The most recent experiment out of Meat & Co.‘s sandwich lab included a rare ingredient in an urban setting: the freshest possible venison sausage.
“Composing” the sandwich one recent afternoon (Meat & Co.‘s creations are all “compositions”), chef Aerin Zavory placed the delicacy onto a pretzel bun layered with red-onion jam and Landaff cheese.
The deer responsible for the venison was shot through the neck on a nearby farm, according to “sandwich artist” Zavory, which meant the sausage was of the best quality.
When the animal is hit there, it bleeds out most quickly, “so there’s no old blood hanging out in the body to damage the meat,” she said.
To make the sandwich’s sweet jam, the chef simmers onions in red wine vinegar for about an hour until they are soft and spreadable.
The cheese, a savory foil to the sugary mush, is a form of Swiss, also sourced from a local farm.
And the main event, the deer, arrived recently at 116 Crown (the restaurant next door, whose full-service kitchen is shared with Meat & Co.) whole. Zavery and other chefs “broke the animal down” to use all of its parts.
“A deer’s especially hard to butcher because it’s lean, leapy and muscular—like a giant rabbit,” she said. “Pigs are fat and have more rolling muscles.”
Zavory (pictured) learned to handle full animals working at a restaurant called Nostrana in Portland, Oregon right after culinary school, she said. She’s comfortable working with pigs, lambs, and deer, but said she’d like to work on a farm sometime in the future to learn more.
Zavory, who majored in art history in college, said one of her favorite parts of being a chef has been learning about animals’ anatomy and physiology to use each part as well as possible, which reminds her of the importance of anatomy to accurate figure drawing. After school, she decided to become a chef when she had difficulty finding work in galleries. “There’s also no money in art,” Zavory said.
Once the sandwich was partly compacted by a panini press, Zavory added some squirts of malt vinegar “to cut into the fat” of the deer sausage and “meld all the flavors.”
She gave it some more time in the heat under pressure, then slid the masterpiece across the counter. One other plus cooking has over the art world: instant gratification.