Flap, butcher, bib, bavette, whatever you call it, we call it delicious!

The Butcher’s Steak

See why herbed and cracked pepper-crusted beef is so popular. We serve it with a French onion-bacon pastry tart, organic baby carrots, live cress greens, and drenched in a red wine reduction sauce.

“Steak eaters are slaves to fashion. While a tender piece of filet or New York strip is timeless, restaurant goers are flocking to lesser bistro steaks such as hanger, skirt and flank.

Though fibrous and chewy, they are packed with flavor. The popularity of these steaks — among Latin American and Asian as well as French bistro chefs — has driven up the price, making these once lowly meats either hard to find or more expensive than their rough texture might merit.

That’s where flap meat comes in. Also called flap steak, the unflatteringly named cut is similar to skirt and flank in that it comes from the less tender regions of the animal. Often cheaper than more popular cuts, this little underdog of the beef world has a wonderful meaty flavor and fine texture when prepared carefully. That’s why it’s starting to show up in more markets, from the butcher case at Berkeley’s Cafe Rouge to 99 Ranch Market.

“It’s a beautiful steak,” says Eduardo Martinez, kitchen manager at Bi- Rite Market in San Francisco, which sells marinated Niman Ranch flap meat. “It’s a nice option to the more expensive cuts of steak, like the flatiron, which is kind of a commodity because all the restaurants use it.

Like skirt or flank steak, flap meat benefits from marinating and being cooked on high, dry heat, whether grilled, broiled, pan-fried or stir-fried. It’s vital to cut the meat very thinly across the grain, and it is at its best not too much past medium-rare.

“It loves a good raw heat, where you cook it nice and fast, where the flames hit it,” says Shannon Gregory, a butcher at Cafe Rouge in Berkeley, which sells Niman Ranch’s flap meat in both its meat market and in the restaurant as a plate of bistro-style grilled steak with red wine shallot butter. “Make sure you cut across the grain. Otherwise it’s like eating a lot of rubber bands.”

Niman Ranch calls its flap meat bavette, the French name for the cut. But, the word bavette can be confusing. There are several types of bavette steaks in France, including the bavette de flanchet, or flank steak. Because bavette means bib in French, sometimes the word is used as a catch-all phrase for thin steak.

“The French cut down steaks so differently and more thoroughly,” says Brian Cunningham of Niman Ranch. Yet, the bavette d’aloyau, or “of the sirloin, ” is what Niman and the French culinary encyclopedia “Larousse Gastronomique” (Clarkson Potter, 2001) call flap meat.

An extension of the T-bone and Porterhouse steaks, flap meat is officially part of the short loin section, explains Bob Fanucchi, known as Butcher Bob by his students at San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy.

“It’s actually in the belly of the animal,” he says. “You remove the flank, take the layers of fat off and the meat is called flap meat.”

Even in the United States, there are a few different versions of flap meat. It’s often confused with hanger steak, which it’s not, and some butchers label it as sirloin tips, which it also is not.

Regardless of all that, flap meat is a great choice for Mexican grilled meats, bistro steaks and stir-fries — some Asian meat markets simply call it “stir-fry meat.” And if you can’t find it, other long-fibered cuts such as flank steak and skirt steak also would be lovely in the accompanying recipes, though cooking times might have to be adjusted.

There are some things you don’t want to do with bavette, says Gregory of Cafe Rouge. “One of our chefs tried to make stew one day, and he asked for a piece of bavette. It came out horrible. Tasted like an old shoe.”

Though Gregory is a fan of flap meat when it’s cooked properly, some butchers don’t go for the other bistro cuts, saying they’re overpriced because of supply and demand.

“I don’t like flank. I wouldn’t pay that much money for that piece of meat. I’d rather buy a New York,” says Fanucchi.

The same thing could happen to flap meat, if only for its pitiful name. Niman Ranch got around the marketing problem by using the French label.

But, the American name is kind of catchy in its own way. One day trendy restaurant menus might list flap steak frites, or porcini-dusted flap meat. And all of us steak fashion victims will eat it up.”

Tara Duggan   SFGate


One Comment on “Flap, butcher, bib, bavette, whatever you call it, we call it delicious!

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