Charcuterie spreads are a festive way to feed hungry visitors. Following a few simple guidelines will help ensure yours is both beautiful and delicious.
By Jenifer Antonelli
Are you planning a New Year’s Eve celebration or holiday cocktail party this year? A charcuterie table is a stunning but simple way to offer a variety of nibbles to your guests. You can transform your dining-room table or your kitchen island into a dramatic display of deliciousness without even turning on your oven. The trick to creating a festive holiday spread is knowing what ingredients to buy and how to lay out your presentation so that it becomes an edible work of art.
Line your table with parchment paper to create a canvas for your design. Top it with a variety of platters and small bowls to give your spread dimension. When I create a holiday spread, I like to offer a variety of flavors, colors, and textures to satisfy the basic tastes—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. I buy meats such as prosciutto, Genoa salami and the spicier Calabrese. Try to find artisanal flavors made with wine and spices and different sizes and shapes of salami to make things visually interesting. You’ll also want to offer a variety of cheeses to your guests. I love to offer a wheel of good brie, a Humboldt Fog goat cheese, a Saint Agur blue cheese, a smoked Gouda, cubes of pepper jack and cheddar cheese, and a variety of pre-sliced cheeses that are easy to pop atop a cracker or piece of bread.
Speaking of carbs, you’ll want to pick up a nice assortment of crackers. In addition to a box of “Entertainment” assorted crackers, I like to buy Croccantini, Raincoast Crisps (which contain dried fruit and nuts), Carr’s Table Water Crackers, and some breadsticks. I also buy a couple of fresh baguettes to slice and serve in a large bowl on the table.
Fresh fruit offers a burst of sweetness. Bunches of green and red grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and sliced oranges add pops of color to your table. Spiced nuts provide great crunch and texture. I really love Santa Barbara Pistachio Company’s Chile Lemon Pistachios for some heat and truffle Marcona almonds for an umami kick. You can find the pistachios at Whole Foods (where I usually buy my fruit, meats, and cheeses). Trader Joe’s offers a great selection of spiced nuts, including the truffle Marcona almonds. You’ll also want to pick up a variety of olives, cornichons, marinated artichoke hearts, and peppers to provide some acidic notes to offset all of the savory options. Some fruit spread, such as fig or quince, is delightful on a cracker and topped with cheese.
Lay out the design of your table early in the day so that you’ll know exactly where you’ll put everything before the party starts. Rinse and dry your fruit, and keep it in the fridge until ready to use. If you have the fridge space, you can also design your meat and cheese platters earlier in the day and keep them refrigerated until just before your guests arrive. Your platters will be the star of the show; however, the way you fill in the empty parchment space in between with mounds of nuts, rows of crackers, colorful pops of fruit, and bowls of varying height delivering myriad flavors will be what elevates your charcuterie from a simple board to a festive holiday table.
Remember to have plenty of your favorite beverages chilled and ready to serve—I like to offer sparkling, white, and red wine options—and you’ll be the talk of the town.
We here at The Scene would love to see your charcuterie creations this season! Post your edible art on social media and tag @theelsegundoscene to share your holiday charcuterie tables with us. Happy holidays and cheers to the New Year!
Jenifer Antonelli is the owner of Vino and Viand Personal Chef Services. Visit her online at vinoandviand.com and @vinoandviand on Facebook and Instagram.