Charcuterie (/ʃɑːrˈkuːtəri/ (listen) shar-KOO-tər-ee, also US: /ʃɑːrˌkuːtəˈriː/ (listen) -EE; French: [ʃaʁkyt(ə)ʁi] (listen); from chair, ‘flesh’, and cuit, ‘cooked’) is a French term for a branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork.
Charcuterie is part of the garde manger chef’s repertoire. Originally intended as a way to preserve meat before the advent of refrigeration, they are prepared today for their flavours derived from the preservation processes.
Setting The Scene.
Charcuterie boards work very well as a tasty lunch, a work or bar buffet or prepared as a starter. Served with some crusty bread, cheese and a glass of good wine or a cool ginger ale over ice.
Creating a really great charcuterie board is a relatively easy thing to do; variety is the key to a board that will deliver in every sense including presentation, texture and taste.
Choice of Colouring
The choices are endless and range from light pinks to rich deep reds, with creamy white fat marbling that simply melts in the mouth, pieces of black pepper and yellow mustard seeds; ensuring that you pick a selection of meats with a variety of colours will add interest and greater depth to the board. Tomatoes, peppers, picked cabbage, gherkins, onions and olives can add some brighter colours.
Try to make a selection of differing products and accompaniments with an assortment of textures. For example, air dried duck or bresaola can be silky smooth. Salami sticks with a textured blue cheese, with natural casings, celery sticks and gherkins can deliver a stronger bite or snap.
Flavours are in abundance, don’t be fooled by mass marketing such as a pepperami. Spread your wings and go wild a little, pork, duck, beef, rosemary, sage, thyme, cinnamon, clove, juniper, black pepper, sea salt, roasted garlic, mustard, paprika, pickled or raw chilli all offer something wonderful.
How to Arrange
The board itself, as the beginning states, let the meat be the hero, if you have plain white plates or wooden platters then that rustic appearance shall shine through and add to the overall experience.
You can fold hams, coppa, duck breast and bresaola can all be folded to give height and a natural feeling to the presentation, as you can with salami.
Sliced meats can be fanned on the board, as you begin you may think it looks very 1970s and if that’s your aim so be it but as you add and enhance it shall all blend seamlessly. Find the most attractive edge to be repeated in the fan.
A pot pouri of presentation for salami or filletto can be arrange in non-uniform pile. A mix of nonuniform and uniform arrangements will prevent the board from looking too formal or too messy.
Wink Martindale (Go – ogle it) – Salami can also be spread like a deck of cards.
I use a host of titanium cocktail sticks and a few metal Pimms stirrers in a glass can add some contrast to the board.
Many of the larger slices can be rolled and laid on their long edge. Long and thin slices can be rolled and will stand up and hold their own on the board.
Accompany to Accessorise
This is where all bets are off. Bread is a must and making your own pagnotta works especially well.
Pickles compliment the fattier meats as the vinegar cuts through and cleanses the palate. Tomatoes, roasted peppers, other roasted Mediterranean vegetables or stuffed red chilli peppers bring bright colours and complete the platter.