Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Chuck. Blade. Paleron. Flatiron steak. Chicken steak...so many names for this piece of beef from the shoulder.
Staring happily at the chicken steak in the display case at Dickson's Farmstand at the Chelsea Market, I asked the girl serving me where exactly on the shoulder it belongs, as I have no idea how to tell butchers in parts foreign what a chicken steak is. Ain't none of them heard of its French name, paleron.
I have only ever seen it at Los Paisanos on Smith Street in Brooklyn, and I always use it for boeuf bourgignon; at least, ever since I ate it at Les Halles, for Anthony Bourdain's 50th birthday party.
In case you're wondering, it was not a very exclusive affair. The place was jammed solid with upright people, cradling bowls of the boeuf, which was served en masse with impeccable frites. I had his then-editor, Mr Gianopoulous to thank for the invitation (thanks again, Mr G). Surprisingly, it was the best boeuf bourgignon I had ever eaten, and as soon as the Les Halles Cookbook was in my hands, and I had read the recipe, that boeuf was my boeuf - except I still use bacon, which he does not - recipe here, at 66 Square Feet (the Food) and a lot more red wine. Point is, Mr Bourdain specified chicken steak. And that makes all the difference.
So...when I told the friendly Dickson's girl that it's what I use for boeuf bourgignon, she said, very brightly, Oh no, that's a waste of chicken steak, you should use chuck!
Um. This was confusing. I thought it was a type of chuck.
I have eaten that same recipe made with plain old "chuck," cooked by the same Mr G's then-girlfriend, when we were still on speaking terms, before she wrote The Book. Though tenderish, it still had that stringy, chucky feel. Chicken steak, on the other hand, with its distinctive central seam of fat around a tender cartilage, dissolves in your mouth.
"A waste of chicken steak?" I don't think so. That boeuf is divine.
The problem for Web surfers and cooks is that the definition of chuck is very broad. There is chuck and there is chuck. There could be good chuck and bad chuck. But chicken steak is chuck. All from the shoulder of the beef. But the Dicksons girl couldn't tell me where, exactly.
In short: It it doesn't have that seam dividing the steak down the middle, it ain't chicken steak.
So. Anyone else have another name for this piece of meat? [See comments.]