Nothing says 2019 hosting like a beautifully designed charcuterie board. Truly just an elevated Lunchable, a well-made charcuterie is a perfect anchor for dinner parties and cocktail hours as it draws a crowd into munch and chitchat. Assembling one can be somewhat daunting though—which crackers should be next to which cheeses, which dried fruits will be accompanying these spiced nuts, and do olives really need to be involved? We’re here to help.
For starters, make sure you have a flat (no rounded edges or lips) board is crucial to properly fit everything and prevent falling cured meats. Whether you use a good old fashioned wooden cutting board, a large slab of marble, or a serving platter it must be fully flat.
Grocery shopping for the board can be the most fun and challenging part. Start with the meats and cheeses you want to display—a couple hard and sharp cheddars, a soft and creamy brie, goat cheese, gouda, and a really crumbly blue are some good places to start. I love to peruse the cheese sections of my local Trader Joe’s or Wholefoods and buy small amounts of various types of cheeses. As for meats, thinly sliced prosciutto, cured salami, thick-cut pepperonis, and even dried jerkies are good options. For design, start with the cheeses that you plan to leave in block form with small cutting knives. Begin to fill in with sliced cheese options, and start layering the meats alongside the sliced cheese.
Adding dimension and height to a board make it all the more aesthetically pleasing. Small bowls and serving dishes are a great way to break up the otherwise one dimensional and flat appearance of a cheeseboard. They also serve as the perfect vessels for honey, jams, dips, nuts, dried fruits, olives…. Anything that may spread or roll.
Crackers and bread should be last and least. These pieces are the easiest to re-supply, so it’s best not to overwhelm the board with them. Utilizing empty pockets, stuff torn pieces of baguette and ciabatta, and layer various crackers along with the slices of cheese.
You don’t have to be an expert in flavor pairings to pull off the perfect platter, you just have to have enough options to ensure that things go together. For nuts, choose something spicy or salted and something candied. For fruits, add both fresh and dried options. With a couple of bottles of wine and an endless flow of warm bread, no guest will complain.