A cut above

appetite has a new columnist – the amazing Charlotte Harbottle, aka Girl Butcher of the blog of the same name. And, yes, she really is a girl butcher (and there aren’t many of those around) and she has just opened her own shop in Gosforth, Newcastle.
Now, read on…

Since opening my little shop, I have tried to keep things pretty seasonal, with lovely oxtails, beef cheeks and short ribs for rich, cosy evening stews.

I have also been promoting slow-roast stuffed breast of lamb and roast pork tenderloin, which leads me to ponder on just how seasonal our eating habits are. Why are the slow-cooked dishes more fashionable or appealing in winter? Why can’t we have a lamb hot pot in the middle of July if we so wish? Perhaps it is in our genes?

Well, to avoid being controversial my first recipe will be with the seasonless classic: steak. Now, every butcher will tell you that they cook the perfect steak. I say that I choose the perfect cut, and it speaks for itself. This is the cut I refer to as ‘Charlotte’s Choice’, which is more commonly known as ‘Onglet’ in France or ‘Hanger’ in the US.

This versatile, underrated cut can be braised or flash-fried, depending on the chef, which means it’s a food that adapts to the cook; a Godsend! You can chop it up and hurl it in a stew, and the meat breaks down to make fabulous gravy. Because the fibres break down, it slow cooks beautifully, though I have to admit, for me, it’s all about the searing-hot pan.

Make sure your onglet steak is out of the fridge for a good few hours before heating. This allows the muscle to relax, which means the meat will be more tender and retain more moisture than just transferring straight from cold fridge to sizzling heat. And this steak must be eaten rare to be as melt-in-the-mouth as possible, otherwise it can be chewy.

On the animal it is located by the offal, directly beneath the diaphragm, and since we don’t have many opera-singing cattle it’s a muscle that is rarely used, which means it is super tasty and smooth, jam-packed with flavour and nutrients.

Here is one of my favourite recipes from the amazing chef Henry Harris. It can also be eaten as a steak sandwich. Or the classic dish, steak frites. So simple, so good!

Onglet with shallots

Serves 2

• 500g onglet
• splash oil
• 2 tbsp butter
• 4 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
• 200ml red wine
• 100ml veal or strong chicken stock

Remove the onglet from the fridge and leave to stand for an hour. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan. Season the meat with salt and pepper and add it to the pan. Cook it until well browned on all sides. Add the butter and as soon as it foams add the shallots. Give the pan a good jiggle to allow the shallots to collapse into the butter.

Turn down the heat and cook for one minute. Remove the onglet and keep warm.

Cook the shallots for a further few minutes or until they are completely soft and have taken on the lightest of colour but no more. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the stock and cook for another two minutes to bring all the liquids together and produce a deep glossy sauce. Finally, add any of the resting juices from the onglet and season with salt and pepper. To serve cut the onglet into thin slices across the grain, place on two warmed plates and spoon over the sauce.

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