Cured meats, a bit of cheese, nuts, dried fruit or berries, jams, jellies, honeycomb, crackers, baguettes. Put a spread together, call it charcuterie and watch people swarm.
Holiday entertaining at its simplest and finest!
It’s the time of year when hosts and hostesses are prepping for the onslaught. And no matter what the entertaining occasion, if you’re looking for an easy way to impress any mix of folks and feed them fast, the answer is cut and dried: charcuterie. And no one knows their way around a charc board better than Chef Steve McHugh of San Antonio’s always phenomenal Cured at Pearl.
The restaurant’s name is a nod to the fact that McHugh beat non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. But Cured is also all about the house-cured meats and a menu lovingly handcrafted with just as much care and faith from the finest, freshest local ingredients. Considering that he’s a four-time James Beard Foundation Awards’ finalist for “Best Chef: Southwest,” there’s little doubt that McHugh knows a thing or two about crafting great flavors that keep people coming back for more.
And he’s sharing his take on all things charc during, “Create Your Own Charcuterie Board”, a special evening at the Briscoe Western Art Museum, December 4th, 6-8 pm, with a side of history thrown in. After all, the art of charcuterie deals with the preservation, preparation and paring of meats. The early methods of food preservation that are common to charcuterie today were fundamental to human survival in the early days of the American West. (A perfect fact to drop as you munch away on a charc board during holiday gatherings!)
“Meat was dried, smoked, salted, brined and formed into rillettes in order to remain edible in the days before refrigeration, and to enhance the diets of Native Americans and settlers immigrating to the West,” explains Ryan Badger, Curator of Collections at the Briscoe Western Art Museum.
Whether you’re ready to hitch up your wagon and head west, or just host the perfect holiday get-together, don’t miss the chance to learn charcuterie from a master. McHugh will lead a flavorful hands-on session teaching how to craft charcuterie boards for any occasion. The evening includes wine and beer to sip as you create your board, a charcuterie board and tools to keep, as well as all the foods to create a board to your taste.
We asked McHugh for a sneak peek of the session, including insights into how to make a charc board look, and taste, great. He points out that charcuterie is great for any communal gathering, i.e., the holidays. “They are meant to be shared and work well with great conversation,” he notes. “The secret to a great board is to provide variety. Not just with the meats but also with the pickles, jams and mustards. This is the approach we take at Cured.”
McHugh’s approach includes curing the restaurant’s Jamon for two years, a process that’s worth the wait. He also believes that nothing is off limits. So charc like you want to charc: don’t worry that your mix may not be what others feature. “When it comes to personal taste I don’t believe in do’s or dont’s. Eat and drink what you like, not what you think is right.”
If you want to up your charc skills in time for the holiday season, make time to explore the world of charc with Chef McHugh at the Briscoe. Be sure to pre-register and register soon: the session is expected to sell-out. And if you want to sample some of the best charcuterie in the Alamo City, make time for lunch, dinner or brunch at Cured.
Cover photo courtesy Cured
Dawn Robinette is an award-winning writer and communications expert based in San Antonio who enjoys finding new discoveries, revisiting old favorites and telling stories. She regularly writes for San Antonio Woman and Rio Magazine. You can read more of her work at Alamo City Moms Blog.