Don’t Get Cute with your Charcuterie Board

The charcuterie board, with its medley of delicious and complementary flavors and textures, has taken over the entertaining world for its ability to draw people together at any gathering.

There’s a reliable formula for choosing the meats, cheeses and accompaniments that will succeed at this, so it’s wise to follow it pretty closely.

We’re using “charcuterie board” here to include cheese boards that also contain meat — the terms are almost interchangeable but cheese boards generally emphasize cheese over meat, so if you’re making one you’ll want to reverse steps 2 and 3:

1. Choose the surface — Start with a clean, attractive serving board or platter that can accommodate your guests. Common choices include wood, slate and marble.

A standard cutting board of 12×18 inches can accommodate four to six guests, and a 16×24-inch one can feed about 15 to 20. For larger gatherings you can cover an entire table with boards or scatter them around the venue.

2. Select your meats — Choose a variety of cured meats, such as prosciutto, salami, chorizo, and coppa. These should be thinly sliced and arranged in an appealing manner.

Consider different flavors and textures, from mild to spicy.

3. Add the cheese — Include a mix of soft, hard and semi-soft varieties. Common choices include brie, cheddar, Gouda, blue cheese and goat cheese. Slice them thinly in various shapes and sizes, and provide cheese knives or spreaders.

4. Incorporate accompaniments— These can be fresh or dried fruits, nuts, olives, pickles, dips, bread and crackers.

You can be more creative here by introducing more unexpected options like edible flowers, caviar, mushroom caps or even pork rinds for the carb-averse.

5. Garnish with herbs — Sprinkle fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme on the board to add color and a hint of fragrance.

6. Arrange items strategically — Place the components on the board in an aesthetically pleasing way, creating visual balance and variety. You can either go for a more structured, organized look or an abundant, overflowing style, depending on your preference.

7. Add a personal touch — Customize your charcuterie board with additional items that suit your taste or the theme of your gathering. These could include roasted vegetables, dark chocolate, specialty crackers or fresh veggies from your own garden.

8. Consider dietary restrictions — If you’re serving a diverse group, make sure to offer some vegetarian or vegan options, such as marinated tofu or plant-based cheeses.

9. Pair with wine and other beverages — Charcuterie boards are most often enjoyed with wine. It’s easy to start to overthink which ones you should choose but most combinations will work, though you might want to err on the side of a lighter-bodied wine that works as well with delicate as with bold flavors.

Don’t forget to offer non-alcoholic options like sparkling water or craft sodas as well.

10. Serve with appropriate utensils— Ensure guests have cheese knives, small plates and napkins available to them, at a minimum.

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