Crafting the Perfect Cheese and Charcuterie Platter
A stunning cheese and charcuterie appetizer is a show stopper at any occasion, party or potluck. Gil's Gourmet wants to give you all the necessary know-how to craft your own perfectly executed platter.
Step 1. Determining your Cheeses
You want to pick cheeses that match your party-going guests. Have a more adventurous crowd? Source some special cheeses that will pique their interest, you can always ask the cheese monger at your local gourmet grocer for advice. Have a crowd that likes to play it safe? Buy cheeses that are more well known, or not as pungent (avoid the stinky).
The holy trinity of cheese categories, and the 3 that work so well for crafting platters, usually fall into these types; soft, semi-soft and firm.
Soft Cheese- These are those ooey gooey cheeses that smear well and seem to melt the minute they touch your tongue. Think brie, camembert and chevre (soft goat cheese) even some gorgonzola and roquefort are made to be super creamy.
Semi-Soft- These are the cheeses that have just a little age to them causing a more firm consistency than their super soft cousins. Think cheddar, havarti, taleggio, morbier, muenster, gouda, comte and raclette. They can range in pungency and sharpness-so taste test some new styles before selecting your platter favorites.
Firm- Firm cheeses are those that have quiet a bit of aging under their cheesy belts. And most are the same cheeses, growing just a little older than their younger counterparts, like gouda (for instance). The perfect firm cheeses would be asiago, parmiggano, pecorino, mimolette and manchego.
Step 2. Da Meats
You want to pick a charcuterie selection that will pair well with your cheeses, combinations that compliment each other. Here we'll map out a listing of the popular, crowd pleasing, charcuterie options.
Prosciutto- thinly sliced, just a hint of saltiness, a wonderful platter addition. Prosciutto really is the life of the party and pairs well with a number of cheeses. Creamy brie and gorgonzola for a soft and salty. Teleggio, comte or gouda for a little bit of sharpness and bite. Or match prosciutto with it's mate in life, pecorino romano. Want to mix it up a little? Try prosciutto cotto- meaning cooked prosciutto (scrumptious Italian style ham) or speck- smoked prosciutto.
Salami- there are numerous salami, salumi and salume selections to choose from-have no fear. You want something that is tasty but somewhere on the flavor neutral side (so not to compete aggressively with your cheeses); a little pepper and a little spice is perfect. Summer sausage, saucisson sec and soppressata are perfecto. Want to spice things up a little? Chorizo packs just the right amount of punch.
Spreads- These are the pates, terrines or pate-like options available, the spreadable goods. The difference is slight. A pate is just that, seasoned and smoothly pressed meat and fat. And a terrine is layered, usually with two pates and maybe a very flavorful aspic. If you are a fan of the spreadables, like me, stick with pork or poultry pates and terrines-these wont overshadow the cheese nor any other charcuterie option.
Step 3. The Accoutrements
Oh yes, the condiments. Here is where you begin crafting the flavor enhancers. Little bits and bites to bring out the best in your platter...and where Gil's Gourmet product selection really shines.
Oils... selecting the best oil is paramount. You'll need a little something for bread dipping and drizzling. Our Black Truffle Oil and White Truffle Oil add a lovely earthiness to your platter. Feel free to sprinkle in a little of our Big Sur Gourmet Bread Dipper for even more flavor.
Fruit is a big component to your platter as well. Adding just a touch of sweetness and tartness pairs very well with the creamy, unctuous meats and cheeses. Try grapes, currants, cherries, strawberries and raspberries.
Olives act as their own little snack amongst the platter, plus a lovely briney bite. Our top choices are our Double Stuffed Olives (stuffed with garlic and jalapeno peppers), Bacon and Cheddar Stuffed Olives, Sun-baked Olive Oil Cured Olives or Garlic Pepper Jack Stuffed Olives.
Having a selection of breads and crackers are the quintessential building blocks of a great cheese and charcuterie platter. Pick options like a rustic baguette, fresh baked french bread or focaccia. For crackers, pick those with a neutral flavor like sesame, poppy or sea salt.
A lovely mustard is a fabulous way to impart a little tang to your platter. In the same manner that fresh fruit acts as a plate cleanser, mustard cuts through the richness just the same. Our Roasted Garlic Champagne Mustard or Jalapeno Champagne Mustard are fabulous with any of your charcuterie meat selections.
Where the olives act as their own little nibble, adding tapenade as a condiment option is paramount to building that perfect bite. Pick either our Green Olive Tapenade, Artichoke and Olive Tapenade or our Black Olive Tapenade to tie in all the flavor.
Lastly, for a little bit of garnish. I love adding just a hint of fresh greenery to my platters and fresh herbs work wonders. A few sprigs of basil, thyme or rosemary will give your platter that finished professional look.