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Real fast food, no matter how you slice it

When we think of fast food, usually we picture burgers, fries and other mass-produced junk foods. Prepared by unskilled laborers, flavored with chemical additives, and lacking in nutrition, these pseudo-foods make huge corporations rich as they rob us of our health and bankrupt our sense of taste.In reality, fast foods have been around for ages. Crafted by artisans using natural ingredients and age-old techniques, theyre loaded with flavor and tradition. The original fast foods are artisan cheeses, ham, salami, smoked salmon, pats, spreads, mustards, preserves, olives, rustic breads, crackers, nuts, preserved fruits and pickled vegetables.These artisan foods need little or no preparation because they taste great on their own; they also travel well, store well and are wonderfully flexible. Enhancing our lives with convenience, taste and tradition, its no wonder theyve never gone out of style!Long before the advent of refrigeration, artisans began crafting these traditional foods to preserve fresh ingredients. Thanks to their amazing flavor and convenience, theyve remained a favorite today. These handcrafted foods are extraordinary, a treasure worth hunting down amongst the embarrassment of low-quality imitations.Fast, easy, delicious and the perfect parry to wine, beers and spirits, the original fast foods are ideal for holiday entertaining.Steeped in tradition and bursting with flavor, they can make your party an adventure of taste and texture!Buon Appetito, Salte!Chef Michael Angelo Mick Rosacci is a gourmet food and wine consultant in his familys business, Tonys Meats & Specialty Foods, in Littleton. Follow him on a weekly journey through the seasons and reasons of cuisine, one taste at a time. E-mail: Mick@Tonysmarket.com.The Perfect Cheese BoardThe classic accoutrement to wine, beer and cocktails, a great cheese board is a discovery of taste and texture.3-5 wedges artisan cheeseCured olivesPickled veggiesRoasted nutsDried or fresh fruitsRustic breadCrackersChoose your ingredients carefully and display cheeses, olives, pickled veggies, roasted nuts and fruits on an interesting plate, decorative serving dishes, a cutting board, or ??? Surround with breads and crackers. See notes below.Chefs NotesThe Cheese: Start with at least three artisan cheeses of distinctly different styles, tastes and textures. For instance you could serve a French soft ripened such as a triple-cream Brie, Camembert, or Brillat Savarin. Next, a firm cheese such as Manchengo, Gruyere Swiss, or English Farmhouse Cheddar. Now choose a spreadable cheese such as fresh chvre. Then finally a bleu cheese such as Roquefort, Stilton, or Colorados own Bingham Hill Rustic Blue. You can take it further with cheeses flavored with wine, spices, herbs or dried fruit. Remember, this is a discovery of taste so avoid the common and select artisan crafted cheeses.Olives and Pickled Veggies: Adding contrasting flavors and texture, these items accent and highlight your cheeses. Olives are a natural choice avoid the common canned varieties; instead select artisan olives such as Calamata, Green Sicilian, Nioise, or Greek Oil-cured and place them in a small bowl providing an empty bowl for pits. Pickled veggies are another great option that introduces vinegar and crisp, juicy textures. Ideas include Cornichons, pickled peppers, artichoke hearts, Chow Chow or Southern pickled veggies such as okra, garlic, asparagus, or green beans.Nuts, Fruits & Breads: There are few things as wonderful with cheeses as nuts and fruits! Fruits: apples, pineapple, grapes and berries as well as dried berries, cranberries and cherries. Nuts: Choose high-grade raw nuts such as pecans, almonds, macadamias, pine nuts or walnuts and roast them until lightly browned and aromatic the day of service. As for breads and crackers, avoid the common and choose special varieties with texture and flavor.The Perfect Meat PlatterMini traditional Salamis 1-3 types of sliced hamsliced specialty lunchmeats and sausagessliced artisan cheesepat, mousse or liverwurstSlices of cooked sausages2-3 mustard varietiesleaf lettuce and slices of tomato and picklePlace one or two mini salamis on the center of a large serving platter with a small knife. Arrange sliced meats and cheeses on one side of the platter, shingling and separating by color. On another portion of the platter place piles of bite-sized cuts of pan-browned sausages. Accent and decorate with variety mustards as well as lettuce, tomato and pickles.Chefs NotesGreat artisan meats are the star here and lesser imitations simply will not do! Suggestions include: mini salamis with varying coarseness, smoked sausage, cooked Italian sausage, German veal bratwurst, fresh cut pat, Capocollo, Mortadella, peppered pastrami and artisan hams such as Prosciutto di Parma.Italian Antipasto PlatterCured Italian meatsOlives, artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms, and pickled peppersCubed or sliced Italian cheesesSoft Italian cheese such as Gorgonzola or TallegioProsciutto wrapped melon piecesFresh or dried figsRoasted pecans, almonds or walnutsRustic Italian breadSeek out authentic Italian ingredients and arrange them on a platter piling some items into pepper halves, onto lettuce leaves, or in small cups to create shape. Give your platter a look of abbondnza with a generous display. Serve at room temperature with rustic breads.Bread DippersEveryone loves rustic breads, especially with tasty dips.1) Pour a flavorful Extra Virgin Olive oil over a white plate and drizzle decoratively with an authentic balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with freshly cracked pepper and a few shredded leaves of herb such as basil, oregano or thyme.2) Place a large dollop of a room-temperature artisan honey on the center of a small white plate. Pour a high-quality extra virgin olive oil around the sides, surrounding and creeping up the sides of the honey. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with rustic breads.3) Choose several prepared dips such as hummus, crab spread, smoked salmon spread, artichoke dip as well as one or two soft cheeses such as Cambozola, Brie, Camembert or herb crusted Chvre. Artistically display them with raw and pickled veggies. Serve with rustic breads and bruschetta.4) Sweet and savory dips here are a couple of my favorites: Artisan honey drizzled over a wedge of gorgonzola and sprinkled with roasted walnuts. Soft and rich Saint Andre or Humboldt Fog cheese topped with pepper jelly, onion marmalade, fruit preserves or chutney. A wheel of brie with the center of the top removed and replaced with a combination of equal parts brown sugar, butter and pecans (simmer to marry) roast the wheel on a plate in a hot oven and serve with Carrs wheat crackers.Seafood PlattersHere are a few classic combinations. Mix together your favorites for a seafood bonanza! The quality of seafood varies dramatically so shop with a keen eye for quality.Smoked Seafood Platter Mash room-temperature cream cheese with a fork and stir in fresh cracked pepper, lemon juice and lemon zest. Fold in smoked salmon or trout and transfer to a bowl or display in a lettuce cup. Place in the center of a platter, complementing with dry-smoked salmon, Nova or Grav Lox, pickled or creamed herring, smoked mussels, smoked scallops, and/or smoked oysters. Accent with crme frache, lemons, horseradish and artisan mustard.Shrimp and Crab Platter Place three cups into the center of a platter (preferably all black), filling one with cocktail sauce, one with Remoulade sauce and one with Dijon cream sauce or a flavored vinegar. Surround with cooked shrimp, crab claws and crab legs and decorate with lemon wedges and parsley.Oysters Serve one, two or three varieties of live oysters on a platter of crushed ice along with cocktail sauce, hot sauce, and fresh lemon wedges. You can shuck the oysters just before serving, or share the shucking experience with your guests. Be sure to have a proper shucking knife and safety glove. If oysters are dirty, quickly dip, brush and rinse in cold water with plenty of dissolved sea salt.Caviar Service The ultimate indulgence, caviar sets a tone of elegance! Allow 1 ounce of caviar for every 1-4 people. (Osetra, Sevruga or Beluga suggested, but less expensive caviars are fine). Serve in a decorative bowl (preferably glass) over ice. Garnish the platter with minced hard-boiled egg, chopped red onion tossed with minced parsley, toast points (water crackers or blinis can also be used), chive cream (crme frache flavored with lemon, chives, wine, salt and white pepper) and edible flowers. Classic Swiss FondueMakes a full-flavored traditional Swiss fondue, quantities can be adjusted to taste. Serves 6 plus.6 oz. Emmental Swiss, shredded6 oz. Gruyere Swiss, shredded6 oz. Appenzell Swiss, shredded2 1/2 oz. cornstarch3 cloves of fresh garlic3 cups dry white wine1 1/2 cups water or apple juice1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juiceSplash of KirschwasserSalt, nutmeg, white pepper and paprika to tasteGrate your cheeses and dredge with the cornstarch.Rub fondue pot with garlic,pour in wine and juice or water;, set over moderate heat. When hot, but not boiling, add lemon juice, then add cheese by the handful, stirring constantly with wooden spoon until cheese is melted. Bring fondue to bubble briefly, add Kirsch and season to taste, stirring until blended.*Like fondue, this serving custom originated in Switzerland: If a lady loses her bread in the fondue, she pays a kiss to the nearest man; if a man loses his bread, he buys the next round of drinks. It is not good form to make someone else lose their bread. Chef Walter Schmuki


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