Prosciutto, rillettes, jamón. Lately, the words roll off our tongues with ease, as if glazed in creamy pork fat. Known as salumi in Italy and charcuterie in France, such cured meats were hard to come by here a mere decade ago, but a number of factors are conspiring to return small-batch charcuterie to our palates. Following the lead of our European counterparts, American consumers are taking an interest in "slow food," and artisanal butchers are stepping in to meet the demand. Add in the loosening of regulations surrounding imported meat, and the stage has been set for a charcuterie renaissance.
As a result, meatheads are learning to appreciate the true meaning of "local." Hogs raised on chestnuts in San Daniele, for instance, make for particularly nutty prosciutto, and air-drying in Spain’s cool breezes concentrates jamón serrano’s meaty essence. Such connections to a singular time and place–the terroir of meat, if you will–lend that salami hanging in the deli its timely appeal.
This bounty introduces new challenges, however. With so many choices, it can be daunting to plan a sophisticated, well-balanced spread for cocktail and dinner parties. In search of the quintessential charcuterie platter, we asked a few local chefs and meat purveyors to give us some advice. –Seth Lorinczi