If you don’t feel confident in the kitchen, the charcuterie board might become your best friend. No cooking skills required whatsoever and even the least creative person can put together an artful masterpiece of meat and cheese. You can make them large enough to feed an army or small enough for a date night with your other half.
Charcuterie boards are hands down the easiest and most elegant appetizer for any group. But they are often overlooked as many think they are too difficult or complicated to make, or that there are certain rules you have to follow. In my humble opinion, the only rule for making a charcturie board is that there are no rules. It’s typically comprised of a few kinds of cheeses, a few kinds of meats, a nice crusty sliced baguette and some crispy crackers along with a few other accompaniments–think pickles, potato salad, roasted nuts, fresh or dried fruit, jams, spreads, etc. Actually, I do always follow one rule when making my boards–variety and randomness are paramount. I like to cut all the cheeses in different shapes and arrange my meats in different shapes also. I put some in neat rows, others in piles, some are fanned around dishes and others are rolled into little cones. I never plan where I’m going to put anything; I just let it happen organically.
But if you’re into following rules you can use a simple blueprint of different cheese textures that takes the guesswork out of what to include. Try one creamy cheese (like Brie), one firm cheese (like manchego), one crumbly or blue cheese (like goat cheese or gorgonzola) and one aged cheese (like aged cheddar). Also try to include a variety of textures with the meats–soppressata or hard salami, proscuitto, and sliced deli meats work well. But don’t get hung up following these blueprints exactly. I usually think about the tastes of my guests and try to include things that I know they will like, and also things that they maybe haven’t tried before.
The best part is it’s a great way to use up those odds and ends you have in your fridge or cupboard. You know, the ten green olives at the bottom of the jar, the last of the Dijon mustard, the handful of roasted pecans you didn’t end up using in your favorite cookie recipe. The wider the variety, the more beautiful the cheese plate.
Charcuterie Board Making 101
- soft cheese
- firm cheese
- aged cheese
- crumbly/blue cheese
- deli sliced ham
- sliced French baguette
- sliced apples
- Dijon mustard
- roasted pecans
- pitted olives
- literally whatever you want
Find a large cutting board or serving platter. Place your accompaniments (pickles, fruit, nuts) in small serving dishes. Start by arranging those on your platter. Slice cheese and meats into bite size pieces and arrange them randomly on your platter. Add sliced bread and crackers to the platter. Pour yourself and your guests a glass of wine and head for the patio to enjoy this delicious appetizer!
When selecting your meats and cheeses, plan on about 3-5 ounces of meat/cheese per person, depending on whether this is an appetizer or main course.