By Daniella Byck
The future was looming in its terrifying splendor. As I studied for my second to last finals as an undergraduate student, full adulthood was evolving from theoretical illusion into almost tangible reality. I found myself shuddering less from the cold of Wisconsin and more from the chill of pending change. Suddenly, I was clinging more and more to a careless sense of youth I had previously been eager to shake off.
On a Saturday night made quiet by the onset of exams, I changed my tune on adulthood for a moment. With a friend by my side, we burst forward into the world of maturity in spectacular fashion: we built a charcuterie board. Pursuing a full time career, moving to a fresh city, purchasing a car and successfully building a charcuterie board. I have only done the latter but it felt like a somewhat less intimidating dipping of toes into the dark lake of post-graduate life.
For a show stopping entrance to holiday potlucks and parties alike, bring a charcuterie board. It lends the illusion that you have your life together and a bevy of important transferable skills to boot. My entire resume is actually just a charcuterie board. How can you start a board of your own? Read on for a guide to your very own coming of age sequence.
The Cheese Internet Illuminati will tell you to select a variable cheese spread. Yes, a Pinterest board was created specifically for this project. A minimum of three cheeses is the standard for satisfying a diversity of tastes and preferences. Mix up the compositional qualities and hardness of the cheeses and you will be golden. We selected hard, earthy gruyere, rosemary and olive oil asiago and a spreadable herb cheese to layer over thick chunks of baguette.
While the cheese is the protagonists of the board, the cured meats are a necessary anchor to the dairy decadence. Select at least two different meats to display a deep spectrum of flavors. Our board was bejeweled with a marbled maroon peppered salami and layers of rosy pancetta. We recommend prosciutto, but if your local market is sold out – per our experience – thinly sliced pancetta is an acceptable textural substitute.
Part of the indulgent charcuterie board experience is the practice of building voluminous towers of meat and cheese. You need a vehicle. Before slicing, my partner in cheesy crime painted a layer of olive oil over the top of the baguette and flash broiled it in the oven until the top glowed a crispy golden brown. Both gluttonous and gluten free friends alike appreciated the multi-grain crackers as an additional light alternative.
The appeal of a charcuterie board is partially in its presentation. The extra elements provide, color and contrast, elevating your product from mere appetizer to a stylistic statement. Strike a combination of salty (nuts, cornichons, olives) and sweet (grapes, berries, dried apricots). We layered firm, sangria colored grapes along the edges of the board with tangy, mixed olives at the center.
Show off your attention to detail. Good food is always colored with the identity of its creator but read a room to strike an important balance. If your board has a more savory character, select fruity spreads to provide equilibrium. If it leans in the other direction, cross boundaries of flavor and select a zesty option. Our board featured spicy, seedy mustard, rich fig butter raw and indulgent spreadable honey.
Have all the elements? Learn how to gracefully launch into the next phase of your life and build your charcuterie creation.