Here I go – jumping on the proverbial bandwagon of the popular meat and cheese plate. These have been around forever and I have made my fair share over time, but have always been hesitant to post about them because of the sheer volume of combinations that can be built can be a bit intimidating. Unlike a restaurant that purchases ingredients for repeatable dishes – for a home cook, no two charcuterie boards are ever the same. They are built upon personal tastes, favorite cheeses, and frankly, whatever you have on hand.
So, here is a peak into some of my favorite options for a charcuterie board and one I made recently for a gathering with friends.
First – The Cheeses. There is a lot of advice about the right combination of cheeses for a board based on the different elements of cheese: soft, hard, nutty, fruity, goats, bleus, cows milk, sheeps milk, sharp, tangy… this list could go on and on. For me it will depend somewhat on the guests (both number and tastes), but there will be between 3-5 cheeses.
- I almost always do a bleu/gorgonzola for those who like the funk.
- I do a goat cheese (either flavored or not) for those who like the creamy and spreadable cheeses.
- BellaVitano wedge – there are a variety of flavors of this cows milk cheese – balsamic, merlot, coffee, herb, and more. When this warms slightly to room temperature, the nuttiness shines (one of my favorite cheeses).
- Sweet fruit mixture cheese – like a Stilton cheese with apricot folded in. Stilton is the base for bleu cheese before it ages to the point of bleu. You get the pronounced flavor of the slight aging with a great combination of being slightly creamy and slightly crumbly and finishing with the sweetness of dried apricots.
- Havarti cheese – slightly soft when cutting, but still hard enough to hold it’s shape. Can be infused with flavors – my favorite is dill. This is a great cheese to be served on crackers.
- Smoked Gouda – the smokiness of this cheese holds up well when you are serving slices meats like different salami’s. Similar to havarti in texture, but a different bite that does well on its own with a good red wine as well.
- Other options – Sharp White Cheddar, Brie, Provalone, etc. An option could be go to the cheese section of your local specialty stores and talk to the cheese monger – there are so many wedges of different cheeses I haven’t had the pleasure of trying, they can recommend 3-5 based on your tastes.
Next – The Meats. This part I do not always do with my charcuterie boards. Once again, depending on who is coming to dinner, I may just skip the meats if there is a larger meal, or just not feeling it that day. Here are some of the options.
- Prosciutto – a favorite of many a charcuterie fan, with its smooth texture and salty bite.
- Salami – the meat portion of the board could be made just with this meat – as it has different seasonings, flavors and curring methods. It could be a board of just salami.
- Capocollo – another smooth option paring well with strong cheese.
Last – Everything Else. This is where you get to have a lot of fun because you can really do whatever you want. Maybe this is also where the thought of posting for charcuterie gets overwhelming. There is never just one kind of combination. So, here are some of the things accompanying my boards over the years:
- Nuts – any kind of nut you would like. Pistachios, Almonds, Walnuts, Cashews, Peanuts, Pecans, etc. You can even roast a kind of nut or multiple with spices and seasonings to make any kind of flavor profile you like.
- Crackers – There are so many crackers out there. Pick what you enjoy and think about flavors depending on the cheeses to match those flavors.
- Fruit – Grapes, sliced apple or pear, raspberry, blackberries, blueberries.
- Toasted Bread – great for the creamy cheeses and spreading.
- Jams or Fruit Spreads – fig spread is popular, or a spicy jalepeno jelly goes well with creamy spreadable cheeses.
Like you can see, there is no one way to make a charcuterie board great – with the exception of just jumping in and making one. Grab flavors you like and get creative with the presentation because that is the fun part of creating these boards. You can serve on a large white platter, as shown below; or serve it on a granite board, marble cheese plate or a wooden cutting board. Throw fresh herbs and/or lime leaves around for garnish and aroma and get yourself some fun cheese knives to serve with. Your imagination is your guide, so experiment and have fun creating your own board. I’d love to hear about some of your favorite conbinations.
- Amablu Bleu Cheese
- Hot Honey Gouda
- Raspberry Ale BellaVitano
- Salami Calabrese
- Salami Milano
- Uncured Calebrese Salami
- Fig jam
- Wafer crackers
- Onion crackers
- Red seedless grapes
- Fresh rosemary for garnish
Begin by assembling cheeses in a pattern. Using the fig jam as a center, the cheese were arranged all coming from the center. Next, slowly fill in grapes, roll and arrange meats, crackers and nuts. Garnish with fresh rosemary to finish.
*Experimental Spoon Original