There is a simple science behind of art of building the perfect charcuterie board. Cured sausages and sliced meats, a creamy paté, pickled veggies, sweet fruits, tangy spreads, a little something salty, and bread or crackers are the usual suspects, but there's actually a lot of room for creativity.
The key is to balance flavors and textures: salty and sweet, crunchy and soft, strong and light. Use this shopping list to make sure that you’ve got something from each category.
To cover your bases, bring in a dry-cured meat, a cooked sausage, a dry-cured sausage, and something soft and spreadable like a chicken liver paté, terrine, or a pork confit.
For a dry-cured meat, look for a type of jamón or prosciutto. For a cooked sausage, think Kielbasa, Weisswurst, or Little Smokies. For a dry-cured sausage, go for a Saucisson sec, Chorizo, or spicy Soppressata.
Cheese is the backbone of the board, so choose well. There are four main categories we like to bring together. A classic cheese, a soft, a hard, and a blue. It's always good to start with crowd-pleasers like the familiar faces of Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Gouda.
The soft cheeses will be the creamiest, gooiest, and most spreadable. Their flavors can range from a mild, butter-like brie to a stronger, tangy camembert. Blue cheeses, the most intense flavor of the cheese group, will be sharp, salty, and creamy. Try Saint Agur or Roquefort.
With your hard cheeses, you may notice little, chunky crystals. Those little bits are made of calcium lactate. These cheeses are extra zingy and ripe in both flavor and age. Go for Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago, or Manchego.
Tangy and sweet accompaniments are another opportunity to bring in contrasting textures like chewy, gooey, and crunchy. For example, dried apricots, candied nuts, and honey. Or figs, balsamic vinegar, dried cranberries, and grapes.
For salty accompaniments, bring in any or all of these accoutrements: tapenade, grainy mustard, bread, crackers, cornichons (small briny pickles), and olives.
Now, with these tips, let's assemble the perfect board!