A great charcuterie board is one of my favorite party staples! Whether I’m having a few girlfriends over, or hosting a large party, charcuterie boards are a great, easy appetizer that can be thrown together in minutes. Plus, it’s the perfect combination of salty, sweet, and savory that involves zero cooking!
We recently had the opportunity to visit with Chef Steve Piro atop Northstar California, where I learned a few tips and tricks for crafting a well-balanced board from the chef behind Platinum tōst's charcuterie boards.
When selecting meat, which Chef Piro began with, I tend to add at least three different types: a classic dry salami, some prosciutto, and something with an interesting flavor. I prefer to have the meat freshly sliced at the deli to preserve freshness.
But while the meat is the base of a great board, the cheese is just as important. Chef Piro taught us a wonderful trick that I have been using ever since. Start with a large package of soft goat cheese. Scoop about ¼ cup of cheese out and roll it into a ball (about the size of a donut hole). Then coat the ball in any flavor you wish. Fresh herbs, chili powder, coarse sea salt; the possibilities are endless!
I love shopping the Whole Foods cheese bin (or your own local gourmet market) for unique cheese to add to a charcuterie board. Chef Piro explained that it is important to let the cheese lead as you place it onto the board, telling us, “Sometimes the cheese crumbles, but just go with it!”
Once finished layering the cheese and meat, it’s time to get creative with garnishes. Like frosting on a cake, you can get as creative as you’d like with garnishes for a charcuterie board. Something nutty is always nice, albeit I personally love Marcona almonds. Fruit is also a wonderful accompaniment because it adds a bit of sweet to the savory elements. I like to add dried fruits, apples, and heaps of grapes. Grapes give you coverage on the board, and go so well with cheese.
Tip: If using apples, cut ahead of time and squeeze just a bit of lemon juice over the slices. This will prevent the fruit from browning!
Other great additions include mustards, jams, and other sauces. Cherry jam is one of my favorites to serve with cheese, and whole mustard is a great go-to. I also love adding pickled vegetables to my boards, as I like how the flavor combination pairs with most cheeses and honey!
Among my favorite recommendations from Chef Piro was his suggestion of adding roasted garlic to charcuterie boards. Genius! I hadn’t thought to do this, but how delicious is a clove of roasted garlic smeared on some toast with a hunk of cheese and a slice of salami? Remember, you can add anything you’d like to your board to make it interesting and flavorful.
When building your board, start on the outside and work your way in. The goal is to completely cover the board, so that once your meat and cheese is on, use fruit, crackers, freshly sliced bread, and garnishes to fill in the empty space. If you’re planning a party, I suggest prepping everything ahead of time. When it comes time to charcuterie board prep, you can put it all together in a matter of minutes, making it the perfect appetizer or light meal to serve with delicious wine.
I hope you enjoy these tips and tricks for your next get-together! A big thanks to Chef Piro at the Summit Smokehouse for his wonderful instruction. For more recipes and easy entertaining tips, you can visit me on my blog Boxwood Avenue!