from Dallas Morning News / June 6, 2017 / Coryanne Ettiene, Special Contributor
If you haven't already, it's time to get on board the charcuterie craze sweeping Dallas. Not too long ago you needed a vacation to Europe or some hidden neighborhood in New York City to find mouth-watering charcuterie. But now, thanks to a growing number of butchers and chefs with a culinary curiosity for this time-honored technique, it is not hard to find a shop or restaurant featuring charcuterie with enthusiasm.
Jack Matusek, 25, of Raw Republic Meats is a native Texan from Yoakum who spent the last year studying the art of butchery and charcuterie from some of the biggest names in the industry. He is now completing his butcher training in Europe with the aim of returning to Texas to open his own shop in Fort Worth and a wholesale charcuterie program on his family farm in Yoakum.
"A big difference between Europe and the United States when you start talking charcuterie is prevalence," Matusek says. "Europeans initially preserved their meat using these methods before the invention of refrigeration. You can find some form of charcuterie or cured meat on just about every lunch table in France or Italy. Charcuterie is a staple in the European diet while it is emerging as a specialty item here in the states."
For him, charcuterie is "just like wine, certain tastes or hints in charcuterie develop because of the weather, protein source, or storage and curing conditions."
From spicy, tangy salamis to full-bodied, nutty pates, charcuterie embodies a wide-reaching plethora of incredible flavors and textures that whisper tasting notes specific to the terrain and environment it is produced in.
With so many old-world favorites and emerging flavors to choose from, Matusek says you can't go wrong with a quality prosciutto or culatello, both products from the ham that get aged for two or more years.
"With a curing cycle that long, some incredible flavors develop that aren't found in other types of short-term cured meats," he says.
If you are looking for something that will add a kick to your board, Matusek is in love with nduja, a spicy, spreadable salami. He recently dined at Knife Dallas and highly recommends their nduja and other charcuterie.
And for the adventurous eater, Matusek suggests lardo, a cured and seasoned back fat sliced paper thin.
"It's a delicious addition to a charcuterie board made from a part of the pig that usually gets overlooked," he says.
The rising popularity of charcuterie in Dallas is due in great part to an emerging number of local chefs who are experimenting with curing meats. Start at Lucia in the Bishop Arts District and order their salumi misti — a tasting of house-made cured meats such as lardo, nduja and rabbit terrine.
Pop over to The Blind Butcher in Lower Greenville for another take on in-house cured meats. Chef Oliver Sitrin's menu is what he calls "worldly local," adapting with the seasons and sourcing local to match his global palate.
For Sitrin, the charcuterie trend appeals to the artisan, small-batch consumer that is gaining momentum. It's thanks to the "animal movement that is helping people become aware of waste, but also moving them to try different parts of the animal they may not have been willing to try before," he says.
"Recently we have had more people asking for fun things like head cheese, rillettes and anything pastrami," he adds. "We do a few different types of bacon, and people seem to really enjoy anything you can turn into bacon these days."
His menu reads like a love letter to cured meats. It's reminiscent of old world flavors but with a contemporary flair that draws you in and sparks a hungry meat-eater to try everything.
Try it at home
For those looking to embrace charcuterie at home, Jimmy's Fine Food Store in East Dallas has been dishing up charcuterie long before it was a buzzword on the tip of every foodie's tongue.
Visit on a Saturday afternoon and you will find yourself sharing a line with locals hungry for smoked prosciutto or Beretta spicy salami. Their old-fashioned deli counter packed with a huge selection of charcuterie, cheese and Italian delicacies is a must for those looking to create the perfect board.
A learning environment
You can always try your hand at curing your own meats. There is an emerging number of home cooks and hobby butchers that are learning the art of charcuterie with the hope of crafting their own spin on traditional cured meats inspired by restaurant boards and deli counter finds.
Matusek isn't the only chef passionate about educating consumers and chefs on the art of charcuterie. A variety of workshops by trained chefs and butchers are appearing across the country. You don't have to attend full-blown culinary school to get a taste of the cure.
Cuisine University held a charcuterie and salumi workshop in Dallas in April taught by chef Brian Polcyn, author of Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.
"The recent popularity for charcuterie has been going on for about seven years, maybe a little longer," says Vic Rose of Cuisine University. "Chef Polcyn's book was the one book that really got many of the young chefs interested in charcuterie."
You could also head to Austin and visit Salt & Time, a butcher shop and restaurant, for classes on meat curing basics and sausage-making.
Coryanne Ettiene is a McKinney freelance writer. / Dallas Morning News / June 6, 2017