David Budworth, better known as Dave the Butcher, is the first to say there is no such thing as a master butcher. In the business for more than 25 years, now at Marina Meats in San Francisco, he says there’s always something more to learn and that he learns something every day.
Dave the Butcher invited us along on his learning journey recently when he led guests at Fresh Starts Chef Events in making pork and lamb crepinettes, a traditional French sausage wrapped in caul fat. It’s a bit different from typical sausage, but Dave explains this casing-less sausage style is less tough and in his opinion, more enjoyable. The evening ended with a communal dinner complemented by brews from Baeltane Brewery of Novato.
Dave the Butcher encourages guests to build a relationship with the local butcher so he or she can best serve you. He speaks longingly of the Italian butchery where chairs are set up in shop for locals to gather. Maybe Americans won’t think to hang out at the butcher shop any time soon, but we can regain some of this ‘small town’ way of doing business by connecting with a local butcher.
To draw on the wealth of a butcher’s knowledge, Dave suggests cooks should ask questions about the best cut of meat to use or the best way to prepare a dish. Give your butcher as much information as possible about what you want or need. For example, if you want to create a favorite dish from your childhood, explain it in detail. A butcher who has been in the business long enough will know the cuts of meat that were used years ago when your grandmother created your tasty childhood memory.
Dave adds just one caveat: when asking questions, be respectful of your butcher’s time. He has a number of other customers who rely on him too! – Contributed by Gary Lam with photos by Neely Wang.
Try the recipe for lamb crepinettes…don’t forget to ask your local butcher for caul fat!
Lamb Crepinettes with Moroccan Spices – Makes 10-12 servings
5 lbs. ground lamb
1½ cup minced onion
1½ cup fresh Italian parsley
1½ tablespoons salt
1½ teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1½ teaspoons coriander
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1½ teaspoons marjoram
½ teaspoon cumin
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meat and other ingredients.
2. Form oval patties about 1/2-inch thick. Lay caul fat flat on the work surface, then place a patty on top. Cut a piece of caul fat with a large margin around the patty to allow the sausage to be wrapped completely.
3. Set a large pan on medium-high heat. Place crepinettes seam-side down in the pan. Turn heat lower when sizzling begins and sizzle gently for 10 minutes or so, turning once when the bottom side is nicely browned.