Today's end consumers are looking for flavor. They want bold tastes, new experiences and something they may not be used to. While more traditional meats will always be a stable in commissary production, perhaps the inclusion of some modern — or not-so-modern — favorites can spark ideas and boost sales.
While charcuterie and the like are far from new — prepared meat products centering around bacon, ham, pates and confit have been around for centuries —it is undoubtedly seeing a rise in popularity, especially when it comes to non-traditional meats.
Alexian Pate & Specialty Meats had its line of what it says are refined products on display at June’s IDDBA show. The company offers a number of ideas for the use of pâté — mixtures of ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste —that could easily be formatted for central kitchen use. Instead of egg salad sandwiches, a course-cut pate can be layered on a sliced baguette with tomato and lettuce. Pre-packaged pate platters, with popular garnish companions like fruit slices, grapes, cherry tomatoes, cheese and cured meats are also an option.
Pate can also be fashioned into a dip, packaged and paired with pita chips. Lightly mashed vegetable or vegan pate lends itself perfectly to this idea.
Smoked, cured or brined meats can also lend themselves to new, flavorful salad creations. Zoe’s Meats, which also displayed at IDDBA, offers a number of new salad options. A spicy charcuterie froutosalata, for example, can be a refreshing fruit salad with a touch of spice and fine meats. Prociutto, dry cured coppa, mortadella pistachio, and garlic and herb turkey breast and added to peach, nectarine, strawberries, mint, garlic and more for a healthy, package-ready salad.
But taking advantage of these cured meats doesn’t have to include a recipe. It can be as simple as mastering the construction of a good charcuterie board and offering that as an alternative to packaged meat trays. According to Epicurious, charcuterie strategy doesn’t have to be complex.
Two ounces of charcuterie per person the package will feed should be enough, considering the richness of the meat. A decent variety of textures — think hard salami, something soft like pate, something tangy like a sour sausage and something that can be warmed up if the consumer wishes — will give customers, and the end consumer, a more exciting experience to sell and buy.
As far as slicing goes, salami obviously is best sliced cold. Ham and other meats are best sliced as thin as possible.
Garnishes and condiments, particularly those that add acid and crunch pair well with charcuterie. Fennel salad with lemon and oil, pistachios, olives, nuts, mustard and pickles are all good recommendations.
If pairing the meats with cheese, a good option is offering regional cheeses, especially those that offer a difference in texture.
If done well, these higher-end cooked meats can offer great alternatives to more traditional pre-packaged items sold in supermarkets and some c-stores.