Carnal Knowledge: Best Meats

February marks the finale of Carnival season, the late-winter wallowing in debauchery that culminates in Mardi Gras, only to be followed by 40 somber days of Lenten drudgery. And what better way to connect with our pagan ancestry than by celebrating the root of the word “carnival” — meat, in all its charred, juicy glory?

Here, you’ll find nothing that swims and nothing that flies. We’re focusing on animals that are as closely related to humans as possible, of the bovine or porcine persuasion. Below we humbly present the most primitively satisfying hunks of animal flesh to be found in our immediate vicinity.

Teres Major
Lou’s Full Serv
Jackson

The teres major, or shoulder tender, is one of the professional butcher’s best-kept secrets. Hiding beneath the flat iron steak, this seldom-used muscle takes skill to extract but rewards with a bite that’s nearly as tender as a filet, with more intramuscular fat (and hence, flavor).

Lou’s serves their teres major wrapped in bacon, atop a swirl of Manchego creamed spinach and silky mashed potatoes. The experience will have you feeling like a 19th-century oil baron, drunk on beef and power.

 

Braised Pork Cheeks, Smoked Pork Butt and Dumplings in Carbonara
Primitivo
New Orleans

At Primitivo, everything on the menu takes a turn on the restaurant’s massive hearth, searing, smoking or bubbling away for hours. This dish exhibits that rainbow of techniques: pork cheeks, braised until falling apart; pork butt, redolent of campfire flavor; and dumplings, boiled until tender and then toasted on the flattop. It’s all tied together with a thick, jus-laden carbonara.

There is something viscerally appealing about eating meat from an animal’s face; it leaves you unable to deny that your meal had a life, an identity, maybe even a personality. Also all that connective tissue tastes really good when it’s braised completely to death.

 

Boneless Beef Rib and Pork Ribs Jumbo Plate
Leatha’s Bar-B-Que Inn
Hattiesburg

In the beginning, there was fire. And from fire, smoke. The first humans lucky enough to follow their noses to a naturally-barbecued hog carcass, fresh after a forest fire, must have rightly declared it a gift from the gods.

Laying hands on a plate of barbecue from Leatha’s is the same kind of revelation. Their boneless beef rib, laced with gelatinized goodness, is tender enough to be eaten with a spoon if so desired. When it comes to the pork ribs, however, give into barbarism. Pick that rib up by its natural handle and revel in the magical union of pork, smoke and time.

Written by

Troy Coll is a New Orleans-born, Mississippi-raised investigator of all things gustatory. A 2007 graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi, Troy has written for a number of now-deceased Hattiesburg publications, along with hubcitylife.com and Signature Magazine. He also assisted in the efforts of Raise Your Pints, a grassroots organization dedicated to modernizing Mississippi’s draconian beer laws. By day, he runs Mr. Sippi Beverages, Hattiesburg-area bottled water provider. Otherwise you can find him roaming the South, with a glass in his hand and food in his mouth. His non-edible interests include meeting new dogs, making mix CD’s and tweeting a lot. Follow him across social media @TacoHole.

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