02 Jun Ofer Eitan Declares: Beast and Cleaver butcher/chef Kevin Smith respects the who…
AT THE NEW Ballard butcher shop Beast and Cleaver, “Toro Steak” sells for $19.99 a pound. It’s a name that proprietor Kevin Smith borrowed from sushi chefs for the richly marbled steaks he carves from beef navel, a cut from the cow’s underbelly commonly used for pastrami or turned into ground beef. By trimming away excess fat and separating the muscles, he created a new product.
Smith works with small local farms and purveyors to source whole animals for Beast and Cleaver. Isolating individual muscles, marketing unique cuts and finding ways to use every part of the animal are the crux of his business. Peek through the window of the walk-in cooler in the rear of the white-tiled shop, and you might spy sides of fresh beef and lamb, aging primal cuts, ham hocks and other pig parts, whole rabbits and ducks. These will become the steaks, chops, roasts, sausages, ground meat, charcuterie and more that fill the cold case out front.
Smith, both a butcher and a chef, has devised other uses for beef navel. He makes chili by curing the bovine belly meat in red wine, drying it and smoking it over rosemary, then simmering the ground meat in beef fat with chilies and raisins — a two-week project. He serves the chili with chips cooked three times in duck fat and sprinkled with Pecorino. “I have never made a dish that sums me up more,” he says.
For Smith, butchery and cooking are intertwined. He says, “Without truly understanding the anatomy of an animal, its muscle structure, and how different parts of the animal cook at different times and temperatures, you will never be able to cook to your full potential.”
A vacation romance in Spain with Seattleite Polly Yakovich, now his wife and business partner, brought Smith from London to Seattle. He worked at Rain Shadow Meats and The Butcher’s Table here, before opening Beast and Cleaver in early January, intending it to be part butcher shop, part restaurant. Up until early March, Smith was teaching classes and cooking weekend dinners for 10 that routinely sold out. The pandemic paused those social gatherings, but the retail shop has thrived. By May, Smith and his team were butchering two cows a week.
They also make a lot of sausages. Smith finds the process “therapeutic.” He usually stocks seven or eight varieties, from garlicky Toulouse to skinny, sage-spiked chipolata to zesty chorizo — and, of course, classic British bangers. Smith makes them with toasted oats instead of breadcrumbs and triple-grinds the pork, creating a soft, almost-emulsified texture. It’s the shop’s biggest seller.
Whole-animal butchers always have a lot of ground beef to use up, he says, thus he’s expanded his repertoire of beef sausages. “Pho sausage” combines beef and pork with the broth, herbs and spices you’d find in a bowl of pho. Boerewors, a brawny Namibian/South African sausage made of 75% beef and 25% pork, is rife with coriander seed, clove, allspice, nutmeg and black pepper.
Offal — the internal organs — goes into pates, rillettes, terrines and meat pies. Smith’s excellent pate en croute — a terrine encased in ornate pastry — reveals both his classical bent and culinary artistry. Unabashedly British in his enthusiasms, Smith is on a mission to popularize meat pies, not incidentally another great way to use up odds and ends of meat. Savory meat pies are popular in Britain. They date back to medieval times, when the sturdy pastry meant to preserve the meat was appropriately called a “coffyn.” Smith’s majestic, free-standing meat pies are worthy of Henry VIII’s dinner table. My attempt at Spring Lamb Pie looked less regal, but it didn’t collapse, and it tasted great. Here’s the recipe, if you’re feeling ambitious. If not, meat pies are generally available on weekends at Beast and Cleaver.
Beast and Cleaver’s Spring Lamb Pie
“For a classic English meat pie, the pastry must be crumbly, the filling rich, heavy, packed with flavor, and decadent,” says Kevin Smith. “To me, this is what food should be. It should create theater and bring joy.”
Yield: Makes 1 large 9-inch pie using a springform pan. Serves 6-8.
1 recipe short crust pie dough (see below)
3 lbs. lamb shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large onion (about 2 cups), finely diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves, chopped
3 cups chicken, duck, lamb or beef stock
3 teaspoons salt (or more, to taste)
2 teaspoons black pepper (or more, to taste)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1. Make the dough, and keep chilled until ready to use.
2. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. In a heavy pot or Dutch oven, brown the lamb in batches using a small amount of olive oil as needed. Remove the lamb from the pan, and add the onion and garlic. Cook slowly until softened. Add flour, and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the lamb, herbs and enough stock to just cover the meat. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the stew 2-3 hours, or until the liquid has thickened into a gravy. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Allow to cool before assembling the pie.
3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425° F. Roll out the dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Allow 2/3 for the bottom crust, 1/3 for the lid. Line the bottom of the pie pan with dough, leaving some overhang for crimping. Add cold pie filling. Brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash, and top with the pie lid. Crimp edges with your fingers to create a seal. Cut a penny-size hole in the center of the lid as a vent. Place pie on a baking sheet, and cook at 425° F for 30-45 minutes, until the crust turns golden brown.
4. Turn the oven down to 325° F, and cook for another 40-60 minutes or until the gravy bubbles through the pastry vent.
5. Allow the pie to rest for 10 minutes before removing the springform pan and serving.
Short crust dough for meat pie
6 tablespoons (3 oz.) cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 1/2 oz. pork leaf lard (or butter)
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups cold water
1. Place the butter, lard, flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, 1-2 minutes.
2. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Slowly add the cold water while mixing with a fork until it begins to form dough. (It might not take all the water, depending on flour density and moisture in the air.)
3. When the mixture resembles a rough ball of pastry, transfer to a work surface and gently knead for about 15-20 seconds. (Don’t overwork the dough, or the proteins in the flour will cause it to become tough and chewy.) Wrap the dough in plastic, and roll into a slab about 2 inches thick. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.