This holiday season, let a charcuterie board featuring beef take the “bored” out of that traditional, tired, and oh-so-predictable meat and cheese tray. Charcuterie (pronounced shar-coot-er-ee) is trending this year as the “it” appetizer for nearly every event including laid-back shindigs, sophisticated dinner parties and classic cocktail parties — especially those gatherings with carnivores on the guest list.
Charcuterie is a French term that describes any kind of cured meat such as sausage or salami. A charcuterie board is a platter of fancy cooked, salted and dried meats in addition to all of the nibbles served alongside including cheeses, seasonal fruits and veggies, pickled pairings and creative condiments.
Beef Loving Texans, fear not, an all-beef charcuterie board is easy to assemble and you don’t even need an advanced degree in epicurean entertaining. Check out all the pro tips we have to help you create a stunning meat and cheese tray truly worth celebrating.
Meats: When creating an all beef charcuterie board, there are a number of choices including roast beef, bresaola or cesina (both versions of beef tenderloin that’s been air-dried and salted), beef salami, beef jerky, beef liver pate and more. Heck, this is Texas, you can even throw down some brisket. Meats are best presented when sliced almost paper thin and it’s a good rule of thumb to plan on a total of two ounces (collectively) of beef offerings per guest.
Cheese: Really, what cheese doesn’t marry well with beef? Offer an assortment of mild, medium and robust cheeses to appeal to a variety of palates with a focus on aged cheese. Aged cheese like blue cheese, artisan cheddar, asiago or even a smoky gouda pairs magnificently with beef, kicking up the umami flavor in all. Again, plan on about a total of two ounces of cheese per person.
Seasonal Fruit: Take the best Mother Nature has to offer and display creatively around your board to add color and sweetness. Some favorites to pair with beef include a cascade of grapes, pile of figs, pomegranates arils, cherries, plums, berries, pears and apples. If serving pears or apples, remember to soak the slices in a mixture of lemon juice and water before plating so that they don’t turn brown.
Condiments: An assortment of both sweet and savory condiments, dips and spreads add an “extra” touch to a meat and cheese tray. This includes selections of jam, chutney and honey to aioli, mustard and tapenades — even hummus will make your beef tray hum! Also consider setting out a small bowl of olive oil infused with chopped herbs, it’s nice for dunking crusty pieces of bread stuffed with beef.
Brined Items: Small “toothpick-able” foods such as olives, marinated peppers, pickled vegetables, hunks of feta and other little acidic noshes also have a welcomed place on a charcuterie board, offering a salty, tangy edge to balance the richness of the meats and cheeses.
Nuts & Dried Fruit: A party’s not a party without nuts in arm’s reach! Don’t be afraid to fill in the nooks and crannies of your charcuterie board with a nut selection or two including almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts or even a nut brittle. If fresh fruit is limited, dried fruit like dried apricots, dried cherries or pieces of dehydrated coconut scattered about can a tasty way to add concentrated sweetness without upstaging the beef.
Breads & Crackers: Slices of rustic bread, sliced baguette, thin crispy bread sticks, artisanal crackers or wedges of pita offer a way to pile up the meats, cheeses and “extras” and ensure easier transport to the mouth.
A final tip in the making of beef charcuterie board is to just let loose and unleash the creativity. There is no perfect way to assemble or display the meat, cheese, fruit, condiments and other nibbles. Everything is open to interpretation and the end product should be a reflection of your own personal taste and style.