The Art of Building Beautiful Charcuterie Boards

Looking to entertain your family or pandemic pod with a new dish? Build a beautiful charcuterie board with these five simple steps.

A charcuterie (shahr-kyu-tuh-ree) board nearly led to my giving up 30 years of vegetarianism. The fateful board, created with artful precision, was ordered—not by me—from the now-closed Spoonriver. As I dipped yet again into my vegetables (which were delicious), my taste buds were salivating over the locally sourced prosciutto, Spanish chorizo, and pâté.

Charcuterie boards are now a staple in many restaurants, providing hungry diners with a small, shareable feast of meats, cheeses, jams, compotes, fruits, pickles, mustards, and more, often paired with crackers, breads, or crostini for dipping and spreading. But since so many of us aren’t going out right now, why not assemble a charcuterie board as a treat for family, friends, or your pandemic pod? Or, to indulge in all by yourself?

Follow these five steps to make an artful and delicious charcuterie board worth sharing on social media:

Cured Meats

Classic charcuterie boards include a range of flavors from each style of cured-meat preparation: whole-muscle cuts, cured sausages, and forcemeats (those pâtés). Not a fan of one or the other? Simply switch it out. Ask for suggestions at your favorite deli.

Cheese

Most cheeses also come in categories: aged (cheddar or gouda), soft (brie or chèvre), firm (gruyere or parmigiano-reggiano), and blue (gorgonzola or stilton). Provide one option from each—at room temperature—to bring a lively variety of textures and flavors to your board. Have separate knives for each cheese so the flavors don’t mingle. Also, get crafting and make little labels for each.

Accompaniments

Choose an array of crackers and breads sturdy enough for spreading the cheese—as well as for dipping. You’ll also want to include sweet and savory items to balance the flavors of your board. Slices of fruit (figs, apples, star fruit, berries), vegetables (pickled mushrooms, sliced peppers, raw asparagus), olives, pieces of chocolate, almonds, walnuts, preserves, dips, and little pickles or peppers (hot or sweet) are delightful foils to the meats and cheeses.

Boards and Bowls

Many local woodworking shops (like MN Woodworks) offer boards for charcuterie, as do Etsy shops and a variety of retail stores including Williams-Sonoma. You might want to have several white or clear dishes—perhaps with little color pops—for jams, jellies, and dips. Don’t forget the mini spoons and forks!

 Assembly

Assemblage and presentation are key. Color, texture, shape, and appearance may be as important as the flavor profile each item brings to the board. Start with the bigger items—your meats and cheeses, usually—placing items with strong flavors apart from each other. Some people enjoy grouping most of the meats and cheeses together. Try folding the salami or prosciutto and fanning it out on the board. One of the jams could be spread on top of a wheel of soft cheese. Cut slices of summer sausage can “tumble” from the casing.

Fill the smaller spaces in between with herb sprigs, candied fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, berries. On a large board, you’ll have room for bowls and small containers, but they can also be placed on the side around the board. Same with crackers and breads: stack them strategically throughout the board or lay them along the edge.

Ready? Enjoy with your favorite beverage!

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