lardo
Lardo seasoned with rosemary and lavender buds, destined for a charcuterie board at the Nickel. (Photo: Lindsay Shoemaker.)

In Charcuterie Board Elements, we deconstruct the best cured meat spreads in the world and zero in on one incredible component. We hit the Nickel at Denver’s renowned Hotel Teatro, where Colorado’s bounty of ultra-fresh, free-range meat is grilled, braised and yes, cured, by executive chef-restaurateur Chris Thompson. After pigs forage in the summertime, lardo is the name of the game.

Customize your dream charcuterie board using the Nickel’s sushi-style menu, with a daily rotating selection of house-cured meats. Other sections include superbly curated cheeses of every texture, composition and rind-tastic funk, seasonal pickles, jams and even a chunk of whole spreadable honeycomb. That’s right, too much nondescript salami is no longer on your list of cured-meat problems. The person bogarting the jamón, however, is a different story entirely.

In prime season soon: pure white lardo, the best straight fat you’ve eaten since you buttered both sides of your grilled cheese. Thompson gives us a rundown of this show-stealer and why you need to let it melt in your mouth immediately. Seriously, just let it melt. Don’t chew.

charcuterie
A excerpt from The Nickel’s sushi-style charcuterie menu.

Where it comes from
Lardo comes from the back of the animal, hence the name “fatback.” Ours comes from a farm called Cottonwood Creek in Northern Colorado. The breed of the pig is 50 percent Berkshire, 25 percent Duroc and 25 percent York.

Why it’s awesome
Its luscious creaminess is a texture and flavor that is hard to come by. Using only salt and time, there are no distractions, nothing that adds too much or takes anything away from the pure flavor of the fat. In my opinion, there is no better cut or process in curing of pork that gives a truer expression of “the terroir.” You can taste the diet of the pig in the best possible way.

When it’s “in season”
We only make lardo in the fall, when the pigs are nice and plump and have been foraging on all of the best things the summer has to offer. Acorns, roots, fruit that has fallen from the trees, etc.

Fun fact
It’s pure fat. It’s never been cooked. And it’s f***ing amazing.