The DIY charcuterie movement has finally reached country-wide levels of pervasiveness, which is a good and a bad thing. In the wrong hands, house-made charcuterie is a step down from store-bought options (the number of times I've had improperly emulsified sausages or poorly cured hams far exceeds the number of excellent ones I've had), and potential dangerous. In the right hands, the interplay of meat, salt, and time can be a truly revelatory eating experience.
Chef de Cuisine Dennis Bernard of Cask and Larder in Winter Park, Florida, has the right hands, along with the brains and humility to know when to use them. His impressive resume includes stints at Chicago's Blackbird and The Publican.
While not everything on the menu at Cask and Larder, the brewpub and sister restaurant to the excellent Ravenous Pig down the street features charcuterie, it's hard to come in and not want to order some.
In many cases, that charcuterie is wisely outsourced, like their Country Ham ($18), a carefully curated rotating selection of three hams from Kentucky served with farmer's cheese, pepper jelly, and crisp, buttery biscuits. They're about as good as you can expect a ham biscuit to be.
But if you want to get a taste of their house-curing prowess, order the Pickled Beef Tongue Crostini ($10).
The beef tongue is pickled for five days in a spicy, garlicky brine, then simmered in vinegar and aromatic-spiked water until it hits that stage of tenderness that the best New York delis strive for: not so soft that it melts on your tongue, but tender enough that your teeth pull through it with little to no resistance.
Served with a house-made beer mustard thickened with egg yolks hollandaise-style and a "Pastrami Dressing," (think: liquid pastrami) on toasted rye bread with a shaved carrot and herb salad, it comes across tasting like the finest open-faced corned beef sandwich you'll ever have.
Cask and Larder
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.