Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Butcher At Lily's Mexican Market

Soft tacos with meat from Lily's
I need advice about how to use the butcher at Lily's Mexican Market.  I see great opportunity, but I don't know what to buy.

Lily's is a terrific market off Dobbin Road in Columbia.  I have gone for years to buy fresh tortillas, canned goods, cheeses, and even some fresh produce like avocados, tomatillos and cactus.  Now, I want to expand into the meat counter.

My last trip was successful, although not what I expected.  I bought fajita meat expecting to grill something that looked like a skirt steak from Laurel Meat Market.  Instead, I got four separate pieces of meat.  They were maybe a half-inch thick with ragged edges, halfway between what I expected and some paper-thin cuts for a Philadelphia cheesesteak.

Fajita meat from Lily's
I didn't grill the meat.  I heated a cast iron skillet and just touched pieces down for 60-90 seconds per side until they cooked through.  Then  I sliced them against the grain -- and there was a strong grain -- to serve with vegetables and cheese for soft tacos.

My dinner had a great beef flavor and a chew similar to skirt steak.  At a minimum, you could start with an order of fajita meat because good ingredients served with Lily's house-made corn tortillas will make a great dinner no matter what you do.  But I'd love advice about what else to buy and what else to cook.

Lily's butcher board
I can translate Lily's butcher chalk board -- oxtail, beef leg, leg of lamb, pork chops, pork chorizo, etc.  But I know very little about meat, and I know that cuts differ.  A pork chop isn't the same as every other pork chop.  I was trying to use a recipe from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday, but his recipe clearly wasn't describing the cut that I got when I ordered "fajita" meat.  What are the popular cuts at a butcher aimed at Mexican or Central American chefs?  What recipes work?

If you're looking for interesting butcher options, you're in luck around Howard County.  There are three full-service butchers in an American style heavy on beef and pork along with a growing group of halal butchers for lamb and the Korean-style packages at the Asian grocery stores.  For links to them all, click back to my collection of butchers, bakeries and groceries in the Welcome Home series.

5 comments:

Kevin said...

More than likely the fajita cut you got is flap meat. This is what Asian and Latino markets sell for fajitas. It's part of the bottom sirloin butt (think of your internal oblique muscle).

Brian said...

Looks more like a carne asada STEAK cut, pre marinade where it gets more tender

AnnieRie said...

OK, this is interesting. Chivo entero is whole goat, and borrego entero is whole yearling lamb. We all know what huevos de toro are, don't we?

Tripitas are intestines, and lengua is tongue, right? You can be really brave here and go exotic, but I think you should start with puerco. Chile verde maybe? Or posole?

You could get a whole chicken and make your own broth and do green posole. They have hominy I suppose? Posole is a tradition of friends of ours in the Southwest for Christmas. I made a pork based posole once. It was OK, not great. I would love to get to a great version of it.

K8teebug said...

Get Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday cookbook. It will help you use Lily's to the fullest and will change the way you eat Mexican food.

HowChow said...

K8teebug -- I am already cooking from RIck Bayless' Mexican Everyday. That's the link in the post. I love that book. But I can't match his recipes to the meat at Lily's butcher. The recipes call for things like "pork shoulder," "boneless beef steak," "rib-eye," "lamb shoulder roast," etc. I would love any advice on what names to use when I go to Lily's -- or even just a cut from Lily's and how someone has used it.