Char-CUTE-erie (hint: it has to look good)

If you know me, you know I pride myself on being charcuterie ready and no, it is not just meat and cheese. A couple of important things to know about charcuterie:

  • cheese is polarizing, make sure you have at least one milder and traditional type cheese; some people just can’t go with the funk that is taliggeo
  • the vehicle to carry the goodness from board to mouth is important, offer a variety (I will always go back to texture and how important it is)
  • Load up the board, the more the better!
  • You want things to encourage people to try something new and from every aspect of taste: salty, sweet, spicy, creamy, crunchy, etc.
  • I always make too much so you will have to play with quantities If you do make too much, throw it in a ziplock and add to an omelette or salad the next day! Waste not, want not….

Cheese: Move over cheddar, there’s something funkier (but not too far, we still love you bunches)

Essentially there are seven “types” of cheeses, you want to choose a variety and not duplicate types on one board. Unless you are serving a large group, I would stick to four cheese to start. Following are the types of cheeses*:

  • Fresh and Aged cheese (no or insignificant rind): Ricotta, mozzarella, cottage cheese
  • Soft White Rind: Camembert, Goat, Brie 
  • Semi-Soft:  Edam, Taliggeo, Munster
  • Hard*: Cheddar, Pecorino, Manchego, Parmesan
  • Blue: Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort
  • Customized: Cheeses with additives like dill, peppers, truffles, etc.

*Note: These cheeses are typically okay for people who are lactose intolerant, they can have at least a little of this cheese traditionally.

Obviously you do not want to include cheese from the first bullet (which I combined the first and second “type” because no one really cares about them in this context) and the rest is up to you. You definitely don’t want to use only one type but the variations within each type gives you a good amount of flexibility. For example, I traditionally omit the “blue” type simply because I don’t love this variation.

My recommendation for this blog will be soft rind, hard, customized and semi-soft especially if you are a charcuterie newbie but it is good even if you have been doing it forever; again, it is your food, make it yours.

If you are looking for some go-to cheeses to keep in your repertoire, following are my suggestions but look around, get samples and add a fun new one each time. Step out of the box with one cheese each time, broaden your cheese horizons:

  • Mustard Seed Cheddar – Customized
  • Triple Cream French – Soft White Rind
  • Manchego – Hard
  • Ossau Iraty – Semi-Soft (could be hard, depends on the aging)
  • Smoked Gouda – Hard

Meat: Please do not call Pepperoni Meat when discussing charcuterie (that’s cheese and crackers)…

The options for the actual meat portion of the board are less varied than cheese, there are still tons but the variations are often nominal. I like to stick to the ones that offer a distinct variety in terms of texture, moisture and size but just make sure you don’t have three types of salami and you will be fine. Following are the types of meats that I go to generally, always trying to mix it up a little:

  • Prosciutto*
  • Peppered Salami
  • Bresaola
  • Finocchiona
  • Spicy Capicola

*If you can find duck prosciutto, grab it! It has an amazing texture and it’s drier so it is between a jerker and prosciutto without the earthly duck flavor that comes to mind. Trust me…

Getting the Goodness in your Belly

As with meats and cheeses, the options to port said meats/cheeses to your mouth is pretty much endless but I will stick to breads/crackers for this portion of the post (the really good stuff follows later on).

You really want to have a couple of different options depending on what you are serving on the board but you can’t go wrong with the variations below:

  • Sliced baguette
  • Almond Crackers
  • Melba Toast
  • Pumpernickel Squares
  • Triscuits
  • Water Crackers

Two or three of the above referenced bits will be great until you get really comfortable with your charcuterie skills. Really, it is not that serious.

The Accoutrements are Key

I am huge on adding fun things to a charcuterie board so I would like to give you some thoughts on what to put on the board and some suggestions on how you pair them, you can even create one specific pairing from the board and set it on a small plate to demonstrate to your guests what you had in mind!

Some of the things to consider when fleshing out your board ( this is just to get you thinking, you can add literally anything):

  • Cornichon (each and every time)
  • Olives
  • Smoked Almonds
  • Marcona Almonds
  • Candied Pecans or Walnuts
  • Fig Jam
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Honey
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Sweet Drop Peppers
  • Pear
  • Dried Figs
  • Pickled Vegetables or Jalapeños
  • Roasted Beets
  • Blanched Asparagus Pieces
  • Melon (cantaloupe or honeydew)

Let’s talk about the pairings

If you think about the flavors you enjoy you can put together most anything from a charcuterie board. Following are some of my favorites:

  • Brie with cranberry sauce and Candied Pecans
  • Goat with Roasted Beets and Candied Walnuts
  • Blanched Asparagus with Pecorino
  • Brie with honey and pear
  • Manchego with dried fig and Peppered Salami
  • Braseola with Mustard Seed Cheddar and Dijon Mustard
  • Prosciutto with melon and Ossau Iraty

Get where I am going with this? Think about the things you like and put those on the board. I know you are probably tired of hearing me say this but it is your food, make it your own!

Please share your thoughts and photos on IG @chigirlcooks. I would love to hear from you…..t

Dinner of Champions and Girls everywhere……