Charcuterie is a French word literally meaning cold cooked meats collectively.
It references the prepared meats such as bacon, pates, hams, in other words, mainly pork products. It also is another name for delicatessens specializing in dressed meats.
A charcuterie board is a beautiful and easy way to serve guests appetizers before the main meal. While the French definition calls for specifics, I say let’s Americanize it and do what we want!
Entertaining is all about what you as a hostess are comfortable doing and this could not be any easier. Of course the first item required is some sort of board, pallet or rustic platter. If you use a serving dish or plate, then you are simply serving a meat and cheese plate – which can be delicious but not our goal here. The WOW factor is in the presentation and by selecting high quality meats and cheeses, the taste handles itself. I actually have two boards I use depending on the occasion and number invited.
My large board is 69 inches long and my smaller board is only 25 inches long. The larger I found at HomeGoods and the smaller at Pottery Barn (offers a military discount), both on sale. I NEVER buy anything full price, EVER.
I’ve also been known to lurk around housing on trash pick-up day. Don’t judge – you know you do it too. You can also purchase an actual pine or solid wood board from your home building stores (Home Depot and Lowes – both offer military discounts) and have them cut it down to a size you are most comfortable with. Check out the wood remnant box as well for a throwaway piece.
I have seen beautiful slices of wood from oak trees- a round instead of a plank. Use your imagination! A nice plank of pine is wonderful as well as an old shelf. You can stain, seal or distress and seal – it is all about what you like. Metal might be fun but potentially your food could take on a metallic taste so be selective! (Whatever you use, make sure it is sealed as you are serving food on it).
This is a go-to of mine. I have my board down to a science and prepare and display some basics with only a few changes depending on season, availability and event. My basic board (using the 69 inch) consists of three to five assorted cheeses, three to five assorted cold meats, nuts, olives, artisan bread sticks, crostinis and dried fruits (apricots, dates and cranberries). You may even add a chutney or local honey to the list!
Every item mentioned can be found at your base commissary. Keep proportion in mind when displaying cheeses and meats. If you are using a six foot board then your selections must be large and abundant. Imagine serving a cookie on a dinner plate – it is proportionally not pleasing to the eye and looks hastily planned.
I purchase a blue cheese, a smoked Gouda, a sharp cheddar and some sort of out-of-the-box cheese to challenge my guest’s palate. Several hours before the event I place the cheese selections (wrapper left on) strategically spaced on my charcuterie board. Cheese must sit at room temperature for the true flavors to amplify.
Thirty minutes before the event, I display the meats which may consist of anything you find in your commissary deli. Salami, prosciutto, mortadella, roast beef, turkey and even a nice flavorful bologna.
I alternate the meat with the previously placed cheeses and then begin to fill in spaces by mounding the nuts, dried fruits and small breads and crackers. This is a finger experience so if you are serving a very large crowd, I recommend placing all the small items in accent bowls with small serving spoons that your guests can serve directly into the palm of their hands.
With smaller groups, I do not place items in bowls; I mound them as previously mentioned. This is a mix -and -mingle while grabbing your wine type service.
Remember the beauty behind this is no plates, no silverware and everything is store bought. Of course, you may add small, pretty appetizer plates and don’t forget cocktail napkins as well. This entertaining idea can be used for any sized event. The shop, your headquarters’ staff, a department, wardroom, your unit company, unit spouse’s coffee or the squadron.
It is as big or small as you would like it to be. Without fail, your charcuterie board will be the start to a truly memorable event!