God, charcuterie boards are a good time. There’s nothing better than gathering some mates, crowding around a table with a large board stacked high with cheeses and meats, having a yarn and quietly trying to nab the most prosciutto while no one’s paying attention.
Charcuterie boards – usually made up of a selection of cured meats and sides – aren’t new, but they’re definitely having a moment. The meat-laden platters have kind of taken over from a standard cheese board, simply because cured meats are life. Unless you’re vego. But in that case, faux-cured meats are life?
We were a bit lost on how to actually make a damn fine one at home, though. If you’re going to do something, do it bloody well, right? So we enlisted the expert help of Stanley Wong, Executive Chef at Eastside Grill.
“When it comes to how many meats you have on your charcuterie board, the answer really is – how long is a piece of string?” says Stanley. “But as a guide, I’d say at least 5 types.”
Stanley’s top tip is to make sure you have a balance between flavours and textures. Here’s a guide to some popular charcuterie board additions, to help you out.
Most meat-lovers know of prosciutto, but in case you need a refresher, prosciutto is an Italian meat made from a pig or boar’s hind leg or thigh usually. The curing of prosciutto can take up to 18 months, and when it appears in your deli or on a charcuterie board, it’s thinly sliced and has a mild, buttery flavour due to the high fat content. The two most famous types are Parma and San Daniele – Parma is a bit nutty, San Daniele is a bit sweeter. You’d be hard pressed to find a charcuterie board that doesn’t include prosciutto simply because it’s super popular and therefore an easy win.
This air dried, salted meat is quite tough, dark, and chewy – mainly because it’s aged for one to three months. It’s made of the top round on a leg of beef, which is seasoned with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt. The result is a rich, sweet meat that comes paper-thin and goes perfectly with some parmigiano reggiano.
Also known as capocollo, coppa is made from a muscle found in a pigs shoulder or neck. It’s seasoned with red or white wine, garlic, herbs and spices and then salted before being put into a natural casing and cured for six months. It has a delicate flavour and, like prosciutto, is quite fatty and creamy.
Salami is a mainstay on most charcuterie boards – but what type should you include? Soppressata is a popular one for luxe boards, because of it’s rustic look due to the way the meat is ground and pressed – basically it looks more expensive and cool on the board. It’s a dry salami that’s dried for three to twelve weeks. Flavour-wise, like salami you can get different types of soppressata – spicy, peppered, and so on.
This one’s controversial – not everyone’s a fan. But the look of mortadella can really make your charcuterie board pop. It’s made of ground pork, with cubes of pork fat running through it. These, along with additions such as whole peppercorns, olives and pistachios, give it the cool, speckled finish. It’s got a sausagey kind of flavour to it.
Pate is a great one to plonk on your charcuterie board to mix things up when it’s become too sliced-meats. Pate is traditionally a mix of ground meat and fat, although you’re probably most familiar with duck liver pate. It’s super rich, and delish when spread on crusty bread or crackers.
What do you team all this meat with? Some CHEESE. It’s kinda controversial to say cheeses go on a charcuterie board, but tbh – break those rules, coz loads of these meets go so well with cheese. Like we said above, parmigiano reggiano is beaut with bresaola, and goats cheese is next level with a slice of prosciutto. Another that goes alright is burrata – the creamy texture doesn’t overpower your meats and spreads so well on some crusty bread.
Crusty bread is a must. Meats just seem to go way better on some warm sourdough than they do on a cracker. The best way to go about choosing your sides is to google the cured meats you have, and see what suits them. For example, prosciutto is a match made in heaven with figs and olives are amazing with salami.
“Pickles are great as a side on a charcuterie board, as the acidity balances the fattiness of the meat,” says Stanley. “Im also a fan of roasted potatoes as a side.”
Other winners? Mustard, lemon and olive oil to drizzle, and nuts.
Wish you had the kind of spare cash to go buy all your cured meats from a srsly fancy deli every week? If you win our comp c/o Set for Life, you could pocket a cool $20k – that’s a pretty major charcuterie board. Enter here:
Image: Instagram / Eating Up With The Hannashians.