While traditionally a charcuterie is a collection of cold, cooked meats, that word—and the board it sits on—recently have exploded into a visual and gastronomical feast.
When it comes to entertaining—small groups or large—it’s hard to beat the fun and flexibility of these platters. Portions can easily be scaled, and ingredients selected can be as affordable or high-end as you see fit. Here are a few guidelines for getting started.
Cheeses: Choose 4+
Selecting a soft cheese, a semi-soft cheese, a firm cheese, and a blue cheese will provide for a balanced combination. For example: a brie for the soft, a Havarti or mozzarella for the semi-soft, and a cheddar for the firm selection. If you don’t care for “stinky” cheeses, consider one with added wine, herbs or fruit. Have fun with the cheeses. These selections seem to generate the most buzz among guests.
Meats: Choose 2+
Consider a reliable classic such as ham or turkey, then add a spicier selection or two—possibly pepperoni, salami, prosciutto, cured sausage, chorizo, or even bacon. While some of these meats can be a bit pricey per pound, you really don’t need a large amount of each. Guests will be enjoying tasting portions.
Bread and crackers: 2+
A hearty bread, such as a baguette, ciabatta, or nutty whole grain loaf, sliced into small sections is great for creating tasty masterpieces using the meats and cheeses along with a smear of jam, chutney or mustard. A few clusters of gourmet crackers work well for staging those smaller bites.
Fruits are great for adding splashes of color to your board. Clusters of red or green grapes and berries add a visual punch. Apple slices might work well with your Cheddar cheese. Pears accompany your brie. Also consider dried fruits in the form of figs, cranberries or dried apricots.
You should include at least one sweet and one savory spread. In general, a spicy whole grain mustard is always a good pick to satisfy the savory side of things, but a hummus or tapenade will work as well. The sky is the limit on the sweet side— anything from a local honey to chutney or jam.
Small, but mighty details to add include pickles, veggies, and olives. Add in a variety of nuts—walnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, and pecans—there’s not a bad choice in the bunch. A sprig of rosemary, or another fresh herb add a perfect finishing touch.
Find the right board to build your platters. Large cutting boards, marble slabs, slate boards or ceramic platters are great options. Start with one of your larger items as a focal point, place the items in order of biggest to smallest. Meats can be sliced, folded or rolled up in individual tasting sizes. Soft cheeses should be served with a spreader or butter knife. Hard cheeses can be sliced, cubed, or served with a knife. The smaller items, such as bread slices, crackers and nuts should be in a couple different areas so that they are easily within reach. Mustards and jams can be placed in small ramekins scattered around the board with spreaders nearby. While assembly may seem intimidating, you really can’t mess it up. If you’d prefer to have a visual staring point, find a version online to use as inspiration. Enjoy!