Gather round all ye men, it’s time to eat meat! Sure, a cheese platter is makes for a great party dish, but don’t neglect your charcuterie.
Chef Jamie Bissonnette, who wrote the book on charcuterie boards (literally, it’s called The New Charcuterie Cookbook), earned acclaim for his use of meat and cheese at his Toro restaurants in New York, Boston, Bangkok, and Dubai. He’s more or less the godfather of meats, and Bissonnette gave us the rundown of how to build a jaw-dropping, drool-inducing charcuterie board.
Move over wood working — we’ve got ourselves a new hobby.
Why bring a meat platter instead of fruit, salad, or cheese?
Charcuterie always looks impressive, but beyond a little shopping time and prep, it’s an easy spread that will draw excitement with relatively little effort. Also, because charcuterie keeps so well, it’s an easy option to have on hand for last-minute get-togethers, or as an easy and light dinner when no one wants to cook a full meal.
What’s your No. 1 tip for setting a charcuterie board?
Which meats do you recommend? Should I ask for a certain brand?
It’s really all about options. While you might be familiar with the chorizo at the Spanish tapas bar or the prosciutto at the Italian restaurant, you can serve all of your favorites on one board, plus a variety of something different. At our restaurants we have mortadella, prosciutto, nduja, and then some things that might not be as well known like a porcini salami or duck prosciutto.
Your all-time favorites?
Duck prosciutto from LabBelle farms (Bella Bella Gourmet Foods), porcini salami from New England Charcuterie, and Olympia Provisions for other interesting things such as sai ua, loukanika, and cacciatore.
Some unexpected meats we should add?
Here are a few of my favorites: saucisson, pate, rillettes, chorizo, ham, and jambon de bayonne. Get to know your local butcher also and find out what their favorites are and what they recommend. Ask lots of questions.
So, I’m beginning to slice the meats. How do I cut to make them presentable? Or what do I ask my butcher for?
Charcuterie should be stored in the refrigerator. Meats are easier to slice cold, but let them warm up, as they will taste better if they sit for a bit and come to room temperature. Here’s how I recommend slicing some of my favorite charcuterie:
- Saucisson: I like this to be hand-cut, not too thin. The texture and chew helps the flavor really pop.
- Pate and terrine: I cut pate to be about the thickness of a pencil, and the same size as the bread I am serving with it — preferably bite-size portions.
- Rillettes: I like to leave rillettes in their pots, but be sure to allow them to come up to room temp so they spread easily.
- Chorizo: Aged chorizo should be cut thin, about the thickness of a credit card.
- Ham: Cooked ham should be cut a touch thicker then deli meat. The texture is important with a smoked and cooked ham.
- Jambon de bayonne: Should be cut as thinly as possible, without it sticking together or tearing up.
I’m so un-artistic. How do I make the board look aesthetically appealing?
Think beauty and balance, with various spreads and garnishes. Mix and match where the meats are placed on the board. For example, don’t place all the sausages next to each other.
Garnish … so, like mustard?
Charcuterie can be rich and filling, so I like to serve it with tangy garnishes which help balance out the flavors. In addition to the usual mustard and pickles, I add sweet and sour celery, marinated mushrooms, and Romesco mustard. These all add color and texture to your charcuterie board.
What about other jellies or cheeses?
I like to garnish with things that are good to start off a meal, like honey, nuts, pickles, and sweet confections, but make them more interesting by serving honey-pickled celery, pickled wild mushrooms, sweet and sour buddha’s hand, mostardas, marcona almonds, and chestnut honey.
And if I don’t have those options at home while making the board?
When you are at home, you have full control over what meats and garnishes you put on your charcuterie board — you are the chef! Sometimes cooking garnishes for your charcuterie board can be even more fun than a full meal, because it shows how a little personal touch can really change the board and how you pair cured meats, garnishes, and wines.
Ahh, wines. How do you choose a wine pairing?
Balance is the main objective when it comes to pairing your charcuterie with wine at home. I recommend Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc and Rouge wines to pair with a charcuterie board. The unoaked white and well-balanced red are awesome with the fat, salt, and deep flavors of cured meat. The wines bring interesting complementary fruit, floral, and spice notes that tie together the meal.
What kind of board should I use?
The thicker the board, the more impressive the presentation looks. [Here’s a next-level suggestion from us here at The Manual.]
How much is this going to cost me?
It depends on how high-brow you want to go, but it can be anywhere from $30 to $50, and this also depends how many people you are trying to feed.
Can your book help us in this quest?
My book will help with ideas for unique things to look for, things you can try to make at home, and to give you the confidence with ingredients you don’t see every day.
What was the first charcuterie meat you fell in love with?
Feel like exploring the world of meat a litttle more? Learn how to cure your own prosciutto at home.
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