I’ll tell you now, this post isn’t for the faint at heart; if you don’t like looking at meat the way it was before it got to your plate, this might not be the right “photo essay” for you. And if you want my opinion (and since you’re reading this, you do), if you don’t want to know what and where your lamb chops were before your plate, you shouldn’t be eating them in the first place – and I say that as a former long time (10ish years) vegan who now eats anything and everything. I also say that, however, as an eater and cooker who clearly cares more about food than any single individual ever should. Thusly, I’ve been working on my butchery skills! A little bit ago, I did so with Chef Jake Des Voignes at Local Mission Eatery, where he walked us through breaking down a whole lamb and took us from this: to this: to this: I’ll try to give you an ultra-brief photographic run down the best I can…
Start at the neck, going right to left on the animal (if you’re right handed). A couple breaks, snaps, cuts and you get to these:
Sweetbreads are the various small glands throughout the body – lamb, veal, goat, whatever. These ones are under the shoulder, right where you start disconnecting the tissue to break it all down. Since they’re usually so small that they don’t have a whole lot of flavor to begin with, I really like them fried. If you cook with them, though, you can soak them in milk to pull out the excess blood that gets stored up in them, and it’ll help tenderize them a bit too. One my favorite new(ish) places, The Corner has a great veal sweetbread plate – deep friend and served with hot sauce and bacon aioli. The aioli can tend to overtake the small sweetbreads, but if you dip just right it’s delish. I definitely recommend the place.
Again, more cuts and you start getting to the good stuff… and feel your way along the spine to find the sweet spot where the spine and ribs meet: and start cuttin’: Clean up the ribs…Debone the legs….