Let’s look at the technique called Larding – the process of lacing a piece of lean meat with pork fat to tenderize while adding moisture and succulence. For many years, Del Monico’s in San Francisco was considered the finest restaurant on this continent. The chefs at Del monico’s held sacred many European practices otherwise unknown on the American continent. One such practice was larding.
You first must understand that the quality of beef then was much different than it is now. Cattle were grazed (grass fed) then driven on hoof to market. When they arrived they would be somewhat dehydrated and the fat layers that they had acquired naturally would have been depleted through the long walk.
Once at the railhead or market, the cattle would be fed grain and salt to put back part of the lost fat and weight. This practice resulted in meat that was course and grainy with little marbling of fat tissue and, in general, tough and sinewy.
To compensate for these conditions, the common practice was barbequing – the practice of brining and marinating followed by basting with a vinegar based marinade while roasting. When beef was cooked without employing this method or being boiled it was typically tough and gamy.
At Del Monico’s the practice, according to their manual The Epicurean, was to brine the meat, then remove all superfluous fat followed by the replacement with pork fat laced, or larded, into the meat.
Today, beef are trucked to market and see very little exercise. Most are fed scientific diets and supplements to enhance growth and weight. Where the cattle once lost the fat layers to the long drives, now they have none to begin with and once again we must look at ways to enhance the flavor and texture of the beef. For this we are going to once again look to larding but with a twist. Instead of the pork lard, usually fatback, that Del Monico’s used, we’re going to use thick cut bacon.
this procedure is still taught in some culenary schools using both bacon and pork fat.
You will need:
A larding needle (about $14 at a culinary shop)
Thick cut bacon – rind removed, cut into pieces ¼ inch square by 2 ¼ inches long
A beef shoulder roast
Remove all superfluous fat from the meat and trim away any remaining sinew layer. Soak overnight in a mixture of ¼ cup of salt to one gallon of water. After removing from the brine, soak in clear, cold water for one hour.
Using your larding needle lard the meat from right to left. This is a process much like sewing. You place a strip of the bacon in the recess in the larding needle and force it through the meat. When you remove it the bacon fat will remain in the meat. Continue larding in alternating rows (see illustration) until the entire roast is larded.
From this point you would bake the meat in your normal fashion and time. After cooking you may remove the bacon or leave it in place.
Below is a list of lardon needle sizes and their respective uses;
Lardons 1/2 inch square by 4 inches long for beef, braised tongue, veal and mutton
Lardons 3/16 inch square by 2 1/4 inch long for saddles of venison, beef tenderloin, etc.
Lardons 5/32 inch square by 2 inches long for poultry, large game, fish and veal cutlets
Lardons 1/8 inch square by 1 3/4 inches long for small game, pigeons and chicken