I have known El Carnicero for five years, but last night was the first time I truly met him. Maybe sometimes you are not ready for someone to come into your life until you are ready. Our kids went to pre-school together, and it only took five years for them to have a play date. I’m not 100% sure why that was. It might had had something to do with the fact that I had a boy and he had a girl. But South Americans are not like us. They don’t think twice about encouraging a young boy and girl to have a play date together. He might have sensed that I had succumbed to that taboo and did didn’t want to push.
When I arrived at this home to pick up my son from the play date, I could detect a faint aroma coming from his garage. As I wanted by on the way to the front door, if I had to guess, Ramon Alones. I would later find out that El Carnicero has diplomatic connections. The Alones are mild far as Cubans go. But with hints of blackberry and chocolate they delight every time. It really does pair with anything. We were on to a good start. And best of all I would also come to find that this man, a Catalonian Kojak, brother from another mother, lived by all the same unwritten rules.
After a few more playdates, I would often find myself after drop-off lingering in the garden with El Carnicero, some Ramones, and an equally brown liquor in a glass with one big square cube. Over time I would find myself coming up with as many excuses as possible to have more playdates. But after a while I gave up the pretense and broke the greatest American taboo of all and just requested a mano e mano playdate. And it was on that day that El Carnicero revealed to me his greatest find. He had found a vineyard in Santa Barbara that would sell him half a cow wholesale. 100 pounds of vacuum packed truly organic grass-fed beef. All stored in various freezers throughout his house.
Had I ever had – how do you say as he pointed to his neck, “glandular?” “Glands, really? You can eat that?” I said. “Yes, there is a way to cook glands.” He said. There was a way to cook everything. This was my first introduction to whole animal utilization. Like his alter TV ego, he pursed his lips, closed his fingers into a tight web, put them to his mouth, and as they exploded from his face, I could feel the power.
The only organ he was unsure of was the bovine corazon. He was going to do some research and get back to me.
Two hours after I had come there to pick up my son, my wife (at the time) called and inquired about my whereabouts. Fortunately, earlier I had the presence of mind to email her a picture of El Carnicero’s restaurant capacity espresso machine. She immediately jumped in her car to see this work of art. Since it was already approaching dinner, she brought our daughter over and we all had dinner together. The four parents and two kids each. We ordered a pizza, drank some wine, had a great time and on the way out he reached into his freezer with a parting gift. It would lead to the next vineyard cow that we split 50/50. Fortunately, I had to presence of mind to grill the filets the next day before someone accidentally unplugged the garage freezer. More on that next time.
I have to start writing back to my amigo who I have known for the same number of years he mention but furthermore, have run into him in many occasions at frequent lights stops, at stop signs and many times I am the car just next to him on his right shoulder, maybe the left shoulder in another occasion and I was just unseen.
However I have to add to this that I was driving an old GREEN HORNET a 1954 Mercedes Benz.
One thing I can be sure about is that he does not find me eye-catching at all…
El amigo used to call me Jason so I better stick to this name so that he doesn’t think he is with somebody else.
Two hours later and more than five years ago the two cigars we shared decided to sacrifice them self and indulge us with full flavor and an exquisite aroma. We further pursue our conversation about many things and we both aimed at the main topic meat. I have to mention that the wine helped a lot. After he left and without even noticing I found three empty bottles of wine around the house. Without telling my wife I secretly decided to put them in the recycling bin.
I jumped into the adventure of getting half a cow without knowing if I was going to be able to fit it all into my freezer. The good thing is that I only have one vegetarian friend in case there was not enough room and I had to give it to some. I always wonder if meat lovers consider vegetarians their friend or just an acquaintance.
I now can rest assure that el amigo will be in the list for the next order. I wonder which half he might want.
The reasons why I bought an organic, free-range cow was because since leaving South America I have not found, until now, meat with the same full flavor than the ones we used to eat.
I have to add that these cows have a nice lake view and 100 acres to go around the winery and indeed they are THE Happy California cows.
For the record half a cow comes in approximately six boxes. The cow was I believe 600 pounds and after aging cuts etc… the end result is approximately one third less.
This meat was aged for about three weeks, normally one buys meat at the grocery store not aged at all or at a max. one week.
I rushed my self the next day and had a rib eye steak in the electric grill it was acceptable but in my opinion a sin when you are cooking meat.
The following weekend I was not available for anybody. It was going to be my chance to have my first affair. It was only me, the meat, and the barbecue a real threesome. No sharing, no friends, no kids, nobody to question my cooking…
Just to set the records straight I use a real barbecue, mesquite wood and hours of prep work before the meat hits the grill. I placed a chunk meat a rib eye steak and a skirt all marinated the day before in garlic and oil with no salt.