Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Food of the Gods, Easy Meat and Cheese Boards
[ shahr-koo-tuh-ree, shahr-koo-tuh-ree; French shar-kytuh-ree ]
noun, plural char·cu·te·ries [shahr-koo-tuh-reez, shahr-koo-tuh-reez; French shar-kytuh-ree] . (in France)
A store where pork products, as hams, sausages, and pâtés are sold.
With the holiday season coming fast, you may need impressive appetizers for entertaining. There's no better choice than cured meats, creamy cheeses, and fresh almonds to keep around for surprise guests. The Charcuterie board is the perfect introduction to any meal or as the main course. Paired with a fine wine or microbrew, these recipes are sure to leave a magnificent impression!
With 'incorrect' pronunciation, it sounds like Car-shoo-terr-ree or Shar-Cooter-EEEE which is my version. Reciting this word is challenging for most. But, when I first found this appetizer in Colorado I was speechless. Although it’s taken me a while to say the damn word right, I find these platters to be exquisite. Now, as one of my appetizer go-to’s, I believe it’s easier to respond “meat and cheese” than use proper enunciation. However, dictation isn’t my focus today, rather it's my experience that keeps me coming back.
There are plenty of reasons why I make this appetizer my choice. You'll find servings of charcuterie topping antique boards with soppressata, coppa and dry-cured ham make a sight for the eyes. In addition to the meat, styles of cheese from crumbly to firm include a pungent scent making the smell unforgettable. And who can deny the tiny cheery zest of the little peppers? All this paired with a good glass of wine leaves one yearning for more. Even though this delish dish is new for me, it's been around for a long time.
The world-renown dish dates back 6,000 years according to The Nickel in Denver. The French cultivated and dried, salted pepperoni making the varietal a favorite among their top cuisines. Much later, the U.S., choices of chewy salami, prosciutto, with dabs of blue cheese and a few olives combine beautifully with flavorful ferment or other frothy brews. All these finger-foods making a festive snack among restaurants across the country. But, it's easy to pass along at home too. Who cares about the history of “cooked flesh” as well as society pioneering the dish dating back to the late fifteenth century? You should be more concerned with the fantastic blend of flavors!
If you’re not familiar with where to find the foods of homo sapiens or butchers of sausage, your hunt is simple. You can visit your local grocer and make your options where you’re in charge of the offerings. My suggestion is a purchase where a huge choice of cheese and a variety of top-grade meats exist.
Not every grocer carries an exotic line of cheeses. For the holidays, go rogue! Pick something special making your presentation as appetizing as imaginable. (Most likely, you wouldn’t wish to showcase a piece of Velveeta, now would you?) Furthermore, this time of year is for celebration so, bring it!
With all due respect, make the tray more inviting with beautiful cheeses like Camembert, gorgonzola or gruyere. Ask your local cheese importer what they have on sale and take a chance on living outside your box, or in some cases your ‘wrapper.’
The Fox and Crow in Fort Collins have a nice selection of world-class cheeses, hand-crafted cider, delicious ale from local breweries and wines of all vines. You can buy the cheese and keep it fresh for weeks. (Doubtful what you buy won't last after the first serving) More importantly, a cheese importer will carry other brands making the Charcuterie more exciting than the sharpest cheddar.
Salty, fat meats are the BIG performer on these platters. Try dry-cured chorizo, capicola or mortadella fighting for your attention. Be daring, and sample the head cheese making a bold and fantastic choice. However, you can also stick to a simple hard salami if you're not that adventurous.
Don’t forget to include nuts for texture, salt, and crunch! Gourmet crackers and baguettes partner well making your holiday treat a big knockout! The idea is to offer a contrast to the other items.
Another contender is veggies nicely, complementing the salty meats and cheeses. A rare find creating color are Incan Red Drops or Sweety Drop peppers. These are cute, tiny red chilis originating from Peru. But, you’ll find them at most Italian markets as well as Amazon. The perfect mate brings tangy sweetness thereby kissing the tastebuds. The tart offsetting the meat is purely a "Love it" experience!
It’s important to note, eating charcuterie requires your hands. Don’t worry about being dainty and proper as this is the meal of the gods and fierce hunters. All right, I may be over-exaggerating. However, eating with your fingers is perfectly acceptable with these offerings.
Fabulous presentation creates the biggest impact with the age-old plate including certified cheesy or sausage pros. Introduce fruits, like apricots, black cherries or whatever is in season. The colorful arrangements make the plate more appealing. Almonds, cashews, crusty bread, and crackers contrast well serving in decorative cups.
Food arranging is part of the fun of serving. If you're feeling mischevious or medieval stabbing your knife into the board offers style with elegance and grace. The nice thing about these yummy hors d'oeuvres are catering them any way you like.
The board or plate you choose is equally a part of the introduction. Use a cutting board, a barrel top tray or some decorative platter. I’ve even seen these arrangements done with a piece of repurposed wood. The best part is anything goes!
Those looking for the keto diet, or watching weight, can expect low carbs. However, the cheese and other items such as bread or sugar-coated almonds may deter you from thinking about your figure. There’s usually enough variety for everyone in the party to make good choices.
Some of my favorite places in Fort Collins for finding tapas would be Café Vino, McClellan’s Brewing Company and Otto Pint. If you live outside of FOCO, then look up “meat and cheese plates near me” on Google. You're guaranteed to find somewhere that serves up this fun and curated food. If you're feeling creative, throw some items on a plate and enjoy yourself watching the game at home?
From crunchy vegetables to dressing up your fancy protein-packed dishes, you’ll love these epic essentials. Whether you’re having company over or you want a quiet meal with a friend, the flavors, textures, and appearance can make any gathering festive. My experience ends to say, “These are unforgettable meat and cheese plates.”
Join me for my next blog where I’ll be reviewing the newly remodeled and reopening of the Windsor Mills Tavern. Until next time, BIG hugs!