Appetizers are a huge hit at every party. Who doesn’t love tasty hand-sized snacks that you can grab and go? No one wants to get stuck at the snack table chatting with Aunt Karen for too long. A quick handheld treat will have you safely back in your seat in no time.
Seriously though, charcuterie boards aren’t just one of my favorite appetizers—they are one of my favorite meals. That’s right, a meal. My wife and I love loading these up with our favorite cheat day appetizers for our stay at home date nights. We skip dinner and head straight to the board while watching a movie on the couch, hanging outside on the patio, or set up beside a campfire. The board is easy to transport and goes wherever we go.
Stacking Up Your Shar-kood-eree Board
Although most people don’t pronounce this dish right, charcuterie boards are always a crowd-pleaser and one of the first empty dishes on the table. These things are stacked with some of the best tasting pairing options you could imagine. A solid charcuterie board is well thought out and planned in advance. Sure, you can make a cheap man’s cheese and cracker spread with items you have in your kitchen right now, but nothing compares to a pre-plotted masterpiece consisting of your favorite mouth-watering sweet, spicy, savory, and acidic treats. The deli section in your local grocery store is stocked with lots of aged and gourmet “deli”cacies that can be stacked on your board. It’s a great excuse to try something new.
In the planning stage, it’s essential to think about choosing a plating theme. Not every charcuterie board is filled with Italian favorites. Maybe you’re taking your board to a Halloween bash, a Super Bowl event, or a themed dinner night? Take your plating up a notch and add some relative flavors and garnishes to enhance your board. If you’re having Mexican, incorporate Tex Mex flavors such as a Mexican cheese ball, some spicy chorizo, and garnish with cilantro and jalapenos. A side of Pico de Gallo or avocado dip pairs perfectly with these flavors!
You can step up your theme game even more by creating all sorts of stacking patterns with your food’s shapes and colors. The presentation draws a crowd in. Plating a charcuterie can be like performing in an episode of Art Attack on your kitchen counter. Have fun with it!
Keep in mind that an overloaded board isn’t always appealing, and it’s not easy to transport. When trying to impress your guests, always play it safe and choose quality over quantity. The extra space will enhance and highlight the apps against the wood.
The Slab: Does It Have To Be Wood?
Although it is traditional, it is not a must. You can prepare a charcuterie board on any flat food safe surface. You can prepare yourself a slab of marble full of antipasto items and call it a charcuterie board. It just doesn’t have the same aesthetic.
When choosing a wood board, make sure it’s hardwood and food safe. Softwoods wear down quickly, causing the food-safe coating to disintegrate over time. Invest in a quality slab that will hold up over time. Look for boards made from teak, hard maple, bamboo, or black walnut.
Pairing Combos 101
Charcuterie boards aren’t just about the meat, cheese, and antipasto delights. You can make fruit favored boards, desert boards, vegetarian boards, whatever you desire. It’s a dish that you get to be creative with. Any finger food that can be served in bite-size pieces can make its way onto the stack. Just be mindful of your flavor pairings.
A charcuterie board includes a variety of treats that complement each other. I try to include items that all of my guests will enjoy. The rule of thumb is to start with choosing three of each deli items. I pick three types of cheese (a soft, a medium, and a strong). Next, I choose three types of meat that pair well with the cheese, including a sweet, savory, and spicy meat. Once the main deli items have been selected, it’s all about adding finishing touches to enhance these items. Choose something with a crunch; nuts and crackers go over well. Find a sweet fruit to add as a garnish. Grapes and dried apricots are always a crowd-pleaser and will add a pop of color on the board. Incorporate something acidic to clear the palate by including olives or something pickled. Finally, top it off with a cool or cooked spread, jam or dip. Some fan favorites include Pâté, apricot/fig jams, and spicy red pepper jelly.
Making a charcuterie board may seem overwhelming and complicated, but it’s surprisingly easy and enjoyable. Once you get going and familiarize yourself with your favorite pairings, you’ll be whipping up some new inventive masterpieces and impressing your guests in no time! If you try out our techniques share it with the ManMade community on our Facebook or Pinterest.