When I first heard of charcuterie, I wondered if I was pronouncing it right (shar-coo-tur-ee) and prematurely dismissed it as too French and too fancy for my kitchen skills. How wrong I was!
A gorgeous serving board piled high with meats, cheeses, crackers, and bread not only looks amazing on a table, it creates a natural gathering spot for guests to gab and eat.
Charcuterie - which simply means meat - can be as complicated or as simple as you like. If you choose to do dry-cured meats (like salame), putting together a charcuterie board doesn't require any actual cooking. You just need some know-how in the meat section at the grocery store and an eye for pretty arrangements.
Once you have the meats chosen, assembly is quick and easy, but the final result looks like you spent hours preparing for your guests. Which, of course, you did! Right?
Finding charcuterie doesn't require a specialty butcher. A trip to Central Market or even your local neighborhood grocery will suffice. I've found that most urban Walmart and Target groceries usually have a small but sufficient specialty meat and cheese section.
For my board, I chose three Italian meats: salame, capocollo, and calabrese. The meats are thinly sliced, but still flavorful. They're also relatively common sandwich additions, so those with pickier palates aren't too timid to try them.
Thin slices also make it easier for guests to fold onto water crackers or crusty chunks of bread. You can buy the meats pre-sliced in the package, so you don't have a flag down a butcher at the store.
The fun part - deciding what spreads and cheeses to use - comes next. I love Trader Joe's truffle mustard with smoked Gruyere on wheat bread with capocollo or salame. On this board, I have Muenster (it's Zack's favorite) and a crumbly, mild Wensleydale.
Mixing regions is probably frowned upon by purists, but I am the reigning queen of substitution - much to Zack's chagrin.
If you're stumped on what cheese to select, pick one each mild, medium and sharp. Guests will enjoy mixing different flavor combinations. My solid go-tos are Gruyere, Gouda, and cheddar.
However, taking risks can result in delicious mistakes. Once, I accidentally bought a Wensleydale cheese without realizing it had a blend of apples and blackcurrants. I experimented and discovered an excellent way to eat it is on crackers drizzled with maple syrup. More, please!
I also use trays to serve small desserts, like individual slices of cheesecake or even different flavors of chocolate. The mini torte tray above has a matching glass cloche. It's so tiny and cute!
You don't have to wait for a special occasion to do a charcuterie board or cheese board. I had just finished snapping photos of this spread when Zack came home from work. Instead of cooking dinner, he was happy to graze off the table. It was more than enough to satisfy two people.
Oh - one last thing! Pickled vegetables are also popular complements to charcuterie and cheese boards. I have an easy recipe for amazing bread and butter pickles I'll share soon.
What do you put on your charcuterie and cheese boards? Let me know!