For the longest time, we Americans served, ate and talked about “cold cuts,” most often laying a slice of this or that across bread to make a sandwich. This was, among other things, the American working man’s and the American school kid’s lunch throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Little did we know we were starting to dabble in what the French call “charcuterie” and the Italians, not to be outdone, insist on calling “salumi.”
Also little did we know: the tradition of cured and cooked meats enjoyed from a board or platter would eventually seem almost as American as apple pie. Or pizza. Or kung pao chicken. Or that our own American chefs would go to special schools to learn not only how to arrange the stuff but how to make it from fresh meat.
An upcoming class at the Culinary Adventure Cooking School by a dynamic duo from San Antonio will share insights and laughter right along with no small amount of meat.
“The diet trends have shifted, along with the many options offered at grocery stores,” offers Monica Nino, who serves as half of The Board Couple along with Bryan Gonzales. “More of the popular diets include fattier meats and cheeses and have leaned less toward making these European favorites a taboo. Grocery stores are also doing a phenomenal job of sourcing products from all over and expanding their variety of options in the deli and store aisles.”
The Board Couple class is Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. Guests can book under Cooking School at www.jelly.com.
Monica and Bryan also credit the popularity of charcuterie to cooking shows on television, especially those that go back to some of European cuisine’s roots and the central position enjoyed by sausages, salamis, hams and other traditional charcuterie meats. The popularity of sometimes exotic European cheeses figures into the equation too, especially the incredible variety beyond Brie from France and beyond Parmesan and mozzarella from Italy.
As charcuterie has gathered steam as a food trend in this country, it has happened alongside a deepening appreciation of wines, both Old World and New. Charcuterie was created and culturally enshrined as the perfect accompaniment for wine – both preferably local. Areas in Europe that hit home runs with meats and cheeses from a few block this way down the street often hit home runs with wines from a few blocks down that way on the same street.
“Passing on traditional techniques is necessary to preserving and refining the art,” says Bryan. “I would just hope that with the popularity of charcuterie, it promotes more sustainability with specialty farms that produce charcuterie meats and amazing farm cheeses.”
When is a recipe not really a recipe? When it’s a recipe for French-style charcuterie, since you can put anything you like on this particular board or platter. That’s what the French do, after all, as do the Italians when they serve their salumi. We’ll toss in a recipe for Parmesan Cheese Sticks that go wonderfully with whatever you put on the board.
1 small head green leaf lettuce
1/3 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
1/3 pound thinly sliced dried Italian salami)
1/3 pound thinly sliced mesquite-smoked deli turkey
6 ounces cheese (such as provolone, Asiago, or Parmesan)
1/4 cup jarred cocktail onions
1 cup gherkins or cornichons
4 tablespoons Fischer & Wieser mustard
4 tablespoons Fischer & Wieser jam or jelly
1 12-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 (12-ounce) jar pimento-stuffed olives
1 large baguette, sliced into round
Arrange the lettuce, prosciutto, salami, turkey, cheese, onions, gherkins, mustard and jam on a platter. Serve with the artichoke hearts, olives and baguette slices. Suggestion: Take the cold cuts out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before placing them on the platter. At room temperature, they’ll be tastier, more tender, and less likely to tear. Serves 4-6
PARMESAN BREAD STICKS
1 rectangular sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Carefully flip the pastry over and repeat with the remaining parmesan cheese. Cut the pastry crosswise into long thin strips. Lay the strips side by side on the prepared baking trays. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the pastry is nice and golden. Transfer to a platter to serve.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Lay out the sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle half of the cheese all over the top and, using a rolling pin, lightly roll the cheese into the pastry. You should apply enough pressure so that the cheese is pushed into the pastry, but not so much that you change the size of the rectangle.