Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Bits & Bites’ Category

Charcuterie 101

Whole books have been devoted to the subject. Techniques have been handed down through the generations, and different cultures have distinct charcuterie traditions. So what is this mysterious “charcuterie”? Pronounced shahr-kyut-uh-ree it is a French word that comes from chair “flesh” and cuit “cooked.” It refers to cooked, cured or smoked meats such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, rillettes, galantines, pâtés and dry-cured sausage. Charcuterie has been considered a French culinary art since at least the 15th century. The specialized store in France is also called a charcuterie and will have confits, foie gras and a selection of ready-to-eat dishes.

Charcuterie France

Germans sell their cured meats at a delicatessen, and Italians purvey salumi in a salumeria. In America many of the Italian salumi products are familiar, such as prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, sopressata and mortadella. If you’ve ever eaten antipasto you already know about charcuterie. Been to the deli and ordered a liverwurst sandwich? How about a cold cut sandwich? Both are charcuterie. Even baloney is charcuterie.

jamones A/4 2.tif

Spain is legendary for dry-aged aging hams from heritage breed pigs. Germany is noted for the frankfurter and Braunschweiger, among a myriad of sausages produced there. Poland offers the smoked kielbasa. And in the United States there are many that swear by the flavor of smoked and cured Virginia ham. Call it what you will, charcuterie is universal.

A Little History

Food traditions are often best understood in the context of history. With charcuterie it’s necessary to go back to the origins of Homo sapiens. Since every culture preserves meat in some form, it appears to be a foundational element of human survival. Imagine hunting, gathering and having to eat everything before it spoiled. This process would ensure a nomadic lifestyle and subsistence diet. However, if you could store food for later, you might settle down, build a shelter and put in roots. Since the origins of cooking meat are lost in our prehistoric past, it’s only conjecture that early man might have hung fresh meat near the fire to protect it, and discovered that it cured over the smoke and tasted quite good the next day.

Whenever it was that humans started to cook and cure meat, it has not stopped since. Sausage recipes date to before the golden age of ancient Greece, and traditional sausages have been made for over 2000 years in both Rome and France. The Romans set standards for raising, killing and cooking pigs, and they regulated the process. Centuries ago, Germanic tribesmen made fortunes selling salted hams made from acorn-fattened boars that were hunted in dense forests. But charcuterie really comes into its own in France during the Middle Ages.

In France, pigs were raised by virtually every household and slaughtered when the chill of autumn took hold, to fill the larders for the winter with lovely bacon, ham, potted pork and lard. To this day in the French countryside the pig slaughter and resulting day of cooking that follows is taken on as a communal ritual. And no part of the pig is wasted, from the intestines to the hooves.

Today, in the United States there is plenty of old-world style charcuterie available, both in restaurants and stores, and DIYers are rediscovering the joy of making charcuterie at home.

Edouard-Jean Dambourgez (French, 1844-1890) A Pork Butcher's Shop

Making a Charcuterie Plate

Just like a cheese board, a charcuterie platter is an ideal way to serve a party and please all palates. Arranging a charcuterie board is easy. It should have a range of items representing the various styles of preparation from cooked to dry-cured. The meats should be complemented by something acidic, like cornichons (tiny French pickles). Whole-grain mustard makes a nice accompaniment, as do olives or even black truffle butter. Allow two ounces per person, and serve with a rustic country bread, or good quality, plain crackers. A hearty red wine (but not too heavy) will make a good accompaniment, such as Côtes-du-Rhône, Gigondas or Madiran.

A charcuterie board might display:

Pâté de Campagne is a rustic, coarse pork pâté and is a staple in France
Pheasant Terrine Herbette, another coarse pâté made of pheasant, pork and fennel
In the dry-cured family Jambon de Bayonne, a thinly-sliced pork product is perfect
Saucisson sec is a dry-cured sausage, similar to salami, made of pork or sometimes wild boar
Mousse Truffée is a spreadable turkey/chicken liver mousse with black truffles
Smoked duck breast is air cured and smoked over natural wood

HPC_BastilleDay_Pate EDIT

 

It’s Charc Week!

All week we will revel in the glory of charcuterie – and we’re calling it Charc Week.

And you get to enjoy 15% off all things smoked, cooked and cured at dartagnan.com. Please share your charcuterie stories, pictures or anything charcuterie related with us on Twitter and Facebook – be sure to use the hashtag #CharcWeek.

HPC_CharcuterieSale14

#CharcWeek ends Sunday, September 7 at midnight EST.

 

Sandwich Savoir-Faire

August is National Sandwich Month!

We think a sandwich is perfect anytime, but in the summer a sandwich makes a neat solution for a quick dinner or a picnic lunch. On a hot evening who wants to cook? Opt instead for a cold sandwich with choice charcuterie and a bottle of rosé. 

Sandwich Quote

We have already laid out a little history and a plan for sandwich domination here.

You may want to just feast your eyes on a few of our favorite sandwich ideas…like this peppery saucisson sec tartine with refreshing slices of cucumber.

Recipe_Saucisson_Tartine_HomeMedium

This simple chicken salad sandwich, made with smoked chicken breast and chorizo, was a smash hit at an office tasting.

Chicken Chorizo Sandwich

And though we advocate the cold sandwich as a summer meal, it’s hard to resist the lure of this pulled duck sandwich.

Recipe_BBQ_Pulled_Duck_HomeMedium

Or the lobster roll with bacon, which is undoubtedly the perfect summer sandwich.

Recipe_Lobster_Roll_with_Bacon_HomeMedium

A spicy pressed chorizo sandwich with cheese and red peppers satisfies the heat seekers.

Chorizo Sandwich 2

Our smoked duck breast works well in a banh mi sandwich, that perfect melding of French and Vietnamese cuisines.

DSC_0654

However you enjoy sandwiches this month, reflect on how this simple and portable meal has infinite varieties, from haute to humble.

 

“America is a confirmed sandwich nation. Everywhere you go you find sandwich stands, sandwich shops, and nine out of ten people seem to stick to the sandwich-and-glass-of-milk or cup-of-coffee luncheon.” –  James Beard

 

 

Summer Freezer Sale: Save 25%

Use this rare opportunity to save 25% off customer favorites including organic chicken, Wagyu beef, Rocky Mountain lamb and more. Those in the know shop early and shop hard, because quantities are limited and the deals are hot!

HPC_SummerFreezerSale

We would like to highlight a few products that you might want to try while they are on sale.

A staff favorite, the Berkshire porterhouse pork chops weigh in at a whopping 16 ounces each (on average). Beautiful and juicy, they are pork at its best.

DArtagnan 2013_209

Our pasture-raised beef brisket is ready for the smoker or a braise in the oven. Whatever method you choose, this hardworking chunk of flavorful beef will serve you well at dinners and outdoor parties.

DArtagnan 2013_693

Guinea hen legs? Absolutely! Not eating guinea hen? You’re missing out on some dark, flavorful  meat.  They can be grilled or battered and fried like chicken legs.

Dartagnan 2_128

Our annual August Freezer Sale ends Sunday, August 17th, 2014 and quantities are limited so get shopping!

 

Go Wild for Wagyu with 25% OFF!

We’re have a sale on Wagyu beef this week!  For a limited time only, save 25% off our entire selection of Wagyu. Choose from gold-standard cuts like Boneless Strip Steak, buttery Beef Tenderloin or ultra-marbled Striploin. Buying a whole Wagyu Ribeye doesn’t just save you money – roasting on the bone gives you more flavor. And it gives you a lot of meat cred.

HPC_WagyuSale

Elevate your burgers with Wagyu Beef Patties. The 80/20 blend makes burgers so juicy, you won’t need condiments. And for something truly luxurious, try our Ultimate Burger Kit.

Ultimate Burger Graphic

Is your mouth-watering? Don’t delay, sale ends Thursday, July 31st at Midnight EST.

Playing Pinball, Three Musketeers Style

Meet the latest addition to our collection of all things Three Musketeers. This beauty now lives in the lobby of our office. And when it’s switched on, you can play for free! No centimes necessary!

Crop Machine

That is a circa 1964 Rally Three Musketeers pinball machine. Pinball, or un flipper, was once all the rage in the cafés of France. The sad truth is that the age of pinball is coming to an end, according to this article.

Rally was a French company that manufactured interesting pinball machines in the 1960s. They made history in 1966 with the first digital scoring pinball machine. This one, their interpretation of the Three Musketeers, involved three voluptuous babes with swords.

Pinball Machine 3 Pics

Better than XBox!

It’s all in English, because in hipster 1960s France, that was the language of cool, of rock n’ roll caché. Here are some close-up details of the playfield with its garish colors, medieval lettering and even Cardinal Richelieu.

Pinball Details

But the instructions are in French. Here are the cards with rules and prices – and not to worry, we’ve never wagered yet! Click on the photo to enlarge.

Pinball Details Instructions

For more about Rally’s pinball machines, check out the Paris Pinball Museum, where we found this ad for our pinball machine. Très cool….

Pinball Page

 

 

Interview with Ariane in The Village Voice

Ariane talked to Laura Shunk at The Village Voice recently. Here’s the story of the early days at D’Artagnan and the philosophy behind what we do. Get the low-down on organic chicken, heritage-breed pork and the state of  meat in general.

So go ahead, take a peek inside Ariane’s head in this interview.

Village Voice Screen Shot

 

Sweet Bacon! Ideas for Eating Candied Bacon

Candied Bacon Banner with Caption

It’s a simple enough idea. Take something good (Berkshire pork bacon) and make it even better (add sugar and spice). If you can resist gobbling it up right out of the oven, you’ll have a smoky, sweet treat to play with.

Here is what you will need:

Candied bacon ingredients CAPT

Coat your bacon in the sugar and spice mixture, lay the strips on the rack and bake in the oven at 350 degrees until the bacon becomes golden and crispy. Now it’s candy.

Let it cool and then try adding it to things. For instance…candy breakfast.

Oatmeal with bacon2 CAPT

Try to stop eating these. We dare you.  This completely addictive snack will vanish at your next party. So make a big batch.

Spicy Pecans Bowl 2 CAPT

And if there is room for dessert, we recommend a candied bacon sundae.

Bacon Sundae 2 CAPT

Anatomy of a bacon sundae

How about you? What do you like to do with candied bacon?

Poutine or Disco Fries?

Poutine – that Canadian dish of exquisite perfection – is getting a lot of attention these days. This simple dish is nothing but french fries covered in a special gravy and topped with cheese curds.  But, oh, what a winning combination!

Food bloggers swoon over poutine and post photos all over the internet (go ahead, have a look).  Au Pied de Chochon in Montreal offers a version with foie gras (yes!) and a new restaurant called Big Cheese Poutinerie just opened in Chicago, offering 30 variations on the theme. Tucson residents can look forward to the August opening of the first U.S. Fries, a Canadian restaurant which will offer a poutine-centric menu.

Clearly the time has come to embrace poutine. And we are so ready.

Wait. Cheese curds?  Not impossible to find in the U.S. But it helps to be near a dairy or cheese factory, because these rubbery little chunks of salty cheese must be eaten fresh.  They are sometimes known as “squeaky cheese” because they squeak against your teeth when you bite down.

Poutine has been adapted in the U.S., specifically in New York City and parts of New Jersey, where restaurants offer “disco fries.”  By the late 1970s a hot dish of fries with beef gravy and shredded cheese was de rigueur dining for disco divas with a lot of alcohol in their systems at  2 a.m. Or at least that’s what we gather from the history page at the website Montreal Poutine.

For anyone living in Northern New Jersey during the past 35 years, disco fries have been a mainstay on diner menus. The Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, NJ offers disco fries with gravy and mozzarella 24 hours a day. A review on Trip Advisor calls them “the best disco fries in NJ.”

Eating in South Jersey Disco Fries

Disco fries. Photo from Eating in South Jersey blog

But they are NOT poutine.

The main difference between poutine and disco fries is the cheese. Cheddar or mozzarella cheese is fully melted over the heap of disco fries, unlike the cheese curds in poutine, which melt and soften, but remain whole and add a lot of chewy texture to the dish.

Apparently, you cannot even compare the two in front of a Canadian. We have one in our office and she became quite agitated at them even being mentioned in the same sentence. Sorry!

So we decided to make poutine D’Artagnan style, which means starting with duck fat fried potatoes. There is nothing better than duck fat for frying potatoes. We used 4 of our 7 ounce containers of it in this recipe. The great thing about duck fat is that you can reuse it (if it’s not burned), so let it cool and pour it into jar. Fry something else in it later. You will thank us.

Fries in the pan on the tray

One batch in the duck fat & parcooked fries on the rack.

 

Gravy

The gravy – beef & chicken stock with demi-glace

Our gravy is homemade with real chicken and beef stock, though we went a little too heavy on the chicken-to-beef stock ratio. A good dash of our duck and veal demi- glace balanced out the flavor and made the color a bit darker.

Fries in a bowl

After the second fry

Fries need to cook in hot duck fat twice. The first time for 5-8 minutes to par cook and the second time at slightly higher temperature to crisp and brown nicely.  This will only take a few minutes.

Poutine

The finished poutine

We tossed the fries in a bowl with a little gravy, then added the cheese curds, a little more salt and it was divine. If you can get cheese curds, we suggest you give it a try. And if you can’t, try them with some foie gras instead.

 

Memorial Day Sale Going on NOW!

It’s the official start of grilling season and you will need some meat for that grill if you’re doing things right.

We thought you might like to celebrate with us and save when you buy for Memorial Day. Use the code MEMORIALDAY at checkout, through May 23.

HPC_MemDayBuyMore