- If you sliced meat a little too long in advance of serving, brush it with a little olive oil and it will regain that juicy look. (I actually used this trick on one of my practicals, using butter instead).
- Cut chives with the top-half of your knife – using the handle-end crushes them rather than slicing them cleanly.
- Use grade ‘a’ foie gras for terrines, and grade ‘b’ is you’re going to sauté it.
Todays charcuterie class was ‘condiments’. Condiments aren’t something I immediately associate with charcuterie, however it’s pretty hard to eat all that meat and fat without something acidic or sugary to cut through it all – hence condiments!
And now that I think of the various charcuterie boards I’ve had at restaurants, there are always pickles, dried fruits, or something to cut through all that meat. The first condiment on the agenda was mustard. Do you know what the main ingredient in mustard is? Mustard!!!????!!!! I was a bit confused at first, but when designing charcuterie condiments, you want to be in control of the taste, and bottled mustard (even Dijon) just isn’t going to cut it. So, in goes the dry mustard, sugar, salt, egg yolks, vinegar and honey, whipped somewhat like a hollandaise over a warm bain marie. This mustard was spiceeeeeeee! – designed to cut through Duck Foie Gras terrine.
Next was the Cumberland sauce, which is like a thin jam, of red currants, orange, lemon, shallots, dry mustard, salt, cayenne and ginger. Can’t say I would have ever though of putting these flavours together, but it’s also a good complement to strong tasting meats. My favourite was the onion & raisin chutney, which included cider vinegar, brown sugar, turmeric, cinnamon, bay leaf, s&p.
The pickles were basically cucumber slices, and a pickling sauce (which had vinegar, celery seed, allspice, turmeric, jalapeno, mustard seeds, sugar, water).
As ‘charcuterie’ is a slower process, you work on many dishes, bits at a time. For instance, a) we poured aspic into our pate en croute through the chimney holes to seal it so it will keep much longer (see title picture). b) We poached our foie gras ‘torchons’ (think plastic wrapped sausages of foie gras). c) We cooked, cooled and then weighed down our duck foie gras terrines with a brick. d) We flipped the pork bellies that are being turned into bacon, re-dry rubbed them, and pressed them down again with three bricks. Who knew you used construction bricks in the kitchen? (btw, the average brick weighs about 5 pounds). How long does a dry cure take to permeate into meat? For bacon it takes about 48 hours per inch. Fish it’s 24 hours per inch.
Charcuterie is definitely a slower, less hectic, more artisanal approach to food. It is also somewhat more meticulous, a bit like baking. The flavours are being concentrated and concentrated over a long period of time, so the balance between the meat, fat, acid, salt, and remaining flavors has to be perfect going in, because it’s too late after two weeks. This is why the beginning products have to be higher quality. A bit counterintuitive, because I’ve always thought of charcuterie as using all those bits that can’t be used anywhere else. Not so. The pigs are a fed a special diet (pig meat and fat takes on the flavor of the pig feed quite readily), so pigs fed on nuts taste very differently than pigs fed on grain. Also, we’re using grade a foie gras. Foie gras comes in three grades a, b, c. Generally grade a is used for most terrines, and grade b is used when you want to sauté it. Grade b has a lot more veins and tendons which have to be removed, thus messing up the smooth look.
It’s off to the airport…..wait….uh, American Airlines just called and our flight is cancelled… and…. the first available rebooking isn’t until Christmas night…..thanks alot AA, ….. luckily there are two seats left on a Porter flight tomorrow which we just grabbed.
Merry Christmas everyone, speak to you next week.