Be it for a fancy New Year’s Eve do, or a cosy home get-together, there’s nothing quite like the festive charcuterie (shar-koo-tuh-ree) board to make an impressive statement and gather guests around the dinner table. (Trust the French to stylishly entertain with fancy finger food that so intricately integrates flavours, textures, layers, shapes and colours.)
Although meat is the l’attraction principale, the culinary genius will ensure a variety of breads/crackers, fresh fruit, soft spreads like sweet jams, savoury chutneys, tangy pickles; and strong to mild – perhaps even exotic – cheeses to go along with the cold cooked, hard and thin-sliced cured cuts. So get creative and inspired with the platter you’re serving – the idea is to have fun whilst ensuring the appertiser is a tantalising feast for both eyes and palate.
The classic salty and intense prosciutto artistically curled, or loosely rolled, can form the centre of your showpiece board from which you build outwards with other meats like the finely sliced pickled speck that can be either stacked or folded. They are a great accompaniment to cheddar or goat cheese, and an excellent pair with sweeter, fattier meat like cooked ham. Other meats like Italian salami, smoked ham and bacon, capicola and sausages make up the rest of your ultimate meat offerings. Here’s a tip: You might want to pre-slice some of the hard salamis and cheeses. (The latter don’t have to be perfectly cut or broken up, so leave them in chunky or crumbled pieces; the idea is to create something that’s pleasing to look at and ready to eat.)
Typically, chicken or duck liver pates, homemade cured olive tapenades or roasted cauliflower and garlic dips make for excellent spreads as well as visual breaks on your board; as are bowls of honey, nuts and berries. But don’t be afraid to use your imagination and fusion-up your serving with some spicy local rendang or even ikan bilis sambal flavoured dips. (Yes, go ahead and sow your wild culinary oats, why don’t you.) These will not only keep conversations flowing freely, but also delightfully complement any aperitif you have ready, or can concoct on demand – even beers, fine wines and artisan-blended liquors.
Choosing appropriate beverages to go with the charcuterie servings is critical to avoid any clash of flavours, which is especially the case for non-alcoholic drinks – avoid overly sweetened sodas and opt for sparkling or mineral water with a slice of lime or lemon, as a refreshing choice.
Light, crispy white wines, or light- to medium-bodied reds are safe and ideal choices because their acidity and fresh berry flavours will help cut through the fatty and creamy textures.
Similarly for spirits, you can further raise the wow factor with a double-distilled wine, matured in oak casks for that extra exclusivity – where highlights would ideally be Moet champagnes, Glenmorangie single malt whiskies and Hennessy VSOP cognac.