The holidays are a busy time—social events, family gatherings, shopping, and all the regular day to day stuff on top of it all. The last thing anyone wants to do when trying to enjoy a gathering with friends or family is add hours of prep and cooking to their responsibilities. Enter the most perfect hosting meal: The Charcuterie Board. Charcuterie is originally a French concept and started as a series of pork products. Today, it’s more of a spin on the Spanish idea of tapas—a variety of snacky items to be enjoyed with a glass of wine.
Building a charcuterie board is simple once you grasp the basics. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a gorgeous (and delicious) meal, with no cooking at all, and very little preparation.
Build Your Base
Start with—you’ve got it—a board! Although a nice rustic wooden board makes a lovely backdrop for your charcuterie, you can also use a clean cutting board or even a pretty tray in a pinch. Almost any home good store sells boards specifically for the purpose, and a large one can be a good investment if you have a lot of people to feed.
Yes, meat is important, but a charcuterie board rises or falls on its cheese. Choose three or four varieties that aren’t too similar. For example, a firm cheese like sharp cheddar, a mild gouda, a soft goat cheese, and a piece of blue cheese will give people different flavor profiles to mix and match with the other items.
Next, The Meats
The variety concept also works for the meat aspect of your tray. Purchase a few different flavors of hard salami, cut into rounds, and arrange on your board along with some thin sliced pancetta or ham. For adventurous palates, you can add a pate spread.
Pickled Veggies and Fruits
A delicious complement to the cheeses and meats are pickled vegetables. Cucumber pickles are common and work well, or you can quick pickle your own red onion. The acidity gives a punch to the other foods, and can also be used as a palate cleanser. Fruits are delicious and add a great splash of color to your tray. Strawberries and blueberries are an excellent choice, even if out of season. Decadent preserved cherries and cranberry sauce are more holiday-driven choices. Many grocery stores also sell fruit compotes or jellies that can be sliced and arranged attractively on your tray.
Add a Bit of Spice
You’ve got the creaminess of the cheese, the gaminess of meat, acids from the pickled vegetables, and sweetness from the fruits—now we need a touch of spice. A grainy brown mustard and smooth Dijon-style mustard are perfect complements and can be served directly from the tray or from small dishes.
Finish with a Serving Carb
Finally, you want a delicious base on which to showcase your meat and cheese selections. Select a good crusty loaf of bread like a baguette or a light pleasant sourdough. Cut into slices and arrange directly on the tray or if you’re strapped for room serve, from a basket lined with a napkin. You can also serve hearty crackers or have a gluten-free cracker selection available.
With these Charcuterie Board basics, the sky’s the limit. Use your artistic vision to create a board that’s as beautiful as it is delicious. You can even create little descriptive labels if you want to show off your meat and cheese’s fancy pedigrees. Purchase several bottles of good wine and spend your holiday where you belong. Mingling with your loved ones and not in the kitchen.