The Meat Guru’s Meat Guru

Guitar players in the 1960s used to say, ritualisitcally, that “Clapton is God.” But even God had a God, and that God was Jimi Hendrix. Confucius had Lao Tzu, Dr. Strange had The Ancient One, and even Sherlock Holmes had a smarter brother. What I mean to say is that, even a guru needs a guru. And my guru, when it comes to meat, is a man named Adam Perry Lang.

I met Adam in 2003 sometime, shortly after I announced myself to the world as a meat guru, in the form of a carnivore’s guide to New York City, written under the name “Mr. Cutlets.” It’s not that I didn’t know a lot about meat. I did. But I didn’t know half of what I know now. And everything I know now is much, much less than Adam knows. He knows more about cooking meat, more about raising it, about slaughtering it, about butchering it, about serving it. He’s over there in London, where he has started a restaurant business with Jamie Oliver, thinking of things that literally nobody else in the world has.

You know, meat is a funny thing. It’s hard to do it really well; but doing it well generally involves leaving it alone. 90% of the screwups I’ve seen involve doing too much – moving it around, pushing it down as it cooks, par-boiling it, trimming too much of the fat, and so on. My meat zen emanates from my deep intuitive understanding of meat and what it wants to do, which is to be salted and put near high heat. But Adam is a step far beyond that. He invented the concept of deckle salad with board dressing, an innovation so profound I routinely claim it as my own. He was the first person that showed me how to arrosez a pork chop, bathing it in foaming butter as it cooked, blowing my mind and exciting my appetite with his virtuoso technique. (Who could forget the cumin, the stock, the cognac and the cream? That was some pork chop!)

Now Adam has a new book in the works, which is filled with techniques that I’ve never even heard of before. One involves cooking steak directly on top of coals; another involves “tempering” the meat by means of a two-stage cooking process that I still don’t understand. He showed me some images, on his iPad, of a rib roast that he had cut between the two bones, and then pulled apart so that it looked like it was walking. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, but I listened attentively. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to make that roast; I don’t have the equipment anyway, and I’m sure that I will get the book the minute it’s published. But it was wonderful for me, as a person who spends so much of my time pontificating and posturing, and preaching from the mantle of meaty authority, to know that there was something more than my own blather out there.

So here is the takeaway from this column. Read anything you can by Adam Perry Lang. I don’t agree with everything he says, and we’ve argued over a million things over the years. But as I get older, I get more grateful for having smart friends. Rachael is one. My wife Danit is one. And Adam Perry Lang is one. If I didn’t like him so much, I would resent that he knew more than I do about my own special department of gastronomy. But because I do, I just feel lucky.

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