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Chris Shepherd On Underbelly's Charcuterie

"Charcuterie at Underbelly"
"Charcuterie at Underbelly"
Photo: Ellie Sharp

Ask Chris Shepherd how he feels about his charcuterie program at Underbelly and he grins like a proud father, "[When it's] in full stride, it's one of the best I've ever seen. We do a good job." Here, where Shepherd and his butcher Javier Salvador oversee the blossoming and noteworthy meat curing process, no statement could be truer. The custom of salting & curing meat (or pickling in the case of vegetables) speaks to a time in history when such preparations were critical to storing food safely. Today diners have the luxury of sitting amongst friends and relaxing in Underbelly's spacious dining room, while noshing on an exemplary selection of preserved Texas pork, beef, and locally sourced produce.

Behold the charcuterie plate at Underbelly: a collection of ribbons and rounds, slices and mounds of meat so beautiful it begs to be viewed not as mere food, but as art. As Shepherd puts it so well, "We try to find the most beautiful animals and go from there."

Before you get your hopes up, the typical charcuterie plate at Underbelly consists of 4-5 offerings representing their 15-20 types of styles, not the behemoth platter depicted here. That said, we present to you a list of everything currently available – and offerings of which you will likely procure should you pay Underbelly a visit anytime soon.

"Charcuterie at Underbelly" [Photo: Ellie Sharp]

1. Country-style pate:
Traditional coarse-ground pork (including hearts and liver) is wrapped in lardo aka cured back fat. Some form of fresh charcuterie element like a terrine or pate is ever-present on Shepherd's menu.

2. Coppa:
Sourced from peanut-fed pigs (Shepherd comments that peanuts add a richer mouth-feel & texture to the meat), coppa is the cured portion of a hog's neck that is too tough for other uses. Note the intramuscular fat associated with this type of cut.

3. Pepperoni:
Made from a combination of beef and pork, this pepperoni is a familiar twist on an old favorite: salty, meaty, and full of flavor.

4. Lardo:
Cured with Korean red chili paste (Gochujang), sliced thin, and draped enticingly over grilled sourdough from Slow Dough Bakery.

5. Peach mustard:
The mustard is made in-house and features a rotating assortment of seasonal fruits. Shepherd cooks the peaches from Lightsey Farms in Mexia, TX before incorporating mustard seeds, vinegar, and sugar. The resulting puree marries sweet, tangy, and that characteristic mustardy bite that pairs marvelously with all of the offerings on the plate.

6. Genoa Americano:
This version of classic Genoa-style salami unites pork, red wine, spices, and diced back fat.

7. Pickled yellow wax beans:
Spare vegetables inevitably find themselves bathing in salt, sugar, and vinegar before developing into bright notes of acidity. These crunchy additions provide a tasteful counterbalance to the richness of the meats; the yellow wax beans shown here from Knopp Branch Farms recently emerged from a 2-month pickling session.

8. Chorizo Asturiano:
A fermented pork sausage flavored with smoked paprika and little bit of chili. Nothing else added and nothing else needed.

9. Summer sausage:
A combination of Wagyu beef and cheddar cheese makes this component incredibly addictive. As Shepherd says, "It's delicious, delicious, delicious."

10. Tessa:
Unlike more common preparations that involve rolling the belly, this pancetta is hung flat. A quicker drying time means the sooner one can enjoy this scrumptious cured bacon.

11. Salumi Bastardo:.
As assumed from the name this chorizo is a mixed breed: Wagyu beef and Texas pork combine to create a memorable sausage flavored with garlic, black pepper, cinnamon and clove.

12. Pastrami:
When a goat comes in the loins are pulled and cured using the same wet brine one would use for pastrami. The loins are then rubbed with coriander & pepper and then smoked, not aged. Known elsewhere as pastrami, at Underbelly this treat is referred to as "goat stripstrami."

13. Sweet pickled habaneros:
Habaneros from Knopp Branch Farms contribute their clean bright heat while sweet additions of sugar and onion offset these fire-y bites. Pickled to perfection, these little jewels add color and novelty.

14. Wagyu Bresaola:
What's a charcuterie plate without this classic beef offering (Wagyu here of course)? After being seasoned with salt, black pepper, and juniper, eye of round is cured in salt for 9-18 days and then finished with a dry cure. When pressed for how long his meats are cured, Shephered replies, "It's ready when it's ready. Things take time. It's a matter of salt and time, and letting it go."

15. Pork Bresaola:
This is something you don't see very often so when you do take our advice and pounce. Prepared the same way as traditional beef bresaola this version is, as Shepherd puts it, "Very porky. It's awesome."

"Charcuterie at Underbelly" [Photo: Ellie Sharp]

All Other The Five Days of Meat Coverage [-EHOU-]


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