Charcuterie boards are all the rage right now. When I lived in France, they were frequently served as appetizers. These delicious snacks are easy for the host/hostess since there is little or no cooking. The boards usually feature the cured meats and cheeses of the area.
What is a charcuterie board?
The French word charcuterie comes form the word “chair,” which means flesh, and “cuit,” which means cooked, so cooked or cured meats. Charcuterie really means a place where cured meats or pork products are sold. A charcuterie board consists of a couple cured meats or terrines or pate’s along with a few cheeses. A good board should also have a briney or vinegary element like cornichons (small, sour pickles) or olives. People often add fillers such as fresh or dried fruits and nuts, and crackers and/or bread.
Assembling Your Board
I like to add a fig jam or honey – something sweet that will compliment the cheeses. I am not a fan of adding chocolate, candy or other sweets. To me, they just don’t belong on a board.
There are many different meats you can add to a board. I like salami, ham, prosciutto, pepperoni, mortadella or even cold, cooked and sliced pork tenderloin. Plan on 2-3 ounces per person if the board is for appetizers, 5 ounces or more if it is a main course.
I always have at least 3 cheeses on my board. I like to make sure one is a hard cheese like gryere or cheddar and at least one is a soft cheese like brie or goat cheese. Add a special cheese for interest like a flavored cheese or gorgonzola. Give your guests a chance to try something they might not have tried before.
Fillers can be fruits like fresh grapes or dried apricots, nuts, jams and chutneys, tapenade, spreads, unique mustards or chicken liver mousse. You can add veggies and dips if you have the space. It’s good to have a few different crackers on the board and I usually have a side basket of more crackers and bread.
Charcuterie boards can have themes – meats and cheeses from a region in Italy or France, a color theme, the sky’s the limit – be creative!
I like to slice or cube the hard cheeses, leaving a piece of the cheese on the board with the cubes. Hard cheeses are a little difficult to slice on the board so pre-cutting makes it more manageable. Leave the soft cheeses as is, they can be easily scooped onto a plate.
Try to follow the rule of having salty, sweet, bitter and sour on the board. Adding fresh herbs gives the board more color. You can see from the photos of the board my daughter and I made, she created a rose from the Genoa salami to add some pizzazz and texture. She did it by overlapping the slices of salami around a wine glass. Simple but amazingly effective!
Here is a list of what I used on my board in the photo:
- Genoa salami,
- mustard & ale cheddar cheese,
- domestic Alpine cheese,
- Humboldt fog,
- fig and balsamic Boursin,
- tomato jam,
- dried apricots,
- cornichons and
- fresh herbs.
Charcuterie boards don’t even need to be on boards! Use a platter or tray. No rules here. Once you create a couple of boards, you’ll see how easy and fun they can be. Of course they are also tasty!