Think of a scrumptious variety of cheeses, cured meats, fresh colourful fruits, crunchy nuts, assorted dips and much more. That’s what you need to make a charcuterie board.
The word ‘charcuterie’ translates into ‘a shop selling cold meats.’ A classic French way of presenting meat and cheese, a typical charcuterie board would comprise various meat products, like ham, salami, sausage, bacon and prosciutto, seasonal pickled or raw vegetables, fresh fruits and a lot of cheese.
When it comes to making a charcuterie board, you can start with choosing a good mix of soft and hard cheeses that will cater to guests with varying preferences. Options like parmesan, brie, gruyère, cheddar, mozzarella, ricotta and cream cheese help you play with different flavours and textures. Other essential condiments for a charcuterie board are dips, like hummus, sweet and savoury marmalades and jams and honey.
However, a well-made charcuterie board is not only about the ingredients but also how you present them on the platter. Thus, a wooden serving board or a large cutting board must be adorned with meats, fruits, vegetables, dips and cheese, ensuring that there’s no crowding. Many prefer using parchment paper for the ingredients and small bowls for dips, making the board more visually appealing. Finishing touches like garnishing with fresh herbs also add to the flavour.
Although charcuterie has its roots in French cuisine, the concept has reached other parts of the world and has become more popular than ever. Every region has contributed to shaping the charcuterie board with their local cuisine. For instance, while a Greek mezze platter exudes versatility with pita bread, hummus and tzatziki, a Mexican board offers a brilliant spread of cheeses like cotija, manchego and queso de cabra and guacamole, salsa and pico de gallo dips.
However, the best thing about a charcuterie platter is that it seems like a do-it-yourself (DIY) serving tray, and it needs little preparation or cooking time. In fact, at times, there is no cooking involved at all.
An easy way to get something for everyone in a room full of guests, charcuterie boards make for a perfect appetiser on any occasion.
Here are 5 charcuterie board ideas to impress your guests
Classic charcuterie board
Take the classic meat and cheese platter and elevate it for any kind of gathering. Fill the board with hard and soft cheeses, including smoked provolone, pepper jack, blue and brie.
Assembling cured meats is essential to a classic charcuterie board. Options like prosciutto, pepperoni, sausage and chorizo make a great variety. Give it an aesthetic touch by folding the salamis and prosciuttos into triangles or halves.
Add fruits, like figs, plums and grapes, along with dried fruits, such as raisins, apricots and cherries, for a good mix of sweet and savoury flavours. Keep an assortment of pistachios, graham crackers, sliced baguette, pecans and olive tapenade for a wholesome and delightful appetiser.
Arrange all elements in a fun and creative way such that every item can be paired with each other. Coupled with wine or any cocktail, have a lovely beginning to your brunch.
Check out how to prepare a classic charcuterie board here.
Mediterranean mezze board
As mentioned earlier, many cultures and traditions have influenced the making of a charcuterie board. The Mediterranean mezze board is a classic example of such an effect. A mix of Mexican delicacies like falafel, kabobs, dolmas and much more, it boasts a variety of cheeses and dips, including hummus, tzatziki and baba ganoush.
Round up the ingredients with an assortment of pita bread, cherry tomatoes, olives, dill pickles, stuffed mozzarella, goat cheese stuffed peppadews, feta cheese and tabbouleh.
You can garnish with parsley or thyme with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Give it a non-vegetarian spin by adding meats like chicken and beef kebabs, depending on your guests’ preferences.
Cheese fondue board
Filled with cheesy goodness and wholesome appetisers, such as vegetables, dried fruits, breads, walnuts and pistachios, this one is an epic charcuterie board idea.
For the savoury spread, include some grilled steak, meatballs and summer sausage coupled with some cured meat options as well.
To make fondue, you’ll need to mix and match cheeses like swiss with gruyere, or sharp cheddar with blue and shredded gouda. Once you’ve found your preferred variety, rub the inside of the fondue pot with garlic and add a cup of wine, beer or chicken broth. Once it simmers, add the cheese while stirring it continuously until it gets incorporated with the liquid. Garnish with salt, pepper and nutmeg and serve hot.
Add a pot of honey to tackle the edginess of the cheeses. There is no rule for making fondues with only the ones we mentioned; experiment with other hard cheeses if you like.
For a dash of sweetness, add chocolates, churros, marshmallows and fresh fruits.
However, it is important to keep in mind to not clutter the board. If there is little space left after placing the fondues, use two charcuterie boards so that all ingredients are visible.
Here’s how you can make Swiss cheese fondue.
Dessert charcuterie board
Make this chocolate and dessert charcuterie board and watch it become the centrepiece of your feast.
A hearty mix of marshmallows, milk and dark chocolates, mint chocolates, candies, pretzels, dried fruits and candied nuts along with large bowls of chocolate and hazelnut spreads, apricot and fig jam and much more, this board is not only beautiful but is a favourite among children too.
Adorn it with cookies, gingerbreads, wafers, churros and candy canes and add fruits like strawberries, peaches, apples and raspberries for a dash of seasonal goodness. Place each fruit on parchment paper to avoid getting mixed up.
Elevate it to your liking with pistachios, walnuts and almonds to add more texture and flavours.
Complete with your favourite chocolate treats, this charcuterie board makes for a great dessert.
Check out how to make a chocolate dessert board.
Vegan charcuterie board
All charcuterie board ideas don’t need to involve meats and cheeses. Vegan cheese boards are equally scrumptious and full of variety.
Go for dairy-free versions of smoked ricotta and cream cheese if you prefer soft cheese over the vegan options of hard cheeses like gouda, blue and cheddar. They will pair extremely well with nuts like walnuts, Marcona almonds, pistachios and fresh crunchy vegetables available at your local grocery store.
Cucumbers, zucchini, snap peas, roasted cauliflowers, cabbage and carrots along with vegan brie and a drizzle of vegan dijon mustard will make this appetising charcuterie board.
You can add a dash of smoky flavours to the board with smoked bell peppers, olives and pickles. Plant-based meat options, spicy tofu and vegan dips as condiments will set this vegan cheese board apart from the very best ones.
(Main and feature image credit: Anto Meneghini/Unsplash)