The practices of salting, curing, and smoking meats for preservation and flavor have long played an integral role in Louisiana’s rich culinary traditions. After all, how would we make jambalaya or red beans and rice without our beloved smoked Andouille sausage? Once adapted as a way to extend the shelf life of meats before modern day refrigeration, the curing process has now become a bit of a gastronomic art form. Here in ever-progressing New Orleans, local chefs are combining old-world methods of preserving meat with a new age approach to flavor and presentation. Much like an artist’s paint palette, a chef’s charcuterie board provides an ever-changing array of meats, jams, pickled vegetables, and condiments necessary for diners to create their own individual bites of culinary masterpieces. Here are five places where charcuterie boards are a true a thing of flavor and beauty in New Orleans.
1. Mariza – Located on the first floor of the Rice Mill Lofts, this charming new addition to the Bywater boasts contemporary Italian fare and an impressive charcuterie board. Hogshead cheese is rolled into a ball, fried, and served on a pool of spicy mustard. Salty pork and beef pepperoni and prosciutto are complimented by a spoonful of house made blueberry mostarda (a classic Italian condiment made from candied fruit and mustard flavored syrup), pickled onions and beets. Assorted olives and a crispy cracklin are just the icing on the cake.
2. Cochon Butcher – When one thinks meat-centric menus in New Orleans, it’s only natural to immediately think of this Donald Link institution. The $14 charcuterie board (which changes every two to three days) is currently sampling Butcher’s Leighann Smith’s dry-cured coppa, spicy fennel salami, duck rillette, bresaola and chicken galantine. Accouterments include Cochon’s own Abita mustard, chow chow, house made crackers, and seasonal jam. This place is not to be missed.
3. Crescent Pie and Sausage Company – Well, the name certainly says it all. Pecan wood smoked Creole Chaurice (a highly spiced pork sausage) is Chef Bart Bell’s signature sausage, but his Andouille and bratwurst are some of the best in the city, as well. Try a daily selection of sausage with cheese or condiment pairings for just $15. Oh, and don’t miss out on the pan-fried mac and cheese.
4. Root – Locals continue to flock to Chef Philip Lopez’s Warehouse District eatery to sample his inventive flavor pairings and show-stopping presentations (seared scallops served in a cigar box, anyone?). But what I was most impressed with was the “Socials” menu, consisting of charcuterie and sausages. Create your own board from the lengthy list of options at $9 each, or if you have a large party with adventurous palates, go straight for the Chef’s Selection at $55. Truffle-scented chicken liver parfait, “face” bacon, pate de campagne, rosemary cured guanciale, Moroccan spiced pork and duck rillettes, and chocolate espresso cured lamb loma are just a few of Lopez’s inventive selections. House made marmalades, jams, and pickled vegetables make for optimal flavor combinations.
5. Toups’ Meatery – Located on N. Carrollton in Mid-City, husband and wife duo Isaac and Amanda Toups’ menu displays a solid knowledge of food and wine. The charcuterie board features a daily selection of house made cured meats and condiments but some mainstays are the ginger-lemongrass barbecue meatballs, rillons (cubed pieces of pork belly that are slow-cooked to a candied-like consistency), and hogshead cheese. And if foie gras is your thing, don’t miss out on the torchon with seasonal jam and spiced pecans.
*All photos by Emily Smith