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December 7, 2022
Here’s something to wow your guests when you entertain: a charcuterie board.
Charcuterie boards are all the rage this year — a sure conversational piece at a party or when you have a few friends over. In the simplest terms, it’s a tray loaded with all sorts of finger foods, commonly eaten as an appetizer. Meat and cheese are just the beginning. After that, let your creativity rule.
I like to think of the “three C’s” when making a board: creativity (colorful foods arranged artistically), choice (tailored to your likes and dislikes) and convenience (small nibbles and individual portions that make choosing easy).
The term “charcuterie” refers to the culinary art of preparing cured meats, which are ready to be eaten. As such, charcuterie boards most often contain meats such as salami, prosciutto, summer sausage, ham or cured chorizo. However, the best thing about charcuterie boards is you can use whatever foods you like. Consider a variety of colors, textures and flavors, and include foods that are sweet, savory, salty and spicy.
Almost any board or platter can be used, as long as it’s food-safe: wooden cutting boards, platters, a serving tray or even butcher paper on your kitchen counter will work.
Here are some charcuterie board ingredient ideas:
Veggies. Cucumber slices, radish slices, cherry tomatoes, mini peppers, sugar snap peas
Fruits. Grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, pitted Medjool dates with blue cheese and prosciutto, dried apricots, mandarin orange wedges, split pomegranate
Cheeses. Fresh mozzarella (soft), La Bonne Vie triple crème brie with honey, Devonshire cheddar (semi-hard), gouda, havarti, Vermont Creamery Cremont, Westminster Rustic Red, Somerdale Stilton cheese with cranberries, drunken goat cheese
Meats. Columbus Genoa salami, speck prosciutto, ham, summer sausage, Columbus peppered salami slices
Nuts. Marcona almonds, cashews, pistachios, caramelized pecans
Crackers. Cracked pepper wafer crackers, cranberry-pumpkin seed cracker crisps, Butcher & Baker sea salt flatbread crackers
Breads. Whole-wheat crackers, baguette slices, pretzels, oven-baked Parm crisps
Pickled Elements. Olives, cornichons, pepperoncinis, tri-color Pepperazzi spicy-sweet peppers
Spreads. Olive oil, red pepper jelly, jalapeno jelly, cranberry stone-ground mustard, hummus
Dessert. chocolate and assorted bite-size sweets
When you’re ready to arrange your board, it’s like ordering pizza. Match the size of the board to the number of guests: 8 inches in diameter for two to three people; 10 inches for four to five people; 12 inches for six to seven people; and 15 inches for eight to 12 people. Then use small, colorful plates and bowls to spotlight specialty foods and hold sauces, dips and small items like nuts and olives.
Your goal is to arrange the food into a beautiful artwork display where the board is your canvas.
Randomly place the small bowls and plates (unfilled at first) on the platter. Wash and slice all fruits and veggies. If needed, slice cheese, meat and breads. A rule of thumb: Add four or five primary foods in ample quantities, and then smaller portions of secondary foods.
Remember a well-rounded board needs contrasts. Use a variety of vegetables, fruits and dips for color. Balance soft cheese and hummus with crispy crackers. Add flavor surprises like chocolate covered pretzel sticks for a mix of sweet and salty.
Here’s a recipe from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, for a primary food:
1 small baguette
2 tablespoons butter, softened
¼ cup cherry preserves
5 ounces fontina, shredded
2 ounces thinly sliced spicy salami
¼ cup mini cornichons (pickles)
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to broil. Slice the baguette slightly on a bias into 16 crostini. Spread a thin layer of the butter and preserves onto each slice, and then place onto a baking sheet. Top each with a good pinch of the fontina and transfer to the oven to broil, about five minutes.
Carefully remove the baking sheet form the oven and transfer the crostini to a board or platter. Fold the salami into triangles and add one to the top of each slice. Garnish each one with a mini cornichon and serve. Serves 16.
Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with Southern Illinois University Medical School in Springfield, Ill. Send recipe ideas to her at [email protected].
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