The holiday season is upon us, or what we at Plated like to call charcuterie board season. With festive soirées filling your calendar, a foolproof charcuterie board is a must. The best charcuterie boards include complementary flavors, textures, and colors—so get out your most beautiful cutting board and use our helpful charcuterie matrix to impress all your friends and family.
Let’s start with the most important part of any charcuterie board: cheese. Think of the cheese as the sun of your charcuterie board’s universe. The rest of the board literally revolves around the cheese (well, as close to literally as possible without a spinning charcuterie board). It’s a good rule of thumb to include at least three types of cheese on your charcuterie board. Here’s a snapshot of the five cheese types you can choose from:
- Soft: Brie & Camembert–buttery and baguette approved
- Semi-soft: Mild Gouda, Vermont Cheddar–the all-purpose all-stars of the cheese world
- Firm: Aged Gouda, Parmigiano-Reggiano–often nutty, fragrant, and crystallized
- Blue: Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola–funky and fragrant
- Fresh: Ricotta, Feta, Mozzarella–creamy, light, and, often spreadable
So, let’s say you’re a blue cheese lover. Start with a Roquefort on the board, add a bowl of ricotta (fresh), and a big wedge of sharp Vermont Cheddar (semi-soft). With this combination, not only will the flavors vary, but also the textures and accompaniments. Or maybe you went to Italy last year and since then you’ve only eaten Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto. Plan your board around these two Italian favorites by adding a Taleggio (semi-soft) and a big ball of Burrata (fresh). You can’t go wrong if you pick to your tastes!
Now that you’re a semi-professional cheese selector, let’s think about the rest of your board components.
Let the bread be a vehicle for cheesy goodness. Sliced baguette, toasted or not, is always a winner. Mix it up with sourdough, multigrain, or whatever you like! Feeling fancy? Slice a baguette, add herby goat cheese to each slice, bake at 400°F for seven to eight minutes–et voila! Crostini!
There’s a reason salted nuts and pretzels find their way to cheese boards so often–something with a salt-forward flavor can stand up to a powerful cheese. Marcona almonds, roasted salted pistachios, or pretzel rods will add a distinct salty bite between cheesiness.
Acid makes fat taste creamier, salt taste more flavorful, and sweet taste brighter. Pickled foods should be a mainstay on your holiday charcuterie board and beyond due to the acidity that amps up every flavor. A jar of pickles, ramekin of mustard, or a bowl of olives is the perfect addition for some much needed sharp, bright acidity.
A little bit of heat can act very much like our pickled friends above. Spice will provide a delightful break from the fat and accent of the rest of your platter. Spicy pepper jelly, hot honey, and pickled jalepeños are easy to find and crystallized suited for the job.
Varied textures win the Charcuterie Board Olympics every single time. So let’s go for the gold and add some seeded crackers, crispy Parm-y frico, or maybe even a potato chip or two. Whatever crunch you like belongs here.
Charcuterie literally means both “cooked meats” and “a store selling cooked meats” also known as your favorite neighborhood deli. So what would a charcuterie board be without charcuterie?! While cheese may be the sun in this universe, the meats are a very close second. In fact, maybe this universe has two suns. Two equally important, equally bright suns. On that note, let’s not have one outshine the other. Think about the saltiness of the cured meats and how they pair with the other members of the board. Are you serving a creamy, light ricotta? Couple it with a Bresaola. Or maybe you’re going for a regional focus–in which case Manchego and Chorizo or Comte and Rillettes can be your board’s centerpieces.
Fruit brings a bright, fresh, mouth-watering, and colorful element to your board. Add grapes to a platter with Brie and a baguette. Serve fresh figs with Roquefort and spicy honey. Apricots and plums for a tray with a creamy, crystallized Gouda. Green apples to balance a delicious sharp Cheddar. Get creative! Maybe your fruity addition comes in the form of a dollop of strawberry-lemon jam over creamy Gorgonzola or a dried tart cherry in between bites of Gruyere. Fruit is a big player on your holiday board, whether dried, fresh, or cooked.
That’s it, you’re the expert now! Get ready to conquer your next holiday gathering. Snap a pic and show us how you roll with #PlatedCharcuterie!
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