How to Build a Charcuterie & Cheese Board
What is a Charcuterie Board?
Charcuterie refers to cooked or cured meats, so any board that features cured meat of any kind may be referred to as a Charcuterie Board.
How to Choose Your Charcuterie & Cheese
Diversity is the spice of life! Aim for different animal types, cuts, and styles, but don't over do it! It's always best to limit yourself to three or five. Odd numbers are the most visually interesting and you don't want to overwhelm the senses with too many choices!The best charcuterie selections have a minimum of two types of animal (pork, beef, buffalo, chicken, duck, lamb, rabbit, the list goes on!). You can choose between ground and cured sausage types, whole cuts of cured muscle, or cooked and processed pates and mousse.
The same can be applied to cheese! Select two to three milk types (cow, goat, sheep, water buffalo), and different cheese styles (soft, fresh, washed-rind, firm, crumbly, blue, etc!).
This may be a very personal opinion, but more is more! The goal is to compliment and contrast the textures and flavours of the cured meats. Cheese is a great accompaniment because while it matches the richness of the cured meats, it also contrasts the spicy/smoky/savoury flavours of the charcuterie with sweetness and buttery flavours. Crackers and breads make excellent vessels for soft cheeses and slices of meat; crunchy and crisp is ideal for fattier selections, while softer breads are beautiful with firmer and drier selections. Outside of these basics, here is a quick list of suggestions for dressing your charcuterie board:
Choose a flat surface to present your charcuterie. Wood, ceramic, slate, marble (even just a regular dinner plate!) all make good options. Having small bowls or ramekins are handy for holding accompaniments (especially liquids such as honey or jams) so that they don't create a mess.
Every food has its good side! Sliced salumi can be overlapped in a trailing "river" across your board, larger faced slices like prosciutto or bresaola can be sliced into smaller pieces and rolled or made into "rosettes" by rolling them into conical shapes.
Soft cheeses are best left as whole pieces on your board, to cut as needed, which will keep surfaces from drying out, and will be easier to put away if it is not finished in one sitting. For firm or hard cheeses, a few pre-cut morsels are inviting and can be done in advance and arranged artfully. When cutting your cheeses to serve, make sure to include the rind! An even rind to paste ratio will reduce food waste and add interesting flavours to each bite.
Garnishes are an art form in itself. Not everything on the plate needs to be edible. Greenery such as salad greens and herbs are lovely, but some sprigs of spruce and and nuts in the shell are garnishes that won't get picked over.