How Seafood is Bringing Fresh Flavors to Charcuterie
Preserving meat and fish was once a necessity, and now it’s a trend — so much so that chefs are expanding their charcuterie programs by subbing pork for poisson. Bites like salmon pastrami, swordfish prosciutto and tuna ’nduja are filling boards for diners to share at the start of the meal, and the typical accompaniments of jams and mustards are finding apt replacements in small jars of creme fraiche. PB Catch in Palm Beach, Fla., Fiola Mare in Washington, D.C., and Kinmont in Chicago serve up some the finest line-caught “sea-lami.”
PB Catch, Palm Beach, Fla.
The folks at PB Catch are so committed to the pescatarian version of charcuterie that they trademarked the term “seacuterie.” “When we started doing this, it just seemed appropriate for a seafood restaurant, but I can’t believe how popular it is,” says Chef de Cuisine Aaron Black. Black is especially proud of his scallop mortadella, which utilizes scallops to make the both the “meat” and fake flecks of fat. “Mortadella usually has lardo, but we only use seafood, so we use bay scallops and pistachios for the garnish.”
It looks and tastes like the real thing, especially once accompanied by peach mostarda. Diners can opt to order three or six selections from the seacuterie menu to start a meal. Others standouts include salmon pastrami, octopus torchon and miso-cured escolar. Black appreciates that curing fish intensifies the flavor in addition to upping the cool factor.
Fiola Mare, Washington, D.C.
If you eat with your eyes, you won’t be able to take your peepers off Fiola Mare’s sea charcuterie board. Ribbons of swordfish prosciutto, rounds of scallop boudin blanc wearing caviar crowns and house-cured sardines swimming in a shallow bath of escabeche fill the tray for two or three people to share.
“I work in a seafood restaurant and I’ve done plenty of meat curing before, so why not apply that knowledge base?” says Executive Chef Brinn Sinnott. The top bite is from the bowl holding tuna ’nduja; Sinnott applied a recipe for the traditional Calabrian spreadable pork to tuna belly and loin.
While seafood charcuterie is trending, Sinnott appreciates the historical context. “In the time before refrigeration, food preservation was of extreme importance — you had things develop like baccala, where they salted fish on the deck of the ship so it would last forever,” he says. “They’re important techniques; we’re just putting it in another context. We don’t have to do it, but there’s certainly value in it.”
Kinmont Restaurant, Chicago
“A lot of people don’t eat pork, and diners aren’t eating as much meat,” says Chef de Cuisine Dennis Gutierrez. That’s why this seafood spot added fish charcuterie to the menu. The stars of the platter are smoked trout rillette, salmon gravlax and tuna conserva, with the rillettes being the most labor-intensive.
The trout is brined, head-on, for two hours in a salt bath spiked with lemon, black peppercorns and dill. Then it’s into the applewood smoker for additional flavor, color and texture. “Traditional rilletes have the fat of an animal — a rabbit rillettes, for example, uses rabbit fat — but since there is no fish fat, we use butter with capers and whole mustard seeds,” Gutierrez explains. The result is a savory and smoky spread.
The tuna conserva also benefits from being whipped — but with creme fraiche and housemade hot sauce. Next, Gutierrez hopes to add fish jerky or fish cracklins, using salmon skin that would normally go to waste.