André Baranowski
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Beef Chuck Roll Demo

Jim Poris / February 6th, 2012

As one would expect, Zook Da Meat Man knows his way around Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications (IMPS)/North American Meat Processors Association (NAMP) beef cut 116A. In butcher's parlance—Benny "Zook" Pizzuco's native language—that's the beef chuck roll. Pizzuco is the third to own the vestibule sized Florence Meat Market, founded in Greenwich Village in 1939 by Jack Ubaldi, a legendary New York City butcher. With a tabby cat stalking errant meat scraps on the sawdust strewn floor and pre-war scales still getting heavy workouts from head butchers Florencio Morales and Aristeo Quiñonez, the shop touches New Yorkers' heartstrings for lost neighborhoods. But as quickly as manager Maria Alava introduces you to a woman who knew Ubaldi back in the day, she turns to the phone to take an order for its dry-aged prime beef from photographer Annie Leibovitz. Florence is old enough to be cool anew.

Pizzuco knew how to break down a chuck roll—which runs from the bottom of the cattle's neck to between the fifth and sixth ribs—along its natural seams. But for him, cuts from the chuck roll were destined for stew meat or the grinder for chopped beef. Now, on the heels of its successful marketing of the flatiron steak, petit tender, and ranch steak fabricated from the chuck clod, The Beef Checkoff has identified a number of new cuts from the chuck roll that will be making available for foodservice. Pizzuco took a crack at putting his knife where The Beef Checkoff said it should go, starting with dividing the whole chuck roll (A) along its hard-to-miss seam (B) into the underblade (left) and chuck-eye roll (right) (C).

Chuck-eye roll. Three serviceable cuts can be fashioned from this part of the chuck roll. First, two or three new Delmonico steaks, cut 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, are taken from the smaller rib end (1A). These can be tied and grilled or sautéed. Then make two center-cut chuck eye roasts, weighing between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 pounds, shown here tied and untied (1B). Finally, the remaining chuck roll is cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch thick steaks, which are then halved to form country-style chuck ribs (1C). No bone, but they can take a good ribbin'—just rub them as if they were real things.

Underblade. The larger part of the chuck roll easily seams out into Rhomboideus muscle (hump) (2A), which can be braised or used for ground beef, and, from the underside, the Splenius muscle (Sierra cut) (2B), which resembles all aspects a small flank steak and thus should be cooked like its better known beef cousin. That leaves the formidable Serratus Ventralis, which, once cleared of fat and silver skin, is cut into 10 to 14 ounce Denver steaks suitable for a hot-as-blazes cast-iron skillet or a grill (2C) and/or stew meat (2D), which sounds less prosaic in its French presentation as boeuf bourguignon or daube provençal.