A charcuterie board is one of the easiest and most impressive appetizer options for busy people. French for “cooked meat”, charcuterie encompasses all manner of cured meats whether air dried, salted, cured or cooked, all spread out on a wooden board or platter. If you’ve eaten at a restaurant lately, chances are you’ve sampled one of these sharing boards of delectable, highly seasoned cured meats.
The greatest charm of a charcuterie platter is the variety of meats and associated nibbles that accompany them. Pork is the main component in most charcuterie, but rabbit, duck, beef and wild game sausages are also represented in the deli case. From the familiar salami and prosciutto to the more exotic paté, there’s something for everyone on one of these boards. Dry cured sausages are usually the main attraction, but there are many different flavors and styles to choose from. If you’re thinking of making a small board, try to combine a spicy and a mild sausage. If offering a larger plate, include a paté and prosciutto along with the more familiar meats.
Remember that a little bit of these rich meats goes a long way. About one or two ounces per person should do it as an appetizer, but if you’re serving a large group with a few different types of meats along with a little cheese, appetites will invariably expand so offer a bit more. If making a charcuterie board lunch (which I highly recommend for a Saturday afternoon), offer about three ounces per person.
At our house, we often make a meal out of one of these boards so I include condiments, fruit, nuts, pickles and just about anything tangy that cuts the richness of the meats right there on the plate. A little bit salty, a little bit sour, whole grained mustard is a must as are tiny French style pickles named cornichon, marinated artichokes, pepperoncini, caper berries, pickled mushrooms, olives and those jars of pickled assorted vegetables. Marcona almonds are my favorite nuts to scatter over a charcuterie board, but also think about cashews, walnuts, pistachios or candied pecans. After all, you are the boss of your charcuterie platter.
Above all, these boards appeal with their simplicity. So relax. You can’t go wrong. It’s essentially a party on a plate. But if life is crazy and you don’t have time to think about assembling a board, don’t worry. Heinen’s can make up a charcuterie board for you. Just call ahead or ask at the deli counter and the deli professionals will arrange something beautiful and delicious for you to take home, unwrap, serve and share.
Carla has spent the past 30 years in the food world as a caterer, artisan baker, cooking school teacher, food writer and author of 6 cook books including the James Beard nominated Big Book of Appetizers. Her passion is sharing fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals that cut prep time and practically eliminate that nightly sinkful of dishes. Look for Carla on Facebook, Twitter (carlacooks), Pinterest and at ravenouskitchen.com where she blogs about everything from cooking for two to easy weekend entertaining for a crowd.