There are no fixed rules for curating a charcuterie board, but a few pointers go a long way toward creating a spread that’ll catapult you into the realm of party pro.
We turned to Julien Shapiro, the butcher and chief charcuterie maker at 8 Hands Farm in Cutchogue to cut through the fat.
WHAT YOU NEED
The key is to start with a mix of meats that are diverse in texture.
Depending on how big you want to go with your board, you’ll want to start with thin-shaved slices of whole muscle meat such as Prosciutto di Parma, spicier capicola or mouth-melting lardo. Add salami such as Finocchiona, a dry cured sausage like a garlicky saucisson and a smoked link such as chorizo. From there, Shapiro likes to add a pate. Chicken liver mousse is creamy and spreadable. Country pate is chunky and spreadable. Pate en croute takes the country pate and encases it in a pastry crust.
Olives are not bad. For pickles go with gherkins, maybe bread and butter, but not ones that are sweet. Pickled vegetables particularly cauliflower work nice, too. “You need the acid to cut the fat and clean your mouth a little bit.” You many want dried fruit. Fine. Figs are good. They are often found in pates. Dried apricots are good. “They are not overly sweet and visually look sharp. I wouldn’t go anywhere like dried pineapple or mangos.”
Whole grain and Dijon mustards are best for fatty sausages, and chunkier pates. Relish or chutney that is high in acid works nicely, too. But if the meat is lean, leave it alone.
“Anything that’s toasted or crackery,” Shapiro says. He likes Wasa crackers “because they are firm.”
Cheese is not traditional for a meat board, but it’s more common these days. Something that hits every base: a blue cheese, a firm or hard such as Cheddar, a bloomy rind like Brie and then a soft one like goat.
“I would say one thing that is detrimental is when it’s too cold,” Shapiro said of meat. You want to eat charcuterie at room temperature. “When it’s too cold it doesn’t taste the same. As it warms up you’re going to taste more of the spices, herbs, and whatever seasonings.”
As for how much to serve, a former boss who had worked as a chef at the White House had this advice, if you have 10 people over always have 11 portions. “Nobody wants to take the last piece and feel like the glutton.”