When I need a something special, I head over to Jeffrey’s Meat Market shop at the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I knew the whole weekend was going to be special, as we had very honored guests coming who really know their food and wine. One of our guests, a very dear friend who was put on a vegetarian diet by his loving wife was very forthcoming when I asked him if he had any dinner requests, he wistfully remarked that he’d really like a piece of meat. Obviously I was faced with challenges and it was time to visit Jeffrey.
Jeffrey is a local butcher legend. His butcher’s stall is covered with photos of him with celebrities, there are numerous portraits of him painted by adoring customers and everyone has a Jeffrey story or two. A few months ago, he proposed marriage, but negotiations broke down when we realized that we both wanted to sleep on the same side of the bed. He thinks of butchering not as a spectator sport but as something that you must actively engage in. He overheard me explaining to one of the staff butchers how I would like my pork roast and the next thing I know he’s escorting me behind the counter. I want my pork roast cut off the ribs and then tied back on, but Jeffrey has a much more dramatic presentation in mind as he French cuts the ribs and creates a standing pork rib roast. It’s gorgeous, and I’m thrilled to be behind the counter, although the other butchers are less than thrilled that a tourist occupies their sparse workspace. I know in my heart to never piss off a butcher, as they are the wielders of very sharp knives!
(A minor digression: I learned this lesson at an early age. My mother would take me to Bruno’s butcher shop where his wife Jean would do the actual cutting and slicing for the customers. Jean was always screaming at Bruno and threatening him with knives. A trip to the butcher was a harrowing experience as I would watch in wide eyed horror to see if Jean would every really stab Bruno.)
Safely back at home; I went for a classic roast pork preparation. I seasoned the roast with garlic, salt, pepper, fennel pollen, rosemary and thyme and then covered the herbs with a layer of thinly sliced apples. Roasted at 350 for about an hour and a half. I kept the meat covered for most of the cooking time and only uncovered it for the last 20 minutes. The roasting pan was deglazed with a bit of red wine, and the juices poured over the meat, along with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses. The tart fruit molasses works well to accent the richness of the meat. Simple, easy and very satisfying.
The next day, we take our guests on a walking tour of lower Manhattan and of course I want to take them to the Essex St. market. As we are walking up the block, we run into Jeffrey and we compliment him on his gorgeous pork roast. One thing leads to another, and he promises me that if I stop by in a little while, he has a gift for me. He wants me to taste how he seasons his pork. I now have a large piece of pork marinating in some very fragrant spices and I can hardly wait to roast this baby, but first we need to finish up the leftovers from the weekend!
Jim and Zona, it was a treat beyond words to have you come and visit. Thank you immensely for all the wonderful wines and good times!