Alongside place-based pie, ice cream, beekeeping and moonshining titles (to name a few), Brooklyn now has a meat book. The Meat Hook’s Meat Book is hardly the first if its genre, and it’s not the first publication by a local butcher, but it does tell a meat-forward story of Brooklyn’s modern food scene via a butcher shop — and that’s what makes it novel.
Butcher and co-owner of Williamsburg’s The Meat Hook, Tom Mylan came to the city before locavorism had developed its allure. Like many young New York transplants, he had aspirations of becoming a writer or painter, but dreams don’t always cover the bills in this city. He entered the food industry with little more than a desire to pay his rent and hardly an inkling that this “day job” would lead to a legitimate career path.
Little did he know that he was in the right place at the right time; Mylan began working at Marlow & Sons and Diner where he did everything from writing and editing for Diner Journal to scouting upstate farms for a restaurant group that was at the forefront of the city’s farm-to-table sentiment. Then came the day when Marlow & Daughters approached him to become their butcher — a proposition that seemed to come out of left field, but ultimately proved to be his “calling.”
Fast forward to 2009 and Mylan teamed up with friends Ben Turley and Brent Young to establish The Meat Hook — a butcher shop meant to be “fun, unpretentious, accessible, and, most important, financially sustainable.” In Myaln’s own words, it’s a business that seeks to pay their “farmers, and to that end, [The Meat Hook strives] each and every day to simply do it right. From farm visits to pick [their] animals for the next month’s slaughter to chatting up regulars at the counter, everything [they] do is for the purpose of properly representing farmers’ hard work, deep knowledge and high-quality animals.”
In a day and age when eating meat can be controversial — entangled in issues ranging from climate change to personal health — books like this one motivate the carnivorous to be conscientious without sacrificing pleasure. You’ll find recipes for chicken nuggets alongside essays on chicken slaughtering, diagrams of deconstructed carcasses next to detailed lists of essential equipment, and a brief butchering lexicon preceding a breakdown of Mylan’s preferred pasture breeds. Keeping it local, Mylan even devotes pages to honor of some of his Brooklyn comrades like Roberta’s, The Brooklyn Brewery and The Roebling Tea Room.
Pedagogic and approachable, The Meat Hook Meat Book will satisfy — as well as enlighten — both your most basic and sophisticated cravings. The only challenging aspect of this book is deciding where to start.
To get schooled, we reached out to Mylan to demonstrate the fundamental kitchen technique of carving a chicken, or what he calls “the real gateway meat.” Watch the video above to learn four different techniques (which are especially good for the grill) and read the excerpted recipe below for more detailed instructions.
Now all you have to do is find the right chicken, but don’t worry — he tells you how to do that in the book.
How to butcher a chicken
1 whole chicken
Cut-proof glove or disposable gloves
5-inch boning knife
Paring knife (optional)
1. Start off by putting on your glove(s). Place the bird in the center of your cutting board. Remove the liver, heart, and any other offal in the cavity, wrap and freeze for later use.
2. Using a 5-inch boning knife, cut the wing from the drumette by placing the blade exactly in the bottom of the “V” where the two joints come together. Repeat on the other side.
3. With your off hand, find the breastbone and cut two parallel lines on either side of it down to the bone with the boning knife or a sharp paring knife.
4. On the breast facing away from you, follow the rib cage around with the tip of the knife, freeing the breast down to the back.
5. Cut through each wing socket.
6. Cut down the middle of the “V” between the leg and the pelvic area of the chicken carcass. Repeat on the other side.
7. Cut between the bottom of each breast and the top of the leg and between the thigh and drumstick. You now have 2 wings, 2 airline breasts, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and the carcass. Wrap in Ziploc bags (be sure to press out all the air before sealing). Fresh chicken will keep in the fridge for about 2 days, and it freezes well for 2 to 3 months.
Excerpted from The Meat Hook Meat Book by Tom Mylan (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Michael Harlan Turkell. Illustrations by Kate Bonner.