Charcuterie (pronounced Shar-KOO-tuh-ree) boards have become super popular in recent years. A charcuterie board is an array of meat, cheeses and various other snacks arranged on some type of serving base. You can find them at parties, restaurants and my family likes to do charcuterie for dinner on those nights on which I just don’t feel like cooking. Fortunately, charcuterie boards are easy to assemble on your own with the right ingredients on hand and following a few simple rules. Once you get the hang of it, the options are endless, you can mix and match ingredients to suit your own taste (prioritizing whatever needs to be used up) and each platter becomes a unique creation. Charcuterie isn’t just about the food, it becomes an experience. When we do it for dinner or at a party, everyone lingers at the table a little longer than normal grazing and chatting.
The best part of charcuterie platters is that there is zero cooking involved (unless you want to make your own homemade fancy jams and pickles), so even the most inexperienced of cooks can throw one together. Anytime I start to have a variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables or fruits needing to be used up I declare it a charcuterie dinner night, arrange it all on a platter and let everyone make a plate of their favorite items.
Step 1: A Platter
You need a surface to put the food on. Most often charcuterie is served on a round or rectangle board. Keep in mind how many you are serving, for a date night in for my husband and I, I’ll use a small marble cheeseboard. When hosting friends I’ll use the biggest wooden cutting board I have. When on vacation I’ve even used a sheet pan on which to arrange everything.
Step 2: The Food
There really aren’t any rules here, pretty much anything goes, but here are a few guidelines I like to follow;
–at least 1 cheese per platter (My current faves are a caramelized onion cheddar, havarti dill, blueberry goat cheese, brie and smoked gouda)
–at least 1 meat per platter (Our family likes prosciutto and pepperoni)
–at least 1 condiment per platter (ex/ jam, hummus, mustard, ranch dip…)
–at least 1 fruit per platter (dried or fresh, I like dried apricots, dried mandarin oranges and fresh grapes)
–at least 1 type of nut per platter (Any type of nut you prefer but I love the Truffled Almond or Olive and Herb Nuts from Trader Joe’s)
–at least 1 vegetable per platter (I tend to do either carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers or grape tomatoes)
–2 starches per platter (I like the Sweet Potato Crackers and Fig and Olive Crackers from Trader Joe’s)
–at least 1 briny item per platter (Olives, pickles, pickled okra, capers…)
-some people like to add on something sweet like some small chocolates or cookies
Step 3: Assembly
Once you have your ingredients selected, you can begin constructing your platter. First, place any dips and small or wet items in a small bowl. Place bowls in separate sections of the platter, then begin to fill in the space by arranging the other ingredients around the platter, trying to separate like-colored items to add variety and interest across the platter. Boards look best when they’re full, so try to fill in any space with small items like fresh herbs, edible flowers, small chocolates or dried nuts.
That’s it! Go ahead and round up your items, assemble a board, and be ready to receive all the praise that will come your way.