As the popularity of charcuterie and cured meats continues to grow with restaurateurs and customers, innovative chefs are turning to forcemeat to broaden their repertoire. First, the basics: forcemeat is a combination of meat (typically pork), pork fat, seasonings and other ingredients, blended together through grinding or puréeing to form an emulsion. It’s the first step in making sausages, franks, lunchmeats like mortadella or bologna, and terrines and pâtés. Forcemeat is a way for chefs to showcase their skills, as well as continue learning and developing their craft. The menu addition of forcemeat is also driven by chefs’ practical need to create charcuterie products that can be sold more immediately and may not require a HACCP plan to produce in-house. Not every operator has the ability or facilities to produce fermented or dry-cured meats, but everyone can make and menu sausages and cooked specialties.
Learn more about a few types of forcemeat and what they are used to create:
Mousseline forcemeat has the lightest texture. Made with heavy cream rather than pork fat, it’s typically forced through a sieve to produce a very fine consistency. Mousseline is used to make delicate sausages that are poached au torchon and is great for filling pastas.
Emulsified forcemeat is also very smooth and is used to make products like bologna, mortadella and frankfurters. Lean, boneless meat and fat are ground together until smooth and emulsified into a soft cake-like batter where flavor and water are added so it can be molded. It’s then filled into casings, like deli meat chubs or frank links, and hot-smoked or cooked.
Fresh Sausages start with a coarser blend of ground meat, fat, water, salt and seasonings. The meat and fat are ground together and worked by hand or in a mixer with seasonings, salt and ice water to help bind water to the proteins. This mix can be made into patties or filled into casings to make rope and link sausages. All types of sausage can be cooked-to-order.
Country-style forcemeat has an even coarser texture and traditionally includes pork liver along with a garnish of nuts or vegetables. It usually uses a binder called a panada, such as cubes of bread soaked in egg and milk. This technique is used to make terrines and pâtés.
Gratin forcemeat is similar to a straight forcemeat with the exception that the primary meat is seared to develop flavor and color before cooling and grinding it. Some forcemeat is made from completely cooked meats and the gelatinous broth it creates – dishes like head cheese and trotter cakes are good examples.
Cooked before serving, the addition of forcemeat to the menu presents an opportunity for operations to deliver artisanal offerings without the investment of a HACCAP program. With relatively inexpensive cuts of meat, seasonings and some skill, operators can create unique, delicious menu items. Freshly made and cooked sausage can be served as part of a composed dish for brunch, lunch and small-plate menus. A tasting plate of terrines and pâtés served with house-made pickles and sauces showcases signature items and is sure to generate a profit. Exploring forcemeats can open the door to the complex world of dry-cured or fermented meats, or it can expand existing charcuterie offerings.
See how restaurants around the country are offering many variations of sausages, franks and forcemeats.
DBGB Kitchen And Bar
At DBGB Kitchen and Bar in New York, NY, Chef Daniel Boulud dedicates the center section of his meat-centric menu to Signature Sausages and Dogs on a Bun. Sausage standouts include the Espagnole, fresh chorizo sausage with piperade and basil oil, and the Beaujolaise, a pork, mushroom, onion, bacon and red wine link with lentils du puy. The standout frank is the Thai Dog, a pork, lemongrass, and red curry link with green papaya slaw, sriracha, peanuts and cilantro.
Corner Table, located in Minneapolis, MN, showcases modern American cuisine with local ingredients and European tradition. Chef Thomas Boemer’s menu features a number of forcemeats ranging from house sausages and bologna to Pâté En Croûte. Of those dishes the Bologna Sandwich is most well known – made with homemade Mortadella on a brioche bun served with mustard aioli and a fried egg on top.
Coppa is an intimate enoteca tucked on a quiet side street in Boston’s South End featuring Italian small plates created by James Beard Awarding winning Chef Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer. The rotating menu of forcemeats include a Pigs Ear Terrine with a yuzu aioli, a Pork Pâté with bread & butter pickles, pickled mustard seeds, fig jam and grissinis and Salsiccia Pizza with tomato, pork sausage, ricotta, roasted onion and fennel pollen.
Addy’s Sandwich Bar
Addy’s Sandwich Bar got its start as one of Portland’s favorite food trucks, and has now evolved into a small counter brick and mortar. The menu features a Country Pâté Sandwich with cornichons and mustard. The Pâté is made with pork shoulder, liver and fat.
FIG restaurant in Charleston, SC serves elevated takes on Southern classics, cooked with seasonal ingredients in an upscale bistro setting. James Beard award-winning Chef Mike Lata changes the menu daily, but the Crispy Caw Caw Creek Pork Trotter Cake is a fan favorite. The trotters are braised and cooked until gelatinous, then molded into a torchon, sliced, fried until crisp and served with a Celeste Albers egg sunny-side up.
Located in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA, Simbal specializes in authentic Vietnamese cuisine. The restaurant has stunning industrial décor and features a wide variety of authentic Southeast Asian dishes made to order and served on a dim sum cart. One of their specialties is the Banh Mi Salad, made with pickled daikon and carrots, Vietnamese sausage, head cheese, and cucumber.
SPQR is a San Francisco, CA restaurant inspired by Italian cuisine and wine. Led by award-winning Chef Matthew Accarrino, who likes to menu different pork terrines from the whole animal. Currently the menu features a Pig’s Head Terrina with crispy ears, watermelon, pickled jalapeno and salsa verde. In the past Chef Accarrino has menued a Pork Shank Terrine with pig’s ear, persimmon, sunchoke and wild rice, and a Suckling Pork Confiture.
Franks ‘N’ Dawgs
Franks ‘N’ Dawgs, a hot dog joint in Chicago, IL, prides itself on “five star dining on a bun.” The menu has multiple pork dogs including the Sogni di Porcellino – a pork, Calabrian chili and fontina cheese sausage with pickled fennel, arugula, pistachio and cured tomato aioli and the Epic Pork-gasm, a bacon sausage with bacon jam, whiskey glazed pork belly, baconaise, chicharrons and ham dust.