Michael Symon is a cohost of ABC’s The Chew, an Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America, and the host of Cooking Channel’s Symon’s Suppers and Cook Like an Iron Chef. He is the chef and co-owner of the acclaimed restaurants Lola and Lolita in Cleveland, Ohio; three B Spot burger restaurants outside Cleveland; and Roast in Detroit, Michigan. He is the author of Live to Cook (Clarkson Potter, 2009) and the just-released Carnivore (Clarkson Potter, October 2012). We sat down with him to ask him all about his favorite food group: meat.
1. Tell us about your love affair with meat. How and when did this start?
It actually started for me when I was a kid. I was a Midwestern kid. It was meat all the time in my house. My mother is Sicilian and my father is Eastern European, so we ate a lot of lamb and roasted meat; my grandfather made a lot of sausages, so meat was always in my house.
2. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the butcher or meat counter with all the different types and cuts of meat. Can you simplify it for us a bit? What are the top things we should look for when selecting a cut of beef?
I think the most important thing is to look for meat that has the best inner muscular marbling. I would always recommend buying meat at the counter and not the pre-wrapped meat that’s sitting in a separate case somewhere. Build a relationship with the butcher so you can talk to him about it a little bit, and remember: beef should have that deep, deep red color and marbling.
3. It’s clear from the title and subject matter of your new book that you are a carnivore, but what are your favorite appetizers or side dishes to pair with a great steak?
Probably one of my favorite toppings for a great steak is the Spicy Giardiniera in my book – celery with chilies and the olive oil and a little bit of vinegar. It really cuts through the richness of the steak. As far as appetizers go, I love different salads: simple arugula salads, bitter green salads, kale, or spicy greens that have been cooked down. Those pair the best with steaks.
“There’s pretty much nothing on the hog that is not tasty.”
4. If you could only have one type of meat for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?
It would be pork. Mainly because it’s the most versatile, I think. Tenderloins and chops are delicious; you can smoke the ribs for fantastic barbecue. The shoulder – incredible barbecue. The belly gives you bacon and pancetta. The jowls give you guanciale. The ears are delicious; the skin is delicious. There’s pretty much nothing on the hog that is not tasty, so pork would be my choice.
5. With the holiday season just around the corner, we’re already thinking about planning our big meals. Do you have any favorites recipes from the book that are good for large groups?
One of my favorite recipes in the book, which is great for a large group, is the Pork Pie (check out the excerpt below for the recipe). It’s something that we make in my house for the holidays every year. It’s delicious, it feeds a lot of people, and it’s inexpensive – all great things for holiday dining!
Check out some recipes from Michael Symon’s Carnivore here: