Hello all! It’s Sean here. With its great food, people, and places, I’m loving Harlem more and more everyday. Our latest exciting discovery is Harlem Shambles, the (relatively) new local butchery located on Frederick Douglass Blvd. They source everything locally, mostly from the nearby Hudson Valley. As they describe, “Harlem Shambles is a boutique butcher shop serving locally sourced beef, lamb, pork and poultry. We work with a handful of New York farms.” As soon we heard from local Harlem blogs and the New York Times that two young brothers had launched a locally sourced butchery in the neighborhood, I knew it would be a great find for me and Ina. Why? What makes this such a great and timely discovery is that lately I’ve become more and more concerned with finding meat that is sourced from livestock that has been both a) ethically raised and b) properly fed. Harlem Shambles takes both of these concerns seriously, and all of its wonderful items—from grass-fed beef to eggs from pasture raised chickens—satisfy both these criteria. For example, the farm fresh eggs are from Autumn’s Harvest Farm and stamped with “Animal welfare approved eggs,” which is the highest standard for the ethical treatment of animals; these eggs are from chickens raised outdoors on a diet of all the things normal, happy chickens like to eat: seeds, bugs and the like. The difference from factory farmed eggs is clear right away; first you notice the deep yellow yolks, which are unlike what you see from factory farmed eggs, and second, the flavor is richer, and more nuanced.
So a couple of Saturdays ago, we put little Liam in the stroller to stroll down to Harlem Shambles. To be honest, my goal was only to pick up some eggs, the incredible butter they stock, which is made from grass-fed cows, and maybe a bit of chicken. But once there, it was impossible to resist some of the other deliciously enticing items on display. We picked up some raw local honey (which is among the best I’ve tried) and some aged cheddar (good, but not great). We also tried some of their homemade pies that are made in house — an Aussie pie (a satisfying combination of ground beef in a savory sauce, housed in a tasty pastry shell) and a Merguez & Sweet Potato pie. I also grabbed their homemade beef chili and loved it—not overly spicy, but rather a well-seasoned balanced flavor, and meaty with the kind of rich mouth-feel that indicates that good, high quality ground beef was used in its preparation. Really nice.
These items are all nice-to-haves, and a real bonus treat to have available in the store, but the real appeal of having a local butcher—and the real test of its value—is of course the quality of the meat and the skill with which it is butchered, and on both counts Harlem Shambles does not disappoint. We asked for both chicken breasts and full legs. Now, it’s important to note that these are not boneless, skinless breasts and legs sitting in the display ready to go. No, they are butchered from whole (beautiful, normal-sized, humanely-raised) chickens on request. So expect to wait a bit if you go this route, as it does take some time for them to do. The chicken was remarkable: the legs were used in what became the best Daddy’s Chicken Curry I have ever tasted (and over a decade I have had this dish a lot!). Factory-farmed chicken simply does not taste like this (then again, does it really taste like anything?), and I relished every bite. We also nabbed some the richest, most enjoyable ground lamb which eventually made its way into a wonderful and succulent Lamb Keema.
But there was one last item that called to us, and we gave in to the temptation: two incredible looking New York Strip steaks. They were marbled and aged beautifully. Yes, they were $26/pound. And yes indeed, I bought two. I simply couldn’t resist, and as with all good steak, I prepared them very simply. The full recipe is below. Result: Ina said it was the best steak she has ever had outside a restaurant. Absolutely delicious. A beautiful char from the hot pan, and a robust, earthy flavor — no doubt, from the expertly aged and cut grass-fed beef.
How to make the perfect steak at home (Mark’s Daily Apple)
- 2 New York Strip steaks, about 1/2 pound each
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- Half an hour before cooking, take steaks out of the fridge to let them warm up to room temperature. This takes the edge off and enables you to get a great sear on the outside. Never, ever start with an ice cold steak.
- After 15 minutes, place an oven-safe stainless steel pan or skillet into the oven and preheat to 450F.
- Melt butter and combine with canola oil. Lightly brush the steaks with the butter-oil mixture and season them with kosher salt and black pepper by patting them on each steak with the tips of your fingers.
- Once the stove is ready, carefully (use an oven mitt!) take the pan out of the oven, brush it lightly with the butter-oil mixture, and place the pan over high heat on the stove top for several minutes until you see it just starting to smoke (you will literally see light flames developing).
- Place the steaks in the pan for about 3 minutes, getting a good sear on them — the trick here is if you try to turn the steaks over after 3 minutes and they’re still sticking to the pan, leave it for a few seconds longer — they should be easy to lift off. Turn the steaks to the other side and immediately place the pan in the oven and bake for another 3 minutes for medium-rare. Key: don’t open the oven door. At all. Leave the steaks alone.
- Remove steaks immediately from the oven and the pan, and place them on a plate or wooden cutting board with a loose tent of tin foil over them for about 8-10 minutes to let them rest.
- Devour as soon as possible! We enjoyed them with small oven-roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and green beans almondine.
Recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple