As the first Executive Chef hired for Surly Brewing Co., a new destination brewery in Minneapolis, Jorge Guzman had the opportunity to start with what might be called a “clean plate” when writing the menus. It turns out to be a plate that’s full of interesting and alternative cuts of beef. Guzman, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, leads two operations at Surly – a casual Beer Hall & Restaurant and the upscale Brewer’s Table – with both featuring items like short ribs, bone marrow, brisket and beef heart.
“Beef is an excellent complement to our bold beers, but we wanted to showcase different cuts,” Guzman says. Non-traditional offerings also make good economic sense. “Tenderloin can be as much as $22 a pound, but beef hearts are around $4 a pound,” he says. Even with the additional labor required to prepare flavorful offerings from cheaper cuts, Guzman says the effort is worth it. “With something like a ribeye, you just need to add salt and pepper and it tastes great. These cuts demand more innovation, so we try a number of techniques and flavors. It’s fun to play with cuts that might otherwise be overlooked and make them into something tasty and accessible.”
Guzman has featured beef cheeks, which are cured overnight, deep-fried and then braised. The short ribs served in the Beer Hall are actually a chuck flap cut. “It’s more uniform, easier to work with, and it’s about six dollars a pound,” he says. The cuts have already proven their popularity. “We sell two tons of brisket a month in the Beer Hall.”
Research and experiment
He acknowledges that special care needs to be taken with preparation. “I can remember, early in my career, cooking a brisket exactly the way you shouldn’t do it, and it was disgusting,” Guzman confesses. But he encourages other chefs to learn more about non-traditional cuts. “Do a little research, Google it, and be willing to give something new a try.”