Ah, Shark Week. That magical time of the year when Discovery Channel stops subjecting us to dehydrated strangers trying to grill snakes over pine needle fires in their birthday suits, and gives us what we really want. In honor of this sacred weeklong broadcast event, beginning Sunday, June 26, San Antonio charcuterie center Cured is hosting a feeding frenzy of its own in the form of “surf boards” — seafood charcuterie spreads that benefit an important cause.
We spoke with chef-owner Steve McHugh to get our feet wet on the intricacies of preserved seafood, pairings and pastrami (shrimp).
What inspired this themed week?
It’s funny, before Cured even opened, we referred to the charcuterie case in the restaurant as the “Charc Tank.” So when Discovery Channel’s Shark Week was coming up, it seemed like a natural opportunity to have a little fun with the correlation and put even more emphasis on our cured meat offerings. This year, we’re taking it one step further with the addition of the “Surf Board,” an array of cured fish!
For the summer quarter of 2016, we were inspired by our “Surf Board” to contribute our quarterly gastro-give to the Coastal Conservation Society. The CCA battles for the sustainable health of our coastal fisheries and preservation of these natural resources, so I’m excited that Charc Week at Cured is also an opportunity to support the growth of our local resources.
How is working with fish in charcuterie applications different from meat?
People have been preserving seafood and meat for centuries; however, working with fish requires a different approach entirely. It’s impossible to do a 12-month curing process like you might with meat — seafood and fish are entirely too delicate. It was important for me to consider each product and its qualities in order to determine the process that best suited it. For example, when creating the salmon rillettes, I was careful to cold-smoke the salmon to preserve the fattiness of the fish. If you dry out the salmon, it simply won’t work.
What would you order as a pairing for the Surf Board?
The heat can be overwhelming this time of year in San Antonio, with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees. Because of this, I would recommend a radler or a shandy — its refreshing nature makes it one of my favorite summer drinks. Not only does it pair nicely with the seafood, but I like to call it “soda for grown-ups.”
What element was the most fun/challenging/satisfying to make?
I had the most fun creating the shrimp pastrami — it’s just so different, and I’ve found it really piques people’s interest. The crawfish sausage proved to be the most challenging — as you can imagine it’s pretty hard to make a sausage without pork. In order to create the right texture and moisture, we had to use the fattiness from the shrimp and whitefish.