Have you already mastered charcuterie board making? Do you want to wow your friends and family this holiday season? Look no further. Here are eight must-haves that will bring your boards to the next level.
Ditch the Prosciutto, Embrace Serrano
There’s nothing wrong with some good ol’ prosciutto: Sometimes it just hits. But with its subtle, sweet flavor and a relatively moist texture, it won’t stand out on a board. So look for Jamón Serrano — prosciutto’s Spanish cousin. At the same price point, it offers a much more robust flavor, a harder texture, and a lively, bright red color to boot.
There’s More to It Than Pork: Bresaola
Pork’s incredibly versatile. But there’s much more variety to the world of cured meats than that. So beef up your board with bresaola, a traditional, thinly-sliced air-dried beef from Italy’s Valtellina region. Slightly sweet, and jam-packed with flavor, it can be tender and bright red or toothsome and almost purple depending on the length of aging. If you include this on your board, it is sure to be a visually-stunning crowd pleaser.
Add some color and variety to your board with some healthy veg! Packed with flavor, sun-dried tomatoes will please even the staunchest hater of the stuff. Aromatic, chewy, simultaneously salty and slightly sweet, they will be gone in no time. One word of advice: If you don’t buy the ones in a jar, be sure to check the salt content — some might be almost unpalatably salty even after rehydrating and washing.
Rock with Roquefort
Blue cheese is sure going to stand out on a board, so don’t waste a chance to wow your guests. Gorgonzola is all right, but Roquefort — more moist, with a much more distinct, stronger, and yet less overpowering flavor — is where it’s at.
Venture Outside Cow’s Milk
Goat and sheep milk offer entirely different flavor profiles that carry onto the cheeses. The few daring souls who venture outside of cow’s milk still tend to stick to soft, creamy, white cheeses — think chèvre. Sure: These are intense in flavor, with a fresh, sharp profile, but the world of non-cow milk doesn’t end there. Give a hard or a semi-hard cheese a chance: Goat gouda offers much more complexity, with sweet and nutty notes. Spanish Manchego has a distinct, creamy, slightly piquant flavor with the trademark sheep milk aftertaste.
Feeling Bougie? Splurge for Jamón Ibérico de Bellota
Made from the meat of pure-bred Black Iberian pigs fed exclusively with acorns, Jamón Ibérico de Bellota is heaven on a plate. It’s intensely flavorful: rich, savory, and delightfully complex. Its extensive marbling literally melts on your tongue delivering all of the nuttiness courtesy of the pigs’ acorn diet. Don’t think twice: Splurge for Jamón Ibérico, let it get to room temperature, and enjoy.
Marinated Artichoke Hearts
On their own, artichokes can be a bit underwhelming. Cooked or fried, its mild flavor doesn’t stand out. But marinated? That’s a whole different story. Different brands are going to deliver different products, but they have one thing in common: Each brand brings out the acidity and the complex flavors of the ’choke. And there’s much more going for them than flavor, there’s also the texture: firm, ever so slightly chewy, and heterogeneous thanks to the remaining parts of leaves.
’Nough Said: ’Nduja
’Nduja, a Calabrian specialty, is like a mashup of Mexican and Spanish chorizo. A spreadable salami with a fiery red color and a flavor to match — courtesy of roasted chili peppers — it’s sure to liven up any bread or cracker.
—Incoming Editor-at-Large and outgoing Theater Executive Zachary J. Lech accepts charcuterie boards, gift baskets, and hampers. If you have one for him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org