Charcuterie Looks Fancy Even When It’s Not
“These days,” says Christina Nguyen, the chef and owner of the bustling Hola Arepa and Hai Hai in Minneapolis, Minnesota, “The most common thing I’ll bring is charcuterie: good meats and cheeses, which are better than anything my garbage-ass can make right now.” With just a little bit of pro knife work and an eye for composition, she can make a platter of supermarket charcuterie look like it jumped out of her restaurant kitchen.
The truth is, Nguyen doesn’t often make it out to parties. And when she does, her friends insist that she relax and just enjoy herself. Still, her low-effort dishes, whether they’re a decadent 7-layer dip or Ritz crackers with creme fraiche and $8 caviar, still betray a chef’s sensibility.
But on rare occasions when she’s feeling more ambitious and energized, she’ll bring something neat and tidy that can just get tossed on the grill: vegetables to char, or whole fish, cleaned out and stuffed with aromatic lemongrass and ginger, that friends can eat family style with Thai-style fish sauce. “I’ll also throw a bunch of green things into a sauce to make salsa verde to marinate chicken thighs in,” she says. “I like it because it’s a bit different and not just more hot dogs or hamburger meat.”