Is there anything more intimate than enjoying a meal with family, friends or a lover while eating with your hands? For us Charcuterie is special, every New Years we fill the table with an intricate display of meats, cheeses and accoutrements while discussing our goals and resolutions for the upcoming year. The simplicity of it all, makes it feel that much more special as we share the perfect 'flavor combo' while mix-matching some of the wackiest ingredients you'd never think would compliment each other - it is impossible not to have fun doing this. I may not make the prettiest board, but I understand the concepts that make Charcuterie sophisticated and delicious no matter if you're an experienced sommelier or a 6 year old minecraft loving child with the pickiest palate...here's how I start it.
Start with a large cheese board or if offering charcuterie to a large group of people, I like to turn my table into a board. By doing this, you can lay a vinyl tablecloth on top of your table followed by brown kraft paper on top so that you can handwrite each interesting ingredient making the whole experience very interactive for the whole group.
Now, I like to imagine my board or table cut in half so that each person sitting at the table has access to all of the same ingredients. And as you lay your ingredients, imagine four squares of space and place them in alternative squares of each other in a diagonal pattern. Much like this...
The Vessel -Perhaps the most important element as it is the foundation of your bite-size creations. Try sesame flatbread crackers, 'everything' flavored crackers, grissini breadstick crackers, freshly baked baguette slices or crostini, bagel slices, endive or romaine hearts (with the green tops cut off).
The Meat - Today you can find pre-packaged super affordable cuts of salami in just about every grocery store, ready to use. I like to start with these, generally using a combination of genoa salami, pepper salami, prosciutto and coppa. Once you have those on the board you can add interesting, more expensive meats to help supplement the gaps like smoked salmon, sliced sausage, jarred sardines, chorizo or Pâté.
The Cheese - For your board you will want various cheeses in unique flavors and to include hard, soft, stinky, mild and everything in between. We like a combination of cheddar, swiss, provolone, goat cheese, feta cheese, blue cheese, manchego, brie and a soft cheese spread like alouette.
Fruits - Use your favorites! I have yet to come across a fruit that I didn't like paired with meats and cheeses. Our favorites are grapes & olives (absolutely necessary in my opinion), apple slices, pear slices, raspberries, tomatoes, pomegranate seeds and dried fruits like figs or nectarines.
Vegetables - Charcuterie is usually served as a meal in our family, so I like it to be sure it's as healthy as I can make it while still being visually beautiful and interesting to eat. Veggies I like to add are sweet peppers, roasted carrots, pickled onions, sautéed zucchini slices and roasted cauliflower.
Herbs - We love to add herbs for a visual delight that are also edible and add a freshness to the board and also a palette cleanser in-between flavor combinations. We love basil, sage, rosemary, lemon balm and lavender.
Spreads, Jams & Drizzles - Here's where the fun comes into play, unexpected 'add-ons' - to help elevate and dress your charcuterie - try hummus, compound butter, reduced balsamic vinegar, prepared pesto and fig jam and honey.
Have fun with your board, dont stress to deeply about the small details and enjoy the time and memories shared over your creation. Bon Appetito!