Chef's Blog

April 28, 2018

Sea Change: Switch Up Charcuterie with Seafood

from Chef Gregg Nelson

Charcuterie is a French term for meat products such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit. Traditional methods of curing, salting, and smoking were originally intended to preserve pork after a pig was slaughtered, but these techniques have developed over the centuries into an art that has experienced a renaissance in these days of artisan foods and nose-to-tail utilization. Pâtés, meat boards, and other charcuterie specialties have become very popular in chef-driven restaurants, along with the Italian equivalent, salumi.

• Charcuterie of all kinds has experienced 64.1% growth on menus since 2013 (Datassential)

Seafood works for charcuterie, too—just think of smoked salmon, which is typically cured or brined before it’s smoked. In addition to being healthier and less time-consuming to make than pork, “seacuterie” has signature appeal that can command premium prices and really set a menu apart. Here are some seafood-based charcuterie items to consider:

Gravlax– This Nordic mainstay is typically made with raw salmon, cold-cured with dill, sugar and salt in a process that takes just a few days. Traditionally, gravlax is served thinly sliced, as an appetizer, along with mustard sauce and thin slices of bread or toast. But all kinds of fatty fish can be treated to this light curing process—bluefish, trout, halibut, striped bass. Different herbs and aromatics can used, such as cilantro, parsley, and even seaweed. You can add grappa, rum or another spirit to the cure. Some chefs even cure salmon and other fish with beets, imparting a distinctive color and earthy flavor.

Another possibility: cured saba, the Japanese mackerel which is a favorite of sushi fans, in which impeccably fresh fish is marinated for many hours in vinegar and salt.

Rillettes– Similar to pate, rillettes are traditionally made from cubed or chopped pork (or pork trim), salted and cooked slowly in fat, then chilled in that fat and served as a spread. The technique adapts easily to salmon—either poached or smoked—and other fish, using butter or olive oil and sour cream as the fat, along with seasonings such as shallots, lemon and chives. A similar method is used to make potted shrimp, crab or lobster, in which the cooked shellfish is chilled in spiced butter, and usually presented in a crock.

Pâtés and Terrines – The pinnacle of charcuterie art creates beautiful molded combinations of meat (pork, rabbit, duck, venison) and other ingredients, such as nuts, fresh herbs and even hardboiled eggs. Elegant pâtés and terrines can also be crafted with all types of fish, shellfish and vegetables, which when sliced present beautiful mosaics of color and flavor on the plate. More delicate and lower in fat than their meat counterparts, seafood pâtés pates and terrines represent an excellent outlet for creativity—and an outlet for salmon trim, broken shrimp, and other product.

Chicharrons – Pork and chicken skin can be turned into crisp, salty snacks and garnishes, and so can the skin of salmon, sea bass and other fish, deep-fried and seasoned. In fact, this is a great utilization for the skin removed from gravlax; serve the resulting chicharrons like potato chips as a bar snack, as a dipper for spreads or a “crouton” in salads, or plant like a flag in a crock of salmon rillettes.

Any of these seafood charcuterie items can be offered on its own, with accompaniments and garnitures such as crackers, sliced baguette, capers or caper berries, and fresh or pickled vegetables. You could also menu a spectacular shareable assortment of different housemade components, augmented by smoked seafood, high-quality imported anchovies preserved in olive oil or the white Spanish marinated anchovies called boquerones, poached shrimp, or even raw bar items such as oysters and clams. A mix-and-match platter that guests can customize is another great option.

Try This:
• Use Minor’s Flavor Concentrates to create brines and marinades for seafood (Ready to Flavor™ technology means they can be used without the additional step of cooking) and to create dipping sauces for items like gravlax and poached shrimp

• Mix Minor’s Ready-to-Use Sauces with sour cream or mayonnaise or use as-is as an accompaniment to smoked seafood and other seafood charcuterie

Minor’s new Greenleaf™ Pestos are ideal for use with fish and shellfish of all kinds

• Flavored butters, like this Shrimp Compound Butter or Piccata Compound Butter, can be used for potted seafood and to add flavor to toast or crostini served with seacuterie

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