Appetizers — they’re the star of your next dinner party. Now that the holidays are here, I see more and more dinner parties in my future. The best dinner parties these days are the ones where everyone contributes, and you can get a taste of a whole variety of cuisines! The ultimate starter is an incredible charcuterie board, and I’m here today to tell you how to perfect this platter!
What is Charcuterie?
If you’re not familiar with the word, charcuterie (pronounced shar-kood-eree) describes any kind of cured meat and is typically associated with specialty and gourmet meats that are prepared using artisanal processes.
What is in a Charcuterie Board?
The term “charcuterie board” often refers to an assortment of meats that are paired with different accompaniments, such as toast, fruit, cheese, and sauces. If you want to offer charcuterie to your guests at your next gathering, there are a few basics to understand. First, identifying some of the most popular types of charcuterie, to what makes a really beautifully completed board.
I love charcuterie boards because they are crowd-pleasers, and are so stunning! Say good-bye to boring appetizers, and hello to mouth-watering meats and cheeses!
What meats should I choose for a Charcuterie Board?
- Select a variety of meats and cheeses! Pick an assortment of mild, medium and bold flavors. Mix it up with some milder cheeses, and then throw in some bold flavors, as well as middle-of-the-road options. I always include Brie, strong gorgonzola, goat cheese, and then a standard and delicious aged cheddar. For meats, I always include a hard salami, some salty prosciutto, and spicy soppressata to shake things up a bit.
- Add seasonal fruit to the mix. While the star of a charcuterie board should be the meat and cheeses, it is always a great idea to include fresh in-season fruit to add sweetness to the salty and to change up the experience. If you want to get extra fancy, you can roast or grill fresh fruit. On this one, I included some dried apricots and grapes. I also love throwing in a couple of berries for garnish.
- Jams or preserves: Include 1 or 2 jams or preserves for some added flavor and sweetness to balance out the dry and salty meat and cheese. Fig spread goes so well with many kinds of cheese and meats, so I always like to include it. I also like to include a pepper jam, this one was homemade from a friend of mine, but store-bought works great as well! I like to put them into white ramekins or small bowls for a more cohesive look.
- Include something pickled: I love anything pickled. They’re a perfect complement to your meats and cheeses. Pickled vegetables, such as gherkins or pickles, olives, pickled jalapenos or pepperoncinis are great on charcuterie boards. They pair so easily with everything on the board and add a little tang. Add these in a small white ramekin as well!
- Other spreads: You may also include any of your favorite spreads, such as stone-ground mustard, hummus, or white bean dip, like this roasted garlic lupini dip! These spreads are great for smearing on a cracker and layering with meat and cheese.
- Alcohol: When appropriate, include alcohol to your charcuterie experience. Wine and beer pair excellently with meat and cheese and can enhance the flavor experience. Generally speaking, you want to pair bold-flavored meat and cheese with bold-flavored alcohol. For instance, goat cheese, smoked salmon and prosciutto pairs well with white wine, while salami, cheddar, and blue cheese go great with red wine. Champagne goes well with brie, so pop that bubbly!
- Crackers & bread: While your guests can get along perfectly well without crackers or sliced baguette, these items can be great for pairing a variety of ingredients for providing stability to the bite. I choose crackers that don’t have a huge amount of flavor, like these water crackers. They don’t have a lot of herbs or salt added so they won’t detract from the flavor of the meats and cheeses.
How much cheese and meat should I buy?
Tips for Making the Perfect Charcuterie Board
When putting all of these delicious elements, you’ll want to remember these tips:
Arrange everything so it compliments each other.
I love to alternate meat, cheese, and fruit. I also love to fill in the spaces with spiced nuts, which are great to pair with both cheese and cold cuts. And we can’t forget the crackers! I stick the crackers in-between spaces on the platter.
How should I present the meat?
To create a gorgeous presentation of meats, if they’re round, fold in half and then half again, and place the open end up on the board. If you’re including prosciutto on your board, pull the thin slices apart and allow them to fall on top of each other like a curly ribbon
Should I cut the cheese?
If you’re including large rounds of cheese in addition to the smaller squares that often come in packs from the grocery store, I like to cut the rounds into wedges for easy access for your guests. Keep them placed together so that the cheese doesn’t dry out too much. That allows your guests to easily grab a slice and it still looks gorgeous. Include party toothpicks near the board for easy access.
Don’t be afraid of overflow!
I like a little spilling off the board. In this case, more is more. You want your board to be the star of the show, so the more dramatic, the better!
Pick a beautiful platter and some fun props
I used this Ash Paddle Round Board from Home Depot. Another popular pick is this large wood slab platter. Make sure to include some cheese knives so that your guests can cut the larger chunks as they choose. You can also include chalkboard cheese labels to mark each kind of cheese so there’s no guesswork!
Want to see a step by step video? Watch below!
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