Corned Lamb Hearts

Forager | Chef

This post is sponsored by Shepherd Song Farm and written by Chef Alan Bergo of Forager | Chef.

The day after Christmas, it’s Valentine’s season. Walk into any grocery store and you’ll be bombarded with an endless array of heart-shaped signs and symbols. The aisles are festooned with heart-laden banners. The walls are decked out with paper hearts, some creatively colored in by local kids, most in a range of traditional pinks and reds.

Around Valentine’s Day, we’re surrounded by hearts, both as marketing symbols and as signs of endearment, but for the most part, unless they’re made of chocolate or cookie dough, hearts are not something we eat.

Perhaps no heart today seems quite so inedible as the heart of an actual animal. Once coveted as a delicacy, that kind of heart is now considered strange — a piece of forbidden, alien meat we glance over in the frozen section, with ice crystals from the deep freeze reinforcing our notion that no, no one eats that, and neither will I: Where are the steaks, tenders, and chops again?

When I was growing up, I was squeamish about eating heart, along with most other organ meats. But when I started cooking, I gradually came to appreciate both the ethical and practical value of eating the whole animal. I also began exploring the culinary potential of less-popular bits, including heart. And, with experience, I grew to love and respect this meat’s unique properties.

Forager | Chef

We all want to share our passions and strongly held beliefs with others. And “eat the whole animal” is a tenet I believe in fiercely. But what I learned from experience is what most seasoned chefs already know: Heart is a very hard restaurant sell. And in a restaurant setting, the inability to sell heart can quickly translate into a lack of desire to cook it.

This is true for home cooks, too, of course. Even the most inspired drive to creatively elevate and celebrate offal will quickly fizzle if there’s nobody to appreciate the results. To see beautiful hearts carefully prepped and served, only to be pushed around a plate and later tossed in the trash is, well, heartbreaking.

Happily, there’s one way to cook heart that’ll win over just about anyone: corning. Corning has a transformative effect on both the flavors and textures that are so often presented as organ-meat deal-breakers.

After meat sits in a brine for a while and then gets thoroughly cooked, there’s a safe and comforting homogeneity to it. Everything gets soft, tender, and seasoned to a slightly salty perfection.

So, here, I’m going to give you my recipe for corned lamb or goat hearts from Shepherd Song Farm, a great 100 percent grass-fed lamb and goat operation in Downing, Wis. This method of corning is a great way to bring out the best not just in hearts, but in all sorts of other organ and muscle meats, especially game that must be cooked through before eating.

Amy Thielen uses corning to make bear-meat pastrami in Northern Minnesota, and my friend Hank Shaw uses the process for venison (as well just about as anything that flies). The possibilities are limitless.

So, what do you make out of the corned heart you prepare? Since the meat has already been cooked, and the heart is lean, you don’t want to apply too much direct heat (so no grilling), but slicing and gently warming corned heart in a pan is great.

I love to make warm Reuben sandwiches out of corned heart. Here’s a simple recipe and video describing my process. If you feel like trying goat or lamb hearts, as I have pictured, here’s the link to Shepherd Song. Know that hearts from larger animals like pork and beef can take longer to cure.

Forager | Chef

CORNED LAMB OR GOAT HEARTS
Alan Bergo
Yield: enough to serve 3-4 people for lunch or as a light entree

Equipment:
• Deep covered braising pan, Dutch oven, or casserole capable of holding 1 gallon of liquid
• Plastic container for refrigerating the hearts, capable of holding 1 gallon of liquid
• Large plastic bag, or a plate or other weight for keeping the hearts submerged in the brine while they cure (see directions)

For the Brine:
2 quarts water
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup kosher salt
2½ teaspoons Prague powder #1 (pink curing salt)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 heaping tablespoons pickling spices
1 tablespoon chopped ginger

4 lamb or goat hearts, roughly 2 pounds, total weight

For the final braise:
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 heaping tablespoon pickling spices

1. Toast the pickling spices. Then combine with the remaining brine ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool the brine to room temperature, and transfer to a container big enough to accommodate both the brine and the hearts.

2. Make a cut down one side of each heart so the hearts can be opened up like a book. Hearts often come already slit.

3. Put the hearts in the cooled brine. Then place a weight (a small saucer or something similar) on top to keep the hearts under the liquid as much as possible. Alternately, open a large plastic freezer bag over the sides of the container, press down, and fill halfway with cold water, just enough so that the hearts are kept under the brine. Then cover the top in plastic or with a lid, to avoid spilling. There are lots of ways to keep the meat under the brine, and as long as it’s underneath the liquid, it will cure just fine.

4. After four days, remove the hearts from the brine and fit snugly into a pan with the 4 cups of water, the remaining heaping tablespoon of toasted pickling spice, and the chopped carrot, onion, celery, and ginger. If 4 cups of water isn’t enough to cover the hearts, add more until they’re just starting to float. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 2 hours, or until the hearts are tender.

5. Allow the hearts to cool in their liquid until you can handle them, then remove and trim off some the fat and remove the large central vein.

6. For storage, strain the liquid and keep the hearts in their cooking liquid so they don’t dry out. The hearts will keep in their liquid for 5 days. They can also be wrapped tightly in plastic, labeled, dated, and frozen for 3 months.

Editor’s note: the recipe was updated on Feb. 14 to clarify that pink salt is another name for Prague powder, a curing salt that contains sodium nitrite. It is not the same as Himalayan or Hawaiian salt.

Torta Ahogada at La Tapatia

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Here’s the moral of the story, right up front: Always try the sauce. Whenever you sample a new food, make sure you get the sauce involved; you might otherwise miss a vital chunk of the experience.

Roseville’s newly opened La Tapatia takeout counter has an extremely short menu, a commendable virtue. Customers can choose from tacos ($5.75 for two), burritos ($8), nachos ($9), or quesadillas ($8) topped with one of ten meats including asada, pollo, cabeza, lengua, tripa, fried cod, carnitas, chorizo, al pastor, or ground beef.

And then there’s the featured entree, the top of the menu, and the heart of the restaurant: the Torta Ahogada ($10) a Guadalajaran specialty that is, roughly speaking, a submarine sandwich served with a mildly spicy tomato sauce.

By itself, the sandwich is fairly bland. It’s a mix of avocado slices, shredded pork, onions, and refried beans on chewy bread. But once it has been liberally dosed up with the accompanying medium hot salsa and dunked, bite-by-bite, in earthy, spiced tomato sauce, it comes alive. The mellow, soothing flavors of the meat, beans, and avocado are boosted by the depth of the tomato sauce and the fire of the salsa, and the bread is robust enough to hold together what might otherwise be a messy dining prospect.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

La Tapatia’s tacos are solid, classic renditions of the form. They’re not so good that you need to divert from Lake Street or Central Avenue to order them, but not a bad choice if you’re in the neighborhood and in the mood. But the Torta Ahogada is something special. The only thing we’ve seen close to it is the Pambazo at Los Portales (above). The Pambazo was potato-focused and more soothing in cold weather, but the Torta Ahogada has the advantage of being dippable bite-by-bite instead of arriving pre-soaked.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

If you head out to La Tapatia, keep your eye on the addresses. There’s no external sign for the restaurant. There’s a massive statue of a gold eagle on top of the tiny strip mall that holds La Tapatia, and that should help you get there. (The gold eagle helps identify the location of a laundromat called — wait for it — Gold Eagle.)

The La Tapatia takeout shop functions as the kitchen for the El Tapatio food truck, and it’s not equipped for in-house dining; be prepared to take your food with you and eat elsewhere.

La Tapatia, 1237 Larpenteur Ave W, St. Paul, MN, 651.253.6175

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Heavy Table Hot Five: Oct. 6-12

hotfive-flames

Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

Varsha Koneru / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveClam and Summer Squash Pasta at Tenant
Tenant’s tasting menu had plenty of winners, but the very best of the bunch was this perfectly executed, handmade pasta. The beurre blanc stole our hearts, but the addition of briny clams, summer squash, and crunchy breadcrumbs took the dish over the edge. It was well-composed, balanced, and outrageously delicious, and we found it nearly impossible not to lick the bowl clean!
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Varsha Koneru]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveWurst Plank at Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery
Some of Minnesota’s best bratwurst (and there are plenty of good ones in this highly Germanic state) are being served at the freshly opened Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery in St. Paul. Both the currywurst and bratwurst boast a fine, even grind, an ideal load of spices and seasoning, and a casing that snaps without being tough or chewy. The Red Table hot dog pictured above isn’t too bad, either. The Wurst Plank comes with three sides of your choosing, and the ones we picked (sauerkraut, dumplings, and limestone potatoes) were all spot on.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Joshua Page / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveBeef Chili Pie at Savory Bake House
It’s officially fall (aka savory pie season). To celebrate, we picked up a Beef Chili Pie from Savory Bake House. After 20 or so minutes in the oven, it was an ideal cool weather lunch. The chili was hearty and simple, with plentiful ground beef. And the crust was dynamite: rich, flaky, and salty (but not overly so). There was no need for the usual chili accompaniments (cheddar, sour cream, Fritos) — the crust provided just the right amount of fat and crunch.  
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Joshua Page]

Ted Held / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveReuben at Insula
The Reuben ($10.50) at Insula in Ely is exactly the sandwich I wanted on the way into the Boundary Waters. And then again on the way out. Thick chunks of flavorful corned beef meld in perfect balance with melted cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island. The dark rye bread is crunchy and wholesome. It’s a manageable-sized sandwich, and the ingredients are all top-notch. Get a side salad. It’ll probably be the last green vegetable you eat until you get off trail.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ted Held]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveKinderKrisp Apples at Apple Jack Orchards (and elsewhere)
Our favorite orchard (see our exhaustive orchard fun analysis) is Apple Jack, and our new favorite apples are KinderKrisps. A (much) smaller version of Honeycrisps, these things are meant to fit comfortably into the hands of a four-year-old, but they make fine snacks for adults, too. Just get ready to polish off two or three juicy, crisp apples at a go.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #5 | Submitted by James Norton]

Fat Chance Sandwich Shop in Brooklyn Park

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

If you happen to be in the Brooklyn Park vicinity and in need of a quick meal, skip the strip mall Subway and Jimmy John’s. But don’t skip the strip mall entirely; instead, find the one with Fat Chance Sandwich Shop.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and the interior is fairly bare-bones, but on our visit, there was a steady flow of people lining up at the counter, waiting patiently for sandwiches made to order with ingredients either house-made (or, in the case of many of the meats, house-smoked) or sourced locally.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

What’s more, Fat Chance is treating sandwiches with a great deal of care and respect, and as a result, they’re turning out something far better than their strip-mall neighbors. Most sandwiches are available as a half or whole; everything we tried was a half, and that was sizable enough to share. All come on a choice of white or wheat rolls from Denny’s Bakery. The bread was sturdy enough to hold the fillings but still maintain a tenderness and lightness that didn’t weigh the sandwiches down. The fillings include several choices of cheese as well as mayo, pickles, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

There’s also a house-made giardiniera that diners can add on their own, a worthwhile garnish of spicy pickled vegetables with olives and olive oil.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The Tractor ($8, half size only) was a mix of mild pulled pork, a zippy andouille sausage, and crunchy coleslaw. Our tasters were somewhat divided on this one; some felt that a more assertive barbecue flavor accompanying the pork would have been welcome, while others liked the simplicity of the meat. But all agreed that the pork was beautifully cooked, tender, and succulent.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The Mother Clucker ($6 half, $10 whole) was a solid hit. The chicken was crispy on the outside and nicely seasoned, but juicy on the inside. That combo, along with the soft bread and crunchy vegetables, was a world of textures in a bite that brought the lowly sandwich into a more sublime category.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The real winner was the Haystack ($7.50 half, $12.50 whole), made of layers of tender, thin-sliced pastrami and pepper jack cheese, along with a spicy mustard. The pastrami was leaner than usual and not as heavily peppered, but it had a good smoky, beefy flavor that held its own against the spicier additions. With the aforementioned giardiniera it was pretty much perfect.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The sandwiches came with a big mess of French fries that were delightful. Fries are so easy to get wrong, and Fat Chance deftly avoids the multitude of possible errors by making crispy-on-the-outside, soft-and-pillowy inside fries that are served with a house-made dipping sauce that has mayo, sriracha, and a secret house seasoning. You could make a meal out of those alone.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

We weren’t planning on trying dessert — expectations were fairly low for the “dessert in a sandwich shop” offerings — but when we saw the “Have some life-changing cake” item on the menu for only $3, of course we had to try it. Said life-changing cake turned out to be a simple yellow cake with a brown sugar icing, not overly sweet, but fresh and light. Was it life-changing? Not in the “Won the lottery, quit my job, bought homes all across the world and a private plane to get to them” way. But in an “Oh, this brings me back to the cakes my grandma used to make from scratch as a treat for me that made me feel loved” way? Yes indeed, for a few brief moments, that piece of cake made life a little better.

It’s worth noting that Fat Chance offers a soul-food menu on Friday nights and all day Saturdays that includes fried chicken and catfish and a number of sides, such as collard greens. Given the stellar fried chicken in the sandwich, we suspect that a trip there on the weekend could be worth the drive.

Fat Chance, 8419 W Broadway Ave, Brooklyn Park, 763.283.5100; Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Heavy Table Hot Five: June 9-15

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Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

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James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveMuffaletta Sandwich at The Original on 42nd
The Muffaletta sandwich at the newly opened The Original on 42nd was described by owner Andy Lilja as the shop’s most popular. After having it, that’s no surprise: It’s all about the balance, with rich and tender meat, a yielding roll, plus nice crunch, acid, and heat from the giardiniera.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fivePatina Cocktail from Copperwing Distillery
The gin-based Patina at Copperwing Distillery is made with fresh basil and lemon juice. The refreshing acidity along with the savory herb restrain the gin and allow the botanicals to take the stage.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a story by Paige Didora]

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveLocal Strawberries at the Seward Co-op
We stopped by the Seward Co-op yesterday and found the first local strawberries of the season. And since we had been to the gym, we felt justified in thinking about a strawberry sundae with lunch. We used Sweet Science vanilla ice cream and a nicely bittersweet, homemade tangerine-caramel sauce based on syrup left over from candying peel. The berries were red throughout, tender and juicy, and sweet with a slightly tart undertone … in no way like their plastic-foam winter avatars.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]

Ted Held / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveBanh Mi at Peeps Hot Box
Encased in the quintessential banh mi baguette (crackly thin crust, impossibly soft interior), Peeps Hot Box’s version ($10) is just a slight tilt off the standard version. With its beautifully charred sliced pork, just enough cilantro and pickled vegetables to add fresh crunch, and rooster mayo (thank you for not calling it sriracha aioli!), this is a fantastic sandwich that marches boldly across the full spectrum of flavor. I’ll be looking for their truck again. Probably tomorrow.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an upcoming review by Ted Held]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveBlack Currant Dry Cider by No. 12 Cider House
Hard cider has come a long, long way from the sugary, watery, chemical-y garbage foisted upon us by massive multinational companies. Case in point: Minnesota-made No. 12 Cider House, which puts out a range of subtle products including its Black Currant Dry. Dry, subtle, and flavored with a mellow amount of tart astringency, this is a cider that would pair beautifully with any number of foods, playing well with citrus and/or earthy flavors.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

The Heavy Table Hot Five: March 3-9

hotfive-flames

Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - oneOatmeal IPA from Bent Paddle Brewing Company‘s Valve Jockey Series
Prompt a hundred beer drinkers to finish a two-word thought starting with the word “oatmeal,” and 99 of them will say “stout.” (We don’t know what the other person would go with, but you have to assume at least one out of 100 people are habitual goofballs.) Bent Paddle’s new Valve Jockey brewer-showcase series kicked off with an Oatmeal IPA, and it’s easily one of the best beers to come out in the past six months. As you’d think, the body of the beer is clean, classic, hoppy, and bold, but its finish is surprising — it’s mellow, sweet, and a bit buttery, nothing like the astringent snap you’re trained to expect. This makes Oatmeal IPA a lot less palate fatiguing than many of its brethren, and a lot of fun to drink.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

2-new - twoDouble-Smoked Hams at Kramarczuk’s
Twice a year, Kramarczuk’s offers double-smoked hams. They’re so worth the wait — deeply smoky, yet not at all dry or salty. They’re available for Easter presale right now, so snap one up. You won’t get the chance again until the end of this year, when they reappear for Christmas.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

3-new - threeRye Sour at Fitzgerald’s
Fitzgerald’s, which occupies the former Salt Cellar space, has a frightening number of TVs, but their cocktails make it worth it. Try the artful Rye Sour ($10), which gets a dry sangria element and its pink color from the addition of red wine. Rye cuts the sweetness, and the classic foamy meringue tops it off.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new fourCom Chay Cha Bong (Crispy Rice with Pork Floss) at Ha Tien Market
Crunchy, light, a little bit meaty, and kissed with a hint of spice, this crispy rice snack from Ha Tien is extremely difficult to stop eating. It’s made with pork floss, which sounds terrible but is actually an Asian spin on pulled pork, created by a process that involves the meat being cooked, pulled, mashed, dried, and mixed with flavorings. Our only complaint about this stuff is that it doesn’t come in larger containers.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

5-new -five Ale Battered Cod Smörgåsar at Fika
The Ale Battered Cod open-faced sandwich ($12) at Fika is at once hearty and light. The peppery watercress and curry rémoulade complement the cod, and the crispy texture of the fish and bread are spot on. A crumble of sharp cheddar adds dimension. It’s a meal in one pile.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

The Porchetta Sandwich at Smoqehouse in Faribault, Minn.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Amid the hobby shops and shuttered storefronts that comprise the Faribo West Mall grows a hopeful green shoot: a relatively new barbecue-focused eatery called Smoqehouse, which is serving one of the best sandwiches in the state.

The dish is a porchetta sandwich, an adapted Italian classic that has become a North Country staple. The Smoqehouse version is a marriage between tender, earthy pieces of pork and the substantial herbal kick of a bright, garlic-heavy salsa verde. Bread plays a critical role, too. The Brick Oven Bakery ciabatta that the sandwich arrives on is light and crispy, substantial enough to hold the thing together, but not so doughy or massive that it buries the flavor within.

“While researching butchery, my husband (Andy Kubes) came across an Italian butcher (Vito Bernabei) who specializes in porchetta,” writes co-owner Heidi Kubes. “He became really interested in the process and made it a few times at home for our family. We knew if / when we ever opened something we would want it to be on the menu. The pork belly is topped with our fresh salsa verde to contrast and enhance the richness of the belly.”

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Our lunch companion (a farmer, Tiffany Tripp, from Graise) vouched for the place across the board, and we’re sold on it. Beyond the porchetta are dishes including pulled pork, a brisket burger, and Cajun chicken, plus crispy, beautifully hand-cut fries ($3, or $5 for a large order) that could stand up proudly in a trendy North Loop bistro. The fries are cooked in lard and come with fry sauce (a Utah-beloved mix of mayo and ketchup). The result is heaven on a plate.

Smoqehouse has regional ambitions. Its second location opens in Northfield later this month. The quality food on its streamlined menu merits a visit the next time you’re within detour distance of either spot.

Smoqehouse, 200 Western Ave, Suite C5, Faribo West Mall, Faribault, MN; 507.334.1901. Or 212 Division St, S in the historic Archer House, Northfield, MN (opening soon).

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Salvadoran Panes con Pollo Sandwich at Abi’s Cafe

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

From the recently-gone-viral files: a homeless man walked into Abi’s Cafe on Lake Street and asked the proprietor, 25-year-old Cesia Abigail, for money. To make a short story shorter still, she offered him a job, and he accepted.

Abigail’s act of tough-love generosity suggests an important follow-up question: how’s the food at Abigail’s Salvadoran restaurant?

We ordered the shop’s trademark traditional Salvadoran Panes con Pollo ($11.50). It’s a chicken sandwich (often traditionally made with turkey) that’s big enough to feed two and moist enough to qualify as a stew. Everything about this sandwich is luscious — the rich, hypertender meat, the coleslawlike curtido that serves as a crunchy, bright counterpoint to the bird, and even the bread, which is a soft-but-resilient flavor sponge for all of the sandwich’s elements. The inclusion of a full drumstick in the sandwich is not entirely practical but ultimately charming — it’s a garnish with swagger.

When we chatted with Abigail, she was cheerfully overwhelmed by the attention her cafe has been receiving (check this New York Daily News story to get a feel for it), and working with an expanded kitchen crew to meet the demand. Everything we could ask for from a small startup restaurant is here: passion, serious sandwiches, and a big heart.

Abi’s Cafe, 1532 East Lake Street, Minneapolis; 612.721.0013

The Lamb Reuben at Seward’s Co-op Creamery Cafe

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

When you pay $14 for a sandwich, as you do for the Lamb Reuben at Seward Co-op’s newly opened Co-op Creamery Cafe, you expect something really serious. The Cafe delivers, in spades, serving up one of the best sandwiches in the Twin Cities. (See also: the best pastrami choices we highlighted in our recent grand tour of that art form.)

The glory that is this particular Reuben is the sophisticated interplay between the lamb (tender, earthy, bits of char) and the gently tangy, not over-sweet Thousand Island dressing. That the dark Russian rye bread it’s served upon has a stout texture and a strong but disciplined flavor is just a bonus.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

There are a lot of strong points of view represented in this sandwich, but they pull together like a stout team of oxen. Every bite is high-volume without being loud, and the texture is agreeable without being meek or soggy.

The Creamery Cafe, helmed by former Third Bird chef Lucas Almendinger, seems firmly dedicated to taking simple ideas (the turkey club, the grilled cheese, the hamburger) and throwing top-notch ingredients and technique at them. The Lamb Reuben is an example of how it’s done: a classic buffed to perfection.

Co-op Creamery Neighborhood Cafe, 2601 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406; 612.230.5575

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Muddy Waters in Lyn-Lake, Minneapolis

DWITT / Heavy Table

Polenta and Recipe Roundup

Sausage, potato, and cheddar quiche; broccoli-cheese casserole; pancake breakfast sandwich; and savory polenta.

Clancey’s Roast Beef Sandwich

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

A bit of advice when ordering a roast beef sandwich at Clancey’s: Always — always — nod enthusiastically when asked, “Would you like that with everything?” You might ask what “everything” entails, of course, just to hear the recitation of fantastic ingredients: baby Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, spicy stone-ground mustard, raw grated horseradish, pickled jalapenos, roasted sweet bell peppers, thinly shaved red onion, lettuce, and — only when the season is right — local tomatoes.

Barring any true allergies, there isn’t an element on that list you want to miss. No, not even the raw horseradish. This is a sandwich that is more than the sum of its considerable parts.

Let’s start with that baguette: It’s always crusty, without too much squishy middle stuff to get in the way, and it’s always made fresh at Rustica. In fact, when today’s fresh baguettes are gone, Clancey’s will hang a sad sign in the window explaining that they’re out of sandwiches for the day. That sign is in evidence less and less often, now that Clancey’s is fully confident of its neighbors’ appetite for sandwiches and has started ordering more bread.

The roast beef itself is a top round, cut from one of the steers Clancey’s brings in and butchers each week — this is a butcher shop, not a sandwich shop, after all. Clancey’s gets all its beef from Thousand Hills, Hidden Stream, or Hill and Vale farms.

That top round is roasted to medium-rare, then rubbed fresh out of the oven with herbs and garlic. When you bite into your sandwich and can’t quite put your finger on that faint, ineffable flavor, that’s the garlic rub, I promise you. According to owner Kristin Tombers, her shop goes through six or eight top rounds a week, and much of that goes into sandwiches.

Clancey's butcher shop sign exterior
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

As butchers, the folks at Clancey’s know their high-quality condiments. The mustard is Boetje’s, an Illinois favorite, and the mayo is the classic Mrs. Clark’s. While she nixed the idea of scratch-made aioli because of the sheer volume needed, Tombers wouldn’t settle for anything less than house-pickled jalapenos and house-roasted sweet bell peppers. (Once the sandwich has you hooked, you can usually pick up both these items in Clancey’s deli case.)