Chicken Confit, AKA Chicken ConFAT

Confitnoun – /kon-FEE/ – a method of food preservation in which meat is slowly cooked at a low temperature in it’s own fat.

Once exclusively a mysterious noun that has in recent years morphed into a popular verb, confit’ing is an effective preservation technique—derived by our refrigerator-less French ancestors—that relies on fat to protect the delicious prize inside. A liquid viscous enough to solidify at room temperature and provide a protective seal to block oxygen, fat prevents bacteria from proliferating in the meat and also renders what could otherwise be a regular ol’ chicken thigh ultra-tender and delicious.

To some, the term confit can illicit confusion. From its definition, this cooking method seems quite similar to the all-time-favorite cooking technique of deep-frying, in which meats are similarly cooked in liquid fat, but confit’ing employs one very important difference: temperature. Deep-fried chicken is cooked at scorching temperatures (like, in the mid-300’s to mid-400’s) for a short period of time, whereas confit employs low heat (we’re talkin’ 170° F) and lengthy time periods (we confit our chicken for 12 hours).

Think of it this way: confit is to deep-frying, as smoking is to grilling. The latter is fast and hot, while the former is slow and lowww.

Chicken from Porter Road Butcher

Before the days of refrigeration, meats that had been confit’ed we preserved by being packed into containers and covered in—what else?—more fat. Said fat would eventually solidify as its temperature lowered, thus shielding the meat from oxygen and subsequently, preventing contamination. Stored in a cool and dark room (or basement), this fat-sealed meat would keep for a number of weeks and best of all, continue to tenderize.

Today, confit meat can be stored in the refrigerator (whether submerged in its fat or not) and can last up to a number of months.

As a means of further aiding in bacterial prevention, generally meats that are confit’ed are cured prior to their long, luxurious bath in a warm vat of fat. Traditionally, “cure” is made of roughly equal parts salt and sugar, a mixture that is rubbed on the outside of the meat before it sits for a period of time (2-3 days). So not only does this salt-n-sugar scrub additionally protect the meat from a bacterial infection, but it also aids your taste buds by bringing a flavor dance party to your tongue. Can we go ahead and give a big high-five for confit?

Clearly, aside from the shelf-life benefits, there are taste-bud bonuses that come along with confit’ing foods, as well. While the meat sits in said bath of fat, the connective tissues and muscle fibers have the opportunity to slowly break down (kind of like braising), which leads to incredibly tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat, that is juicy, moist, and has a lovely coating of fatty flavor. Plus, because of the low, low temperature at which the meat is cooked, there isn’t enough heat available to produce steam, which means the meat retains much of its moisture and flavors, making it the utmost delicious. Huzzah!

So what gives? What are you supposed to do with the chicken [or goose or duck] once it’s done marinating in this warm fat-bath?

You eat it. Duh…

Confit Chicken Salad Sandwich from Porter Road ButcherThere are lots of options for utilizing and enjoying confit chicken (we’re going to stick with chicken in this scenario since we sell chicken at PRB regularly and do not regularly sell duck or goose), and as a basic rule of thumb, you can treat it the same way you would roast chicken: it can do almost anything.

Confit chicken is tender, juicy, flavorful, and in some cases (like here at PRB) tastes kind of like bacon, since our preferred submerging-fat-of-choice tends to be of the bacon variety. Because, bacon-flavored chicken. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Give your confit chicken a quick zip in a hot pan or simply bring it to room temp and there’s no limit to what you can do: mix it with olive oil, tomatoes, and plenty of fresh herbs to bring your summer pasta salad to life; layer it into your white lasagna to ensure everything stays moist and full of flavor; use it alongside kielbasa and pork shoulder in an almost-classic cassoulet; whip up you’re your best-yet chicken salad by mixing it with walnuts, celery, dried cranberries, and plenty of mayo; or toss it with some peas, carrots, and gravy and turn it into a comforting chicken pot pie.

Both Porter Road Butcher locations have plenty of chicken confit ready for the taking and ready for the making. All you have to do is figure out down which culinary road you’d like to travel! (And pssst – we’re happy to give suggestions!)

Fresh, flavorful, fast: Watermelon & Surryano Salad

Whether you’re a fan of the European travel, a lover of cross-culture cookbooks, or just an avid consumer of all television programs a la Anthony Bourdain, you’re probably hip to the love affair that the Mediterranean Europe has with one particular culinary crew: dry-cured meats.

From prosciutto, to soppressata, to jamón serano and beyond, Spain, Italy and France are particularly in love with dry-cured meats. And for good reason! Commonly served as an accompaniment to or star-player in a variety of arenas, dry-cured meats can quickly jazz up a pasta dish, add more oomph to a salad, or easily pull together a cheese board into a complete meal.

“When I went to study abroad in Barcelona, I was shocked and also psyched to discover that an entire bone-in, dry-cured ham called jamón iberico was a fixture on the counter of my host mother’s kitchen,” Maddie said. “Wanting to start off my semester of eating and drinking abroad with something skinny—you know, to set a very hopeful tone for the following five months—one of the very first meals I had when I arrived in Barcelona was a cantaloupe and jamón salad. I was in love with the contrast between super-salty ham and cool-sweet melon.”

Similar dishes are likely to be found on the menu of a small Italian restaurant, or might be scribbled on the specials board at any of Nashville’s recent farm-to-table luncheries that seem to be popping up all over…but is it snotty to say that this classic cantaloupe and prosciutto combo is just a little bit tired and outdated? That it feels kind of been-there-done-that? Is it mean to say that we adore the idea, but we just want to make it better?

Serve yourself a taste of sweet and savory summer | Porter Road ButcherWe don’t think so. That’s why we’re giving it a makeover, complete with lots of local, some southern spice, and plenty of pizzazz:

Watermelon & Surryano Salad

Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 as main; 6-8 as side

½ seedless, baby watermelon (we like Delvin Farms watermelons)
16 thin slices Surryano ham*
4 cups fresh arugula
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
fresh garden herbs, to taste (we like tarragon)
salt
pepper
1-2 Tbs. KYBB Woodford sorghum vinaigrette 
1 pinch PRB hot chicken seasoning**

Method:

  1. Cut watermelon in half. Save half for making delicious cocktails or other eating, or gift it to your next-door neighbor. They’ll love you for it. Cut off the entire rind removing everything green and white, so that only pink flesh is exposed. With the cut-side down, cut watermelon in half again, and then slicing width-wise, thinly slice each piece into triangles. Transfer to serving platter, shingling then on top of one another down the plate.
  2. Drape half of the Surryano (about eight pieces) across the watermelon shingles, from left to right.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together arugula, red onion, garden herbs, salt, pepper, and Woodford sorghum vinaigrette. Pile salad on top of watermelon and Surryano so the salad adds plenty of height to the dish. Drape the remaining Surryano across the salad. You could also mix it into the salad, if you prefer. Note: if you won’t be serving the salad immediately, wait until you are ready to serve before you dress the salad to prevent it from wilting.
  4. Sprinkle a generous pinch of PRB’s hot chicken seasoning across the top of the salad.
  5. Serve immediately.

* Virginia-bred Surryano ham, an incredibly marbled piece of meat that is created from heritage-breed Berkshire hogs, has a deep and rich flavor that nicely matches up to the hams of yesteryear from old Europe. If you’ve yet to try it, now’s the time.

**If you don’t have Hot Chicken Seasoning and don’t want to buy a whole jar, try substituting for your favorite spicy blend, or even use a pinch of plain cayenne. Any kind of spicy zing will be a nice addition.

Watermelon & Surryano Salad | Porter Road Butcher

A #SouthernSummer Memory: Falling in Love with Blueberry Pie

ForkInPieThey say scent is the strongest sense tied to memory; for me, it’s the combination of all five senses that really locks the good ones in. I have a strong memory of the first time I ever fell in love with blueberry pie, and it doesn’t all solely lie in that intoxicating smell.

As a child I didn’t care for fruit-based desserts like blueberry pie, and subsequently I turned my nose up at any sweet treat containing fruit, from apple turnovers to jelly donuts. Chocolate was my thing.

Since fruit was often a side item served to me during lunch or dinner, I felt I wasn’t getting my money’s worth if I ate fruit—something that had been deemed healthy—as my dessert—an important “fourth meal” for which I saved the baddest and richest of processed foods, like mint chocolate chip ice cream and brownies from a box. But regardless of my reasoning, even an orange-zested chocolate cake couldn’t hold my attention; I simply wasn’t interested.

I was about 15 years old when my taste buds underwent a holistic metamorphosis. I began to enjoy the majority of the foods that I put into my mouth—even those that I had previously despised. As a result I became more adventurous in the culinary realm, I became more pleasant to have at the dinner table, and I became a much easier dinner guest for whomever had previously been burdened with my presence.

Fruity desserts suddenly hit the scene; they went from “not” all the way to “hot.”

Aside from its sheer deliciousness however, the reason I fell in love with blueberry pie was due to how and where I ate it: smack dab in the middle of the afternoon—not as a post-dinner reward, as I was normally accustomed—and in the most #SouthernSummer-y setting I could dream: sitting on the front porch of my best friend’s Monteagle Tennessee mountain house, and surrounded by soaring trees, sweetly chirping birds, thick wet heat, and streaming streaks of sunlight.

The heat of the day didn’t hinder my desire for warm, fresh-from-the-oven pie since the scoop of vanilla ice cream offered that desired punch of cool, and the quickly growing puddle of violet cream that took over my plate only made me eat it faster.

It was at that moment that I fell in love with blueberry pie: in the middle of the South, where the blueberries were at their peak; in the middle of the day when I was worn out from playing and hungry for a snack; and in the middle of the summer, when a blueberry pie reigns supreme in the realm of desserts—fruity, or not.

It’s the epitome of summer. And fortunately, with the guidance of PRB’s own Chris and James it isn’t too difficult to make. Even for someone who’s never before done so. (That’s me!)Blueberry Pie made with Porter Road Butcher Lard

Southern Blueberry Pie with Whipped Cream

for the crust & lattice:
2 ¼ cups AP flour
½ cup Banner Butter unsalted
½ cup PRB lard*
1 tsp. salt
¼ cup whiskey** (can substitute for water)

for the filling:
3 pints blueberries (this may vary depending on the depth of your pie plate)
1 Tbs. lemon juice
¼ cup cornstarch
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt

for the wash:
1 egg
yolk, 1 Tbs. cream (or water)

1 tsp. sugar in the raw

for the whipped (Chantilly) cream:
1 cup Hatcher Dairy heavy cream
1 Tbs. powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract

*We like to use lard in the crust because with the heat of the oven, moisture (aka water) from the lard evaporates and then leaves these air pockets in the dough, which makes your crust nice and flaky. Butter doesn’t have the same water content and therefore doesn’t provide the same result, but too much lard will leave you with a wet, soggy crust due to too much water. That’s why we like a mixture of both.

**We use whiskey instead of water because the alcohol will never allow the flour to develop gluten, so you’ll never be left with a tough dough. Plus, if you don’t use it all, you get to drink it, which makes pie-baking even more fun.

Instruction:

  1. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop lard into 1/2 cup (baseball-sized) ball. Put lard in freezer until frozen or as cold as possible.
  2. Measure out whiskey, and put in freezer until very cold, about 15 minutes. Transfer to fridge to keep cold until ready for use.
  3. Remove lard from freezer and using a cheese grater on the larger setting, grate lard into a large, chilled bowl. Return to freezer. Note: the fat must be kept cold. If it begins to soften, return grated lard to fridge until thoroughly chilled before moving to the next step.
  4. Remove butter from refrigerator and cut into small cubes. Remove lard from freezer and add to bowl with lard.
  5. Using a pastry cutter, combine lard, butter, salt, and flour until mixed. It is normal, and desirable, for larger pieces of lard to remain amidst the mixture. Mixture should resemble cornmeal.
  6. About two tablespoons at a time, slowly add chilled whiskey mixture into flour and fat mixture, using a rubber spoon or spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and fold the liquid in. Once dough can be combined into a ball, quickly kneed it together with your hands, separate into two pieces, and then flatten into two patties. Be sure not to overwork the dough.
  7. Wrap dough patty in plastic wrap, and return to fridge for at least 30 minutes to re-chill before using. Note: it’s best to make the pate brisee the day before, allowing it to refrigerate overnight. This also makes the actual pie assembly a snap.
  8. Preheat oven to 400o
  9. Remove one dough patty from fridge. Flour a cleaned surface and, using a rolling pin, begin to roll out your dough until about 1/8or thinner. Sweep away excess flour, and then fit crust into a 9” glass pie plate, pressing it down to fit the plate. Trim dough to about ½” overhang around the entire circumference.
  10. Return piecrust to fridge until cold, 30 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, mix together blueberries, lemon juice, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. Separately, in a small bowl, mix together egg yolk and cream. Set aside.
  12. Fill pie shell with pie filling, allowing berries to slightly mound at the center.
  13. Roll out remaining dough in the same manner as before, until about 1/8thick, or thinner. Using a pastry wheel, pizza wheel, or a regular knife, cut dough into strips ½ inch to ¾ inches wide.
  14. Now make your lattice. We find this method very easy. Remember – it’s best to work with very cold dough, so if your lattice dough is too soft, return it to the fridge before continuing.
  15. Once the lattice is complete, trim the lattice edges so they are even with the pie shell edges. Lastly, crimp the edges of your pie to seal the lattice and make your pie look very profesh and beautiful.
  16. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush egg wash over lattice and crust until glistening. Sprinkle with raw sugar.
  17. Place pie in the center of a parchment-paper lined baking sheet (this will make cleanup less of a headache if your pie bubbles over). Bake pie in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes, or until crust begins to turn golden. Lower heat to 350 o F and, rotating halfway through, bake for another 40 – 50 minutes or until crust is a deep golden brown and the filling is thick and bubbling. Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool completely.
  18. Using an electric mixer or hand mixer, combine cream, vanilla, and sugar in a bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Serve on top of pie. Can also substitute for vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Pie | Recipe from Porter Road Butcher

 

Wesley’s Nashville Burger Beat

It’s a well-known fact that it’s hard to beat our meat here at Porter Road Butcher, but we have to admit, you can find some pretty damn respectable—nay delicious—meat around town that’s well worth your precious dollars. Whether it’s a classic American cheeseburger, or a patty that boasts something crazy or irregular, PRB West’s Wesley Adams has an opinion on almost all of them.

Wesley Adams: The Real Burger King

Wesley Adams: The Real Burger King

First on Wesley’s list of priorities when he moved to Nashville in July of 2014 was finding a go-to burger joint—he focused on that endeavor before even finding a permanent place of residence. So as he stands here today, on the first anniversary of his move to Music City, he has sampled his fair share of what Nashville has to offer when it comes to this classic American favorite. And after twelve good months, he is ready to share his reviews.

In his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana Wesley’s allegiances are torn between Bistro To Go’s special smoked gouda pimiento cheeseburger—an explosion of southern flavor on a fat patty—and Strawn’s Eat Shop double bacon cheeseburger—a feast of two thin patties, plenty of mustard, crispy bacon, and an egg with a runny yolk, sandwiches between two halves of a toasted and fluffy bun.

So although Wesley has yet to find what he would snobbishly qualify as, “the perfect burger,” he has come across quite a few good ones that he claims, “are top contendors.”

Much to fellow PRB West manager, Alex Welsch’s delight, Wes claimed the burger that Alex prepared him for lunch one day, “the best burger he’s had in Nashville.”

Alex now holds himself in very high esteem.

Wesley’s Nashville Burger Beat (in no particular order)
  1. Bacon Cheeseburger / MLRose / $10.95 – choice of cheese, natural uncured bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion & pickle | Everyone at Porter Road Butcher is well acquainted with Wesley’s obsession for cheeseburgers, and everyone subsequently knows to expect an invitation to ML Rose on Monday nights for their two-for-one burger special—a deal that is only made possible with the accompaniment of two craft beers. 😀  “I usually get the bacon cheeseburger and a couple of Yazoo Dos Perros. That burger is probably the closest one I can find in Nashville to my hometown favorite, Strawn’s.”
  1. The Local Burger / Fido / $13 – ground beef and lamb, Tennessee white cheddar, caramelized fennel + fig aioli, caramelized onion, pickle, lettuce, on a bun  |  “Half of me is tempted to eliminate this burger just based on the fact that it has lamb and beef in the patty, but it was one of the first burgers I tried when I moved to town and it’s still one of my favorites,” said Wesley. “It’s kind of on the fancy side of the spectrum, but the mixture of lamb with that fig aioli? Woo! It is damn good.”
  1. West Coast Burger / Burger Republic / $10.50 – twin thin pressed patties, mustard steamed with American cheese, BR sauce, lettuce, tomato, grilled onion | “In my book, there are two kinds of burgers: the grilled backyard BBQ style burger, and flat top diner style burger,” said Wesley. More often than not, he pledges allegiance to the latter variety. “When it’s grilled, the patties are usually thicker so I like a nice medium in the center. If I’m not grilling it myself, that doesn’t always happen. Even though flat top burgers generally come out more well done, they’re still really juicy—I actually like that kind of burger better.” Burger Republic uses two thin flat-top patties and accoutrements reminiscent of a Big Mac, but considering the black angus patty, the brioche bun, and the sizable sandwich that those two, plus all the remaining ingredients amass, Mickey D’s doesn’t hold a candle.
  1. Burger + Fries / Dino’s / $6 – the greasy, delicious classic | “This is my kind of place,” Wesley said when he first walked into Dino’s on a rainy night in March, “I could see myself becoming a regular here.” After a recent revamp of this East Nashville favorite spot, the bar still has that drab-ulous and somewhat smoky vibe that feels so good in the local watering hold, but with the added bonus of actually delicious diner-style food. Cheeseburger included. Although he doesn’t usually include French fries in the judging equation, Wesley made special note of the exceptionally crispy and perfectly salted fries that accompanied Dino’s “greasy, delicious classic” cheeseburger. They hit the nail on the head: ain’t no better way to put it.
  1. Brisket Burger / Martin’s Bar-B-Que / $8 – our custom blend of ground beef comes with grilled onions, American cheese, bbq sauce, and topped with our smoked beef brisket | Another burger that doesn’t quite follow the “less-is-more” idiom, the brisket burger from Martin’s BBQ falls along the lines of, “meat-is-more.” And in this case, meat really is…more. Which might be why Wesley likes it so much…he is a butcher, after all. But wait! You say. A burger topped with…more meat?? How could he? Isn’t that too much meat? Won’t that give him the meat sweats? No, incredulous burger-hater. It doesn’t. This burger is NOT blowing smoke. When cashing out at just $8 for such a mountain of meat, neither your belly nor your wallet will mind.
  1. Fat Mo’s Burger / Fat Mo’s / $3.49 – all hamburgers served with onion, lettuce, mustard, ketchup, mayo, pickles, and tomatoes | After a night out on the town, this burger does the trick when you wake up the next morning feeling sluggish. It’s hearty, greasy, and just the ticket for soaking up last night’s sins. The spicy-seasoned fries certainly don’t hurt, either.
  1. Alex Welsch’s Best Burger / Porter Road Butcher West or Alex’s House / $0 [it was for staff lunch] – PRB ground beef, caramelized onion, PRB classic yellow mustard, Kenny’s Farmhouse white cheddar, and a toasted Bobby John Henry burger bun. | All quality ingredients. ‘Nuff said.

Want to make a burger that will turn on Wesley’s tastebuds? Here’s how he throws down with some PRB patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun…or something along those lines.

the wesley adams burger

¼ lb. PRB ground beef
2 slices American cheese (we’re talkin’ the single-wrapped squares)
mayonnaise
yellow mustard
lettuce
pickles
burger bun
salt & pepper

  1. Heat cast-iron skillet to medium-high heat.
  2. Form beef into 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch thick burger patties and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Once cast-iron skillet is hot, add burgers to pan and cook until a nice crust has formed on the bottom, 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip burger and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until crust has formed. Remove burgers from pan and transfer to a cutting board. Place 2 slices of American cheese on top of each burger patty and then cover patties with a piece of aluminum foil to keep the burgers warm as they rest.
  4. Meanwhile, slice each burger bun in half, and toast in the cast iron skillet. Spread mayonnaise on the top half of the bun; spread mustard on the bottom half. Place burger patty on the bottom half, top with pickles and lettuce, and replace the top. Do not cut in half. Hold that burger in your hands and feel it while you eat it.
  5. Enjoy with a cold, dark lager or pale ale.

Burger_Blog

Banner Butter is simply Better Butter

It always happens this way with really good things, doesn’t it?

There’s that little nugget of amazing. And it’s out there, quietly being awesome. And there are a few folks in the know who appreciate it and love it. But then one day something happens and it somehow gets even better. And then other people start to notice it—because again, it is amazing, but it is also quiet. And then before you know it, it gains some small success. And then eventually it becomes something that’s actually successful and well known by lots of people. And then it isn’t really little anymore. It’s just really good.

That’s the beauty with really good things: people find out about them and then people want to support them. That’s particularly the case when that good thing is great butter.

Banner Butter | Porter Road ButcherHusband and wife Elizabeth and Andrew McBath discovered their love for creating compound butters (if you don’t know, compound butters contain other ingredients mixed in to make them a little jazzy and a lot delicious) in their kitchen at home, and eventually made the move to monetize their hobby in 2014, creating Banner Butter.

The McBaths had begun their “little side project” (they both still have full-time jobs) a year earlier as a way to enhance butter with spices, herbs, and seasoning, thus making cooking a little bit easier and making simple foods more delicious. Eventually however, they noticed a trend among their customers who desired good, locally churned butter. And that’s when an idea struck: they decided to take their little nugget and turn up the volume on the goodness.

Andrew and Elizabeth took a trip to France to study the art of butter making (and let’s be real, they probably studied the arts of wine-drinking and cheese-eating as well, because why not?) in the South region of the country, where cultured butter is king. They returned home with their newfound knowledge of and appreciation for cultured butter and that’s where the nugget of goodness gained speed.

Instead of buying already-made butter from the store and then adding ingredients to make it compound like they’d been doing previously, the McBaths sought out responsible, humane, and local dairy farms from which they could source pasteurized cream and churn the butter themselves. Just like us at PRB, they’re passionate about the foundational aspects of their product, which means knowing that their animals live good, happy, healthy lives. Their website states:

“Banner Butter strives to create butters that taste great by doing it the right way. Doing it right means starting with cream from humanely treated, hormone-free cows that graze in green pastures. It also means patiently culturing and churning cream into butter without adding flavoring or speeding the process at the expense of taste.”

See, here’s the thing: most butter that is sold in our grocery stores and supermarkets is “sweet cream butter,” which means that once pasteurized, the cream is almost immediately churned into butter—it’s churned when the cream is still sweet. Sadly, this also means that the butter has very little flavor in this infant stage. Even sadder, this often leads Big Man Butter to add “natural flavoring” to make it taste more like…well, butter. Gross.

The cultured or European method on the other hand, is one in which the pasteurized cream has time to ripen for many hours before it is churned. This ripening process brings boatloads of that delicious, nutty and buttery flavor that we so love…without any additives or flavorings.

And that is how Banner Butter does butter.

Photo from Banner Butter's Instagram: @bannerbutteratl

Photo from Banner Butter’s Instagram: @bannerbutteratl

So between their happy dairy cows, the super-fresh cream they provide, the short distance that said cream travels, the small batches in which the butter is churned, and the care and attention that are put into each and every package, Banner Butter’s product second to none.

Banner Butter has gained success in the greater Atlanta area, where they’ve found their way onto the shelves of a variety of small local groceries as well as seven Whole Foods Markets, and now we are proud to announce that Porter Road Butcher is their very second out-of-state outpost for resale—South Carolina got the jump on us. Groan.

In addition to traditional varieties like unsalted and lightly salted butters, the McBaths have continued to play with flavors and offer compound butters as well.

They offer a Roasted Garlic, Parsley and Basil, which sold out of our West Nashville store within the first day it was available; they have a Cardamom, Cinnamon and Ginger, which we can’t wait to employ this weekend on French toast or waffles; the Balsamic, Caramelized Onion, and Fig would be a great way to finish a nicely grilled steak; and their Sea Salt seems like a no-brainer for melting on corn on the cob or tossing with steamed or grilled veggies.

Banner Butter also makes a rotating seasonal compound, sourcing locally grown seasonal produce, creating a butter that celebrates the season.

Check out their website for more information and check out the freezer sections at both Porter Road Butcher stores to get your hands on butter that just tastes better: Banner Butter.

Smoking with the Master – Tips and Tricks of the Trade

“Matthew was born with BBQ sauce running through his veins,” said Matt Russo’s father in a comment on The Gambling Stick’s Facebook page, “He’s been in love with barbecue for as long as I can remember.”

The smoky love child of Matt Russo and Marshall Hamilton, The Gambling Stick is Nashville’s newest mobile BBQ joint that sits just outside of the east Porter Road Butcher shop. Russo, an employee of PRB for just shy of 3 years now, actually got his first real job working in a barbecue joint in his hometown of Louisville, KY when he was just 16 years old. He’s had smoke in his eyes ever since.

Not only did Russo get handed the position of “smokemaster” almost immediately due to his substantial smoking prowess—which came mainly a result of his love for sunny afternoons and sharing great food with great friends—but working at PRB he was afforded the opportunity to learn how to fully break down animals and quickly discovered the vast difference that high-quality meats make when it comes to cooking.

With his knowledge of whole animal butchery coupled with his classical training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and even further aided by his southern roots and love of smoke, what Russo has done with The Gambling Stick is unparalleled by any other BBQ joint in town. Or in the region.

Loaded Smoker at The Gambling Stick | Porter Road Butcher

Both originality and tradition clearly play into the menu, and likely their most popular item is one that exudes both: the “pigsket.” The pigsket (or, pig brisket) from the Gambling Stick is sweet and smoky, full of flavor, not the least bit dry, and has clearly been on the smoker for just the right amount of time: a typically tougher cut of meat, Russo turns it into something incredibly juicy and tender. Of course, beef brisket is a fantastic staple on their menu as well.

Another Barbecue classic-turned-original, Russo and Hamilton have been playing around in the world of ribs, giving hungry meat-lovers entire 12- to 14-inch “whole slab ribs” (for which they are still trying to come up with a suitable name) instead of the traditional rib cuts like St. Louis style, spare ribs, or rib tips. James said, “After eating a whole rib, I was almost full. Those things are serious.”

Following years and years of experimenting, playing, and learning on the smoker and in the kitchen, Russo can pretty much do it with his eyes closed and his hands tied behind his back. It just ain’t no thang. Which is why he’s giving us (and you) tips and tricks of the trade:

Matt Russo of The Gambling Stick | Porter Road Butcher

Smoking Tips from the “Smokemaster,” Matt Russo

Pigsket Sandwich from The Gambling Stick | Porter Road Butcher1. Use Good Meat
And like, duh. Of course that’s going to taste better. But there’s actually a good reason as to why you should use high-quality meat when you’re planning to smoke it. As a muscle works, aka as an animal roams around, it develops connective tissue and flavor. So, if an animal uses their muscles a lot, meaning they are roaming out on the field with their piggy and beefy friends, they will develop more connective tissue and more flavor than those who lived their entire lives in a small crate where they couldn’t move. In the smoking technique, you generally go for a long time and at a low temperature, aka “slow and low,” so that it will break down those well-worked muscled filled with connective tissues and then turn those tissues into gelatin. That gelatin is the meaty tacky goodness that makes your lips stick together and makes you feel happy when you eat BBQ. So, by using a pasture raised animal, the meat will initially be tougher, but with the slow and low smoking process, it will become more tender and gelatinous and amazing.

2. NOT too HOT
As do most cooking processes, smoking meat elicits moisture. So when the temperature is high, more moisture will be drawn out from the meat, causing somewhat of a steaming effect and thus leaching moisture from the meat. Leaving you with dry meat. Nooo, gracias.

3. Pick Fruity Wood
“Fruity woods, like cherry, impart a sweeter smoke, whereas woody woods, like hickory or oak, impart less flavor and can sometimes leave you with an acrid or bitter flavor,” explains Russo. “When using good, sweet cherry wood you can smoke something for 16-18 hours and it will come off tasting sweet and smoky and delicious, but if you did the same with hickory the meat could become inedible.” Talk abut a waste of time.

4. You don’t need a smoker to be a smoker
Most people don’t have badass smokers like The Gambling Stick’s, but even without such a piece of equipment, you can still get great smoking results.
Gas grill – put wood into a small, shallow cast-iron pan on top of the grill’s heat source (on medium-low heat). Set your meat on the grill and then simply close the top and let ‘er go.
Charcoal grill – build a fire made of wood—not charcoal—on one side of the grill base and place your meat on the grill as far away from the heat as possible, so as to avoid direct heat, aka grilling. Close the top and smoke on.
Note: don’t wet the wood; instead keep it dry. That way you’ll get a better smoke on your meat instead of smouldering it.

Pigsket

5. Be on top of it but also be flexible
“It’s important to keep an eye on the temperature and try to keep it consistent,” advises Russo. A good range is 225o to 275o but that range can vary depending on what you’re smoking and how you want it to turn out. “With chicken I like to smoke it a little higher at first to get the skin nice and crispy, and then turn it down to finish it,” he says. But remember – recipes and rules are always subject to change when it comes to cooking. “You’ve got to keep an eye on things so that you can change strategies if you need to: turn up the heat, turn it down, or even taking the meat off the smoker way before or way after you’d initially planned. Just like grilling, after a while you’ll begin to get the hang of it.”

6. Don’t limit yourself
Smoking is not just for meats. Fish, like trout and salmon, are both excellent on the smoker. Smoking things like vegetables, particularly in a vegetarian setting, can add a sort of meaty characteristic to a dish that would be otherwise without. And even using smoked goods in baking—smoked lard, smoked salt, smoked fruits—can add in a little umami to what would otherwise be a traditional sweet!

The Gambling Stick is open Thursdays – Sundays from 11am until they run out. They are located at Porter Road Butcher East, 501 Gallatin Ave, and are available for catering events as well. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.