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How To: Your Guide to Cracking Charcuterie

Forget frat parties and large cities, at a university that has been attended by royalty, balls take over the social calendar, whilst classes take place just steps away from a castle. Knowing how to make a charcuterie board for a fancy dinner is a skill that will be admired by all in this posh town. Here are some tips and suggestions on how to make the perfect party appetizer.

 

Let’s start with the board itself: the presentation piece. A wooden cutting board should suffice in having an Instagram aesthetic platter for your meats and cheeses. If you don’t have a cutting board, a large plate should be fine or even a baking pan. If you want to be a bit more artsy, use Kraft brown wrapping paper; this will create a rustic feel and gives you the option to label the items on your charcuterie board with some elegant calligraphy.

Photo: Cheddah Cooks

In order to cater to all characters at your dinner party, the board should contain all major categories of cheese. This includes soft, semi-soft, and fresh. Soft cheeses like Brie, L’Empreur, and Champlain are creamy, melt-in-your-mouth good, and should be accompanied with crusty bread. Semi-soft cheeses add a firmer more compact texture to your repertoire; I suggest Havarti, Mozzarella and Port Salut. Fruity red wine is the ultimate accomplice to this set. Hard cheeses add the bite your board needs with its sharp flavors. Some hard cheeses include Gouda and Cheddar, and should not be excluded from your masterpiece.

 

For the meat selection, all cheeses discussed above, and most in general, are excellent when paired with salami or prosciutto. If there are vegetarians in the group, nuts are a great alternative. Almonds, walnuts, and pecans add a sweet flavor and crunchy texture to diversify your board. To stay budget friendly, use water crackers, which are cheap, easy to find, and neutral enough that they work well with all the elements on your board.

Photo: American Provisions

To make things interesting, add some color by using fruit. Grapes, apples, and pears are all normally paired with all cheeses and provide a fresh contrast needed from the savory meats. If you are feeling adventurous, blueberries and raspberries are nice when eaten with soft cheeses while strawberries are delicious when consumed with hard cheeses. If savory is more your thing, replace the fruit with pickles or olives for a tangier flavor.

 

For presentation, give your board personality by separating like items and colors. If you are having trouble with inspiration, try creating a list of the foods and shuffling the list for every row on the board. For example, the first row can look like this (starting from the top): meat, bread, fruit, cracker, cheese, while your second row can look like this: bread, cheese, fruit, cracker, meat.  If you have extra time, rolling the meats will provide extra room and sophistication or putting the soft cheeses in ramekins will make it easier for guests to dip.

 

Now you have the means to make the perfect charcuterie board for your next dinner party. Although charcuterie boards require a lot of ingredients, no prep and short assembly time make up for the time spent at the grocery store. And think about it this way, it gives you an excuse to drink lots of wine on a Monday to go with all the items on your board.

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