Charcuterie Board

Create the fondest memories with your family gathered around the epic Charcuterie board to make a monotonous daily life entertaining with minimal or no cooking happening at home. We had one this July 4th weekend.
At the moment, I am brimming with hope and thankfulness as its the beginning of gratitude to join this community and show our strength during this pandemic. It's summer vacation and what more can be done at home missing all the partying and travelling to exotic resorts? To enjoy a meal at a restaurant or entertaining friends seems near impossible these days; or it simply comes with high risk. Charcuterie board came to the rescue although it can't be considered as a meal, but sure paired with virgin fizzy drinks filled our stomach to skip our dinner. Here's a go-to super chill and stress free summer entertaining idea for you as well.

Charcuterie pronounced as (s har-coo-tree) originated in France which translates to "pork --butcher shop". It is a versatile platter of different types of food apt for all ages anytime of the day.  My family had no clue this plan was lingering in my mind for a very long period. Either I ran out of the necessary ingredients on my list or it wasn't feasible to grab all at once. Blessed with all the items on this board purchased online which was lying in my refrigerator and pantry respectfully. Now is the right time to make my family feel good with this gathering.


My kiddo complimented, "It's like a thanksgiving feast, so let's make it happen often", as the board filled 1/2 of our table's length. The items on my display are listed below although the options are endless. Read through thoroughly to make it an easy, epic and entertaining gathering as the strategies are scattered in this write up. These strategies helps you set a praiseworthy charcuterie board in the right manner. Set it up and focus on a relaxed and entertaining gathering with your family and friends to make the space filled with laughter and fun. FYI, I skipped the nutrition facts for this particular post. Ready to get started to know the strategies behind the essence of easy entertaining? 

1. Board:
Firstly, start with choosing the right board depending on the count of your gathering. Natural materials give a rustic look for an attractive presentation. Some options can be you wooden cutting board, marble slab, slate cheese board, ceramic platter etc. 
Smaller boards are perfect for a rollicking time tryst as well. Another option is to spread out 2-3 small platters for a large gathering for convenience. People do line their clean bar, counter or even their dining table with a butcher paper or parchment paper and start creating their arrangements.
I used a white slab about  2 1/2 x 1 feet and laid a grey slab 1x1/2 diagonally on top for added depth. The base will slowly reveal itself as the food is picked up gradually. Make sure you clean your board or surface and dry it thoroughly ahead of time. 


Board - assembly in process

2. Bowls and cocktail flatware: 
Gather your small bowls and appetizer forks, spoons spreaders and even chopstick come handy to pick your treats. You may go with just one color and mix match with its shape or feel free to use the bowls you have handy. Never serve with sauces, dips and cheese in the container it comes with. 

Select the number of bowls according to the different varieties of spreads, preserves, dips or cheese you want in your arrangement. These bowls also perform double duty to act as a ground work or as a sturdy support to lean your crackers or cheese besides them. I have used my cocktail glass to give the spread a little height. The number and size of the bowls purely depends on the items you chose to fill it in with. 


3. Categorised items on board:

Sauce, dip, spread:
Homemade cherry preserve provides the right amount of sweetness to this spread. Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar mix is a perfect dip for the breads. Natural sweetener honey stands out with its gorgeous golden color as a dip. Vegans can opt for agave, sundried tomato pesto, mustard, preserves, nut butter, and jam of their choice.

Breads and crackers:
You will want to add bread and crackers to you board to layer all the flavors. Always have 2-4 options for your guests to have a choice. I chose multigrain bread, crackers, bruschetta and pretzel bites. Your crackers can be flavored or simply sprinkle some garlic spread on some, as some might not like the garlic flavor. Alternatively you may have your butter flavored with the same or some dried herbs come to rescue.  

Fruits and veggies/pickled:
Use seasonal fresh produce of your choice with different colors and textures. A simple trick is to pick smaller fruits(especially berries) and veggies as its appealing to the eyes.  Fresh berries* and seasonal fruits are great with its nectarous taste, vibrant colors and their hearty textures. Have your produce cleaned, dried and cut if required. Stone fruits can be pitted or cut to bite size. For fruits like lychees and cherries keep a bowl separately for your guests to use for convenience. Apple slices can be a nice touch and go particularly with cheddar and brie. Obviously grapes are a great choice, so are all the berries. Figs add glamor with its color and the texture. 

Cherries, berries (blackberries, raspberries,  strawberries), grapes, papaya, and watermelon are some of our favorite fruits which came handy. Additionally, dried fruits like cranberry and raisin were also incorporated. 


I skipped the fresh veggies due to lack of space and most importantly, I missed out on the dips as well. To make it up I used pickled kalamata olives,  jalapenos, pink ginger (sushi ginger) along with the one and only fresh veggie being the thinly sliced radish.  It's my boys top favorite raw veggie when I peel very thin long ribbons of radish. Doesn't it look artistic like a lady dressed in white/pink? The pickles give the fiery, sharp and citric taste which complements with the cheese.

Some ideas for fresh vegetables are mini bell peppers, celery sticks, baby carrots, cucumber slices, mini red radish, pumpkin and artichoke hearts. Believe it or not, we love these jewel toned raw veggies like the  pumpkin and mini red radishes as well. It's hearty texture is like the melons; minus the sweetness when raw. Blanched beans, broccoli, cauliflower, steamed beets, roasted baby potatoes and edamame are a few suggestions to be added. 


Cheese:
Cheese boards are my go-to as they can be loaded up with all of your favorite varieties of cheese. Displayed here were the Pepper Jack, Mascarpone, Cheddar, French Swiss and Dutch Gouda and the Russian Cream cheese. I must say the Russian Cream Cheese is rich in active probiotic cultures which tempted us to try it out. It has a soft texture but slightly sour. Soft and creamy cheese went into the bowls, while some pre-cut cheeses were aligned in a curvy pattern. I cubed, sliced, and left the wedges intact with few crumbs scattered artfully for an interesting sight. Always have your spreads and cheese knives in the appropriate place or slice a piece for your guests as a guide. About 4 oz of cheese per person would be suffice if this is the only meal plan, else cut the quantity by half if this Charcuterie display serves as an appetizer only. 

Vegans  have a wide choice of cheese options of late. Go for almond cheese, garlic and herb cashew, hemp seed crumble cheese and Daiya cheese.

Meat(Vegan option given):
Vegetarian may go with vegan protein like tofu, tempeh and seitan. However, vegetable protein, jackfruit and mushroom can be an additional choice to substitute the meat. 

I personally prefer to set the meat in containers for the vegetarians to enjoy without any reluctant feeling. Another tip is to have two separate displays one completely for vegetarians and vegans and the other for the non-vegetarians. Vegetarians and vegans may skip the next paragraph about meat depending on your comfort. 

Charcuterie is a branch of cooking which involves prepared meats such as ham, bacon, sausage and other pork products. Cured or smoked meat is usually incorporated here. Prosciutto and salami are not our personal choice of meat. Our family's favorite cocktail shrimp, smoked turkey for the little ones along with hard boiled eggs with a dash of paprika. We skipped the smoked salmon this time. I don't like to line up all the meat instead stuck the turkey slices and shrimp in bowls, while the eggs went on the mini stand. Alternatively, roll the meat slices to give it a dimension instead of layering it flat with the surface. If this is the only food served, estimate the quantity of meat with 3-4 oz per person or cut down by half if this charcuterie board is just a starter.



Nuts and Seeds:
Walnuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds provides the crunch required here. I did not like to add the plain nuts to my platter so spiced it up according to our likes. The sweet and spicy walnuts were lightly roasted and glazed with honey and paprika.  The almonds were replicated like the Spain marcona almonds. These Marcona almonds are rounder, shorter and sweeter than California almonds. But the process  is to blanch the almonds to peel off the skin and let dry completely to roast it lightly in olive oil and finally sprinkle a dash of salt to offer a delicious taste along with its extraordinary crunch. I used the air fryer to quicken process, perhaps you may use a regular stove top pan to roast these nuts. The pumpkin seeds were soaked and patted to dry well for the softer crunch which accentuated it's naturally mild nutty flavor.

Herbs:
Finish off with some garden fresh rosemary, mint and other aromatic herbs which takes over with its herbaceous aroma and gives out the little green splash of color. If you don't have fresh herbs sprinkle some dried oregano on your crackers for added flavor and pizazz. 

Sweet/ Chocolate:
Chocolate acts as dessert for the sweet toothed and as an instant mood uplifter. The raisins dipped in chocolate came handy for this splatter to finish off. Homemade truffles, dark chocolate for vegans and simple brownies join hands very well as dessert. 


4. Strategies and rule of thumb:
There really is an art to make this mouth-watering platter a photo-worthy display with more tips and tricks. 

  • The rule of thumb is to have a variety of textures, colors, flavors, shapes and aroma. In short, consider all the 5 senses to be pleased with this display. 
  • Next, comes the 6 S' (like"arusuvai" in Tamil) 6 tastes - sweet, sour, salty, spicy, sharp and smokey. 
  • Try to set contrasting colors and shapes together to create more visual interest. As same colored items might not be very attractive with the final presentation. Same item can be displayed in 2 different areas for accessibility. Another basic tip is to wisely choose your items, if you have an option to pick green or red grapes, check with the fruits you have handy and go with the least chosen color. Brighter varied colors pops up really well. Keep the colors balanced for a beautiful spread.
6. Assembly:
There's no big assembly required, at the same time, it takes a little thought and strategy to build this charcuterie board that will wow your guests. Follow these simple strategies to keep it easy and appealing to the eye. 

Set the board of your choice, fill your sort out bowls with the dips, spreads and sauces. Arrange the bowls to be spread apart and you may follow a pattern or shape. Straight lines, angles, patterns and shapes  play their roles here for the composition. When you check out the picture below you will figure it out easily. Spot the number of bowls I used in my picture below. 


Always begin with the center being the focal point. The mini cake stand and the cheese wedge functions as my starter and then arranged the bigger items like the breads and the slices of watermelon and papaya. Later moved on to the smaller items such as the nuts, berries and seeds as fillers. Additionally, have your favorite wine or fizz available for a light entertaining gathering. 

Simply wear your creative hats with a glee on your face to build a beautiful /epic work of art. Create one this summer without any hesitation and invite me to join you virtually with your pictures. Have a more relaxed and enjoyable time with family as we bond with our dearies. Remember variety is the name-of-the-game!

Notes and Tips:
 *Always reserve some to replenish as and when required.

 *Have your fresh produce cleaned, cut to size. Unwrap the cheese wrappers and transfer the cheese spreads, dips ahead of time and refrigerate covered. This keeps the cheese to maintain its texture to set the arrangement quickly. Pick up your cheese from the refrigerator right before you start arranging. Half hour before your guests arrive would be ideal to complete your arrangement for the cheese to maintain room temperature to spread well.  

 *I soak and my berries differently according to its texture. Soaked fresh strawberries for 3 mins in a bowl of warm water and vinegar to remove the pesticides. Whereas, the raspberries and blackberries get a quick rinse with the same as they can't tolerate the warmth for long. But blueberries are soaked for 5 mins (longer) or sometimes if in a rush I using hot water and vinegar I make a quick soak for 2 mins to accentuate its natural color  and sweetness. Drain them all well and spread on a dry muslin cloth/ kitchen towel to absorb any remaining water. Always wash your berries right before you consume them, never refrigerate after you rinse them as they tend to spoil very quickly. Freeze leftover berries for your smoothies or desserts.

 *Switching few ingredients each time sets a different look with its variety of colors, textures and taste combinations.


It sure was exciting to gather around this gorgeous and delicious spread! Please reach out to me if you have any queries. Similarly, do come up with any of your impressive ideas in the comment section below if I have missed to learn. A little support and motivation is all one needs to bring out their best and i'm sure you'll be one among them.

Thank you readers for your time reading, commenting and following my blog even during my absence. Your comments and feeds means a lot to me :) Please leave your name in the comment section so i'll know who you are! Stay healthy and enjoy spreading love with people you care!

Comments

  1. Amazing post! Beautiful pictures and presentation. The tips for building the charcuterie board will definitely be very useful. Thank you so much. Will definitely try.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Priya! Please let me know when you try these strategies mentioned.

    ReplyDelete

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