Executive Chef Ben Lesnick, CEC, used the extra “free time” during the pandemic to improve the program at Midland CC and launch a successful charcuterie program.
As Midland (Texas) Country Club went through the tumultuous year of 2020, we were forced to change so many of our operational norms. We went from closing the outlets and only offering to-go food and groceries to nearly normal operations over the course of the last twelve months. Along the way, there were countless phases that required near-daily adjustments on the way back to normalcy.
We were very fortunate not to have to lay off any staff, but we did have much more free time on our hands than normal. We looked at this as an opportunity to integrate some ideas we have been sitting on but never found the opportunity to work into our operation.
We made it a goal to become more of a scratch kitchen during this time. The downtime created a perfect opportunity to provide more value to our membership and challenge our staff to become more proficient in their culinary skills. We were able to completely eliminate all purchased pastry products, make bread service completely from scratch, make all pasta on a la carte menus in-house and start a dry-aged beef program. But the program I am most proud of is our in-house charcuterie.
I have always wanted to try my hand at charcuterie but I must admit that it was little intimidating. I started with a simple recipe of pancetta and my first try came pretty good. From there I tried some a few bacon preparations and finally finished with a sweet peppercorn-crusted variety that is smoked on applewood. I also learned how to stuff fresh sausages including Italian, andouille, jalapeno and bratwurst.
As I got a little more ambitious I invested in a stuffer and converted a cooler to age sausages and whole-muscle varieties. I located some sources for hangers, casings, and curing ingredients needed to produce many more items. Most importantly I worked with my local broad-line vendor to source all natural cuts of pork for the cure. For our bresoala, we use an all-natural 21-day aged Wagyu-Hereford Hybrid from a local ranch that is owned by a member of the club. I also did a lot of reading and watching videos to learn as much as I could before experimenting in my own kitchen.
Since the program started I have successfully completed pancetta, guanciale, pepper-crusted applewood bacon, wagyu bresoala, hot and sweet coppa, lomo embuchado, Tuscan salami, soppressata, Spanish chorizo and culatello.
We are currently featuring our Applewood Bacon on the Wedge Salad and Club Sandwiches. Our Coppa Ham is a regular topping on our nightly pizza menu. Members have requested cheese and charcuterie platters for private parties as well.
My goal is to have our charcuterie be a signature feature on our menus and become something our club is known for. As I complete new batches I have been tasting members on them to get some feedback as bulk up inventory need to make this a permanent feature.