The Meat Hook brings a Spanish mystery meat stateside.
Thu Sep 9 2010
Photographs: Jolie Ruben
We didn't think that pork belly could get much better, but leave it to the Spanish to prove us wrong—turns out they've been hiding the best part of the pig for years. Fortunately for us Yanks, Tom Mylan, of artisanal Brooklyn butcher The Meat Hook (100 Frost St between Manhattan and Meeker Aves, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-349-5033), has done some sleuthing abroad and returned with a little-known porcine gem: The secreto—literally "secret" in Spanish—is a tender strip of pork hidden beneath a thick layer of belly fat. "You could call it the poor man's tenderloin," says Mylan of the mystery meat. "It's lean, but incredibly flavorful." In Spain and Portugal, where he first tasted the cut, butchers traditionally carve out the meat and save it for themselves, eating it seared with garlic and herbs. In the States, the secreto is typically left on and sold as part of the belly (one of the many layers visible in a piece of bacon). The Meat Hook takes its cue from across the pond, slicing out the flat strip of meat and selling it solo ($7.99/lb). Mylan recommends seasoning the cut with salt and pepper, then searing it in a cast-iron skillet until it's just cooked through, keeping the inside tender and slightly pink. In a food culture that's up to its ears in snout-to-tail dining, it's nice to see there are still a few juicy secrets to be uncovered.