There is nothing I truly enjoy more than a great charcuterie board to start off a meal. Sometimes it’s a meal in itself (and most of the time it probably should be)! I love enjoying multiple flavours & textures, having a little bit of this and that, and trying different combinations of ingredients to find the perfect pairings.
So naturally, I have tried to do this myself at home. And while the flavours are usually there, the presentation always seems to fall short. At restaurants the boards look so effortless and straightforward, but I have come to learn that there really is a system and an art to putting the boards together.
First of all there is the selection of ingredients to consider:
For meats you want to offer (or a few of each type depending on how big your board is going to be):
- Something pre sliced and salty like prosciutto, brezola, speck
- Something guests can slice themselves (or you can do in advance) like garlic sausage or smoked ham
- Something spreadable like a paté
- You also want to consider and include different flavours and textures like fattiness (salami), spiciness (chorizo) or sweetness (maple cured ham)
You then want to finish off the board with breads & crackers – especially if you’re serving paté. Pickled and brined vegetables go perfectly with charcuterie. Try olives, pickled onions, beans–anything pickled, really. Another nice touch is adding condiments like a grainy mustard, chutney or hummus to pair with the meats and breads.
And then–if you really want to impress–you can venture into the world of cheeses. We didn’t use any cheese on this particular board but if you wanted to, the general idea is, again, to include a range of profiles:
- Something soft like goat cheese or brie
- Something semi-soft like gouda or oka
- Something semi-hard like provolone or manchego
- Something hard and aged like aged cheddar or asiago
Dried fruits, nuts, fig jam, honey and other compotes go perfectly with cheese selections.
Can we just stop and take a moment at the end of all this information to simply say…anything will work. The big idea is just to offer a variety of textures and flavour profiles so that there is interest both for visual appeal and taste!
And now to display and present all of your delectable offerings:
If you’re like me and you end up buying almost the entire deli section at the grocery store, you’re going to need a big board. Something neutral with a textured finish works great, like wood, slate or marble. Here is a gorgeous ash wood & marble cutting board from our store.
Now that you’ve got a beautiful base, start assembling. If you’re using cheeses, you might want to start with those as you can leave them in large sized chunks for guests to help themselves to. You’ll want to offer some cute cheese knives to assist in the serving as well!
One of the biggest things I learned and noticed while watching Chef Matty put this board together is that you don’t have to put all of one ingredient in one big pile. Split your prosciutto or sliced meats into smaller groups and curl the pieces into circles or “roses”. You can put multiples of each type of meat on your board.
For sausages, you can put a large chunk on the board and slice a few starter pieces for your guests, or slice the whole thing for easy nibbling.
We put our pickles and condiments into mini mason jars to add height to the board. You can also use these to fill in the gaps between the ingredients. That’s another good pointer. You want to see as little of the board as possible between the ingredients. It makes the board look full and composed!
If you’re using cheese, nuts and dried fruit look great casually poured on the board between items. They bring colour to the board as well.
Next, add your condiments in little ramekins or mini glass jars. It’s also nice if you have some utensils to serve, drizzle and spread them with instead of one big plop of honey or jam on your guest’s plate! Try these.
Finally, add crackers and sliced breads to the board to accompany all the other delicious ingredients. You don’t have to be precise with any of your placement, you can move things around as you go. Sometimes letting things casually come together ends up looking a lot better than trying to be perfect!
And so you have completed your beautiful charcuterie board! One that’s sure to bring ooohs and ahhhs to your celebration this year. Dig in!