Pro tips for selecting the best meats and accompaniments for a company-worthy charcuterie board
If you’re looking for easy, no-cook appetizer ideas, look no further than the charcuterie board. Basically a selection of cured meat and some side-kicks, “a charcuterie board can be super-simple or you can build it out to be as robust as you want,” says Elias Cairo, head salumist of Olympia Provisions, the Portland artisanal meat company. Here are 10 principles Elias keeps in mind as he builds a charcuterie board with Olympia meats and pickles; use them or your own favorites.
1. Start simple with a few different salamis, maybe one seasoned only with salt, like Saucisson D’Arles; another flavored with black pepper and sweet spices, such as Spanish Salchichon; and a nut-studded version like Saucisson Aux Noisettes.
2. Add complexity using a cured ham; Capicola is seasoned with black pepper, fennel, coriander, and anise.
3. Include some heat, perhaps with a paprika-and-chile Spanish chorizo such as Chorizo El Rey, a Good Food Award winner.
4. Vary the texture by including a soft pork-liver mousse or dense pork pâté.
5. Consider a smoked meat; Landrauchschinken, a Swiss country ham, has a phenomenal balance of burnt sugar, juniper, and rosemary.
6. Throw in crunchy acid like sweetly spiced pickled beets or nippier pickled cauliflower.
7. Include sweetness, perhaps fresh, seasonal fruit like cherries and strawberries; honeycomb with blue cheese (Elias likes Rogue River Blue); or ricotta tossed with shaved parmesan, drizzled with honey and good olive oil, and sprinkled with flake sea salt.
8. Offer some salty fish to keep things interesting—canned mussels and herring seasoned with olive oil, black pepper, and chopped sweet-hot peppers (such as Mama Lil’s Sweet-Hot Peppers).
9. Don’t forget the crackers. Set out a softer olive oil variety and a seeded type; or offer baguettes.
10. Serve grainy mustard as a finishing touch. Its briny flavor adds brightness spread on a baguette and stacked with meat and cheese.