Spectacular Spreads

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By Rebecca Barnes

You may have seen photos of charcuterie’s impressive displays on Pinterest or in magazines and thought, “What IS a charcuterie (shar-koo-tuh-ree) board?” It’s basically an antipasto plate taken a step further. Served on a wooden board or a stone slab, these creations could serve as an appetizer or a whole meal, as it’s filled with cured meats, an assortment of cheese, crackers, bread, fruits, vegetables, spreads, and nuts. Whether simple in design or more artistically complex, charcuterie boards bring people together in an easy yet elegant way.

A more sophisticated Lunchable™ for adults, these boards are perfect for summer dining, as they don’t heat up the house. There’s no cooking involved, just assembly, which can be as simple or complex as you like. For a balanced taste experience, try something sweet, savory, salty, and spicy on your board, and you
can’t go wrong!

Meat

Cooked and cured meats top the list of must-have items for a charcuterie board. Prosciutto, Genoa salami, pepperoni, summer sausage, and chorizo work well with cheeses and can be displayed in exciting shapes and presentations. In addition, some great plant-based “meats” are on the market, if you or a guest don’t eat meat.

Cheese

Use a variety of soft and hard cheeses, including spreads (Be sure to include a spreading knife on the board!), and cut the hard cheeses into small, bite-sized pieces. Think about what pairs well with the meats you have chosen. Some popular cheeses include brie, Havarti, mozzarella balls, gouda, and cheddar. Spreads like port wine cheddar, cream cheese spreads, and fresh ricotta are amazing additions. There are vegan options too, for those who can’t do cheese.

Crackers and Breads

You can pick an assortment of interesting breads and crackers or stick with more neutral options and let the meats and cheeses be the stars. Ritz, water crackers, Triscuits, French bread, or artisan crackers will make your board feel rich with texture and choices.

Vegetables

Pickled, roasted, or raw, you can select what is in season from your local farmer’s markets or simply from the grocery store aisle. Carrots, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers are a few popular choices. Olives and pickles are great additions and come in wide varieties, allowing for something for every palate.

Fruits

Fresh or dried, fruits add color and sweetness to any board. Blueberries, strawberries, dried apricots, and craisins add texture and flavor and help fill in space. Grapes on the vine — green, red, or purple — add to the beauty of your board and are the perfect complement to almost everything.

Dips, Spreads, and Tapenades

Cheese spreads, honey, jellies, jams, and preserves — the choices are endless. Ranch dips, hummus, brown mustard, tapenades, and pestos are great accompaniments you can make from scratch or purchase at the grocery store.

Nuts and Extras

Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pecans are great for boards and can be served from bowls with small spoons. Dark chocolate, Pretzels, both plain and chocolate-covered, along with caramel popcorn, add a spark of sweetness while not competing with the fruit you have chosen.

Wine Pairing

Since the choices for charcuterie boards are nearly endless, your options for wine pairings can get slightly complicated. Most wine experts will tell you to match your vino selection to your meats. If your charcuterie board is solely cheese, fruits, and spreads, then pair with your cheeses. A quick search on Google or Pinterest is your best bet for wine choices to match your personal charcuterie creation.

Boards, Platters, and Supplies

While charcuterie is best known for being displayed on wooden cutting boards, you can be as creative as you like. Here is a list of suggested supplies to start your creation:
• Cutting boards, stone slabs, or serving trays
• Butcher block or wax paper
• Wood skewers and toothpicks
• Small bowls and cups
• Unique and interesting kitchen containers

Putting It All Together

It can feel a little intimidating staring at the blank board, but just dive in. You’ll get in a groove before
you know it. Start with your meats – try to have at least three. Lay them out in three spots on the board with space between. Next, start filling in those spaces with three or four cheese options. Then, fill in the remaining spaces with your fruits, savories and spreads, keeping like items together. Crackers can go
in a basket nearby, around the edges, or in a large open space. It’s entirely up to you and depends on the space you’re working with. There really is no wrong way to do it!

Creating Visual Appeal with Levels, Texture, and Color

Your presentation can be as simple as a paper plate to as elaborate as a whole table or kitchen island. Create dramatic heights, using petit four stands, cake stands, serving trays, and bowls of different sizes. You can even get “word dishes,” which are letters that can be filled with smaller foods like candies or nuts and spell out whatever you like. For outdoor events, think about plastic containers, paper cupcake liners, and butcherblock or wax paper.

Use the items you choose to create depth points of interest and pops of color. Pinterest has thousands of examples. YouTube even has videos to show you how to make roses from smoked meat and flowers from vegetables. Start at a level you feel comfortable with and work your way up. The point is to savor
something different for your meal while enjoying the company you keep. We would love to see what you create! Post your photos with the hashtag #PWLCharcuterie, and we will share your photo on our channels!

Rebecca Barnes is the Publisher of Prince William Living magazine and Brides & Weddings magazine. She is a lifelong resident of Prince William County and a volunteer with OWL VFD. In her free time, she pursues “Life, Liberty and Happiness” with her family, being a grandma, visiting Walt Disney World, reading, and sleeping.

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