Whether you're hosting a swank holiday party or scrambling to throw together nibbles for unexpected visitors, you'd do well by mastering the simple art of the charcuterie board — an upscale-looking snack selection, typically served on a rustic wooden board, that's as visually appealing as it is delicious.
Step one is to decide on the serving board itself. While you can certainly invest in a dedicated charcuterie board designed specifically for that purpose, you can also create an equally impressive presentation on a regular wooden cutting board or pizza peel.
Now, the food!
Cheese. Arrange three to four different cheeses on your board. Choose at least one hard, one soft and one blue cheese, ensuring there will be something for those who prefer a milder taste and for those who gravitate to a bolder flavour. Cut harder cheeses like Parmesan into slices or bite-sized cubes, start softer cheeses like Brie by cutting out a few wedges, and leave blue cheese and cream cheeses whole, for guests to carve for themselves.
Meats. Include a salt-cured meat like prosciutto, which can be sliced thin and rolled for presentation, a sausage-style meat like salami that can be sliced thick or cut into chunks, and perhaps a soft meat spread like pâté.
Fruits and nuts. Arrange fresh and dried fruits, olives, nuts, and assorted dips, jams and mustards around the cheeses and meats.
Bread and crackers. Complete your presentation with a variety of crackers, crostini, flatbreads and breadsticks.
A charcuterie is a few steps above the classic cheese plate, but it's easy to rise to the occasion once you stock your fridge with the basic ingredients.