Charcuterie Boards And Antipasto
Jan 05, 2020 10:00PM
When first seeing the word charcuterie, some people light up while others look puzzled trying to decipher how to even pronounce the word. But whether it is called charcuterie or antipasto, a meat and cheese board, or appetizer spread, one thing is for sure - it is delicious. The French and Italians have mastered the art and have been making these as a first course (or entrée) for centuries, but all that is needed to make a really great platter is a little balance and flow and lots of variety.
Charcuterie is a French term that translates to a process in which meat is cured, but it is also is used to describe a delectable spread of cured or dry-aged meats and cheese paired with a multitude of offerings. This assortment provides the opportunity to mix and match flavors that best suit a range of palates and preferences. While assembling a tray seems like a pretty simple thing, there is indeed an art to this wildly popular dish that seems to be popping up on everyone’s Instagram and newsfeed.
The secret weapon for a stunningly epic spread is variety. Just as the board should touch on each of the five senses, each of the taste buds should be awakened as well. This means using a beautiful assortment of color, texture, and smell while providing something that covers salty, sweet, savory, bitter, and sour. Luckily, knocking this out of the park is not that difficult, and many of the ingredients are standard items found in most kitchens.
Start with two to three meat options as the culinary center of the board’s flavor profile. A savory Genoa Salami is always a safe staple to include as it is favored by almost everyone. To keep spicy-loving friends happy, throw in some thinly sliced Capicollo (Capocollo) or Sopressata to the mix, both of which come in sweet or hot, and add another element of texture by including a peppered salami. Impress guests by choosing a salty dry-aged meat like Bresaola, Prosciutto, or Speck. Give height and dimension to the spread by folding the meat into fours or bunching it for a different texture.
Pro-tip #1: Adding Pate, Foie Gras, or duck confit will wow your guests by bringing in more unique, gourmet forms of meat that are not familiar to everyone.
Next, move to the cheese options - it is hard to go wrong with what cheese to select, but a good rule of thumb is to have a soft, semi-soft, and hard option. Take that to the next level by doing a little research and pick within each form of dairy, meaning a cow’s milk, a sheep’s milk, and a goat’s milk. This extra step will again be an exciting talking point while guests marvel over your masterpiece.
The creaminess of a classic Brie, or a little more potent Port Salut are staples to many charcuterie boards as they are fantastic spreading cheeses. Remember to think of the color wheel when selecting cheese.
While Brie, Havarti, Swiss, and Manchego are all crowd favorites, they do not have much aesthetic variety. Add pops of color with a marbled port wine cheddar or a shamrock-green marbled Sage derby. Another delicious semi-soft option to include is something smoked whether mozzarella, Gouda or cheddar.
When selecting a hard cheese, think back to your other choices - were they salty, sweet, nutty? Choose something hard that covers flavors you have not yet included. Some options include Manchego, pecorino, Asiago, winey goat, and Emmenthal Swiss.
Pro-tip #2: Keep your cheese in solid pieces and let your guests cut off the block themselves. This is visually appealing and cuts back on prep time.
Now for the fun part (well, the other fun part) - the filler. This is the most fun to prep because you can pick almost anything you like to snack on.
Safe bets are an assortment of olives, grapes, cornichons (baby pickles), berries, or melons (whichever is in season), mixed nuts, dried fig or apricot, and artichoke. How large you want the spread will determine the amount of fillers added, but also, a little of a lot makes for a fun dining experience, too.
The last and most overlooked ingredients on the board are gourmet condiments such as chutneys, confits, mustards, and honey.
Pro-tip #3: A huge chunk of golden honeycomb adds texture, color, and sweetness to the board that takes it to the next level.
When assembling the charcuterie, it is easy to get overwhelmed with where to put the items, so just remember - there is no wrong answer. Suggested placement for certain items such as the nuts and honeycomb, or the mustard and artichoke tend to be with the other items they complement.
For example, place Brie by the honeycomb, fruit, and nuts, while keeping the olives, artichoke, and ramekin of mustard by your salami. Weave in grapes on the vine through the middle to make a barrier between sections or use crackers to the same effect.
Try to keep your meats separated from each other, as well as your cheese offerings. This adds to the visual dynamic of the board, and if one of your guests really enjoyed ‘the meat that was next to the green cheese’ you will remember what it was.
Pro-tip #4: Remember to keep crackers or crostini away from wet items to avoid sogginess.
Shop Local to Build a Charcuterie Board
Any large platter will work, but the island has several shops where you can pick up a nice board. Gracie’s (2228 Strand) has customizable marble, bamboo, and slate options that range from $25-40. The Admiralty (2221 Strand) also carries a board and knife set for about $25. The Kitchen Chick (2402 Market St.) is a go-to spot for all culinary hardware; they carry everything you need for a beautiful set - board, knives, and ramekins.
When it comes to what to put on the trays, Maceo Spice and Import Company (2706 Market St.) is a great start with knowledgeable staff to help guide you in picking almost everything you need for the tray. Kroger is another great stop to pick up some unique crackers and jams, and they have a well-stocked specialty cheese department (located between the bakery and produce sections).
We would love to see what you create! Show us your creations by tagging us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using hashtag: #galvestonmonthly #cookinlikeconcettaConcetta Maceo-Sims is a 3rd generation Galvestonian with a colorful family history in the food and entertainment industry. She works aside her father at Maceo Spice & Import Company at 2706 Market Street where she develops new recipes, caters, and maintains the shop. She credits her elders for developing her palate and love for cooking, as she grew up observing them in their element. Luckily, she picked up their kitchen secrets and is willing to share them!