Charcuterie boards are my go-to appetizer, any time of the year. Build an easy cheese board to serve to your guests and entertain with ease.
You can make the charcuterie board as simple or as elaborate as you wish. It is really up to you and how many guests you are expecting.
Easy to put together, and everyone loves the look and taste of a cheeseboard.
Charcuterie, pronounced shahr-cute-uh-ree, is a French word for smoked, dry-cured or cooked meats.
For me, the cheese is the main event and sometimes, if it is a quick thing I am throwing together, there is no meat at all.
Perhaps I should call my charcuterie a cheeseboard, or cheese plate? But because French words are so fun, I call my cheese-cracker-fruit-board a charcuterie.
You will always find a variety of cheeses in my fridge at all times. The shelf life is fairly long, and I am always prepared to pull something together if friends drop by. Crackers are also a staple in my pantry for such occasions.
A few years ago, I started collecting bread boards and wooden cutting boards. I prefer handmade items from local artists, but I also have a few from Target and Pottery Barn. They are great to decorate your kitchen; they are useful in the kitchen, as well as perfect to serve appetizers.
Start with your board.
The size of the board depends on how many people you are serving and how many ingredients you will serve. You can use any cutting board, cheese board, bread board or marble board.
Now that you have your board, here are some easy items found at your grocery store to make the perfect charcuterie board for your guests.
First and foremost, cheese is the center character on my boards. I love cheese, so I cheese it up. Place your cheeses for the board first, with plenty of space between each variety.
I always start with a great aged cheddar. I also like spice, so I also serve cheese with a little kick. You will want to have several types, as well as colors, of cheese; making the board interesting, both visually, as well as to the taste buds.
When you are serving a charcuterie, it is a great time to try something new. Have familiar cheese, like cheddar, but also serve something not as common—like a Gruyere or a Gouda. Smoked Gouda is one of my favorites.
Also, serve one or two soft cheeses on your charcuterie board. Some of my favorites are Feta, Gorgonzola, and goat cheese. An easy soft cheese I like to keep handy in case friends drop by is Boursin. It is a soft cheese and comes in a few flavors. Also, a Brie is a great choice for a soft cheese on your board.
Now add the meat.
You will want to have several choices of meat. I like pancetta wrapped cheese sticks (because I love cheese!). They can easily be found with all the specialty cheeses, near the deli area. You can also serve a salami or any deli meat easily picked up and bite size.
Fruits and veggies are next.
I always serve one or two bunches of grapes. They are easy to pop in your mouth, taste great with wine, and look beautiful on the board. Sliced pears, figs, apples, blackberries or raspberries are other great options. You can also add sliced bell peppers, carrots, or other raw vegetables.
Place the grapes, still on the vine, in at least two bunches in between the meats and the cheeses.
Sweet and Salty.
Go nuts, and serve several types. Almonds, pecans, sweetened or not, pine nuts, walnuts, or even peanuts, are great choices to add to your board.
These can be placed in small bowls or ramekins or directly on the charcuterie board. Again, fill in the space between all the cheese, meat, and fruit.
Pickles and olives are another great salty item to add to the board. Served in ramekins, pretty little bowls, or you can add them directly to the board if there is room.
A nice jam is a great sweet to add, especially if you are serving Brie. You could also have a spicy jam to add interest to the pallet as well as the palette.
Now for the crackers and bread.
I use more crackers than bread, but both are great to have on your charcuterie board. I usually try to have at least three choices, depending again on how big your board is, as well as how many you are feeding.
I always serve a simple cracker like a water cracker and a whole grain. You can add a well-known like a Ritz, too, if you like.
If you have guests who are sensitive to gluten, it is a great idea to have a gluten-free variety, as well. You can place the crackers in any spaces left on the charcuterie board. You can also have a dish, or small bowl or two, placed around the board.
For planned dinner parties, I also like to include a tall cracker—like an Italian bread-stick, served in a pretty glass beside the charcuterie board. Again this adds visual happiness as well as happiness to your taste-buds.
And last, the finishing touches.
To finish the board, add a sprig or two of fresh rosemary or a holly stem at Christmas. Another idea is a tiny pile of arugula; the peppery taste is delicious with cheeses.
Serve with toothpicks, decorated or not, a few cheese knives, and small plates and napkins close by. Oh, and don’t forget the wine!
Making a charcuterie is really an artistic, delicious activity. There is no wrong way to arrange it, and actually, the more you pile on, the better—visually, and again—tastefully.