Charcuterie may be a French word, but it’s hard to think of a culture more closely entwined with the cured meat tradition than Spain. From jamón Iberico and chorizo to lomo and salchichón, Spain is well known for the beloved porky delicacy. And these days, no one is making it easier for Americans to source and serve the very best than Mercado Famous co-founders Aaron Luo and Carmen Chen Wu.
Luo and Wu grew up in parallel worlds. They were both raised in Madrid by Chinese parents, but after years living in the United States, nostalgia for the Spanish culture of their youth surfaced. They missed the daily connection over charcuterie and drinks with family and friends.
“When people gather around a table in Spain, time seems to be suspended, and everyone is very present in the moment — or very focused on how good the food and drinks are,” Luo says.
They wanted to bring the tradition of socializing over cured meat to their American friends, but as hard as they tried, they couldn’t find quality, pasture-raised Spanish charcuterie at affordable prices stateside. So they took advantage of their joint heritage, and Mercado Famous was soon born.
The brand’s product line includes a wide range of cured meats, from nutty jamón Iberico with the perfect balance of fat, to denser, paprika-spiked chorizo. All are made from free-range hogs fed an acorn- or grain-based diet. Naturally cured for two to five years, the additive-free recipes are devoid of nitrides and artificial preservatives. Plus, the family-owned farm the company works with pays its workers above minimum wage and boasts an equity sharing program for employees.
“Finding the right partner wasn’t easy because the product needed to taste great, but it was also important for us to make sure that the farm we partnered with was raising the animals in a sustainable and humane manner,” Luo says. “It took us more than two and a half years of searching through a labyrinth of farms to land on someone who shares the same values as we did and has the ability to scale production in a meaningful way.”
Any TikToker knows the “board” trend shows no sign of stopping, with butter boards, goat cheese boards and even hummus boards joining cheese and charcuterie platters as snacking must-haves. “We’ve been eyeing the recent ‘butter board’ trend,” Luo says. “We love it, but we want [to see] a board full of charcuterie next to it, too.”
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So how can you present and eat charcuterie like a Spaniard? Luo’s favorite boards include “a bit of everything” and jazz up a range of cured meats with nuts, olives and sweeter bites like fig butter, pumpkin spread, grapes, sliced apples, pomegranate seeds or dried orange slices. Adding cheese to such an array may not be traditional, according to Luo, but it is indeed delicious — and encouraged.
“We love the lomo with mozzarella or buffalo cheese and a French baguette,” he says. “And the jamón 100% Iberico is delicious with a parmesan cheese, manchego cheese and fresh figs.”
In addition to boards, there are loads of other ways to enjoy charcuterie. Luo and his family add jamón to soup with white daikon radish or simmer chunks of it with oxtail, ginger, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, fish sauce and oyster sauce for a savory stew. “When we get together, we make dishes that incorporate a mix of the cultures we’ve grown up in,” Luo says. “We just made grilled cheese with a twist that’s one of my favorite dishes now. It’s your classic grilled cheese, but with the addition of Jamón Serranía! It’s delicious, so simple and would be great to serve at a Super Bowl party.”
We certainly love our wings and Buffalo chicken dip, but next game day, charcuterie is the move.
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