What’s old is new again in culinary terms

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Today’s Special

What goes around comes around, even culinary terms. Take “charcuterie” for example, a mouthful to pronounce. It’s one I have to think about before saying out loud: “shahr-KOO-tuhr-ee” with the accent on the KOO. And it is a mouthwatering mouthful to eat with the accent on texture and flavor.

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Charcuterie is a French culinary term from the 15th century meaning “cooker of meat” referring to the art of dry curing meats, primarily pork products. Think salami and hold that thought.

Historically it included pates (meat pies), rillettes (pork, duck, poultry, fish, rabbit slowly cooked in seasoned fat and pulverized into a paste) sausages, boudin (the French version is a delicate white pudding made from meat), salami and other preserved foods.

And yes, it’s very similar to “antipasto,” an Italian culinary term for “before the meal,” the predecessor of the appetizer. An antipasto tray also offers exciting flavors in smoked meats, cheeses, olives and marinated vegetables.

Now think meat and cheese board, which around here usually includes smoked sausages and cubes of cheese sprinkled with barbeque or Cajun seasoning, served with salty crackers and maybe a few pickles on the side and usually before or during a ballgame!  Admit it, most of us love a meat and cheese board.

Put all of these together and you’ll have today’s charcuterie!

Accidentally on purpose. So I made a tray of nic-nacs to nibble on while moving Zachary and Kristine into their new house this past weekend.

I looked in my fridge and found: deli slices of salami, turkey and ham, cheddar cheese cubes, baby carrots, cucumbers, smoked sausages that DW had grilled, and half a watermelon and packed it all in a cooler to travel to DeSoto County.

I picked up a green plastic tray, toothpicks, a box of Wheat Thins, and at the last minute, a container of Blue Diamond salted almonds. And DW reminded me to take the grapes, too.

At the new house I put it all together: rolled the meat slices, sliced the cukes, opened up everything else and placed it all in neat rows on the green tray.

I set it out on the corner of the kitchen island where most everything passed as it was moved in, with toothpicks, napkins and paper plates for convenience.

Moving day #2 I did it again, but added slices of smoked sausage and the grapes with the bowl of sliced watermelon on the side. I found Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce in their refrigerator for dipping.

Nobody went hungry and we didn’t even need to carry out for lunch, we just munched while we worked. And to my surprise Zachary said it looked like a charcuterie board… and so it was.

The possibilities are endless. Imagine: a slice of fresh cucumber, a cube of cheddar cheese, and a salted almond in one bite. Or, a slice of smoked sausage, a cube of cheese and a grape all atop a cracker with a dose of BBQ sauce on top…oh, the flavor combinations.

No rules, just right. Make a charcuterie board with these 4 “S” (es) in mind: sweet, savory, spicy and salty.  And think about flavor, texture and color as you assemble your choices.  It’s easier to eat if everything is bite sized and no eating utensils are needed.

For the sweet: fresh strawberries, grapes, apple or pear slices, blueberries, raspberries, dried apricots, figs, dates, or prunes.

Meats for savory: salami is a must to pay homage to the history of charcuterie; other sliced deli meats, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, prosciutto (Italian bacon) and sliced sausages.

Cheese (sliced, cubed or wedges) for more savory and salty flavors: cheddar, Monterey Jack, Edam, Havarti, brie, blue cheese, mozzarella balls, and gouda to name only a few.

Salty and crunchy: variety crackers, bite-sized toasted rounds of French bread, or pita chips for a start; and nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or seasoned toasted pecans.

Veggies: baby carrots, sliced rounds of zucchini squash, cucumber slices, sun dried tomatoes or grape tomatoes.

Flavor and crunch: pickles, cornichons, banana peppers, pepperoncini, olives, pickled okra, dilled asparagus or baby corn, and on and on.

Sauces: fruit preserves, BBQ sauce, spicy and grainy brown mustard, hummus, olive oil, flavored balsamic vinegars or even ranch dressing!

And since we’re making up the rules, your charcuterie (now I can spell it) could even carry out a theme: Mexican, Italian, Asian, maybe Southern with smoked pork and toasted cornbread rounds.

New name. After we left on Friday night, granddaughter Emree told Kristine she wanted the “green plate” for supper, so now that is what we will forever call a charcuterie board. And it’s so much easier to pronounce!