A charcuterie board is one of the easiest and most impressive appetizer options for busy people. The greatest charm of a charcuterie platter is the variety of meats and associated nibbles that accompany them.
Follow these tips and you just might find yourself the coolest host with the most at your next party.
1. The best meat and cheese boards are diverse. Try to offer a variety from smoky air dried speck to a cooked sausage like mortadella and cured sausage like salami. Go-to meats include prosciutto, salami, soppressata and chorizo. Go-to cheeses include gorgonzola, aged cheddar, goat cheese, Manchego or Parmesan.
2. Remember that this is rich stuff and offer 1 to 2 ounces meat and cheese per person.
3. Take the time to make it pretty. Treat your charcuterie board like a centerpiece and use pretty platters, wooden cutting boards or marble or slate slabs as a base.
4. Be sure to remove the casing from cured meat sausages. Just cut off the end and peel it back as far as you need. Leave the unused portion encased.
5. Fold or roll thinly sliced meats neatly for a nice presentation. Cut small sausages down into 1/4-inch slices. Cut cheese into bite-sized triangles, sticks or cubes. If serving a soft cheese like goat, be sure to include a spreader.
6. Make it interesting by adding complementary and contrasting flavors like mustards, nuts, dried fruits like apricots and figs and fresh fruits like pears and apples, cured olives and pickles.
7. Meat, cheese and pickles are best friends so in the name of variety, add a few cheeses to the mix. Try pairing a soft with a hard cheese or a pungent with a mild cheese. You get the picture.
8. Crusty bread, crackers, breadsticks and crostini will offer textural contrasts and provide a vehicle for carrying all that great flavor to your mouth.
9. You can arrange the platter ahead and keep it in the fridge. Pull it out about 20 minutes before the guests arrive so it has a chance to warm up slightly.
10. Charcuterie and wine is a match made in heaven. Wines that pair well with cured meats and cheeses include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé and Albariño for the whites and Pinot Noir, Chianti, C?tes du Rh?ne and basic red blends. They needn’t cost a fortune as there are lots of great tasting wines for under $20. Talk to your Heinen’s wine guy or gal for suggestions to suite your taste. For beer lovers, just about any of your favorite IPAs will go beautifully with charcuterie. Enjoy!
Carla has spent the past 30 years in the food world as a caterer, artisan baker, cooking school teacher, food writer and author of 6 cook books including the James Beard nominated Big Book of Appetizers. Her passion is sharing fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals that cut prep time and practically eliminate that nightly sinkful of dishes. Look for Carla on Facebook, Twitter (carlacooks), Pinterest and at ravenouskitchen.com where she blogs about everything from cooking for two to easy weekend entertaining for a crowd.