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Build the Perfect Charcuterie Board

With a little something to satisfy all your guests, charcuterie plates are the ultimate appetizer for holiday gatherings. They can take mere minutes to assemble for last minute hors d’oeuvres, or you can take time to create edible works of art like Patty Floersheimer of Goat. Sheep. Cow. in Charleston, South Carolina. We asked three charcuterie board masters for tips on how to build the perfect platter: Chef Craig Deihl of Artisan Meat Share, Patty Floersheimer, and Tim Morton of Mercantile and Mash. Naturally, Chef Deihl presented meat-heavy ideas, while Patty and Chef Morton brought more cheese to the plate. Fortunately, there is no right or wrong; all will lead to a delicious conclusion.

Cypress and Artisan Meat Share in Charleston, South Carolina

Chef Deihl recommends considering the flavor profiles of each of the meats and dividing your board into quadrants. Begin with a milder flavored meat and working your way around the board, transitioning to meats that are stronger in flavor and ending with spicier ones.

Photo courtesy of Cypress  
Photo courtesy of Cypress.

This section is dedicated to dry cured & smoked whole cuts meats. Culatello, bresaola, prosciutto, coppa, city ham and beef speck as well as a few of the milder spreadable salamis like spreadable fennel salami offer simple, clean tastes to wake up the palate. Accompaniments for these meats include mild cheeses like buratta and camembert and sweeter chutneys or dried fruits.

Next, move onto mildly flavored salamis or cooked sausages and rillettes. Meats like genoa, landjäger, salami cotto, milano, summer sausage, pork butter, mortadella and bologna pair well with olives, salted Marcona almonds, and orange marmalade, as well as French Tomme or Hulmboldt Fog cheeses.

This quadrant will house the “meatier” and “gamier” meats like pâtés, braunschweiger, head cheese, lamb bacon, lamb pastrami, and 3 Beast. These go great with pickles (especially those with cloves), mustards, sharp cheddar, blue cheeses, fig jams, charred onions, sauerkraut and pickled cabbage.

Finally, Deihl recommends ending with the strong-spiced meats such as ‘nduja, picante, red hot, spicy coppa, and bulgogi snack sticks. Pairings like pickled fennel, fennel jam, beets and kimchi have strong enough flavors that they won’t get lost or overpower the meats. Deihl also recommends trying some of these meats on their own, as to taste them for what they are.

And it goes without saying, all of the four quadrants go well with crusty breads.

Goat.Sheep.Cow. in Charleston, South Carolina

When we build a cheese plate, a lot depends on the customer who placed the order. Assuming that there are no restrictions, we think the perfect plate has 4 cheeses: a soft, a semisoft, a hard, and a blue. And while we’re at it, we make sure to mix the animal source so there’s goat, sheep, and cow (not necessarily in that order). As for condiments with all these different tastes, I’d have to say that my choice is almost always honeycomb. It’s the perfect natural accompaniment. Period. (And it looks crazy good on the plate.)

North Carolina Cheese Square
The perfect plate has 4 cheeses: a soft, a semisoft, a hard, and a blue. Photo by Tim Robinson.

of Charleston
s Mercantile and Mash

  • Think about the offerings in terms of being a mix of textures. Four cheeses will cover your bases—a hard, a semi-soft, a soft, and a super-soft/spreadable option. Also, you want the cheeses to be varied in terms of mild to strong in flavor.
  • Remember to include flavors that are approachable for a group of people with varied tastes. You can get involved in truffle cheeses, beer cheese, pimento cheeses, but they are not necessary. You don’t want lots of competing flavors to detract from your overall effect.
  • The most important factor in the whole operation is the easiest: temper your cheese. Just leave it alone at room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. That way the cheeses will be the proper texture and their flavors will have been released.
  • Serve both crackers and bread—again, you want to provide a textural experience. Make your own crackers from a loaf of multigrain purchased at your favorite bakery or just buy an interesting cracker you enjoy. Add a fresh baguette and you’re good to go.

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