HAPPY NEW YEAR’S EVE!
As we prepare to ring in the new year, it seems food is always involved when it comes to some of our cherished times together. Like many traditional foods that are making a comeback, the culinary art of charcuterie (shahr-koo-tuh-ree) has returned.
Generally, when served in a restaurant, charcuterie is presented as an appetizer on a board alongside artisan cheese and nuts.
The nice thing about serving charcuterie at home is that there are no rules! You can keep it as simple as you like or dress it up with fresh or dried fruits, a variety of artisan breads and crackers, olives, spreads like honey, preserves or jams!
Charcuterie design is arguably just as important as the ingredients you include on your board. Anyone can create a visually impressive charcuterie board by keeping these tips in mind.
Start your board by placing any bowls or jars you want to include. This will include dips, spreads and jellies, as well as olives and pickles. Space out the bowls and jars, leaving plenty of space between them for your meats, cheeses and other items. Include any utensils guests will need to pick up items in bowls or spread jellies and spreads.
Once your bowls are on the board, next, you can place the meats and cheeses. Rather than putting all the meats near each other and all the cheeses together, instead, space out the meats and cheeses across the board. For visual variety, try to vary the appearance of your meats and cheeses. For example, some cheeses can remain in a whole wedge while others are sliced or cubed.
Make sure you have an item on hand that offers a bright pop of color. This will help you add some visual interest to your board. Depending on the meats and cheeses you choose, you may find that your charcuterie board has a fairly consistent, earthy color palette that is lacking variety. A pop of color can make all the difference in this situation. Some examples include tomatoes or strawberries for a pop of red or clementine’s or carrots for a pop of orange.
Once your charcuterie board is mostly complete, use any smaller items you want to include, such as fruit and nuts, to fill in the gaps. For large charcuterie boards, rather than put all the nuts together and all the fruits together, be sure to spread them out across the board. Put a little row or pile in one spot and another in a different spot. This helps to create the look of a board that is brimming with variety, like a cornucopia, rather than a compartmentalized platter.
Finally, to give your charcuterie board an extra special touch, use fresh herbs as a garnish. Herbs like rosemary, basil and thyme can add an additional pop of color, can help you fill any remaining bare spots and will also provide some lovely fragrance to elevate the whole sensory experience. Add sprigs of herbs in several spots spread out over the board. You can tuck some sprigs under cheese wedges or bowls to hold them in place.
Since Brion & I are celebrating New Year’s Eve at home this year, we thought it would be nice to have charcuterie to make it special.
The following are some suggestions for the most important elements of a charcuterie board:
CHEESES: choose a variety of hard & soft cheeses
* Hard Cheeses: manchego, cheddar (white or orange), swiss, gouda, gruyere, parmesan etc.
* Soft Cheeses: brie, triple cream, goat cheese, Havarti, cream cheese w/ pepper jelly on top, blue cheese or gorgonzola
MEATS: prosciutto, salami, ham, cured chorizo, capicola, summer sausage, etc.
* Nuts: almonds, candied pecans, pistachio nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, etc.
* Briny, pickled or marinated: olives, cocktail onions, dill pickles, pepperoncini, olive tapenade, bruschetta.
* Savory dips & spreads: whole ground mustard, hummus, ranch, balsamic dip.
* Fresh fruit & berries: grapes, apples, pears, oranges, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries & strawberries.
* Dried fruit: apricots, cherries, figs, pineapple & mango.
* Sweet spreads: fig butter, orange marmalade, blackberry jam, etc.
* Chocolate: a few pieces of quality chocolate or chocolate covered nuts.
CRACKERS & BREADS:
* Choose a variety of crackers, sliced baguettes or mini toasts of different shapes, sizes & flavors.
* Use fresh rosemary, thyme, basil or sage for a nice fragrance as well as a great visual appearance to your charcuterie board.
- These are only suggestions ... remember, your only limited by your imagination!