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Superbowl Sunday is coming up this weekend and our family is set to get together with our Covid-bubble to watch the game. Naturally, the Superbowl is a great time to graze on everything from chips and dip to grilling hot dogs and hamburgers.
One way I love contributing to our gatherings have been creating these meat and cheese plates! They’re so easy to assemble and take minimal effort to create beautiful displays. I personally love a charcuterie (shar-cute-ah-ree) plate because it combines everything I love – cured meats, an assortment of cheese, dried fruits and nuts, honey and/or chutney, and carbs!
Today I’m sharing the elements of a basic meat and cheese board for you to make for any gathering – whether you’re hosting yourself or heading out with friends and family!
The Basic Elements
Great meat and cheese boards consist of the same basic elements that aim to target our flavor profiles such as salty, sweet, savory, etc.:
- assortment of cured meats
- assortment of cheeses (soft, hard, etc.)
- crackers or other type of bread to dip or spread with
- fresh or dried fruits
- assortment of nuts
- marinated olives, pickles (cornichons), pickled veggies (spicy are great!)
- spreads like: honey, chutney, marmalade, tempenade, etc.
Gathering your ingredients
It’s all about the quality of ingredients in our house and that goes for our meat and cheese boards, too! Skip those pre-packaged sets at your local grocery store and venture to either a specialty market or get to know the guy at the butcher, who will help guide you on this new journey.
In Texas, we have discovered Central Market (owned by HEB) for all of our meat and cheese needs and couldn’t recommend it more – although they don’t have locations everywhere. Other great markets to find your ingredients include:
- Whole Foods
- a general search for local butchers and meat markets in your city
- and if you’ve got time, this list from Bon Appetit for where to buy charcuterie online
Cured meat refers to cuts of meat that has been preserved (or, “cured”) through processes of aging, drying, salting, canning, or smoking.
There are a ton of varieties to choose from, but you’re local grocery store or market is going to carry the most common ones such as: prosciutto, soppressata, speck, pancetta, and if you’re lucky jamon iberico (which is the holy grail of cured meat in my opinion). You’ll also find salamis and sausages like saucisson d’arles that come pre-packaged.
I couldn’t recommend more to expand a little and search out a meat market or butcher for your meats. This is where you’re going to discover a whole new world of flavor and find the best quality meats when building your board. Yes, it’s going to be a little bit of an investment, but you’re not going to be disappointed (nor your friends).
The next important component, and second largest, will be your cheese selection. This is just like your meats in that you will want to skip the pre-packaged cheese at your local grocery store. There are so many cheeses to discover and play with and the fun of a meat and cheese board is getting to try a variety flavors (especially if you’re drinking wine, too).
Now, people tend to be pickier when it comes to their preference of cheese simply because it spans a broad flavor profile. There’s soft, semi-hard, and hard. Within those, you’ll find cheeses to also be stinky, creamy, acidic, buttery, mild, etc. So, I recommend taste-testing an assortment and picking cheeses that will compliment the meats and other goodies on your board.
Remember: cheese is best paired with other flavors from your board – like the dried fruits and honey, for example.
Simple cheeses to include on your board can include:
- round or triangle of brie
- assortment of hard parmesan blocks
- a spreadable goat cheese or bleu cheese
- a soft cheese like camembert
- aged cheddar (perhaps white)
These are the other accoutrements to your board that bring it all together. Items like:
- fresh or dried fruits
- a variety of nuts
- spreadables like honey
- salty goodies like olives or pickled veggies
- and of course breads, crackers, or toasts.
I love filling in the spaces between the meats and cheeses with these goodies and it’s what gives your board that pop of color and just makes it all look gorgeous.
Basic Board Must-Haves
Now that you have your ingredients you just need a way to present it all. I highly recommend investing in a few of these things just so you have them for your next gathering. Of course, your board is going to vary in size depending on the number of people you’re gathering with (so keep that in mind). I personally love Crate & Barrel for serving-ware, but you can practically find these anywhere…
And now you’re ready to begin assembling your board! There’s no real science to it, just space them all out, fill with your fillers, add your crackers, sprinkle with some fresh herbs for presentation points, and have fun with it! Creating these boards have been a lot of fun for me and a great way to contribute something everyone is sure to enjoy.
Linking up with Andrea for Friday Favorites.