If you know me, you know I DIE for a cheese and charcuterie board. If I had to pick something to eat for the rest of my life, it’s definitely top 5. If I was stuck on a deserted island, and I had to choose one thing to eat, it would be up there toward the top of the list. Okay you get the idea…
Charcuterie is the French word for any smoked, dry-cured, or cooked meat, which to some, may be a foreign concept and maybe a little off-putting but I promise its very delicious. I grew up eating salami, prosciutto, soppressata, capicola, mortadella, etc. so to me its nostalgic and a necessity. As a self-proclaimed charcuterie expert, I wanted to put together this fool-proof guide to the perfect meat and cheese board.
There are different levels to a charcuterie board, all contingent upon how many people are eating and how developed their palates are. If you are inexperienced, you might want to start small.
I think its important to have a variety of cheeses. That way, the combinations are endless. I would say a minimum of 3 cheeses is necessary: a semi-firm cheese (i.e. gouda, Swiss, Jarlsberg), a soft cheese (i.e. brie, camembert, goat), and either a hard cheese (i.e. grana padano, parmesan) or a veined cheese (i.e. stilton, gorgonzola). Leave the pieces whole, that way the whole experience is not just delicious but also interactive. Make sure you have a separate knife for each cheese. This prevents the notes from each cheese to intermingle. Leave the intermingling to your guests, not your cheeses.
(Left to right: Jarslberg, Brie, Parmesan)
Just like it’s important to have a variety of cheeses, it’s just as important to have an array of meats. I would say you should have just as many meats as you do cheeses. Mix the textures of the meats. For example, a soft and thin slice like a prosciutto di parma, a tender cooked meat like mortadella and a hard meat like a salami. The great thing about a charcuterie board is that you can create a dish that’s fulfilling and has lots of variety. Because the meats are usually harder and tougher, I like to pre-slice them. Slice the salami on a bias, it just looks better that way. Buy the already sliced prosciutto and you can layer the prosciutto out or just make a loose pile. The mortadella can either come already sliced thin or in a big slice which you can cube up. If the slices are thin, you can roll them up and cut them in half, making them bite-sized.
(Left to right: Prosciutto, roasted turkey, salami)
You’re going to need a vehicle for the meat/cheese combo. I love to get a flavored cracker of some sort, like a toasted sesame or butter flavor, nothing too strong. I also love French baguette. Make sure it’s a freshly baked baguette. You can start slicing some of it, also on a bias, and then leave most of it whole, along with a bread knife. This also gives people more of a variety. Multiple cheese/meat/bread combos.
(Top: French baguette, Bottom: brioche toasts)
Having all that meat and cheese and bread is great, but if you want to take your cheese and charcuterie board to the next level, you can add what I call “accessories.” Having something else on the plate will add more dimension and different flavor profiles. For example, if you want to add a sweet touch you can add fruit like grapes, apples, pears or figs, depending on the season. You can also add honey or an artisanal jam. Some cheeses pair nicely with the sweet notes. If you want something more tart and tangy, you can add pickled cornichons or olives. Nuts are great to add some texture. I love the crunch.
(Left to right: pecans, cornichons, pear)
Things To Know
• You should probably count on 2-5 oz of food per person, depending on what else you plan on serving at your get-together.
• Plate the cheeses 30 minutes to an hour before, to bring the cheeses to room temperature. Plate the meats about 20 minutes before.
• Find a wine that pairs nicely with whatever you decide to serve. Personally, I find something bubbly like Prosecco or Lambrusco
• Variety, variety, variety!
•Get creative and don’t be afraid!