he bite of a sharp English cheddar mixed with a smattering of truffle honey on top of a thinly sliced baguette crisp is positively unmatched. This week we will delve deep into the world of charcuterie boards—an easy but sophisticated way to impress guests at any age.
Everything I learned about charcuterie I learned from my mom. Growing up, it was a staple in my house for any kind of entertaining, be it sophisticated or chill, with family or with friends. You’d think by now I might be over the craze. But what consistently keeps me coming back for more is the ability to incorporate so many different arrangements of flavor profiles, textures, and colors on a board. The simplicity of delicious and fresh ingredients can be showcased in their most natural form when laid out properly.
Some tricks I have acquired for the best boards tend to be buying items that are in season, that properly contrast their counterparts, and that allow for people who are eating to create a series of different bites that pack versatile palette punches. A connoisseur of charcuterie needs to understand how to balance the soft touch of brie with a salty hard cheese such as manchego. Fresh grapes, fig spread, or honey can break up the richness of the dairy, making them essential elements as well.
The same endless possibilities can be shown off in the presentation. The shape of the board, the use of fresh herbs or flowers, and the addition of something seasonal to spruce it up can all contribute to your unique creation. I bring you my must-haves for charcuterie heaven: The only limitations are the ones you set yourself.
The Ultimate Charcuterie Board
I typically like to have three kinds of cheese (two firm and one soft):
For the firm cheeses:
Sharp English Cheddar
Manchego (truffle if you’re feeling extra)
For the softer cheeses:
For the fruits:
A bunch of red or green grapes
For the cold cuts:
Prosciutto di Parma
Black Forest Ham
For the bread/crackers:
Rice Cracker Crisps
Fruit and Nut Crisps
For the jams/spreads:
Honey (truffle or regular)
Dalmatia Fig Spread
To take your board to the next level:
Variations of Olives
*For garnish: Rosemary, Basil or Flowers
Note: This dish is all about your creativity and trusting your instincts. The possibilities and formations are endless and not binding.
- I like to start by placing down my cheeses. I feel that in doing so, I can block off points of the board and see what room I have to work with. I tend to leave my cheese blocks whole, but cutting them up into cubes could also be easier for entertaining.
- Moving to the cold cuts, I like to fold/roll some of the meats to give them a more elevated look and then place them accordingly in between the cheeses. This helps to keep the board looking its best. (Example: rolling the prosciutto helps to make it easier for people to eat and looks tidier on the board itself. The salami, on the other hand, has the perfect circle shape, so that doesn’t need to be tweaked at all).
- Next, use any jams/spreads to cover any blank spaces on the board. I commonly use honeycomb and Dalmatia fig spread. Try to place them in two different regions of your board so they counteract each other (opposite ends, or one in the middle and one on the end).
- Drape clusters of cherries or grapes around your cheeses or move them to a separate smaller board that can hold all of the fruit. (The board number is purely dependent on the number of people you are serving.)
- Cut up your baguette into generous pieces and place it in a lined breadbasket. Add your crackers to the same basket, place them around your board, or put them in a different little container.
- Any additional seasonal items you may have can be placed in individual containers surrounding the board or on any sparse places you have left on the board.
- Garnish with your favorite herb or flower. I will forever use rosemary, not only because it is my mom’s signature, but also because I think it adds the perfect burst of green as well as a unique textural difference. (For fall time, miniature pumpkins go nicely around the edges of the board and for summertime, try fresh flowers.)
- For serving (optional): Lay out your board or boards onto a tablecloth of either solid white or a distinct pattern, and have the napkins or miniature plates that people are using match this. Sprinkle a variety of cheese knives onto the board so that each cheese and spread has its own dedicated knife.
Graphics Courtesy of Allyson Mozeliak / Heights Editor