Here are some options for your Easter dinner from chef Rusty Bowers of Chop Shop and Pine Street Market: Brined and Roasted Whole Chicken, King Prime Rib and Pork Loin Stuffed with Porcini and Herb Butter. Sides include Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Bacon (second from bottom left) and Creamy Polenta (right). CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Make the Easter holiday special with these ‘center of the plate’ meats

Are you working on the menu for your Easter dinner? Will there be an expensive piece of meat as the “center of the plate”? Are you concerned it might not turn out perfectly?

Fear not. We’ve brought help.

We turned to chief butcher and charcutier Rusty Bowers, the classically trained chef behind Avondale Estates’ Pine Street Market and the newly opened Chop Shop on Memorial Drive in southeast Atlanta. At Chop Shop, they’re selling beef and pork from the shop’s partner, Riverview Farms, seasoned and cured meats from Pine Street Market, chicken from Springer Mountain and products from local food crafters.

“Chop Shop was born out of a partnership between farmer and butcher and our shared passion for reconnecting people with local handcrafted food. I particularly love working with Riverview because we love what they do and they raise the best meat. And opening Chop Shop with them allows us to have a place where we can sell great meat but also create a little culinary mecca on Memorial Drive,” said Bowers. He’s thinking pop-ups, a demo kitchen and other events showcasing Atlanta-area food producers and farmers.

Growing up, Easter dinner at the Bowers family meant a trip to grandma’s. “We would have the traditional turkey breast and smoked ham and then collard greens and black-eyed peas, rice and gravy. You’d leave the table so full you’d be pulling at the collar of your shirt. That’s my memory of growing up.”

Fast-forward to today and Bowers and his fiancee, Summer Galloway, are likely to be serving prime rib. “It’s one of the ways I’ve tried to impress Summer’s family. I think I’ve cooked prime rib for every member of her family. With braised kale with bacon pot liquor and Riverview’s polenta, those are staples for us at the holidays.”

Knowing not everyone feels comfortable cooking a standing rib roast (another name for prime rib), Bowers and the butchers at Chop Shop make it easy. They cut the meat off the rack of bones, add rosemary and garlic to flavor the meat, then reunite the meat and the bones and tie them together with butcher’s twine. Follow the instructions for cooking in the recipe with this article and you’ll have a perfectly roasted centerpiece for your meal, and since the butchers removed the bones, it will be easy to carve at the table.

In the almost a dozen years he’s been selling fresh meat to his customers, Bowers has learned that people are “scared” of raw chicken. They’d tell him they were worried about making their family sick or cooking the chicken to the point that it was dry and inedible. He’d patiently coach them over the counter, in particular suggesting brining, which provides a great buffer to be sure you don’t overcook the meat. It works with poultry and it works with pork.

Eventually Bowers developed recipe cards so folks could take home the butcher’s wisdom. The cards are available at both Pine Street Market and Chop Shop.

We’ve taken from those cards to provide Bowers’ tips for a perfect “center of the plate” for your Easter dinner.

1. Choose healthy, pasture-raised meat. “Animals raised in low stress environments and free to roam the land produce better tasting and healthier meat. Not to mention that you can feel good about choosing to buy from farmers and butchers who believe in humane treatment of animals and minimizing waste.”

2. Let the meat come to room temperature before cooking, allowing the meat to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes per pound prior to cooking. “It is important that the external and internal temperature of the meat is approximately the same to guarantee even cooking.”

3. When cooking pork, turkey and chicken, brining is the best way to ensure tender, juicy meat. It helps prevent moisture loss during cooking and seasons the meat, so there is no need for extra salt during cooking.

4. Cook to your preferred temperature.

• For pork, we recommend 145 degrees where there is still a little pink inside. Others like it cooked to 155 degrees and more done.

• For chicken and turkey, cook to 165 degrees.

• For beef, medium-rare is 125 degrees, medium 130 degrees and medium-well is 135 degrees. Grass-fed beef is leaner with less marbling than grain-finished beef so it is best at medium-rare or medium.

5. Let the meat rest before slicing. Cooking drives the juices to the center of the meat. Resting the meat allows the juices to redistribute and makes for a juicier meal. Depending on the size, this should take 5 to 10 minutes. A larger roast will need more time.

6. Slice meat against the grain. The result will be more tender and easier to chew.

Part of the secret to making chef Rusty Bowers’ King Prime Rib is to let the prime rib roast sit at room temperature long enough before putting it in the oven. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: For the AJC

RECIPES

Thanks to Rusty Bowers of Pine Street Market and Chop Shop, we’ve got everything you need to prepare a delicious centerpiece for your Easter dinner.

King Prime Rib

Make your life easier. Ask your butcher to cut the prime rib from the bone. Then season the meat with your preferred herbs and tie the roast to the bones for cooking. At Chop Shop, they will do all this and handle the seasoning as well, using rosemary and fresh garlic.

The most difficult part of the recipe is remembering to pull the meat out of the refrigerator ahead of time so the meat is at room temperature before it goes into the oven.

Looking for a sauce to accompany your roast? Bowers recommends 3 parts low-fat Greek yogurt to 1 part freshly grated horseradish.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Rusty Bowers of Chop Shop and Pine Street Market.

Creamy Polenta from chef Rusty Bowers goes well with prime rib. If you’d like, you can add your favorite cheese. Here, it is garnished with sprigs of fresh rosemary. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: For the AJC

Creamy Polenta

Bowers finds polenta to be a perfect accompaniment for prime rib. “The beautiful thing about polenta is that it makes the perfect base to highlight flavors that you love. You can keep it simple, but you can also add your favorite cheese. I recommend Sweet Grass Dairy Asher Blue or a combination of Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses. Or stir in an herbed butter like the porcini butter in our pork loin recipe or top it with a savory mushroom ragout.”

Bowers starts with ground polenta from Riverview Farms. “We love it for its rich, buttery corn flavor. Riverview grows certified organic, heirloom and non-GMO varieties of white, yellow and red corn they mill on-site into cornmeal, grits and polenta.” Riverview’s polenta is available at Chop Shop, Pine Street Market and at the Grant Park, Morningside, Freedom and Peachtree Road farmers markets.

Reduce the total liquid to 4 cups if you want a firmer result. Just be careful to stir throughout the cooking process so you don’t scorch the polenta.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Rusty Bowers of Chop Shop and Pine Street Market.

Get chef Rusty Bowers’ Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Bacon ready to go, and you can cook the side dish while your King Prime Rib rests after its time in the oven. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: For the AJC

Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Bacon

Chop Shop and Pine Street Market sell packages of “bacon ends,” chunks of their Berkshire pastured pork bacon seasoned with molasses and maple syrup and smoked with a blend of applewood, white oak and pecan. Bowers suggests using those in this recipe, but it will work with other thick-cut bacon.

If you’re serving this with your prime rib (which we recommend), have everything ready to go and when the roast comes out of the oven, raise the temperature to 400 degrees and roast the sprouts while the meat is resting.

Bowers has two suggestions to modify this recipe. If you’d prefer shaved Brussels sprouts rather than half sprouts, don’t roast them. Instead, use bacon drippings to cook the shaved sprouts in a large saute pan until tender, 8 to 10 minutes, and then serve garnished with crisp bacon and roasted walnuts.

The second idea is to soak 2 tablespoons minced shallots in 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Let that sit while the sprouts are cooking. Then whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil and drizzle that over the cooked sprouts.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Rusty Bowers of Chop Shop and Pine Street Market.

For chef Rusty Bowers’ Brined and Roasted Whole Chicken, be sure you factor in the time to make the brine and refrigerate it overnight, as well as 4 to 6 hours for the chicken to sit in the brine. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: For the AJC

Brined and Roasted Whole Chicken

Planning ahead is key for this recipe. The brine needs to be made, then completely cooled and the chicken should sit in the cooled brine for 4 to 6 hours before cooking. You can make the brine days ahead.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Rusty Bowers of Chop Shop and Pine Street Market.

Pork Loin Stuffed with Porcini and Herb Butter from chef Rusty Bowers uses dried porcini mushrooms, which are pulsed to a chunky powder in a food processor. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: For the AJC

Pork Loin Stuffed with Porcini and Herb Butter

This is another recipe where the butchers at Chop Shop can take all the work out of this dish by selling you a pre-seasoned pork loin. Or if you’d like to practice your butchering skills, follow this recipe. Dried porcini mushrooms are available in shops that carry Italian and Eastern European ingredients.

— Adapted from a recipe provided by Rusty Bowers of Chop Shop and Pine Street Market.

RELATED:

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Read the 2018 AJC Fall Dining Guide: Dining on Buford Highway 

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