Charcutier Marc-Henri Jean-Baptiste radiates joy as he shows off the walk-in cooler at Maison Porcella, the new retail shop and bistro in Windsor he runs with his wife, Maud. The spot is a celebration of traditional French foods—and the realization of a dream first hatched during an internship at Tennessee’s famed Blackberry Farm resort in 2009.
It was there that Marc-Henri first learned the art of transforming pork into sublime pâté, glistening rillettes, sausages, and chunky terrines.
Inside, a cooler is stocked with whole, organic heritage Duroc pork legs ready to be deboned, trimmed, brined, and cured into jambon supérieur, an incomparably silky Parisian-style ham that is a family favorite. It’s a three-day process, Marc-Henri explains, which includes an intricate “tapping” move to form the brined and cured pork into a succulent oval shape, followed by a 12-hour cook in a sous-vide bath. (Here, Maud playfully interjects, “Don’t give all the secrets!”—as if one might try to make this at home.)
Finally, the ham is hand-sliced into lacy thin curls that nearly melt when popped in your mouth, thanks to the tiniest ribbons of perfect fat. The buttery-rich slices are thrilling eaten as is, but pure heaven when paired with the bistro’s crusty Marla Bakery bread and crisp, sweet cornichons.
Born on New York’s Roosevelt Island to a Haitian father and a mother from Bordeaux, France, Marc-Henri spent his summers in rural France and learned to cook alongside his Italian grandmother. While attending Vermont’s New England Culinary Institute, he took an internship in San Francisco and fell in love with fresh California ingredients.
Work then took him to international, high-end French restaurants under chefs Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse. While at Ducasse’s Le Louis XV in Monaco, Marc-Henri ventured to Lyon to visit a world-famous charcuterie market. At a bar there, he met Maud, who had grown up in France’s mountainous Jura region and also worked in hospitality.
“After that, we really didn’t ever leave each other’s side,” says Marc-Henri. “So we came here, got married, had our son, and started our business right off the bat.”
Marc-Henri taught cooking classes and studied with the Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center while navigating the many challenges of creating a food business. He first launched at local farmers markets, realizing a sales increase of more than 3000% in the first year. In 2022, fate led them to the site of a former catering operation in Windsor, which they’ve redecorated in classic French bistro style, including a tile-flanked bar, French antiques, and family heirlooms.
“We spend a lot of time here, so I selfishly wanted to have a place that feels like home,” Maud says, pointing out a clever play area for their 4-year-old, Henri, and his friends. Tucked in a quiet corner of the restaurant, it’s decorated like a tiny French marché, complete with red-and-white striped awning.
For such a whirlwind journey, Maison Porcella is an oasis of quiet charm and elegant European grace. Marc-Henri and Maud brim with ideas for the business, including new casual soirées in the style of the apéro dînatoire gatherings popular in France. “It’s when you hang out with friends at each other’s homes and put a lot of small bites on the table,” explains Maud. “Dessert, drinks, and we all share, and it’s a nice little moment.” In this case, local winemakers and French wine importers join to pour and chat.
This spring, they expanded into lunch service, and retail sales are soaring as people discover their grab-and-go celery root remoulade salad, a delicious stracciatella of Italian water-buffalo mozzarella from Ramini Farms soaked in cream, and savory croque monsieur pastries layered with Parisian ham, béchamel, and three types of cheese in golden, butter-lacquered housemade milk bread.
Always, Marc-Henri and Maud are eager to visit and chat about charcuterie. “My overall goal is also to teach people about the French charcuterie-making tradition that’s been going on for hundreds of years,” says Marc-Henri. “Because that’s the only way the tradition continues.”
Maison Porcella, 8499 Old Redwood Highway, Windsor. 707-955-5611, maisonporcella.com. Charcuterie is also available at farmers markets on Friday in Sonoma, on Saturday in Healdsburg, and on Sunday in San Rafael.
Spicy Banh Mi with Quick-Pickled Vegetables
By Chef Marc-Henri Jean-Baptiste of Maison Porcella
This spicy Vietnamese-style sandwich stuffed with homemade pickled vegetables travels well and is perfect summer picnic fare, especially paired with a simple green salad. Marc-Henri suggests making it with his housemade spicy pork and Parisian-style ham, available at farmers markets or from his store and bistro in Windsor. The pickled vegetables can be made a day in advance and will keep for up to three weeks.
For the pickled vegetables:
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup sugar
1 tbsp. coarse sea salt
1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1 tsp. whole black peppercorn
1/4 bunch cilantro
1 daikon radish
To make the pickled vegetables:
Rinse and dry the carrots, cucumber, and daikon. Peel the carrots and set aside. Cut the cucumber and daikon into 2-inch lengths. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, thinly slice all the vegetables into long, ¼-inch-wide strips. Place the vegetables in a colander set over an empty bowl and sprinkle with sea salt. Use your hand to work the salt into the vegetables, then allow them to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Press firmly on the vegetables to release any remaining juices, then rinse, pat dry, and set aside in a tempered glass container with a lid, such as a repurposed pickle jar or mason jar.
Remove the leaves from the cilantro stems and set the leaves aside in an airtight container, reserving the stems.
Put the coriander seed, black peppercorn, and cilantro stems in a small square of cheese cloth. Tie the cloth to make a bundle and place in the vegetable container.
For the sandwich:
1 French baguette
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
4 oz. spicy pork pâté
2 oz. ham
1 cup pickled vegetables
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil with the two types of vinegar and sugar. Pour the hot brine over the container of vegetables and spices. The vegetables should be fully submerged in the brine (if they’re not, try a smaller container).
Close the container and refrigerate overnight. The pickles will be ready the next day or can be stored in the brine for up to three weeks
To assemble the sandwiches:
Cut a long baguette in half, lengthwise, and spread with mayonnaise.
Pull pickles from the jar, reserving the pickling liquid.
Slice the pâté and arrange on the bottom half of the baguette. Top with ham, pickles, and reserved cilantro leaves. Sprinkle a small amount of the reserved pickling liquid on the bread for extra flavor. Slice and enjoy.