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The Holiday Charcuterie Platter

| 12/1/2015 11:48:00 AM

Cured Pork Belly 

Still basking in the glow of a successful Thanksgiving dinner, our thoughts move on to our Christmas Eve Feast. We stick with tradition for the most part on Thanksgiving. We did tweak a few things – a boudin and cornbread dressing, homemade green bean casserole (no cans of soup or fried onions here), a smoked then fried turkey, and a pumpkin pie from real roasted pumpkins with a brûlée topping. Throw in a sweet potato pie from homegrown sweet potatoes, and you had the makings of a really great meal. Nobody left hungry, and everyone took home a doggy bag.

For Christmas Eve, we try to get creative and have some fun with the meal. What originally started a few years ago as a “Feast of the Seven Fishes” evolved into a “Feast of the Seven Dishes” when we found out the family was not really that crazy about eating seafood in general, let alone seven different seafood dishes. Last year’s feast poked fun at the whole gluten-free, locally sourced, artisanal, name the farmer pretensions, with tongue-in-cheek paragraph long descriptions of each dish and its ingredients.      

This year’s menu is still under development, but one thing is for sure, we are putting together a charcuterie platter that will include several items we have made ourselves. Charcuterie is a branch of cooking dedicated to the preservation of meat. It encompasses many different types of processes and techniques. Most of the techniques can be readily used by the home cook. Some special ingredients and equipment are needed while things like a second refrigerator definitely make the process easier.

Testing the recipes has become an important part of our preparation. When putting together a multi-course meal like this for a large group, getting the timing down for the preparation and plating of each dish is important. Can anything be done in advance? When does the oven or the fryer need to be turned on? Does course three clash with course four and more? If preparing your own cured meats, you also need to make sure that you allow enough time for the meat to be ready. For this, my first year preparing home cured meats, I chose recipes utilizing a short curing time.

Finding the right recipes is very important. Preserved meat recipes need to be properly vetted and tested to make sure they are safe - because a case of food poisoning is not the Christmas gift you want to give your guests. Make sure your recipes come from reputable sources and then follow all directions closely. Once done, closely examine the final product - if there is any doubt about its safety, throw it out.

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