This San Francisco Restaurant Turns Whole Animals into Delicious Charcuterie
Trou Normand doesn't just dabble in charcuterie. The restaurant has two full-time butchers, it’s a certified meat processing facility, and its executive chef is a state-licensed meat inspector.
The charcuterie menu at San Francisco's Trou Normand is incredibly dreamy. Pork pate is infused with leeks, parsley, and black pepper; rabbit salame is cured with orange, cumin, and white wine. There's an entire section dedicated to whole muscle salami—dry pancetta, lardo, coppa, and lonza. Pair the cuts with something from the drink menu and you'll have a decadent night for the books. The cocktail menu at Trou Normand is some of the most impressive in the Bay Area; it's known for a unique emphasis on brandies.
Meat-wise, there are nearly two dozen charcuterie options nightly, and the salumi is crafted exclusively from a Hungarian pig breed called the Mangalitsa—a lard-type hog known by some as the Kobe beef of pork. Unlike regular pigs, the Mangalista has a higher fat content, which when dried and cured creates an intensely creamy product.
"The fat and the composition of the fat is different from regular pigs," executive chef Salvatore Cracco says. "It's hard to deal with because there's so much fat."
Yet it's an inconvenience Cracco and his team are more than happy to take on because when it comes to meat, they pull out all the stops. Everything is butchered in-house from whole animals.
"The reason why we butcher so much is because we have such an intensive charcuterie menu and it makes it more versatile when you can make more, different types of products," he says.
Whole animal butchery is also a way for Cracco to ensure the quality of his products.
"I enjoy the process," Cracco says. "I feel like you get a better product because you're starting with a whole animal rather than a chunk of meat that you don't know about. This way, I know it's organic, I know the farmer, I've shook his hand, I've seen his farm, and I've seen the living conditions of the animals."
The restaurant has two full-time butchers, it's a certified meat processing facility, and Cracco himself is a state-licensed meat inspector. That was the only way he could cure his meats in-house, which he says is indicative of the meat industry as
a whole. When the restaurant opened in 2014, they were the only eatery in the Bay Area to have a state license for curing meat.
"The meat industry in America is horrible. It isn't set up to support the local artisanal butcher or charcuterie," Cracco says. "It's to support these huge facilities where they raise thousands of animals in the Midwest and kill thousands at a time. It trickles down and they make horrible products because of it."
As a result, Cracco is committed to sourcing exclusively from Californian farms with which he has a direct relationship. And while not all of them are USDA-certified organic, they all meet a standard that he himself considers to be organic and humane. Happy animals, he says, makes better meat.
"If the animal gets stressed right before the slaughter, it sends hormones and endorphins through the meat," he says. "This can ruin the quality and texture significantly."
And with nine years of butchery under his belt, Cracco knows his meat well. Every month, Trou Normand goes through 2,500 pounds of pork, 500 pounds of lamb, and up to 400 pounds of beef. All the meat is sawed, cut, cured, and dried inside the San Francisco restaurant. Some of the offal is used to make pate and pork chop is directly grilled up with a signature blend of spices.
It may seem like a lot of effort, but the emphasis that he puts in homemade and ethically-sourced meats pays off in the kitchen.
His main cooking tip for his meat?
"Just season it well and let the meat shine."