CHARCUTERIE FOR THE HOLIDAYS
By: Rosanna Pusateri-Ciccolini
In our house, charcuterie is a food group in itself. The selection of cheeses, meats and compliments isn’t taken lightly hence the reason it’s taken a “course-like” status at family gatherings.
And although cheeses and meats are—and always have been—a part of our everyday life; holiday is when I eagerly pull out the 4 ft long wooden plank(s) I use to display various assortments of goodies.
I can say with certainty that I get equal pleasure in selecting the elements of my landscapes to building the landscape to of course, tasting and toasting with a glass of my favourite California Cab.
Being in my mid 30’s and living in a world where health awareness can’t be escaped I made the choice to not deprive my body of foods instead live by my Mother’s words, “everything in moderation is fair”.
When you think of building your own charcuterie landscape, imagine the colours and textures you want to make it vibrant and interesting. Don’t put up barriers—there are no rules—-have the landscape flow into your favourite focaccias, colourful berries & nuts, olives and spreads. I recently dabbled into my inner Greek side (thanks to my Greek sister-in-law) and made spanakopita which took stage on the Thanksgiving landscape. Consider the landscape your spotlight, so don’t be shy to play with how you display the elements and incorporate bowls to hold things that call for it. Between your favourite snacks in the pantry and one visit to the grocery store you can create something memorable to enjoy this season with friends or family.
Below are my go-to products, tried and true; these are all so wonderfully worthy of sharing with the others in your life.
Cheese: There are times I like to keep the assortment tight with only 1-2 varieties and in this case I buy large impactful sizes. They look so striking on display; I keep the accompaniments clean and simple with 1-2 options, usually grapes or nuts and a jelly. Other times I choose a variety of cheeses that range in flavour, texture and potency. I like to precut pieces of each for easy picking and I like to have the cluster of items tight and touching one another.
The following are what I'm most likely to recommend when my friends ask for me for a cheese drawer makeover.
The 3-year old Parmigiano Reggiano, a staple.
For something soft: Tuxedo Triple Cream, La Campagnier from France or the NEW Carozzi spreadable Gorgonzolas.
For something special: Truffle Oveja from Spain has beautiful visible truffle veining with a semi-firm texture or Rouzair Brie with Truffles from France for something rich and smooth
For something lactose free: Kalbach Gruyer (Swiss)
For something delicate: BUFA Mozzerella or Gioiella Burrata *I also use the BUFA on pizzas and sliced into melted panini
For sheep’s milk: P’tit Basque From France— this will always be a special one for me as I chose to serve it 10 years ago at my wedding on our fruit and cheese platter, French Etorki or Manchego are also lovely and light
For something infused: Champagne Cheddar or Occelli Grappa Frutta from Italy
For something blue: Saint Agur, Castello
Jellies: These do have a higher sugar content however they elevate each bite to unmeasurable heights.
Sulpizio Tartufi Truffle Honey, let’s just say I’m thankful this is a 120 gm glass jar because this jar takes away all of my self-control.
I also love a jelly with a good kick, a quality red pepper ice jelly brings a blend of sweet and warm to the palate.
Cured Meats: I hope you are lucky enough to have, or know a Nonna who can teach you (or give you) homemade salami. It is gift of time and tradition that is pleasure in every bite. For those of us that don’t have that endless supply of fabulous product you can find the finest and most flavourful meats in-store. All meats are from Italy, aged, seasoned and cured to perfection in their traditional methods.
When you are in-store standing in front of a wall full of products consider trying delicate options like bresaola (air dried beef tenderloin) prosciutto, coppa, sopressata or serrano ham.
I love a good crusty baguette or the Pusateri black olive loaf. The olive bread is fluffy and beautiful, pungent and peppery in taste. It presents well whole or cut on the diagonal. The fresh olives are hand chopped into a paste-like consistency and generously embedded into the folds of the loaf. I certainly recommend pre-ordering this for yourself! A lighter wheat option is flatbread crackers or crispen “crackers”. Nothing overly powerful in taste but more than a simple water cracker is preferred with my crowd.
Whatever your pickings, whoever your company; enjoy the moment and accept the pleasure of quality ingredients and artisanal craftsmanship. Salute.