The holiday season brings family and friends together, offers glittery home décor and cocoons hosts and hostesses in a frenzy of at-home entertaining. From cocktail parties to family gatherings, there’s an influx of deciding on wines, spirits, hor d’oeuvres and desserts. To help make the season a little less stressful, we spoke with award-winning Chef Jamie Bissonnette on how to create the most beautiful and delicious charcuterie board. Bissonnette is the head chef and owner of Coppa in Boston, Toro in New York City and Little Donkey in Cambridge. He was named Best Chef: Northeast at the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards before releasing his debut cookbook, The New Charcuterie Cookbook: Exceptional Cured Meats to Make and Serve at Home.
A charcuterie board provides guests with an impressive platter while also being an easy last-minute option for a busy host. “Charcuterie is an easy and light dinner option for when no one wants to cook a full meal,” Bissonnette adds. As an acclaimed chef and lover of charcuterie, Bissonnette always aims to offer a variety of products in his menus. “Mortadella, Prosciutto, Nduja, and then some things that might not be as well known, like a Porcini Salami, or Duck Prosciutto,” he says of possible inclusions. For at-home building, Bissonnette says, “You can take inspiration from restaurants’ charcuterie boards by learning about the more obscure and unique meats and mix them into your own boards at home.”
Hosts can get as creative as they’d like when preparing charcuterie at home, from featuring jamon and chorizo for some Spanish flavor or Italian prosciutto, you have full control over what meats and garnishes you include. “Sometimes cooking garnishes for your charcuterie board can be even more fun than a full meal because it shows how a little personal touch can really change the board,” Bissonnette says.
During the winter season, party-goers tend to gravitate toward the liquid refreshments just as much as the savory snacks. Bissonnette recommends the medium bodied Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge for when the temperature starts to drop.
Below, Bissonnette gives us his top five tops for how to build the best charcuterie board for the holiday season.
1. Be Adventurous
There are so many different styles and preparations of charcuterie that you can serve on a charcuterie board. Building your own at home allows you to play with styles and cuisines that you might not get at a restaurant. Here are a few of my favorites: Saucisson, Pate, Rillettes, Chorizo, Ham, and Jambon de Bayonne.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Try Something New
Get to know your local butcher and find out what their favorites are and what they recommend you try. Ask lots of questions.
3. Think Beauty and Balance
Displaying your charcuterie in a visually appealing way, with various spreads and garnishes, will make it taste better and make your guests come back for more. Mix and match where the meats are placed on the board. For example, don’t place all the sausages next to each other, or people won’t be able to remember what’s what. Variety is important both for looking great and keeping your charcuterie selection organized.
4. Don’t Forget Garnishes
Charcuterie can be rich and filling so I like to serve it with tangy garnishes to help balance out the flavors. In addition to the usual mustard and pickles, I like to add Sweet & Sour Celery, Marinated Mushrooms, and Romesco mustard. These all add color and texture to your charcuterie board.
Sweet & Sour Celery Recipe:
2 cups Honey
2 teasp Kosher Salt
2 cups Slices Celery, 1/3 inch thick
1/8 cup of Guigal Côtes du Rhône White Wine
3 each Black Peppercorn
Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a stainless-steel pot and bring to boil, then cook at a low simmer for one hour. Strain the celery from the liquid and set aside. Add the liquid back into the pot and cook at a low simmer until reduced by half. Pour just enough liquid to cover the cooling celery. Store in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to two months.
5. Wine Pairings
Balance is the main objective when it comes to pairing your charcuterie with wine at home. I recommend Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc and Rouge wines to pair with a charcuterie board. The unoaked white and well-balanced red are awesome with the fat, salt, and deep flavors of cured meat. The wines bring interesting complementary fruit, floral and spice notes that tie together the meal.