Who wants to know more about the meat they buy from their butcher? ME! So when I was visiting my butcher and buying some goodies to cook, I asked quite a number of questions on different parts of the cow. Marcel, the butcher at Slagerij van Es was nice to answer my questions and while talking to him, I asked him if it was possible to interview him for my blog.
Slagerij van Es is very Notorious when it comes to Utrecht. Its been there for generations long. They first started in 1927 at the beginning of the Amsterdamsestraatweg, early in the days, but moved to nr 589.
Marcel van Es
Why did you become a butcher?
My father was a butcher and so was his father. So ever since I was little I wanted to help out in the store. I wasn’t pushed, but for me it was more than logic I would be doing the same when I grew up. I’ve been working in the store since I was 16 years old. Almost 35 years. I am still very passionate about this job.
What do you like most about your job?
I love working with meat. Starting with seeing the animal, choosing which one you want to buy. 2-3 weeks later, the animal comes in as a whole and then you need to cut it, making it ready to be sold. I want to get you the perfect piece of meat possible. Too bad we are not allowed to debone anymore. Because of the BSE disease (mad cow disease), there were new regulations set to make sure each animal is tested before entering a shop.
Where does your meat come from? Do you believe in Organic?
I am not a fan of organic. Means that they are not treated with medicine. They are fed organically. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean that the animal lived a better live. I don’t see the added value in this. What I do find important is that they’ve led a good life. That I know where the meat I sell comes from, that the animals were treated right.
We’ve been working with the same farmer for over 25 years. A normal chicken lives a 36 day life on average and the organic chicken 60 to 70 days. If you think about the chicken, what do you want..less chickens, but organic with a lot of space and feeling cold or a bunch of chickens keeping each other warm. Another example, when you don’t feel well you take some medicine to make you feel better. Why not do this to help a chicken? In the Netherlands, we are quite regulated, so I would not worry too much about antibiotics. Another thing: even if everybody living in NL would want organic meat, we don’t even have enough space to produce it. There is not even enough territory. Enough said.
What is the best sold product here?
Ground meat, Wiener Schnitzels and cooked sausages. With the ground meat, make a nice meat ball or use it to enrich your macaroni dishes.
What is your favorite product that your most proud of?
Our award winning sausages. My brother Jos is crazy about sausages. He’s Master Sausage Maker (Meester Worstmaker), just like our grandfather and father. This is the highest achievable title you can get as a butcher. We have made the strategic choice to sell fresh sausages. For example our Grilled Sausages: we don’t have a big variety, but we sell 2 kinds. You get freshly made sausages every day. Perfect to make “stamppotjes”, eat them with boiled potatoes and veggies or on your sandwich. In summer we also sell a bbq sausage. Delicious!
If we want to buy meat to make a nice steak, what should we buy?
For a nice and soft peace of meat buy fillet of beef (Ossehaas), for the tastiest meat, take rib eye or entrecote. However if you want to be trendy, take a Bavette (flank steak). To make a nice stew, I use a rib eye too.
And to make good hamburgers?
You need the fatty ground beef. You need the fat to get those flavors out and keep it moist.
What should we pay attention to when buying meat?
The average customer has no clue to determine quality of meat. That’s why it is important to know your butcher and the meat he sells. It shouldn’t smell. Its funny to see that when I make a customer choose between chicken fillet and chicken thigh fillet, they choose the chicken fillet as it looks better. The chicken thigh fillet is a lot darker and people buy with there eyes most of the times.
What is the weirdest piece of meat you ever ate?
Every body wanted to eat tongue a few years ago, so I thought why not the heart of a cow. I am not a fan of game meat (wild) or exceptional pieces of meat. It tasted in between kidneys and meat. Only blood is being pumped, so its quite a “clean” organ. It had structure, was ok, but I don’t have to eat it again. Tongue, especially the part in the back, is a nice piece of soft meat. You can do two things with it: First you boil it 1.5 to 2 hrs. Then you need to peel off the skin and you can do two things pickle it and cut it into slices and eat on a sandwich or then you fry it in some butter.
Your favorite piece of meat and how you like it best?
Blade Chop (Schouder Karbonade) from the beginning of the neck side. Season it with some salt and pepper and cook it with butter. You want to taste the meat. Let it simmer for about 45 minutes till its nice and tender. I love to eat it with some boiled potatoes and vegetables.
Italian. I like meals to be simple. I want to taste what it is I am eating, keeping it as pure as possible.
In Utrecht, Chez Jaqueline, a nice cute French bistro, quite classic, but very good quality food. I once ate asparagus there, memorable! For a take out place, I like Bastacosi, They have the best pizzas. You go in, need to order at the bar and if you want to drink something, you need to get it yourself. They don’t do entrees or desserts, just very good pizzas! In Amsterdam, a favorite is d’Antica. I love their Pasta al Parmigiano. A green spaghetti, made from spinach with a tomato sauce and mushrooms, flambeed at your table with whisky in a parmesan cheese.
Is there still a culinary trip you’d like to do?
I still want to go and visit Napoli. Eat the best pizzas and pastas there. It might be something I’ve romanticized in my head, but still would love to go and experience.