COLLECTIONS OF specialty meats and
tasty extras, known as charcuterie boards,
have become a fixture at upscale restaurants across the country. But you don’t
have to eat out to enjoy them. Create your
own charcuterie board at home for a fraction of the cost and give your guests an elegant, old-world experience.
“Charcuterie” refers to meats that
are cooked, salted, dried or smoked to
preserve them through the winter, a craft
that evolved over thousands of years. The
term comes from French charcutiers of
the Middle Ages, who invented a profusion of cured meats to hang in their shop
windows. Today’s charcuterie roster is still
robust, a cornucopia of sausages, slicing
meats, loaves and spreads.
Michael Ruhlman, co-author of
Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking,
and Curing (W.W. Norton & Company,
;;;;; not available at Costco), says char-
cuterie’s rise in popularity in the U.S. is
“part of a broader movement toward
understanding our food.” He notes that
today’s consumers are focused on flavor:
“People are less afraid of fat and salt than
they used to be.”
Charcuterie’s high fat content makes
it rich, and therefore an easy appetizer: A
few slices for each guest are plenty satisfy-
ing. Add cheeses and sides for a big-flavor
board of your own. Serve prosciutto and
other smooth, mild meats with rugged
cheeses, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Try soft, mild cheeses with spicy sausages, such as chèvre with chorizo. Tyler
Tripp, specialty food buyer for Sid Wainer
& Son, a Costco supplier, pairs Gruyère
cheese with saucisson sec or finocchiona,
Get on board and washed-rind cheeses, such as Rouge Affinée, with smoked speck.
In addition, meats go well with pickled
items, such as cornichons, olives, capers
or cocktail onions. Whole-grain mustard
is standard, but you can also include pesto,
sun-dried tomato spread or gremolata.
Sweeter bites, such as fruit, chutney or
preserves, complement the cheeses.
Alice Fay, caterer at the Fairmont
Copley Plaza in Boston, advises start-
ing with a natural surface, such as wood
or slate. Serve cheeses whole. Slice the
meats and give them height by piling up
thick salami slices or stacking rolled pro-
sciutto. Arrange sides artfully and fill in
the spaces with handfuls of unsalted nuts
and fresh herbs. Provide one or two bready
options, such as seedy crackers, baguette
slices or breadsticks.
Fay notes that if you offer a tempting
selection, guests will take it from there.
She says, “It’s all going to go together. I
think that’s the beauty of it.” C
Jennifer Crain ( jennifercrain.com) is a
freelance food and business writer.
FOR YOUR TABLE
Presenting charcuterie at home
Bresaola: Air-dried salted beef.
Coppa: Salt-cured pork, often smoked and
combined with herbs and spices.
Chorizo: Spicy pork salami made with
Finocchiona: Traditional pork salami made
Mortadella: Mild pork sausage mixed with
pistachios and spices; the original bologna.
’Nduja: A spicy, spreadable salami made
with Calabrian peppers.
Pancetta: Cured pork, similar to bacon.
Pâté: A smooth or rustic spread, containing
ground or pureed pork, chicken or duck liver.
Prosciutto: A silky, mild-flavored, salt-cured,
dry-cured slicing pork (or “ham”).
Rillettes: A rustic spread, usually made of
pork, rabbit or duck, long-cooked with herbs
and fat and pounded to a paste. A rillette is
preserved under a thin layer of fat.
Saucisson sec: Dry-cured pork salami.
Soppressata: Traditional rustic pork salami.
Speck: Mild, firm slicing pork that is cured
with spices, smoked and aged.
Terrine: A pâté that is pressed into and cooked
inside a vessel called a terrine, sometimes
wrapped in pastry or topped with aspic.—JC