Let’s start with pronunciation: SHär-køødęrē. Charcuterie. By now, we should all have the pronunciation down because this presentation of appetizers “trends” with the same regularity as little pots of chocolate and cheese fondue. Certainly, this is a win for DIYers, but don’t hesitate to ask your favorite, local caterer to make it for you. It’s all about the party… platter.
THE BOARD The presentation of charcuterie starts with the board. Chefs and caterers go one of two ways — a really beautiful cutting board with natural edges, or taking over the whole farm table for the presentation. Many caterers will “rent” the board and, if you happen to fall in love with it, will sell it to you.
FRUIT Think finger food for the fruit on a charcuterie platter. Grapes, almost certainly, should make an appearance. For the “wow” factors, add just a few chocolate-dipped strawberries. Dried fruit is also good — apricots and peaches. Personally, we’re big fans of dried apple.
CURED MEATS+ Salami, prosciutto, capocollo and mortadella are all good choices. But don’t stop there. A small side platter of short ribs isn’t out of line. In the Keys, it’s common to see peel-n-eat shrimp or a small pot of fish dip.
CARBS No matter how many of your guests proclaim to be low-carb dieters, put a few crackers on the board. Guests will need them to scoop up paté or as a stabilizing platform for soft cheese. Use a variety of sizes and shapes and arrange them carefully with architectural precision.
THE CHEESE It’s better to choose soft cheeses that are easy to slice. (Guests will appreciate the ease; no one wants to be the gal that sends a piece of food airborne with a bad cut.) Some good choices are goat cheese, a triple cream like colbert or brie, flavored stilton cheeses like cranberry or blue, gouda and fontina.
NUTS Don’t go all sweet or all salty, rather put different varieties on the board. Honey-roasted peanuts work just as well as smokehouse-cured almonds. Macadamia nuts are pure indulgence and plain pecans always satisfy. Get nutty.
ADD-ONS Miniature portions of paté, jams, pickles, pickled eggs in tiny mason jars are welcome on the charcuterie board. Mushroom paté appeals to the vegetarians, while adventurous guests will gravitate towards cretons, a French-Canadian pork paté.
THE PRICE Expect a table-size presentation of charcuterie to run about $3k. Spending about $250 will net quality ingredients, beautiful set up and enough eats to satisfy a small crowd at happy hour.