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Charcuterie you say?

A very popular trend these last few years that in my opinion is misunderstood. It seems that terms like charcuterie, tapas, mezze and other similar terms have become homogeneous. So let's get to the core of what this term actually means.

Charcuterie is a French term for a branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork. So far so good. At least in terms of bacon, ham and sausage. This is basically what you will find in your garden variety charcuterie board. But there is so much more.

The French word for a person who practices charcuterie is charcutier. The etymology of the word is the combination of chair and cuite, or cooked flesh. The Herbsts in Food Lover's Companion say, "it refers to the products, particularly (but not limited to) pork specialties such as pâtés, rillettes, galantines, crépinettes, etc., which are made and sold in a delicatessen-style shop, also called a charcuterie." Montagné in his 1938 edition of Larousse Gastronomique defines it as "[t]he art of preparing various meats, in particular pork, in order to present them in the most diverse ways".

So what are these other suggested offerings that seem to be missing from the typical fare of today and why are they not represented?

Pâté, terrine, galantine, roulade

Pâté and terrines are often cooked in a pastry crust or an earthenware container. Both the earthenware container and the dish itself are called a terrine. Pâté and terrine are very similar; the term pâté often suggests a finer-textured forcemeat using liver, whereas terrines are more often made of a coarser forcemeat. The meat is chopped or ground, along with heavy seasoning, which may include fat and aromatics. The seasoning is important, as they will generally be served cold, which mutes the flavors.

The mixture is placed into a lined mold, covered, and cooked in a water bath to control the temperature, which will keep the forcemeat from separating, as the water bath slows the heating process of the terrine. Pâté and terrine are generally cooked to 160 °F (71 °C), while terrine made of foie gras are generally cooked to an internal temperature of 120 °F (59 °C). After the proper temperature is reached, the terrine is removed from the oven and placed into a cooling unit topped with a weight to compact the contents of the terrine. It is then allowed to rest for several days to allow the flavors to blend.

Galantine is a chilled poultry product created after the French Revolution by the chef to the Marquis de Brancas. The term galant connotes urbane sophistication. Other origins are suggested: the older French word for chicken géline or galine or the word gelatin. Sources suggest the spelling of gelatin transformed into the words galentyne, galyntyne, galandyne, and galendine.

The galantine is prepared by skinning and boning a chicken or other poultry. The skin is laid flat, with the pounded breast laid on top. A forcemeat is then placed on top of the pounded breast. The galantine is then rolled with the ends of the breast meeting one another. The galantine is then wrapped in cheesecloth and poached in poultry stock until the proper internal temperature is reached.

Roulade is similar to a galantine. The two major differences are instead of rolling the poultry evenly for the ends of the breasts to meet, the bird is rolled into a pinwheel shape, and the roulade is cooled by chilling it after it has been removed from the poaching liquid.

Charcuterie falls within the department of the Chef Garde manger, a department well known in most major hotel operations. The job of this Chef is to turn leftovers into creative culinary offerings. In many hotels this department has disappeared not unlike the pastry department in favour of convenience products. Additionally, many of the skills required to execute well made charcuterie have gone by the wayside, again due to the movement towards convenience and reducing labour costs.

At Dinner Thyme we still go the extra mile to produce our own pates, sausages, cured and smoked items. We also make our own condiments, chutneys and cold sauces to accompany our charcuterie platters.


Chicken liver pate
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Cheers, and have a great week1

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