Charcuterie

CharcuterieCharcuterie is a word that is thrown around a lot but do you really know what it is?
Most people assume that charcuterie refers to salami and other similar foods. This is basically correct but actual charcuterie refers to so much more.

Charcuterie is a French term for the art of cooking devoted to prepared meats—though the practice is not limited to just the French. Every culture on the planet has their own version. This includes bacon, ham, sausages, pâtés, and confits. These preparations are primarily made with pork but include a whole range of other domestic and game meats. Salami, salumi, smoked meats, brined meats, rillets, jerky and even olives are considered charcuterie.

The practice of charcuterie was born out of necessity to preserve meats to keep them edible. In the case of sausage, it was also a way to use parts of the animal that would otherwise be wasted. Over the centuries, what was once a necessary chore evolved into an art form that produced a product with a wide variety of amazing flavors.

There are a number of categories that make up the foods of a traditional charcuterie. The following are just a few:

Salumi/Salami
Probably the most recognizable and popular charcuterie but confusing since most people don’t understand the difference.

Salumi is the process of preserving and salting cured meat which traditionally means pork. The major muscles of the pig are cured to create meats such as pancetta, prosciutto, and coppa.

Salami is a fermented salt-cured or cooked sausage and is a subset of traditional salumi. Salami is made from a combination of meat, salt, and spices. And, it generally always has 20-30% good pork fat. It is then fermented and dried with a combination of either pure pork, beef, or other meats. After a few days, the fermented meat is dry cured and sometimes lightly smoked.

Forced Meats
Forced meat is any raw meat that has been finely ground and emulsified with fat. The term comes from the French word farcer which means to stuff. Forcemeat is often combined with spices herbs or other ingredients to make sausages, pates, or terrines. There are four kinds of forced meats:

Straight is produced by grinding equal parts pork and pork fat with a third meat—it can be also be pork or another meat. (This is confusing until you actually try it yourself. Then it all makes sense.)

Country-style is known by its more coarse texture, country style forced meat is a combination of pork and pork fat, often with the addition of pork or chicken liver and garnish ingredients. Country Style pate is a great example.

Gratin has some browned meat mixed in with the raw.

Mousseline has a lighter texture and is made from lean cuts of veal, poultry, fish, or shellfish which is then pureed with eggs and cream.

Confits
Confit is the process of salting, slow cooking, and sealing meats under a blanket of fat. It comes from the French word confire which means to preserve. In addition to being delicious, confits have benefit of being long keeping and can prevent meat from spoiling. Examples include duck confit or tuna confit which uses olive oil.

Rillettes, a charcuterie staple, are potted meats that can easily be made from shredded confit meats. We have a recipe for Pork Rillettes in our archive which is a fun cooking project. We also carry Groix & Nature Salmon Rillettes at the store.

If you are interested in trying your hand at making your own Charcuterie, we recommend starting with a pâté. This recipe for Country Pâté makes enough to freeze some for later. It will last up to 7 days in the fridge.

Country Pâté
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields 20 servings Read more…

How to Spatchcock a Turkey

How to Spatchcock a TurkeyBecause we’re still living through a pandemic, Thanksgiving is going to be different this year for most us. Many of us who have never cooked a Thanksgiving feast will be trying it for the first time—which can present any number of potential problems. A quick search of recipes for a roasted turkey will give you thousand of options to choose from. But, what do you do if you don’t have 5 hours to prepare it or, more common than you think, a normal-sized turkey won’t fit in your oven?

Roasting a turkey can be scary if you are doing it for the first time because roasting a stuffed turkey can be tricky. You need to roast it long enough that it is actually cooked but not so long that the meat is dried out. It is definitely a balancing act. One of the best ways to combat the challenges, we have found, is to spatchcock your turkey.

Spatchcocking, or butterflying, is a technique often used for cooking chickens but it works equally as well for turkeys. The process is quick and easy, especially if you have some good poultry sheers—which are a great addition to your kitchen arsenal, if you are willing to make the $25 investment. They are useful for more than turkeys.

By spatchcocking your turkey, you will make it easier to fit a larger bird in your oven and you will also cut down on the cooking time considerably. This is where finding a recipe specifically for a butterflied turkey is essential. The one drawback to cooking your bird this way is that you will not be able to cook the stuffing in the cavity of the turkey. For some this can be a deal breaker.

To spatchcock your turkey all you have to do is remove the back bone of the bird. Once you have done that, flip the bird over and press down hard on the breast bone to crack it and to get the turkey to lay flat. Tuck the wing tips underneath and you are now good to go.

See this video from Serious Eats to see how it’s done…

Freezing Meat for Best Results

Freezing Meat for Best Results

If anything is true these days it’s that our shopping habits have been thrown totally off-kilter. It’s no longer logistically feasible to go to the store multiple times a week especially when you get there and they may or may not have what you are looking for. And when you’re trying to not go out too much, a once-a-week “big shopping trip” is necessary. Using your freezer to store food becomes essential rather than just convenient.

I think most people would agree that cooking food, especially meat, that is fresh is better. But, if you take the time to protect whatever you plan to freeze the results can be almost indistinguishable. So how do you do that? What’s the best way to store meat in the freezer?

The key to freezing meat is to make sure that there is little to air that can get in and spoil the meat. You can do this in a few ways.

If you have the opportunity and/or space for a vacuum food sealer it can be life-changing. Vacuum sealing meats, veggies, or fruits can ensure you have fresh-tasting food always on hand. Pandemic or not, it can be a real time saver when you can’t stop to pick something up at the store for dinner. The devices themselves are reasonably affordable depending on the make and model. But, the refill bags and rolls can be pricey if you are using them a lot. When you consider that sealed and frozen meat can last up to 6 months with no issues, the benefits might just outweigh the negatives.

If you don’t have the luxury of a vacuum sealer, you will need to wrap your purchases making sure that as little air can get in as possible. Here are two ways that work for me. Although, you can find various opinions and possibilities out there on the web.

The first method is with good-quality plastic wrap. Place the meat to be frozen on the plastic wrap and fold one of the sides over. Press down on the plastic to smooth it out and get rid of any air pockets. Fold the other side over and do the same thing. Fold the sides in one at a time, again smoothing them out to eliminate any air. Wrap the meat in a second layer of plastic wrap using the same technique. Place the double wrapped meat in an airtight layer of aluminum foil or a sealable freezer bag and place it in your freezer. Don’t forget to label the package with the contents and the date. Use the meat within a couple of months for best results.

The second method is with butcher paper. Again you want to make sure that as little air as possible can get in. Place the meat directly on the waxed side of the butcher paper and fold one side over. Smooth the paper with your hands to remove any air pockets. Tightly fold the other side over and smooth it out again. Fold the sides in once at a time and secure them with tape. Wrap the whole package in an airtight layer of foil. Tape the foil shut and mark the package with the contents and the date. Again use the meat within a couple of months for best results.

Duck Breast

Duck BreastIf you are looking for something memorable for dinner either for a special event or for a romantic dinner for two, a beautiful duck breast can be an elegant alternative to a filet mignon.

Most of the duck available in the American market comes from the Pekin (also known as Long Island) breed which is a small fatty duck with a reasonable price tag. However, in recent years, the Muscovy duck, which is a larger more lean variety, has become more readily available and popular despite its higher price tag.

While you can find whole ducks on the market, it is more common to find them broken down into pieces like legs and breasts because of the versatility of using smaller pieces.

Duck meat is unique from other poultry in that duck only has dark meat. This means that the duck breasts should be treated more like a steak. It can be cooked to a lower internal temperature than other birds like chicken and duck is ideally served rare to medium-rare. Unlike other red meats, duck breasts are leaner and have less saturated fat.

Duck breasts are best prepared sautéed over medium heat, starting with the scored skin side down, so that the fat has time to render making the meat deliciously moist and the skin becomes wonderfully crispy.

Pan-Seared Duck Breast Recipe
Yields 4 servings
This is a straightforward and simple recipe. You start by scoring the skin and then cooking the breast slowly so the fat can render away. Just don’t skip the demi-glace—it’s the secret ingredient to this dish! Read more…