How to Build the Ultimate Charcuterie Board
Artisanal cheese and cured meats always hit the spot, and they're a great appetizer option for gatherings of any size.
Buying food for entertaining—whether your gathering will be attended by four people or twenty-four—can be tricky. Too little fare can leave guests feeling unsatisfied, but overbuying feels wasteful and excessive. Provisions that always please a crowd are the artisanal cheese and cured meats that make up a charcuterie board—it is a power duo that is not to be ignored. We met with local cheese expert Jessica Mark, co-owner of Greenpoint Cheese and Meat, who was kind enough to show us how to set up three different spreads. Her displays will perfectly accommodate a party of any size, so whether you're planning an elevated dinner party for your immediate family or inviting friends over for a summer barbecue, these charcuterie boards will work for you.
A charcuterie board is the perfect starter for any dinner party. If you've prepared a lot of main-course food and you don't want guests to fill up on appetizers beforehand, Mark suggests the less-is-more approach, as seen above. Keep things simple, and choose one excellent cheese (we chose Devil's Gulch, an organic triple cream from Cowgirl Creamery) and one quality meat (we used Chorizo Rioja from Olympic Provisions). For your presentation, consider leaving the cheese mostly whole and the chorizo half sliced—the food will speak for itself. To finish off this board, add some crisp bread and apple onion jam in a small bowl.
Our next board is the perfect table centerpiece, which means this appetizer is both beautiful and functional! It is also just the right size for a cocktail party. Using a reclaimed wooden slab as our canvas, we chose three cheeses and two cured meats and arranged them in an organic manner. This three to two ratio is ideal when entertaining. For cheese, we chose a goat's cheddar, a raw cow's milk with a soft washed rind, and a hard sheep cheese. Mark advises choosing one cheese from each animal. She also suggests including a fresh seasonal fruit element to accent the flavors of your charcuterie board. We decided to include pomegranate seeds to add a bold pop of color. Small bowls of fig and honey jam, herb mustard, and a sprinkling of Marcona almonds fill up the negative space and visually enhance the presentation. Meats chosen for this board are soppressata from Molinari & Sons and coppa from Biellese Salumeria.
Our last board is best suited for large parties. To keep things from looking too crowded, we decided to go with a more modern, angular design. For our cheese and meat selection, Mark directed us toward a Red Rock cheddar from Roelli Cheese, a camembert from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, saucisson sec from Olympic Provisions, and speck from Salumeria Bielesse. Arranging the ingredients in a clean design allows for easy access to each item. Fresh, tart apple and dried cherries are the perfect accompaniment to the sharp and sweet cheese, and the spreads are simply spooned onto the board to allow for easy dipping.
Charcuterie Board Tips
Slicing harder cheeses into bite-size pieces for sharing is a great way to make the most of your selection. Choose a variety of animal milks, colors, and textures for multiple cheese boards for different tastes. It's also important to purchase the proper amount of meat and cheese for a crowd, ensuring everyone gets some. Estimate two to three slices of meat per person when buying for a group.
Elevate your plate with the perfect presentation. We love the idea of small sprigs of fresh herbs scattered about that show the effort put into the course. Fresh, seasonal fruit is always a plus, but think beyond slices of staples like apples and pears—pomegranate seeds, blood orange, Concord grapes, and kumquats are all fun additions. And don't forget condiments—dish them into small jars or bowls with a spoon to keep things tidy.