I get it, you’re thinking that charcuterie is something that you order as a starter with a couple of drinks to warm yourself up for what’s to come, but guess what?
Charcuterie is not just restaurant food, and it doesn’t have to be served first.
Actually in France it follows the main course and is served right before dessert or it sometimes can be considered dessert.
The cured and smoked hams, salami and pâtés usually come with some really nice artisan crafted cheeses, baguette, cornichons, mustards and chutneys.
Depending on how much time or skill you have, you can make your own charcuterie from scratch or you can visit the local butcher, gourmet or most of your regular old run of the mill grocery stores will have them too.
If you wanna make your own there are a ton of books to guide you, but this post is more about what to do with the charcuterie and how to make it sexy and awesome.
Here is my strategy when it comes down to putting it all together.
How Much Charcuterie?
Generally, 3-6 ounces per person is the guideline I’ll usually follow. It really depends on what else you’ll be putting on the board, will there be a bunch of baguette?
Do you have a hungry crowd coming? I’ll try and err on the side of having too much and making it look like a feast as opposed to looking cheap.
Use Different Textures
Use a soft and rich pâté, pair it with a hard salami. It’s a good idea to have a smoked element on there maybe a smoked Italian sausage, but not too much you don’t want everything to taste like smoke.
A rillette either pork or salmon has a nice textural balance to the board and will keep it interesting. Some of my favorites to include would be mortadella, nice and salty and some chorizo and andouille for a hint of spice.
Don’t Forget to Garnish
I must have acid in my food, nothing brings food alive like a squeeze of lemon. Berries are bright and fruity. Nuts are perfect for a little crunch.
I like to toast either macadamias, pistachios or almonds. Cornichons, or the little pickles add a great sour crunchy element. Of course, there is mustard! Cured meat and mustard are perfect for each other, I especially like the whole grain dijon blend, the more complex the flavors, the better.
Don’t forget the baguette, it’s a wonderful and necessary accompaniment to the board.
Slice it up
Rule of thumb for slicing meat is to slice it cold, and temper it so that it’s served at room temperature. It’s much more attractive and sexy if you slice it on the bias to about the size of a quarter. As thin as possible is the best way to go, and please, please remove the casing, nobody wants to eat that.
Bring the Wine
There’s no secret that I’m a wine drinker. I’m pretty much open to any type of wine depending on the weather and what mood strikes me that day. I don’t really think there is a bad wine to have with charcuterie per se, although I do prefer Sav Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cab Franc with my boards.
Cheese, Cheese, Cheese
Regional artisan cheeses is key here, and the same rules apply. Mix up the textures, colors, use different types of cuts and shapes. I usually find myself choosing French cheese, so a brie, triple cream, goat, and a strong blue will most always find it’s way to my board.
Berries, flowers, nuts and always some extra virgin olive oil for a little shine. If you can find some fleur de sel for a little salty crunch, put some healthy pinches over the top, it’ll make your board that much better.