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Cooking with a Butcher's Apprentice, Part V - Surprise! Hanger Steak! - A little less than a happy high
Cooking with a Butcher's Apprentice, Part V - Surprise! Hanger Steak!
The other apprentices in the shop came to the program as steak guys. At the outset they may not have been able to identify where on the animal a steak came from, but they knew about the steak, how best to cook it, and usually a number of accompaniments to serve it to best effect. By contrast, I've been tagged as a pork and offal guy. I don't have the greatest grasp of my beef cuts, but I can generally think of a half dozen uses for something like tongue or trotter that don't involve grinding them into pet food or worse, tossing them.

I promise this is going somewhere.

Because of where it's located, the muscle that makes up the hanger tends to pick up flavors usually associated with offals, and the result is a tiny piece of beef that packs a lots of flavor. The manager who stayed behind to tend the shop while most everyone else took the field trip to Montreal gave me two this week. The first because he wanted my opinion on a "real" hanger, and the second because I managed to leave the first in the bar across the street and then called the owner and told her to take it home for dinner. I may have had some booze-ahol while I was at the bar, but she seemed happy to have a plan for dinner.

In any case, I brought the second with me on a visit to friends in Boston, cooked it as simply as I could conceive, and it was a delight.

What you'll need:

One hanger steak (roughly .5 lb, or 1/2 of the actual muscle)
Salt & Pepper
Olive oil
Cast iron skillet

  • If you don't already have a 10"cast iron skillet that either belonged to or was gifted from your maternal grandmother (and preferably both), go out and get one already. You can skip this step, but man, it's brilliant.
  • Season the meat with salt and pepper and leave at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
  • Put a little oil into your skillet and heat over medium high heat.
  • Place the hanger into the hot skillet and cook for a little more than 90 seconds and no more than 2 minutes per side.
  • Remove from heat, wrap in foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • Slice thinly and place on a plate. Squeeze the barest amount of lemon juice over the slices, serve and relish.

You've probably noticed that this makes a tiny amount of food, but keep in mind that the hanger is and should be a rare treat since there is typically about 1 lb of it a full grown steer. The sustainability set has ranted far more eloquently about this than I can, but it is interesting to keep the scarcity of the cut in mind when you see hanger offered as a regular menu item at high volume restaurants.

Edited for spelling...
2 comments or Leave a comment
eclectician From: eclectician Date: March 8th, 2011 07:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Got a pointer to the rant? I don't necessarily see the issue with high volume places serving hangar - if supply and demand line up, there shouldn't be any kind of sustainability / responsible eating issue.
komos From: komos Date: March 8th, 2011 01:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, we may well be looking at the first signs of my drinking the KoolAid. I thought there were others I'd seen, but any reference I've found this morning points back to my mentors. They've said that their typical restaurant order was for 50 lbs of the cut at a go, which is quite impossible for a small producer cutting 4-6 steer a week to provide.

A big steak house may be able to get their numbers to line up assuming that they're finding ways to use their grind and roasting joints. Otherwise, they would have to source from a packing house sufficiently large enough to have customers for the cuts they are choosing not to use. The latter would be the only source available for a 120 seat place that offers the cut as the only beef option on the menu. Once we get into boxed cuts, and assuming that the 50 lbs a week anecdote is accurate, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the corresponding numbers in anything but intensive production.

I'd love to get your take on this, though. At the moment, my information is largely from a single source. Perspective is useful.
2 comments or Leave a comment