Christmas may be over, but the season of ‘picky bits’ and baked Camembert cheeses presented on glorious grazing boards doesn’t have to just be a Christmas season perk. Charcuterie boards combine all of these best flavours and tantalising textures, but can cost a pretty penny - whether you want to use it as a gift or the perfect appetiser at your next dinner party, read on to find out how to build the most unique charcuterie board!
Top-quality foods from local sources don’t need to be dressed to the nines or covered in over-the-top decorations. Their beauty is in their simplistic and succulent flavours and ability to complement each other seamlessly. This is exactly why a charcuterie board is one of the culinary world’s greatest offerings - combining foods that are delectable on their own but come to life when flavours melt together, each bite-full offering a different union of umami, sweet, crunchy and creamy. It is no doubt that charcuterie boards are a fantastic option for a dinner party appetiser, that each guest can customise for their own preferences, but creating a board that flows together, in terms of flavour, and that looks cohesive, is no mean feat. Luckily, we have got a full guide on how to build a charcuterie board from start to end, how to choose your produce, and how to dress it fabulously. Your guests will definitely be impressed when you whip this out!
Picking the perfect board quite literally lays the foundation for your culinary concoction. However, there’s no need to complicate it, whatever wooden boards or marble slabs you have lying around at home would all do the job perfectly, why not repurpose a pizza serving tray or wooden chopping board? Struggling to find a chopping board without battle scars from the kitchen? You could even use a flat baking tray and wrap it in parchment paper for a rustic look. One thing to take into account here is the size of the board, put simply, the bigger the board, the bigger the receipt at the supermarket. This does mean that you have complete control over your budget though, so if you want to impress but also want to stay on the good side of your budgeting app, then simply choose a smaller board! The shape of the board is also something to consider, we want shapes as well as flavours to contrast, so if your cheese slabs are in perfectly square slabs and your board too, you may end up with a fairly one-dimensional look, that doesn’t quite have the oomph you are looking for. Once you have your board sorted, grab a few small dishes from the kitchen to keep some boundaries on the board, to hold your dips and sauces, olives and nuts, or to keep sweets and savouries from mixing if that is an absolute no-no for you! They don’t need to match if you are looking to be more rustic, so you really can just re-use the leftover Gü cheesecake dishes or those smaller Nutella pots that we all seem to have lying around.
Ideally, you would want a minimum of two kinds of cheese to give your board a twist of creamy textures and tangy flavours, but if your budget stretches to more, then why not head to your local cheese monger or farmers market to see their selection? You firstly will want a hard cheese to anchor your board and its core flavours, such as an aged gouda with a sweet scotch undertone that will pair beautifully with fresh fruit or decadent dark chocolate, or a spicy pecorino that would complement roasted red peppers or a peppered salami to balance the crystallisation of the hard cheese. A smooth soft cheese will also need to be on your list as a staple and triple cream brie would be a great option with a luscious buttery-creamy flavour due to its high-fat content, which would be perfect to spread over a cracker with a chutney dolloped on top. Once you have these two staples, you can move on to the next stage of planning or continue down the cheese aisle to find a blue cheese option or whatever takes your fancy. It is your board after all!
Sliced meats are an essential component to a good charcuterie board offering the perfect salty component to any sweet fruit or nutty cheese, so having a variety of smoky, salty and peppery flavours and a few different textures will be important. Why not have prosciutto rolls to offer salty sliced meat, a Genoa salami for a heavier peppery kicky, or chorizo for a spicy note that can be calmed by a soft cheese? You could also vary your texture offerings with duck liver pâté, complimented with a tart cherry compote.
Crackers, breads and breadsticks are an essential carbohydrate component of the board, offering a vector for the flavour combinations created by each and every guest and making the eating process a whole lot easier. Filling the gaps of your board can also be a lot easier with smaller crackers than trying to fold meats or cut cheeses to size, so opt for some smaller options like multigrain crackers with a neutral nutty flavour or offer another flavour profile with a rosemary salt cracker. Bread can take up a lot of space on a board, so if you’ve opted for a larger board but are still looking to save some pennies, add some hunks of baguette, a couple of slices of focaccia or a farmhouse loaf, to create the illusion of a fuller board, whilst offering the perfect foundation for pâté or soft cheeses.
Once you have your core foundations laid, it is time to add some pops of colour and pockets of added flavour to take your board to the next level. Add ramekins of candied walnuts to compliment your soft cheeses, or sprinkle blueberries for a burst of freshness to tone down the saltiness of the prosciutto. Add a corner of olives, a handle of dried apricots or a bushel of grapes. Don’t forget to add on your sauces and dips in small bowls, we recommend hummus, caramelised onion chutneys and maybe a fruit jam like a cherry compote. This really is where your imagination can run wild so have fun with it and make it your own, just try to think about what a component will add to the board before you purchase, will it complement another flavour, add an interesting texture or act as a vector for a sauce or cheese?
So, you have got all of your flavours and textures picked out, your cheese cut, and your meats sliced and ready to go… but how do you put it all together? There really is no right or wrong when it comes to this part, but there are a few fundamentals that you will want to try to stick to if you want to wind up with an artwork at the end of it. Firstly, put the largest things on the board first and work to fill in gaps around them, this means putting your ramekins/small bowls on the board followed by chunks of cheese and slabs of cured meats. You then want to fill in the gaps with crackers, fruits and other smaller items. When you are placing your items down, try to spread colours around the board evenly, this will make sure your board doesn’t end up looking lopsided, with one flourishing side and one beige! Something else to consider is the ease of eating, placing hummus next to veggies to avoid arms crossing on the board, your nutty cheeses may be placed with candied walnuts to encourage your guests to consume them together and bread may be placed next to pâté for an easy spread! Why not try going to the extra mile and creating a salami rose or folding cured meats to create trains from one side of the board to the other? Lots of helpful tutorials can be found online if you are looking to elevate your board!
You are now all set to create a beautiful charcuterie board to blow your guests away at your next dinner party! However, if this all sounds like a lot of work and you’d rather have someone do it for you…then why not have a Nomad Chef make you one as part of your next dinner party menu? That way, you can have none of the hassles of shopping, worrying about pairing cheeses, cooking, or washing up, but all of a tastiness and more! Nomad Chef Holly can prepare a beautiful and incredibly delicious grazing table or head over to our website to browse more talented chefs and enquire today!