If you’re looking for an elegant, crowd-pleasing addition to your holiday party this year, then you may want to consider a Charcuterie Board! In the French, “charcuterie” usually refers to a plate of cured meats and sausages, but you know we can’t have a plate of meat without an assortment of delicious cheeses, fruity spreads, tangy olives, and crunchy breads. So today I’m sharing my tips to create this perfect, elegant holiday appetizer that I hope you, and your guests, will love!
There are a thousand ways to make a beautiful assortment of tastes and textures, but the most important tip is to keep in mind the preference of the guests you’ve invited. Make sure you’re including elements that they will feel comfortable approaching and trying. BUT don’t be afraid to throw in something unique here and there! You’d be surprise what your guests will try when it is elegantly presented. They may find themselves loving your thoughtful take on this french classic!
Here are my secrets to success for creating elegant and crowd-pleasing charcuterie boards:
- Select a variety of flavors and textures that will offer an appetizing selection, but not an overwhelming abundance. (Remember – more is not better, better is better!)
- Cured or smoked meats, such as jerky, salami, sausage, ham, prosciutto, pepperoni
- 3-5 Cheeses of varying types, including aged, hard, veined, and soft
- An assortment of stone-ground mustards
- Baguette slices – you can never have too much bread, plus it helps fill up your guests!
- Assorted flavored butters
- Flavored cream cheese or goat cheese spreads
- Duck pate or duck rillette
- Assorted interesting crackers and breadsticks
- Fruits and Dried Fruits, such as sliced apples and pears, fresh figs, dried apricots, etc
- Nuts, such as smoked almonds, pistachios, glazed pecans
- Assorted pickles and okra
- Olives, peppadews, chutneys, fruit spreads and jams, marinated artichokes, pestos, capers
- Choose an assortment of pretty marble or slate slabs, or use wooden cutting boards and arrange your elements to create a pleasing layout; I like to place my meats more in the center of my boards, surrounding them with small bowls of the other chosen ingredients that will make interesting flavor combinations.
3. Portion Planning
- In my experience, guests will eat as much as you place out on your boards. As an appetizer, plan on at least 2-3 oz. of total meat per person and about 2 oz. of cheese per person. Planning for these portions will still allow room for later courses at dinner.
- If your charcuterie and cheese boards are to be the main course, double the amount to 5-6 oz. per person.
- Remember that your plate size matters! Smaller plates can slow down the noshing and help make it last (they can always go back for more)!
- Cheeses and cured meats are at their optimum flavor when served at room temperature so arrange them on your boards about 30 minutes before your guests arrive.
- If possible, label the elements included on your boards so guests know what their eating.
- To avoid mixing the cheeses and spreads, provide knives and serving utensils for each element.
- Keep extras on hand in the refrigerator so you can replenish as the party goes on. (see safety, below)
- This would go great with a glass of red wine!
- It is best not to let your charcuterie and cheese boards stand at room temperature for more than two hours. Using smaller boards will allow you switch to a fresh one as needed after your event gets under way.