When I say esoteric meat cookery, it’s not often you get the opportunity to eat beef Achilles tendon or neck muscle or buttock. That’s the kind of thing in which Cecchini specialises. In British butchery, there are about 24 generally recognised cuts. In French butchery, 40 or so. In Italian butchery, there are 60-plus – and with Dario Cecchini, that number rises to 70 or more. In Britain, we like cuts dictated by an animal’s bone structure, and so we habitually cook hunks of meat that consist of several different muscles. On the continent, they practice seam butchery. Butchers seam, or cut out, individual muscles and, depending on where you draw the line, muscles within muscles.
In Europe, just as in Britain, there is a greater call for primary cuts – fillet, loin and the like – and not much demand for the secondary cuts (shin, cheek, skirt, belly, stuff like that). This is a problem for a caring butcher, who appreciates that the so-called lesser cuts have great qualities and, in many cases, greater flavour than the more highly prized, luxury cuts. But they take greater understanding and more attentive cooking to show them at their best. That’s why Cecchini opened a restaurant in Panzano in Tuscany some years ago, so he could use up the complete carcass of any animal he was called on to cut up. This dinner might not have been the beast, the whole beast and nothing but the beast, but there were some cutsthat I had never come across before, even in Italy.
Crostini di sugo all’uso di Natale (Crostini with spicy Christmas ragu)
Fritto del macellaio (Butcher’s fry)
Ramerino in culo (Cheek (buttock) with rosemary)
Pinziminio di verdure dell’orto (Raw garden veg)
Mischianza di fagioli e ceci (Braised beans and chickpeas)
Ciccia arrosto (Roasted neck of beef)
Tenerumi in insalata (Beef Achilles tendon in a salad)
Ciccia in umido (Braised beef neck)
Torta all’olio (Olive oil tart)