Josh Ozersky is a James Beard Award-winning food writer, B-list food personality, and noted polymath and deviant. The founder of Meatopia, he will answer all your questions on meat, food, food writing, relationships, restaurants, or cooking. He is also available for private tutorials.
Everyone thinks that, but personally, I don’t like rare meat. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that, “Pittsburgh rare” notwithstanding, a rare steak is far less likely to have the brown, roasty, rugged Maillard flavors I prize so highly in a steak, not to mention less sizzly fat. (Remember, the muscle tissue has almost no taste.) Also, the texture grosses me out. I don’t want to gnaw on my meat. When I cook steaks I like them textbook medium, which is to say pink and hot on the inside, and crusty on the outside. This is also a red flag and a sign of bad breeding, but what can I tell you? The stomach wants what it wants.
What’s a “Pittsburgh Rare” steak?
Johnny Spin, New York City
It means the same as “black and blue,” which is to say, burned on the outside and almost-raw inside. It’s a crude and brutal way to eat meat, and should be considered a red flag for potential sexual partners.
I would say it depends on the protein, Philbert. For meat, I like hickory. For me, hickory is the smoke of choice. Other, equally passionate and knowledgable grillers like oak and mesquite; it’s a South/West divide, like pigs/cows or crunk/tejano. I never cook game, but, if I did, I would want something that burns hot, like mesquite. Fowl and fish are more delicate beasts, so for those I use a mellower, sweeter wood like cherry or pecan. Note: “Philbert Desanex,” the alter ego of Gilbert Shelton’s beloved “Wonder Warthog” comics, is a pseudonym for a famous chef who wrote me this question, to my delight.
When are you going to act like a man and stop posting puppy pics?
Alex Windrem, Raritan, NJ
When Judah is grown up or when I have completed my MTF transitioning, whichever comes first.
What’s the optimal lasagna slice? Corner? Side? Middle?
Eric Fusco, Wayne, NJ
Is this a trick question? The corner, obviously. If nobody else is around, though, or if you are lucky enough to have a half-uneaten lasagna to yourself, cut a two-inch slice all along the short end of the pan. Better still, take the whole lasagna, and put it on an oiled baking pan in a 200-degree oven for 45 minutes. Then it will all be edge.
Can I cure my own sausage in a one-bedroom apartment?
Johann Larkin, Brooklyn
Why not? All it takes is a nail and a dry atmosphere. Just keep the air conditioner on at all times, even when not curing sausage.
Can bros share dessert? If yes, what’s appropriate?
Francis Maling, Queens, NY
First of all, no. Sharing dessert is inherently womanish. Why not go shoe shopping together while you’re at it? I would no more be seen sharing dessert with another man any more than I would sharing fluids. And I say this as a brazen pervert.
I feel this question deeply, Raymond, as I have the same creeping concern. I would suggest starting with the meatiest vegetables, like eggplant and cauliflower. (Eggplant is basically veal that grows on a tree.) Give them plenty of salt and oil and garlic and roast them in a 500-degree oven until they get brown and crispy. If you need to put some guanciale or bacon in with them to help ease the transition, that’s OK too. I try to eat vegetables three to four times a week if possible, and maybe more.
Who served the first multi-course tasting menu in NYC?
Nate Appleman, New York City
To my knowledge — and I may be wrong — the first big tasting menu was the one served by Eberhard Muller at Cellar in the Sky, Joe Baum and Michael Whiteman’s predecessor to Windows on the World. That was the first one with wine pairings, anyway; that was one of the big things people wrote about it at the time. Most great restaurants did fixed menus for special occasions, but actual degustation, or tasting menus, were largely a product of nouvelle cuisine, a style of cooking that emphasized tiny dishes with no food in them, and of unfamiliar composition. Eating a bunch of them chosen in advance was the best way to encounter such food, and paved the way for today’s show-offy chefs.
I saw you the other day, and you appear to have lost weight. Do you have cancer or something? With all the meat you eat, you can’t be dieting. Or is it some kind of Atkins plan?
Josh Beckerman, New York City
Neither. I am taking diet pills like the ones they gave Judy Garland. I’m not proud of it. But it was strictly necesssary. I basically had followed Tony Soprano’s body-mass arc over the course of The Sopranos, and was in no hurry to reach Vito Spatafore proportions. Diet pills are bad for you, but they do work, and “nothing tastes as good as thin feels,” as anorexics are fond of saying.
Is Costco meat of good quality, and which cut is the tastiest? Skirt, flank, filet, etc…?
Steve Plotka, Marlboro, NJ
I know I’m supposed to look down on big-box discount stores, but, in fact, they very often have better retail meat than most supermarkets. Which makes sense, when you consider how much meat they buy. If you were a meat producer, who would you save your best stuff for? Costco, or the local Grand Union? Also, those stores have so much turnover that you are almost always getting the freshest meat, a factor much more crucial than most people realize. That said, only the beef is usually of exceptional quality; my closest Costco, in Rego Park, carries the same B+ Australian lamb everybody else does, and commodity chickens of the kind I no longer eat. As for the tastiest cut, they are all different, blah blah blah, but not really. Skirt is the tastiest. In my opinion.