Charcuterie 101: Elements of a Perfect Spread
At first glance, charcuterie seems simple. Just throw some meat, cheese, fruit, and crackers on a plate and you're done, right? But if you've ever tried to put a board together for a party you probably know it's not as simple as it sounds. So let's make it easy. Here's a little bit of everything you need to make the perfect charcuterie for your next get together.
First thing's first: how are you going to serve your food? Traditionally a charcuterie board features a variety of foods spread out on a communal platter. Your guests pick and choose what they like and move on. Not so into buffet-style dining these days? Not a problem! You can also set your food out on small plates or cups for guests to grab, or assemble larger individual plates with a little bit of everything.
Meats are the heart and soul of a good charcuterie. Try to go for something pre-sliced (like prosciutto) and something for your guests to slice themselves (like a hard salami). If you're feeling really adventurous, add in something spreadable like a pate.
Cheese and meat are a match made in heaven. But you don't have to get too wild with it to have a good time. Start with a nice cheddar - that way you know you have something everyone is familiar with and probably likes. A nice brie is a great complement to a hard, sharp cheddar. You can stop there if you'd like, or add in something creamy and spreadable (hello, goat cheese). Round it out with something really sharp like Parmesan and you'll have a truly enviable spread.
You've gotta have something to spread that pate on, right? Warmed up french bread is the classic place to start. Add in some higher end crackers and you're all set.
Fruit's sweetness is the perfect way to balance out an otherwise savory board. Cut fruit into bite-sized pieces and place strategically among your other offerings. Grapes are a classic (and already come sized to eat), but apples, berries, pears, and pomegranate seeds are all pretty and tasty ways to round out your board.
It's time for all those little extras that take a board from good to great. We're talking jams, mustards, pickles, nuts, olives, hummus, chutney, tapenade, and anything else that might go well with your chosen charcuterie. This is a great way to experiment with products you may not be familiar with, or just enjoy your old favorites.
Last but not least - the drinks! No charcuterie is complete without complementing wine or beer. Look up beverages that match the specific meats and cheese you've chosen, or do things the other way around and build a board around a drink you've been dying to try. Just make sure to serve in unbreakable cups so nothing shatters while everyone's gathering around your feast. Bottoms up and enjoy!