Sunday, March 8, 2009

Adventures In Deli - Teachings of the Deli Scrolls

Translators note - The Deli Scrolls, though recently discovered (by me) are ancient and venerable texts that guide us in the righteous path of true Deli. As with translations of other Holy Writ, one is tempted to translate the beginning of essential received laws as "Thou Shalt..."

However, we have dug a bit deeper to capture the subtle variations essential to properly understanding how the Deli Mavens of old thought about these matters. Herewith, then - the first recovered bits of ancient Deli Law (and commentary thereon):

The N* Commandments of Deli

(*ed. - We don't actually know how many commandments there are yet - we're still working on it.)
ahem - So to the text...

First, use only the best meats.

Editor's Note: This simple directive is harder to adhere to than it seems. Take pastrami, for example. The traditional cut of meat for pastrami is richly marbled beef navel plate. It's a funny name. It sounds odd - but it's just the part of the steer adjacent to the brisket as you move toward the belly from the breast area. In terms of weight, the section in question is about 1% of the steer's meat. So this is a scarce commodity to begin with. Then, it turns out that there are a number of other applications for the navel cut. Our Korean and Japanese friends, for example, are also very fond of this meat. And the export markets pay well. Especially when the dollar is low (which was the case in the recent past). What's more, these other markets have a fondness for richly marbled beef (think of Kobe beef, for example) while the domestic beef market has for some years sought ever leaner beef. And finally, the part of the plate that goes to make a proper pastrami is only a portion of the larger primal cut - the entirety of which is purchased by the international buyers. Taken together this all means that the vast majority of well-marbled beef plates are sold in primal form before they ever have a chance to be trimmed for use in pastrami.

For these - and other reasons I'll go into another time - domestic beef packers today tend not to offer graded navel plate to the market. When purchasing ungraded beef, the packer is confronted with a mix of quality ranging from low to high. But mostly not high. And you'll never get a great pastrami unless your meat is well marbled.

Most deli manufacturers don't even try to produce quality navel plate pastrami any more. If you look at the pastrami available from your local deli or supermarket, chances are the majority of what they sell is round, followed by brisket. Navel plate - the only legitimate cut for old-time pastrami - is a tiny fraction of the market today. And what's out there is ungraded and thus inconsistent.

So - this simple directive, is not so simple after all.

But - it's the Law. So, at Deli-Arts, we've found a way.
It's Artisan Deli. It's Deli-Arts.