A charcuterie board, a selection of cured and smoked meats, is one of the best and easiest appetizers for a crowd because you don’t have to cook anything—all you have to do is grab your prettiest platter and assemble a few store-bought ingredients. If you’re crazy about smoked sausage or country ham, it’s fine to serve one type of meat. But if you’re hosting a party, it’s fun for people to have a few options to pick and choose from, so aim for three types of meat with different flavors and textures. Here are some rough guidelines for making a mouthwatering charcuterie board:
No Southern charcuterie board is complete without some thinly sliced country ham. Country ham is to the South what prosciutto is to Italy, or jamon iberico is to Spain. Country ham is typically smoked and air cured for about nine months to one year, creating a deeply salty, savory meat that almost melts in your mouth. If you can’t find country ham, smoked kielbasa, conecuh sausage, and andouille all have a smoky flavor profile.
Andouille also fits into this category, although there are lots of other cured, hard sausages to choose from. Go Italian with a hot sopressata or spicy salami, or try a Mexican chorizo. Pepperoni is also a classic crowd-pleaser.
A pâté or terrine is a nice way to upgrade your charcuterie board. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. Look for a simple duck or chicken liver pâté. A small container is all you need—this stuff is super rich. Are there vegetarians on your guest list? Make our smooth, creamy Black Eyed Pea Pâté and omit the country ham.
Keep the Bread Simple
Man (or woman) cannot eat charcuterie alone. Bread or crackers are essential, the more neutral the better. Crackers or bread flavored with herbs, cheese, or other strong flavors can compete with the meat, which is really the star of the show here. Slice up a nice baguette, or serve water crackers or long, thin breadsticks.
Add a Few Extras
Cured meats are even better when paired with something bright and acidic, like grainy mustard, olives, or pickles. Something fruity like fig jam or sliced apples or pears is a nice touch. A few cheeses never hurt either. Add a hard, dry cheese like Parmesan, which goes with just about anything. Or go all out with a selection of cheeses—cow, cheep, and goat is a good rule of thumb.