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  • Writer's pictureIldiko

Charcuterie Boards, too pretty to eat!

I am a huge fan of Charcuterie Boards and make them often for our gatherings. There are so many advantages to serving one!

  • aesthetically beautiful centerpiece

  • many food choices to suit all tastes

  • easy to assemble

Let me start with the Wow! factor

Placing a large colorful charcuterie board as the focus of your appetizer table always grabs attention and generates discussion. It is a colorful, decadent centerpiece that entices your guests to feast. (although if you make them too pretty, they may be reluctant to disrupt it, lol!) The quality of the food selections is certainly very important, but don’t underestimate aesthetics! Such aesthetics can be achieved by varying the color, texture, 3-dimensionality, pattern and variety of the displayed items. It works particularly well in modern kitchens as guests, based on my observations, tend to stand and congregate around the kitchen island to nosh, drink and socialize. The selections on the board always make for great conversation starters! I suggest placing petite appetizer plates and toothpicks alongside the board which will allow your guests to sample a potpourri of the offerings.

Whet their appetite!

We serve appetizers not only to have something to munch on alongside pre-dinner cocktails or aperitifs, allowing time for your guests to gather and get settled, but also to sharpen their eagerness or interest for the main entree. A charcuterie board works perfectly in this situation because there are such diverse selections on the board that it will truly suit everyone‘s tastes: from sweet to savory, creamy to crunch, mild to spicy ... even your pickiest eater will find things to try. The samplings are also small and bite-sized which may embolden guests to try foods that they may be unfamiliar with.

Easy to assemble and master!

While the completed board looks very impressive, and perhaps even daunting, they are actually quite easy to assemble and master. The most challenging component is to decide what you want on the board, to make a list of those ingredients and then go to the grocery or specialty stores to purchase the small quantities of the various items. In trying to decide what I’m going to put on my board, these are the factors I consider, along with examples of some food items for each category.

  • Consider the number of guests I am entertaining, which determines the size of the board I would consider using. Fewer people need a smaller board, more people need a larger board. I want to whet their appetites, but not fill them up ... especially if I still have an entree and dessert, planned

  • Consider color: would like a color variety. For example reds (pomegranate seeds, raspberries, small strawberries, red grapes, peppadew peppers, Peruvian drop peppers, roasted red peppers, cherry tomatoes), blue/purple (blueberries, kalamata olives, purple grapes, blackberries), greens (green grapes, kiwi, green olives, small bite-sized pickles, pistachios), neutrals (small dried figs, Marcona almonds, dates, variety of crackers) whites (small mozzarella balls, Brie cheese, Blue cheese, white cheddar cheese), miscellaneous (dried apricots, dates, jams, balsamic reduction, chocolate), cured meats (salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, sausage)

  • Consider texture: smooth surfaces (blueberries, olives, pepper, pomegranate seeds), rough/shriveled surfaces (cured olives, dried fruits, pickles, almonds)

  • Consider 3-dimensional perspective: tall or long items (bread sticks), cubic items (cubed cheese), semi-circles (half a round of Brie, half apple thinly sliced), wedges or blocks (cheeses), rolled foods (prosciutto, salami), small rounds (sausage slices, crackers), small bowl of jams/honey/balsamic vinegar reduction, piles of small foods (almonds, blueberries, raspberries, dried apricots), decorative fillers (chocolates, clementine orange, rosemary sprig, mint leaves)

  • Consider taste: sweet, salty, tart, savory, spicy, bitter, truffle

  • Consider cheese variety: mild, sharp, pungent, soft and creamy, hard, cheese with blue veins, cheese with fruits, color of cheese, color of rind, cheese with herb exterior

  • Consider adding meat: prosciutto, salami, sausage, Coppa ham, pepperoni

By now you may be overwhelmed with options, and the planning and assembly may feel daunting. But rest assured that there is no wrong way to do this. Play around with different items. The more boards you assemble, the easier it becomes. Like I noted earlier, the most challenging part is going out and actually purchasing the variety of products you want.

You do want variety!

Some tips for Board assembly:

One tip that you may want to consider is to physically cluster foods that pair well together next to each other on the board so that your guests will have easy access to a tasty pairing combination. Some examples of great pairing clusters are ...

  • Manchengo cheese, fig jam and marcona almond with Sea Salt

  • creamy Brie cheese, apricot jam, light rice cracker

  • Blue cheese, honey and walnut

  • Blue cheese, thin-sliced pear and candied pecan

  • cantaloupe melon ball, prosciutto and balsamic reduction

  • English-style cheddar with blueberry-lavender jam

  • Smoky blue cheese paired with dark chocolate

  • Asiago Fresco cheese with Coppa ham

Another tip is to consider pre-slicing the cheeses, apples and other larger items so that they can easily be removed from the board by your guests. I find that it can be cumbersome for individuals to try to cut pieces on the board, once it is assembled, because invariably adjacent foods get knocked off the board and there is no ideal place to keep the knife. What ends up happening, in my experience, is that guests will skip over those larger, uncut foods due to that inconvenience. And, yes, I know, that IS a first-world problem 🙄

As far as "the board" is concerned, I typically use a heavy wooden butcher block board. But you can consider a granite or slate slab, a large flat ceramic tile. Really anything large and flat would work. Certainly, size needs to be taken into consideration.

For those who have never put together a charcuterie board, I hope this post peaks your interest. See this as an opportunity to gastronomically express yourself. You can do this, go for it!!



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