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Still Grillin’

Kosher butchers from around the world share their barbeque mix, Yom Tov tricks, and favorite fix

 


Shlomie Luss

Position: Owner of Superior Meats

Store: One Stop Kosher Food Market

Years in the business: 30-plus

Location: Southfield, Michigan


How I got into this business

My father started Superior Kosher in the ’70s. I started helping out at age 12 during my free time, and, when I got older, during the summers and bein hazmanim. When I was a kid, of course the first thing I’d do was rub a piece of meat on my apron to make it look meaty, making everyone think I’d done lots of work already. I learned how to cut, wrap, and de-vein (treiber) the meats. You name it, I did it! Superior even played a part in how my wife and I ended up meeting (should I say meat-ing?). My wife’s cousin was visiting her in-laws in Detroit, saw me working there Pesach time, and the rest is history…


When I’m not fleishig my favorite food is

Well, that’s a very rare occasion. I never cared too much for milchigs, and my wife is allergic to dairy, so we have fleishigs most of the time. The Nine Days are always a bit tricky in our house! Luckily, we have a good friend who makes a siyum every year, and we spend the rest of the time counting down the minutes till Shabbos.


The strangest request I ever got

I’ll never forget, the first Sunday after we moved to our current location — which had previously been a nonkosher supermarket — this huge man, six-foot-five, walked up to the counter. He complained, “Everything’s been moved around. Where’s the pork ribs?”

I answered him politely. “Oh, sorry, sir, we’re actually a kosher store, we don’t sell any.”

The man lifted his sunglasses, looked me in the eye, and gave me this tip: “Son, if you ain’t got no pork ribs, you ain’t gonna make it.”

More frequently, after I give cooking advice, barbecue instructions, or recipes, many customers come up with this solution: “How about I buy the meat and you come over and actually cook it?”


Most underappreciated cut of meat

Every so often I’m asked that question, and I’m reluctant to give an answer because once I promote a particular cut, then there will be shortages and no one will be able to get any. That being said, I do believe the first couple of steaks off the chuck are the best, because it’s still really the continuation of the rib at a chuck price.


The busiest time of year

The entire week before Pesach, no contest.


My best barbecue tip

Skip the overrated sous vide, and instead spend your money on a grill that has cast-iron grates and an infrared burner on at least one side. Its very high heat will give your meat a really good sear. For no charge, your butcher should give you a piece of fat to season the grates. My method is simple: high heat and a short amount of time — that really locks in the juices.

My pet project

I enjoy coming up with different spiced foods and sausages, experimenting with different formulas and flavors, testing foods until they’re perfected. My family are my guinea pigs. We have a gefilte fish line, in-house sausages, and a line of specialty spices, too.

Ira Schockett

Position: Meat department manager

Store: Pomegranate

Location: Flatbush

Years in the business: 30

How I got into this business

I’m the third generation of butchers in my family. When my great-grandfather came to Long Island from Europe in the 1880s, he was the town shochet and mohel, and among many other things, he taught my grandfather what to do with meat after it was shechted. My grandfather ended up working with meat, my father did too, and I grew up in the business. I remember when I was 15 — my father took me to the table, put a knife in my hand, and taught me to cut meat. I actually went to college and studied psychology, which, believe it or not, comes in very handy in my position. I deal with all kinds of people, all the time. My father always taught me: derech eretz first. If you have derech eretz, you can satisfy anyone.

Busiest time of year

Definitely Pesach time. My entire crew and I are working 20-plus-hour days working to prepare the meat for the showcase and filling hundreds of orders. It’s definitely the hardest week of the entire year.

Most underappreciated cut of meat

If you’ve been to Pomegranate, you want to get what we call the Pom Cut. It’s meant to sound alluring — we want the recognition! It’s actually a split minute roast also known as a flat iron steak, and it happens to be delicious, soft and succulent. It can be served hot or cold, it’s good on a barbecue, it’s versatile, always comes out amazing, and is mess-up proof.

When I’m not fleishig my favorite food is

I’m fleishig the majority of the day. I have my coffee… and then it’s right on to the meat! I grew up with two fleishig meals a day. I’d still do that today if my wife would allow it…

Strangest request I ever got

A customer once asked for a full quarter of a cow — he wanted to put a revolving spit through it for a massive barbecue. We also get members of an African tribe coming in Erev Pesach wanting to buy lamb, because they believe it’s a sacrificial offering.

Best barbecue tip

Start off with a nice, juicy Pomegranate USDA Prime cut of beef… and extremely high temperatures, at least 500 degrees. Keep it simple — just use spices, oil, salt and pepper. Don’t use any sauce while barbecuing. You get the true taste of the meats without it — unless you want to use it afterward for dipping.

 

Chaim Joseph Linder

Position: Manager of the meat department

Store: KRM Supermarket

Location: Boro Park

Years in the business: 10-plus

How I got into this business

I owned a pizzeria for many years and loved it, but when it closed, I needed a new job. Someone told me there was a position available here managing meat. I love the food line, so even though I didn’t have experience with fleishigs, I checked it out. Baruch Hashem, I loved it, and have been here ever since.

Busiest time of year

The weeks leading up to Pesach, for sure. But if you’re looking for the busiest single day of the year, I would say the day before Erev Succos. There are many people who prepare their food in advance, but there are also many who buy their meat closer to Yom Tov, and there are just not that many days between Yom Kippur and Succos.

Most underappreciated cut of meat

That’s a hard question to answer, because everyone’s personal tastes are different. Some like their meat fattier, some like it leaner, some like it healthier — it really depends on what they’re looking for. My personal favorite is surprise steak, although if I want something cheaper, I would get club steak. Flanken roast is a great roast to bake — it’s always a winner, and a close second is a good French roast. I also prefer to bake my meat, because then it cooks the entire piece at the same temperature — I find that the bottom is hotter than the top when it’s cooked.

Pet project

About a year and a half ago, someone came over to me and said, “Do you know anyone who can’t afford their chicken or meat? I’d like to pay for it.” He gave me money, and I put it on someone’s account. Since then many more people have done the same, and I get to tell people their balance has been paid off or they have a credit. Of course, everything’s done confidentially and with the utmost discretion and respect. It’s such a zechus to work here, to be able to see the goodness of the community up close and personal like this, and to be involved with such beautiful chesed, all the time.

When I’m not fleishig my favorite food is

Pizza! I love playing around with it, especially on Motzaei Shabbos. Most weeks, I have a few hundred people watching my every step on social media as I prepare my Melaveh Malkah. It’s usually pizza… often with a twist. I make regular pizza, pizza calzones, egg pizza, pizza rugelach, pizza knishes, pizza challah, pizza babka — you name it. I made a pizza key for the week of shlissel challah, pizza doughnut for the week of Chanukah, and pizza hamantaschen for the week of Purim. It’s a lot of fun.

Strangest request I ever got

Dealing with a lot of people makes for a lot of strange requests. Once someone came in and said she’d accidently cooked her meat together with that material that’s packed at the bottom of the meat, which is there to soak up the blood and liquid. She was worried about the kashrus and the health risks. I asked for her; turned out kashrus-wise, it wasn’t a problem, but it wasn’t really the healthiest thing to eat.

Best barbecue tip

Use simple spices only — black pepper, salt, and olive oil. Even if you like it sweeter, don’t use any sauces with sugar. Sweet sauces burn very fast on the grill. Personally, I prefer to bake some of my meats for 45 minutes in the oven first and then finish it off on the grill.

Ariel Jacobson

Position: General manager

Store: Solomon Kosher Butcher

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Years in the business: On and off for 20 years

How I got into this business

It was my grandfather’s business. It was started over 50 years ago by my great-uncle, and my grandfather joined him as a partner several years later. The business has changed from a kosher poultry business to a poultry supplier and butcher shop, servicing the Melbourne Jewish community through our retail shop, and all around Australia and Asia through our wholesale business. I started working in our butcher shop as ten-year-old during the school holidays — my first job was to make chicken shashliks and beef burger patties. Over the years it has been great to work with some of my cousins in the business, as well as my grandfather and some of our long-term employees, some of whom have been with us for over 20 years, all the way up to 45 years.

Busiest time of year

The week leading into Pesach, when a lot of stressed-out Jews are coming through our doors. We sell about two to three times what we sell in a regular week in each of the three weeks leading into Pesach. We sell fresh ducks and turkeys prior to Pesach, as well as plenty of schmaltz to make kneidlach. We are also working around the clock and weekends ensuring that Jewish communities in Tahiti, New Caledonia, Singapore, and Hong Kong all have enough meat and poultry for their Seders as well.

Most underappreciated cut of meat

Slow-cooked beef cheek. Our supervising rabbi gave me the tip to put this in the cholent. It was an excellent suggestion. It’s also delicious slow-cooked in red wine and served on some mashed potatoes. Another favorite is battered and deep-fried chicken neck strip — a delicacy that my grandfather started making in our shop. We can’t keep up with demand for these and received nonstop complaints when we briefly stopped making them.

When I’m not fleishig my favorite food is

It takes a lot of self-control not to be fleishig around here, constantly walking past our range of wursts and salamis, as well as cooked schnitzels and potato latkes. But I guess I’d say ice cream.

Strangest request I ever got

Someone asking, “What vegan products do you have?”

Best barbecue tip

Learn all the different hot spots on the barbecue. Every barbecue is different, and every barbecue spreads heat to different parts. Once you learn your barbecue intimately, you can work out where to rotate the meat to get the perfectly cooked cut.

 

Yehoshua Feldman

Position: Manager of the meat department (although we don’t actually use titles)

Store: Gourmet Glatt

Location: Cedarhurst, New York

Years in the business: On and off for the past 20-plus years. I joined the Gourmet Glatt family (which has additional stores in Woodmere, Boro Park, and Lakewood) five and a half years ago.

How I got into this business

My father bought a butcher store back when I was in high school; I worked there during the summers and whenever I was home from yeshivah. I learned everything from the bottom up.

Busiest time of year

I’d say the whole month of Tishrei, starting three weeks before Rosh Hashanah. It’s extremely busy, but the last week before Yom Tov is so hectic, I practically live at the store. I think there are two reasons for this: The first is that way fewer people go away for this Yom Tov as compared to the other Yamim Tovim. Secondly, Rosh Hashanah is a holiday that’s celebrated by many traditional and even unaffiliated Jews. Many of these customers travel in from places much further out on the island, such as Port Washington, and even as far away as the Hamptons.

Most underappreciated cut of meat

The chuck eye roast. It’s a little fatty, which makes it very tender and gives it a great taste. Cooked properly, low and slow, it’s really delicious. We keep recipe cards right near the item so customers have a delicious recipe literally at their fingertips.

Pet project

My pet project is the same as that of all Gourmet Glatt stores — giving back to the community. The Cedarhurst store, for example, regularly stocks bikur cholim rooms at local hospitals and sponsors many local chesed programs and events… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Giving back in big and small ways is just a constant at Gourmet Glatt. It’s part of who we are.

When I’m not fleishig my favorite food is

When am I not fleishig — at 2 a.m.?! Ninety-five percent of the time, I’m fleishig, but that aside, my favorite food is… Pride of the Farm kosher l’Pesach vanilla ice cream. People think I’m nuts until they taste it, and then they’re bound to agree. It has no corn syrup or chemicals, it’s unbelievable. And it’s only available around Pesach time, so I stock up on at least ten half-gallon tubs as soon as they come into the store.

Strangest request I ever got

At this point, I’ve heard it all. Nothing surprises me anymore. I’ve had people come in holding recipes from some nonkosher cookbook, asking for T-bone steak or some other treif cut. On the flip side, I recently got a call from someone who is obviously not accustomed to shopping in a kosher market asking if we carry kosher boneless chicken cutlets.

Best barbecue tip

Try grilling a brick roast, also known as a French roast. Ask the butcher to butterfly the roast (open it up from the middle). Or take a dark meat capon, which is a boneless chicken leg with skin, sprinkle on a little kosher salt and pepper, and grill it skin side down for five minutes, three minutes on the other side. Some people like to grill slow and low, others like it high and fast. You can get delicious results both ways, so I say do whatever you feel comfortable doing.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 775)

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