare. Hanger steak: This is a thick strip that is part of the diaphragm and "hangs" between the last rib and the loin. It also needs a marinade to make it tender but it's full of flavor and available at bargain prices. Cook it like a flank. Fresh beef tongue: It’s not for everyone, but remember that I'm a Depression child and grew up on tongue as a cheap cut. Now it's much more costly because the American palate doesn't dig it, although we are alone in our horror of innards. You cook it the way you would beef brisket, slowly in a flavorful bouillon until it's tender. Then skin it and slice it thick or thin. Have a favorite cut of beef? Let us know how you like to prepare it in a comment—the 11th commenter will receive an autographed copy of Raising Steaks! For more information about Betty's appearance, click here.