There’s no one “right” way to make a charcuterie board (also called a “meat board”), but there are some basic principles to consider.
First, what is “charcuterie (shar-koo-tur-ee or sometimes shar-que-tur-ee)?” Charcuterie is a French word that refers to the place where cured meats and similar products are made. It also means the products that come out of that place (a “delicatessen” of sorts). Most of these cured meats are pork-based, but they can involve any meat.
As I said above, there’s no single way to create your board. You can make them as big or small as you want. You can add some cheese if you’re ok with dairy. You can add sweet or spicy elements. You can eat them with your fingers or forks. With paleo bread or without.
Consider what you’re making your board for: a dinner party, snacks for family or friends, or a small dinner/lunch for two.
Here are some good guidelines to follow:
- Include a good variety of meats. Even though this may look like a big plate of salame, each type has a different texture and flavor profile. The toscana salame is hard and rich. The peppered salame is soft and peppery. The prosciutto is delicate and fatty. You get the idea. Mix it up.
- Include something spicy, tart, or sweet (or all three!). I’ve added spicy pickled vegetables and some raspberry preserves (fig works even better). The point here is, you want some contrasting sensations, as well as some variety for whomever you’re serving. When it comes to sweet, tart, and spicy, a little goes a long way. Think of these more of an accent than a main ingredient.
- Add some veggies or nuts. Throw some nuts and veggies on the board… I mean… carefully place them in an artistic manner. Nuts and veggies like olives or pickled veggies are a welcome palate cleanser from all those meaty flavors. A must-have, in my opinion.
Use anything you want. I used the following:
- Peppered salame
- Kerrygold grass-fed “Dubliner” aged cheese
- Calabrese salame
- Toscano salami
- Pork terrine
- Hot Italian sausage
- Pickled white asparagus
- Pickled peppers
- Spicy olive bruschetta
- Caper berries
- Raspberry preserves
- Spicy whole grain mustard
- Dijon mustard
- Paleo bread crostini
- Assemble in a visually pleasing manner.
Here are some other options that I’ve come across in my charcuterie adventures:
- Chicken liver pate (goes great with apple slices)
- Duck pate
- Pork rillette
- All sausage varieties
- All pork cured meats
- Various terrines and head cheeses
- Sweet and dill pickles
- Mustard assortments
- Hard boiled eggs
- Sliced strawberries or raspberries
- The list goes on…
And let’s not forget about presentation. Presentation for a meat board counts for a lot. Not just to impress your guests, but a solid presentation makes your meal more appetizing.
In the past, I’ve made charcuterie boards that were crammed with everything under the sun. Didn’t work out so well. Other times I’ve made very sparse boards and they were just right for a light dinner.
Think about your placements. Perhaps a clockwise progression, or a simple left to right progression. Or, whatever feels right. Charcuterie is about being rustic and simple. But why not do it with a little flare if you can?