|My, what a nice sausage you have - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
We've gotten pretty accustomed to the one-stop-shopping of grocery stores, where you can jump from cheese puffs to deodorant in ten seconds flat, unless you get one of those carts with the annoying wiggly-wheels. So it's refreshing to see a throwback to the good old days of specialty stores. If you wanted bread, you go to a bakery. If you needed seafood, go to your fishmonger. And when you needed meat, you headed to your butcher shop. Bill the Butcher is a local Washington-based company with a series of shops in Seattle and the Eastside. Their claim to fame is organic, locally-sourced meats, with no weirdo chemicals, steroids or hormones that inevitably sneak into mass market meats and likely result in us looking like Morlocks in the future. I don't think that's on the FDA warning list, but hey, it could happen. Bill's shops are worthwhile to visit in that they offer whatever's fresh and when they're out of something, that's it -- come earlier next time. But this is a good way of selling perishables because you don't want old, stale goods. It's the sort of place to visit when you're cooking a special meal and you want meat to be the star ingredient. No heavy sauces or buried in too much seasoning, and if you're getting a steak from Bill's, for heaven's sake, cook it rare.
|Butcher Bill's sausage and Captain Sig's beer - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
On my most recent visit to Bill's, I was passing by the Bellevue shop and I decided to pick up some of their fresh-made sausage. It's not some shrink-wrapped pack of mystery meat links -- these ones you could see the chunks of meat, fat and seasonings through the casings, and they were good about knowing what's in there and what to suggest. I picked out a couple of their classic bratwurst, and then a wildcard -- they recommended the Macedonian leek sausage. I like buying sausage from a butcher because it's a cool way to see how a butcher prepares the meat in their own way. You'll get nice cuts of beef or pork, but because sausage needs to be the right blend of meat, fat and seasonings, it's kind of like letting a butcher "cook" for you, as it were.
For the Macedonian leek sausage, I braised it in some water, lightly seared the surface to brown the outside, and served it simply with a side of cooked down kale with garlic and lemon juice. The hearty, bitter greens with the garlic and lemon went well with the meaty side, which had a light, sweet onion flavor from the leeks. Mr. Wasabi compared it to a German-style sausage, where the flavor is mild and it's an easy playmate to any side dish.
|Oktoberfest-tasty and proof that you just can't take a pretty picture of sausage - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
The second day, I prepared the bratwurst, braising it in beer, searing lightly and serving it with beer-braised red cabbage. This could not have gotten any more German if I tried. Short of donning lederhosen, this was Oktoberfest on a platter. The bratwurst had a nice savory pork flavor, more fatty, and a nice consistency. With a little bit of mustard to give it a little edge, that's all it needs. You hate to serve the sausge any other way, given the care that went into the preparation of it. We're used to drowning our food in condiments, probably because we've gotten so used to the blandness of mass produced goods, but when you're given the opportunity to have quality ingredients, the adage is true: less is more, and allow the food speak for itself -- it may surprise you in what it has to say.