Meat and cheese boards of all kinds are always a big hit in our house. Platters loaded with fuss-free finger foods….what’s not to love??
Typically served as an appetizer, a charcuterie board consists of a variety of meats and cheeses, but can also include other accompaniments like fruits, nuts, breads, crackers, jellies, or sauces.
Charcuterie platters have become quite trendy and can now be a focused presentation of anything and on just about any scale – think chocolate for Valentine’s Day, dessert platters at a wedding, or S’mores ingredients around the campfire.
Our kids were first introduced to small charcuterie boards as appetizers when we took them to some fine dining experiences on family vacations to Walt Disney World. At first, when they were younger, they would share from our plates, but they quickly grew and developed their tastes to the point they wanted their own boards and they were happy to make a complete meal of them.
As a chef, I love charcuterie boards of all kinds because they’re a chance to experience another chef’s creativity, or to get creative and have a little fun making one of my own. Sure, there are general rules (maybe more like guidelines) for how to put a charcuterie board together, but rules were meant to be broken, right? In fact, if you’re looking for me to outline the rules for putting one of your own boards together in this post, let me just say right now, I’m not going to. There are enough rules in life – this is a great chance to get creative and have fun!
Find your favourite cutting board, platter, plate – whatever – and load it up with your favourites. Pick a theme if it makes it easier – a special occasion, a holiday, a birthday, favourite cuisine, anything. Don’t make it difficult. Don’t hesitate to incorporate one or two store-bought items into your arrangement: if you don’t want to buy all the ingredients necessary to make a dip, buy one.
Try to incorporate complementary and contrasting flavours: add nuts, fresh and dried fruit, add a new spicy mustard to try. Maybe add a crusty bread along with some crackers, or pair it all with a bottle of wine or make it the opportunity to try a new craft beer.
Like everything else in life, you get better (and more creative) with practice.
Last Friday, we ordered a cheese tasting box from J’adore, a local cheese and chocolate shop here in Barrie (and yes, you bet we added chocolate to our order). There were four different cheeses in the box and all of them were chosen by the shop, not by us, so it was a bit of a surprise. Those cheeses were the inspiration for our charcuterie night this weekend, and I added some artisan bread, meats, and fruits from our local weekly farm order.
However you pull your charcuterie board or platter together, remember it’s supposed to be an easy, stress-free appetizer (or meal). Have fun with it, enjoy the process, and happy noshing!
I’ve included a few photos from a few recent boards we’ve done here, including one picnic-themed board for the kids, that will hopefully serve as a little inspiration.
If you have any tips, tricks, or favourite items that you use for charcuterie boards, feel free to share them.